In this short piece, Rabbi Shafran reminisces about his camp-free childhood and makes the case that camp is not (gasp!) a necessity. This is certainly a different tune that that of the prevailing American Orthodox world as a whole where camp is considered a necessity, often pushed by mechanchim at the forefront. One reason is that torah learning might suffer. Rabbi Shafran doesn't seem particularly concerned writing:
Did I learn as much Torah as I might have in a camp? Probably not.
Rabbi Shafran even goes so far as to say this [emphasis mine]:
"Although several of our children attended summer camps one or two years here and there, my wife and I never considered the experience de rigeuer, or even necessarily in our kids’ best interest."
Parents have been told that camp is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. Parents are told that camp is a necessary part of their budget and sometimes they are even advised to incur debt to finance the annual experience, that they can and should apply for more tuition reductions to provide camp, etc. Just don't save for retirement, mind you!
It is quite refreshing to see someone influential say "no" this isn't a necessary, a summer in a less structured environment can be good for the child and good for the family:
"Considerable economic pressures faced by so many in the observant Jewish community these days are exacerbated by the psychological pressures born of once-luxuries relabeled as necessities. Parents’ emotional stability and sholom bayis can be negatively affected as a result. There will always be children who need a summer camp experience, because no parent is home during the day or for some other reason. But for some families, summer, with no word following it, might still have the makings of a wonderful time for a child."
Happy Summer to the campers and home-campers alike.