Our History

Home » About Us » Our History

The early history of OSRUI (or, as it was originally called, Union Institute) is the story of the beginning of Reform Jewish camping. Union Institute was the first Reform Jewish camp, as part of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), the congregational arm of Reform Judaism in North America (the UAHC is now known as the Union for Reform Judaism, or URJ). In the early 1950s, the Reform movement’s interest in establishing a camp gained local support among several young rabbis in the Chicago area, including Rabbi Herman Schaalman (who was the regional director of the UAHC at that time), as well as Rabbis Joseph Buchler, Ernst M. Lorge, Karl Weiner, and Arnold Jacob Wolf. And so, the first Reform Jewish camp was located in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, a 2-hour drive from Chicago. 

From Union Institute to OSRUI: the camp was purchased and welcomed its first campers in 1952. In 1967, the camp adopted the name Olin-Sang Union Institute to acknowledge the philanthropic support of the Olin and Sang families. The name changed again in 1972, when a third major donor was added, and the camp name became Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute, or OSRUI.

Camp Directors

Rabbi Herman Schaalman – 1952 

Rabbi Gerald Raiskin – 1953  

Rabbi Daniel E Kerman – 1953–1954 

Rabbi Irwin Schor – 1954–1955 

Philip Brin – 1955–1960 

Norman Buckner – 1961–1962 

Irv Kaplan – 1963–1968 

Rabbi Allan Smith – 1969–1970 

Jerry Kaye – 1970–2017 

Solly Kane – 2017–2021; Executive Director, 2022–2023

Beth Rodin – 2022 – Present 

our current staff

To see more about our current camp leadership, click below.

Some of our many alumni

Debbie Friedman

Dan Shapiro
Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel

Garrett Weber-Gale
Olympic Medalist – Swimming

Jason Brown
Olympic Medalist –
Ice Skating