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-present 

    our current staff

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

    Jerry Kaye, Director Emeritus

    Jerry Kaye (he/him/his) served as the director of OSRUI for 48 summers, from 1970 through 2017.  Jerry is truly a visionary; he oversaw the camp’s expansion during that time, both physically and programmatically. Jerry has authored numerous works relating to Jewish education, self-esteem and youth. He has consulted to communities and congregations throughout North America and presented programs on Jewish content for children, adults and families alike.  Jerry is best known, though, as a gifted storyteller.  Thousands of campers and staff share memories of the lights dimming during Shabbat Shira, the music quieting, and Jerry walking to the center of the circle to share one of his beautiful and meaningful stories.  In 2019, Heichal HaTarbut Kaye – The Kaye Cultural Center, was dedicated in honor of Jerry and his wife Paula and their legacy at OSRUI.

    some of our many alumni

    We have so many wonderful alumni who do all kinds of incredible things. Here are a few. If you know of an alumnus that should be featured here or in our newsletter, please reach out to Julianne at jschwartz@urj.org.

    Debbie Friedman

    Dan Shapiro
    Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel

    Garrett Weber-Gale
    Olympic Medalist – Swimming

    Jason Brown
    Olympic Medalist –
    Ice Skating