The Bertha and Morris Escoll Story
Morris and Bertha Escoll were each born into impoverished Jewish Immigrant families in the 1890’s.
Morris worked his way through Cornell University and graduated in 1916 at a time when Jewish students were harshly discriminated against. Despite the challenges, he won multiple awards for oratory and scholarship while there and published articles nationally on Jewish Student life. He then served our country in the Army in WW1 as a Chaplain and Jewish Welfare Officer on troop ships crossing to Europe throughout the war. Bertha (Kotinsky) was a similar groundbreaker at the University of Pennsylvania, working her way through college and graduating in 1920 at a time when neither women nor Jews were well received. They met at a Zionist dance and were married shortly after. They were both pioneers and leaders and believed strongly that a superior education in Judaism, peace, nature and co-existence could be taught and nurtured in the warm environment of Jewish summer camping.
Together, Morris and Bertha founded the Blue Mountain Camps in Pennsylvania and literally built the camp with their own hands. They planted 100,000 trees, built a sawmill, used oxen and plows to dig a lake, built bunks and a kosher kitchen in the woods when nothing of the kind existed. Both Morris and Bertha had equal roles in the operation of the camp, when women rarely had a role in business.
They owned and operated the camps for 50 years, instilling core values in thousands of young boys and girls. Their camp inspired such loyalty that when they retired, there were over 100 campers whose parents and grandparents had attended the camp. In order to inspire others, Morris published a book “War Camps or Peace Camps” upon his retirement.
Morris and Bertha raised 5 children, and had 9 grandchildren.
Their leadership and pioneering Jewish spirit has left a legacy of culture, service, charity, education, environmentalism, Zionism, and peaceful coexistence in all they touched.