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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Reason We Are In a Pickle Concluded

I picked out a few select quotes from Rebbitzen Jungreis's columns on visiting day/camp to explain in just a few words why we are in a (financial) pickle as a community, as well as to why entitlement is alive and well.

Reason 1: We are in a pickle is that "we do not want our children to feel deprived or different from their friends" which causes us to undertake obligations that are enormous for our station in life and which erode our financial foundation to say nothing about issues with shalom bayit.

Reason 2: We are in a pickle because we aren't willing to put a stop to things. Grandparents are funding their own children's spending (begrudgingly, perhaps, but the money is still green) and there is little recollection of how to do without or what alternatives could serve as a replacement.

Reason 3: This week's column concludes why we may never get out of the pickle. The message of the column is loud and clear. We all must do the same thing as deviation in unhealthy for children. "One size fits all" rarely fits anyone. I think that visiting day should be built into a budget, but there is no question that for many parents sleepaway camp really doesn't fit in the budget, and that contributes to complaining about the $100-$200 cost of visiting, even though the real issue is the cost of camp, not visiting day. What can I say, it was a disappointment to see the Rebbitzen's conclusions, but I still wanted to finish up my review of the series:

What then is the solution [to the costs of visiting day and camp]?

As I said, this is not one of those black and white situations. Nevertheless, the problem should be addressed, and the camp directors and parents should act in unison. They should consult with those who have expertise in chinuch (education) and benefit from their experience and wisdom. Certainly, nothing should be done without Da'as Torah. Whatever their decision, it should apply to all parents. Obviously, it would be detrimental for some children to have visitors while others have none. Children would feel forsaken and embarrassed if the parents of their fellow campers visited and they were alone.

Here again, we can take our cue from our Torah: When Moshe Rabbeinu charged the Tribes to go forth and do battle against the Midianites, he refrained from ordering the princes to lead, as was customary, for the Tribe of Simon had lost its prince and Moses did not want them to be put to shame.

Time and again, the Torah admonishes us to be on guard not to embarrass or hurt others. Surely, we would not want some children to feel abandoned while others had
visitors. So
whatever the decision, it should be adhered to by everyone. May we all be zocheh to see much Yiddishe nachas from our kinderlach.


Lion of Zion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lion of Zion said...

what does daas torah have to do with this?

SephardiLady said...

Got me LOZ.

I would hope daas Torah doesn't say that every child at every point in their upbringing must receive the exact same things from their parents.

Lion of Zion said...

are you coming to brooklyn anytime soon? i'd love to read an orthonomics review of the massive new gourmet kosher supermaket
(links here)

Lion of Zion said...

that didn't work. just copy and paste:

Mike S. said...

The Torah indeed commands us not to embarass others. Indeed, publicly humiliating someone is compared to murder. However, that does not mean that all difference among people must be eliminated. It means we should not treat the normal difference between people's characters and circumstances as a cause for embarassment.

rachel in israel said...

"Whatever their decision, it should apply to all parents."
" whatever the decision, it should be adhered to by everyone"

This still leaves plenty of room for inequality and unfairness. Children will suffer incredible damage if they see someone not identical to them in every aspect. Money, brains, sports, food, clothing, learning. We must demand equality.
We MUST take things further. I think time has come to implement a "Harrison Bergeron" society in the frum world.

As for me and every reader of this blog. We must look forward to wearing a little "mental handicap radio" that "would send out some sharp noise to keep people like" us "from taking unfair advantage of their brains"

Equality at last.

tdr said...

Let's keep in mind that she is talking about visiting day at sleepover camp not acquiring the latest --fill in the blank--.

A child whose parents don't visit on visiting will feel it keenly if every other child has visitors.

They might be disappointed/angry if all their friends have that gameboy and they don't, but it's not the same as having everybody see that your parents don't miss you enough/love you enough to visit on visiting day. It is certainly not true that parents who don't make it to VD don't love or miss their kids, but this might very well be how the child perceives it.

triLcat said...

tdr: this is why some camps have a special trip. The kids can pretend that their parents aren't coming because they'd rather go on a special trip.

And if a parent can't make it for visiting day, they should send a nice care package and call on visiting day, and EXPLAIN and PREPARE the child for the situation.

Mike S. said...


