Choosing a Camp for Your Child

Written by Janna Zuckerman on . Posted in Features

Recognizing that Jewish summer camp is one of the formative experiences through which our youth build a strong Jewish identity, The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore created the Center for Jewish Camping (CJC) in 2013. The CJC provides community outreach, education, and public awareness about the benefits of attending a Jewish camp and showcases the many options available, locally and nationally.

 

In my role overseeing the CJC, I work closely with Jewish camps throughout the country, providing families with guidance on everything from overnight and specialty camps to programs for individuals with special needs.

Here are some frequently-asked questions I get from parents when they begin the camp selection process, along with my answers:


What is so special about Jewish camp?

To put it simply, Jewish summer camp is a blast! Campers have an incredible time participating in high-quality activities and discovering new skills and interests. They celebrate Jewish values, traditions, and Israeli culture through song, food, art, and dance.Campers grow their independence while they connect with their Jewish peers and make lifelong friendships.


How do I choose which Jewish camp is right for my child?

Choosing a Jewish camp for your child is an exciting time, but it can also be overwhelming. With so many Jewish camps to choose from, it may be difficult to figure out which one is the right fit for your child. CJC provides free, personalized guidance to families who are considering Jewish day or overnight camp. I am happy to meet with you in person or speak to you over the phone to learn more about your child and discuss camping options that meet their needs and interests.


How do I know if I should choose a Jewish day or overnight camp for my child?

Choosing a Jewish day or overnight camp for your child is a personal decision, but both experiences will provide your child with a summer of exciting new opportunities! Your child will have the chance to gain skills and independence, meet new friends, and celebrate Judaism in a fun and safe environment.

CESJDS student Ezra Gershman at Ohev Sholom - The National Synagogue's Camp Kibbutz. (Photo courtesy of Ezra Gershman)

Many families send their child to a day camp to start, and then transition them to overnight camp when they are ready. Most children will be successful at an overnight camp if they have experienced being away from home for a short period of time (sleepovers at friends’ and relatives’ houses, for example, or overnight trips with a day camp).

Many overnight camps have “rookie camps” or “short-stay” camps, providing a one- or two-week trial run at summer camp. Some institutions even have family camps, which provide opportunities for kids and parents to explore the wonderful aspects of summer camp as a family and introduce children to camp in a comfortable and informal atmosphere.


How long is a typical camp session?

Sessions vary at each camp, but many camps offer traditional seven- or eight-week sessions or two three- or four-week sessions. Additionally, with so many new specialty camps arising, camps are offering two-, four-, or six- week options to accommodate more campers.


When talking to a camp director or visiting a camp, what questions should I ask?

You can use the list below as a starting guide for what you may want to ask camp directors and staff to get a better idea of whether their camp is the best fit for your child.

Happy Camping!

 

Questions to Ask When Choosing a Camp

Overview

Can you provide us with the background/history of the camp?

What makes your camp different or unique?

Staff

What is the camper-to-staff ratio?

How many counselors are in a bunk?

What kind of training does the staff receive?

Do your general counselors teach specialty activities (arts & crafts, athletics, theater, etc.) or do you have specific staff for these activities?

Campers

What geographic area do most of your campers come from?

What skills and values do you believe campers gain from spending the summer at your camp?

Food

Is the food kosher-style or does the camp have a kosher kitchen?

Does the camp cater to individual food needs, like allergies, dietary restrictions, etc.?

Jewish programming

How do you infuse Jewish values, culture and/or tradition into a typical day at camp?

Is there a curriculum that guides the education over the summer?

Is your camp affiliated with any particular movement? If so, how does it affect daily programming?

Does your camp celebrate Shabbat?

Paying for Camp

What kind of scholarships are available?

What kind of financial assistance is available?

To learn about the Center for Jewish Camping, go to livecamp.org. To talk to Janna Zuckerman or schedule an appointment, email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

By Janna Zuckerman