Why Jewish Summer Camp?

summer camp

Overnight summer camp is awesome. I don’t know if I’ve ever met a former camper who disagrees.

But why do parents send their kids to summer camp? More specifically, why do Jewish parents send their kids to Jewish summer camp?

In a terrific essay for the (Vancouver, B.C.) Jewish Independent, Kelley Korbin writes of her shock at hearing that “many Jewish parents send their kids to Jewish camps so they’ll meet a Jewish spouse.” So why does she send her children to Jewish camp? “It’s simple really,” she writes. “I chose Jewish summer camp for my kids because that’s where I went.”

She goes on to recount sweetly her many crushes and many kisses with Jewish boys at summer camp–and how, in the end, she married a wonderful non-Jewish man.

But while conservative American Jewish sociologists have argued for sending kids to Jewish summer camp on the grounds it prevents intermarriage, marriage doesn’t seem a particular concern to parents, at least according to a 2006 report by the Foundation for Jewish Camping. The survey of Jewish parents in the Los Angeles area did not ask whether intermarriage was a concern, but their responses to arguments for camp suggest that it was not. “He/she would have a good time” and “Being away from home with others the same age would help your child grow and mature” were significantly more persuasive than other arguments. Indeed, the only argument that might relate to intermarriage–”It strengthens friendships with other Jewish kids”–was considered persuasive by nearly the fewest number of parents. Moreover, the number two objection that parents had to Jewish camps after cost was the concern that their children should be exposed to “all kinds of kids, not just Jewish kids.”

While certainly some parents may be looking to make a shidduch for their little ones at summer camp, most just want their kids to have fun.

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One thought on “Why Jewish Summer Camp?

  1. this is a great article, but i must say these parents are thinking just a little too ahead for now. the typical age for attending sleepaway camp is between 11 and 14. at that age, kids are certainly not thinking about marriage and neither should their parents. are they thinking about the opposite sex? perhaps. but marriage? no. we are all taught the importance of marrying Jewish from the time we’re born, but parents should hold off on the “find a nice Jewish boy or girl” spiel until the kids actually have the opposite gender on the brain (typically around the same age they go off to overnight camp). kids don’t generally begin dating until they’re about 15 anyways (unless they have super strict parents who won’t let them date until they’re 18), and they don’t always marry the first person they date. but it usually helps to be prepared.

    i went to Jewish overnight camp when i was 11 and then again at 13. the latter had a lot of kids from interfaith families. you had the Cohens and Adlers mixed in with the O’Donnells and Morrisons. but the fact that interfaith parents choose a Jewish camp signifies their desire to raising strongly-indentifying Jews.

    there are always possiblities that people meet at camp and ultimately marry. i know someone who met her soon-to-be husband in USY 8 years ago. i doubt at the time, either of them expected they’d marry each other. but like i said, possiblities are endless. but the most important reasons why Jewish parents should send kids to Jewish camps are to have fun, develop social/creative/athletic skills, get to know people from a variety of Jewish backgrounds, and indulge in the fresh air. save the shidduch for later on. this type of pressure can lead kids to become resentful as adults, and chances of their actively seeking out a Jewish spouse might decrease.

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