Surely a kid old enough to be in camp (I assume at least 10) is old enough to understand that parents might be too far, have responsibilities, like work or a sick parent, that don't permit them to come up on a Sunday, lack transportation or stretched their budget to (or beyond) the breaking point to pay the camp fees. And any well run camp will provide some option for those kids who don't have a visitor other than to sit around watching their bunkmates with their parents.

rachel in israel said...

If you know in advance that you can't afford to visit your child in camp, you can start preparing her/him well in advance. You can tell them that instead of visiting day you will have a family outing at the end of camp. It is cheaper and better quality time as a family.
I seriously doubt that any child from a stable and loving family will suffer severe permanent damage to his/her self esteem because of this.

One last point, someone who simply can't afford visiting day may do better not sending kids to sleep away camp.

(sorry about the last sentence, it seems too logical. my mental handicap radio must not be working properly)

triLcat said...

I get that camp is a wonderful experience for kids, but if it's a financial stretch for parents, then try sending kids for one session instead of two or only send them some years. There's no law that a kid has to go to camp every single year to benefit from the camp experience

Anonymous said...

If children should never feel different from each other because that is Da'as Torah, and we must do everything to equalize and have them never feel like someone is better because that is Da'as Torah, then can I recommend that we get rid of the small highly competitive yeshivahs. And every kid should be in the shiur of the rosh yeshiva. As a matter of fact, every bochur should have a chevrusa with the Rosh Yeshiva.... wouldn't want a kid to feel "left out"....

If parents must go deeply into debt so their kids feel included in pointless wastes of money, I think our rabbaim should make the same efforts...

Anonymous said...

I think that RiI hits the nail on the head.

The Torah does not command us to eradicate the difference between rich and poor, it commands us not to covet what the other has (with the implication that it's something which we don't have). We should davka try to step outside of the "everyone is the same" framework, and raise children who are okay with being who they are, and are okay with others being who they are.

SephardiLady said...

TDR-I'm already coming from a perspective that can't understand why a child "needs" sleepaway camp. I still believe the real issue is the a luxury is viewed as a necessity.

Anonymous said...

SL - no doubt about it, camp is a luxury, but for some it may have a lot of benefits. Unlike a regular vacation, the kids gain some independence, gain some yiddishkeit, gain some outdoor skills, make friends from all over the USA and Europe and thus broaden their perspective. I have implicitly made the choice, I guess, that I would rather pay for camp than fix up my old 1970s kitchen with one sink and one dishwasher and yellow paint, or go on a vacation myself. And I would never send a child who didn't want to go. My kids talk about camp all year round!

Lion of Zion said...


"gain some yiddishkeit"

i realize that is the justification for non-orthodox camping, but this is a real strech as a justification for orthodox camps. unless we are talking about a specific ideological mission (and moshava is the only example still around that i can think of), i don't think summer camps are important as far as yiddishkeit is concerned (unless you are talking about learning camps)

Anonymous said...

Maybe I meant learn some different zmiros than we sing at home? Tisha B'Av programs? Things like that.

tdr said...

I agree that it is a sad sign that camp is seen as an entitlement like so many other luxuries.

I don't have kids in camp so I didn't really think through the whole process of what actually happens when the parents don't make it up.

My kids are still too young for us to even consider camp. To me the pre-school analog was the only kid whose parent forgot to come to the Chanukah celebration. (My son's preschool sent home a note right before a long weekend so I didn't have a chance to put it in my calendar at work and as a result completely forgot. Oh the guilt!!)

Thinnking said...

2 points if I may.

1."we do not want our children to feel deprived or different from their friends". We need to stop blaming our kids for our decisions. We are the one's who don't want to be seen as different. At the end of the day most kids would be fine with less, it is the parents who would feel that they will now be viewed as up to the "standard".

2. I did not get to go to camp until I was 13 years old as that was the first time my parents could afford to send me. I spent the next the next 8 years in different capacities in camp, growing each summer. I learned everything I know about being what I am today from my parents, but camp was where I actually got to experience it. Taking care of myself out of choice, not because my parents were there, but because I wanted to. I learned to be responsible for others, as a JC, Counselor, Division Head etc. I learned to be a role model and how to interact with others. These are skills that I learned from the role models I had in camp. I would never send my children to sleep away camp for the luxury of it, but I would never deprive my children of the opportunity to grow and become an independent mensch. I would eat spaghetti every night of the year if that is what it took in order for me to send my children!
I could literally tell you dozens of stories of phenomenal personal growth that happened over the summers spent in camp.

