December 25, 2008
To turn around the harsh economic conditions currently engulfing the country, President-elect Barack Obama has proposed a massive investment in rebuilding and strengthening the nation’s infrastructure.
To fortify the Jewish community, the Foundation for Jewish Camp suggests an investment as well, this one in the “spiritual infrastructure” of its young people.
With December designated as “Sign Up for Camp Month,” now is the ideal time to explore camps for your child or summer job opportunities for your teen in 2009. The FJC has compiled some helpful tips:
- Give your child the opportunity to mature and gain independence in a camp atmosphere that is warm and inviting. Campers develop a strong sense of self and gain confidence and social skills in a shared, nurturing, and healthy environment. They mature through learning more about themselves as well as building relationships with others, all interwoven with the common experience that Jewish camps afford.
- Search for the appropriate camp for your child. While the thought of searching through hundreds of camps may seem daunting, on-line search directories can be very helpful. The FJC website (www.jewishcamp.org) lists more than 150 nonprofit Jewish overnight camps in North America. Search the directory by denomination, location, special needs availability, or gender.
- Choose a camp that will complement and strengthen the Jewish affiliation and identity of your child. The magic of Jewish camp is rooted in its 24/7 atmosphere, where Jewish values, a connection to Israel, and Jewish culture are entwined into every aspect of daily activity in ways that make campers feel proud to be Jewish. From Orthodox, Reform, and Conservative to Reconstructionist, Zionist, Humanist, and nondenominational, there is a Jewish camp for every expression of Jewish life.
- Jewish specialty camps enable your child to hone a specific skill or interest within the context of Jewish values, such as teamwork, fair play, and good ruach (spirit). Whether your child is interested in perfecting her jump shot, honing his painting skills, improving his swim stroke, directing a film, or understanding a science theorem, there is a specialty camp that fits that interest.
- Jewish camps offer a variety of models to accommodate special needs campers, including mainstreaming, separate programming, and exclusive special needs camps. Regardless of the function level of your child, there is a Jewish camp ready to provide him/her with the summer of a lifetime. Visit the website for a list of Jewish special needs camps and programs, including those specifically aimed at children with autism, Down syndrome, and Asperger’s.
- Check out a camp’s individual website to learn about features, including programs, facilities, and daily schedules. Look for a broad base of activities that both enhance skills that your child wants to improve and emphasize fun. Keep in mind, however, that while websites can provide plenty of useful information, the best way to get a sense of the camp environment is to visit it during the summer.
- Narrow down your options to about four or five camps. Take into account camp size, activities offered, atmosphere, security, cost, and location. Look for a camp that best accommodates both your and your child’s interests. It may be helpful to involve your child in the search to ensure that his/her needs and expectations are met.
- Talk to veteran families or your child’s friends who have attended the camp. Ask them about the details of day-to-day life at camp and the “feeling” of the camp atmosphere — nuances that cannot be gleaned from a website. Keep in mind, however, that just because a camp works for your friend’s child does not mean it is the right camp for your child.
- Equip your camper with the tools he or she needs to have an amazing summer. Be sure to send your child to camp with self-addressed envelopes to keep in touch. Consider leaving their cell phones at home so they can grow and mature by being truly independent (also find out what the camp policy is on cell phones; many do not allow them). Healthy snacks, family photos, and summer reading books are always good to have in the bunk.
When your children finally return home at the end of the summer, you may notice that while their duffle bags are slightly less full from misplaced clothing and eaten goodies, their souls are filled with Jewish pride and their minds and hearts are bursting with memories of friends and fun that will last a lifetime.
Source: The Foundation for Jewish Camp is the only national organization dedicated to nonprofit Jewish resident camps, advancing program and leadership excellence in camps and access to vibrant Jewish experiences for campers. The foundation helps raise awareness and support for Jewish summer camps, highlighting their successful track record for building powerful Jewish commitment in young Jews, ensuring future Jewish continuity. FJC works with more than 150 camps, 70,000 campers, and 12,000 counselors across North America to further its mission.