Lion of Zion said...


"Maybe I meant learn some different zmiros than we sing at home? Tisha B'Av programs? Things like that."

eh. i love to sing zmiros, but i can do without tisha b'av (i would have loved some tu be-av programing).

i think you are stretching it. i don't think israel or europe has summer camps on the scale of our sleepaway camps and they are doing ok.

i'm not saying that there aren't good reasons to go to camp, finances permitting, but i'm just not convinced that yiddishkeit really factors in for most camps.

aml said...

I read your post this morning and was thinking about it on the way home and remembered something I'd completely forgotten about... this is what I think, looking in from the outside (sort-of, I've been "inside" for about a decade now). I didn't grow up Jewish and didn't have any Jewish friends growing up. I converted orthodox in college, spent some time at seminary in Israel, and met my husband about six months later. My husband is an Israeli FFB and one of the first things I noticed bout my MIL was her incessant need to keep up with those around her. She insisted in a large engagement party (something foreign to me and something my husband could have cared less about), and there were other things- I can't remember detail- but I can remember saying to my husband on several occasions, "if her friends jumped off a bridge, would she too?"

Here I was a 22-year-old getting annoyed at a 40-something-year-old b/c she would have to have things a certain way as not to be embarrassed in front of her friends and neighbors.

I'm not suggesting that there isn't a "keep up with the Jones'" mentality in the non-Jewish or even non frum world. It just seems to be magnified here.

Thankfully DH and I haven't really gotten caught up in this too much. We make really good money and I can't imagine spending $5-6k to send my kids away for the summer. I work to much during the year and am away from them too much to ship them off for 6 weeks. But my kids are little. I'll check back in when they're teenagers and let you know if I still feel the same way ;).

SephardiLady said...

aml-Guest post? I think you could bring a new perspective. Great comments.

triLcat said...

My mother grew up conservative, and it was only because she went to camp (Ramah) that she became religious. For my father, who grew up religious, camp was also an extremely powerful influence. My mother's parents were the type who didn't want the kids bumping around the house, and camp was an acceptable way to get rid of them.

My father's parents did everything to send him to camp. He always cites the example that his mother went without a new winter coat so he could go to camp (Either camp was a lot cheaper or winter coats were a lot more expensive, b/c I can't imagine the $75 I spent on my last winter coat (4 years ago) making much of a dent in a kid's camp budget...btas) In other years, his dad worked as a mashgiach/counselor to get him into a kosher scout camp for free. When my dad was old enough, he worked as a camp counselor.

When he was around 21, he met a 16-y-o camper girl, and they wrote letters back and forth for about 4 years... somehow or other, they now live in Israel and have 25+ grandchildren, but then again, they were exposed to the evils of *gasp* mixed (co-ed) camps... so everything they have achieved (including 3 doctorates, encouraging dozens of people to start keeping shabbat/kashrut, and having all 5 kids make aliya.) is 100% tameh...

mlevin said...

When I was 9 my parents told me that they won't be coming for a visiting day. They actually repeated that a number of time. When they didn't show, I was crying bitterly. My mom's cousin was there visiting on the same day and decided to include me in their little picnic after I was "caught" hiding and crying behind the bunk. I still feel slighted over that day. If you can't visit, then send someone else in your place. Children need to feel loved, instead I felt unwanted. And it should apply to all events in your child's life, including stupid performances and parent/teacher confernces.

Anonymous said...

like most other things in life, camp is a choice. if a family does not feel that a camp experience fits into their life style (economic, religious observance,etc.) just say no. how hard is that? children respect a no without a reason. my husband and i are the responsible adults in our household, so the children must listen to our decisions. my home is not a democracy when it comes to important or financial decisions. when they are old enough to make their own decisions, they will. until that time, we are the parents, they are the children, period.

A Living Nadneyda said...

For most of us in Israel, sending our kids to day camp is a necessity, not a luxury option... school may get out at the end of June, but our contracts have us committed to showing up at work, well into the summer. The percentage of our salaries that we spend on day camps barely justifies working at all, but taking off that much time is just not an option.

The 10-month school year was designed for a time when only the father worked, but that time is long past, and our whole society pays the price.