Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Camp Battle

A boxing match has begun in Bergen County. Some high schools sent letters to parents stating the school considers summer programs (Israel and for 10th to 12th graders are discretionary expenses, not basic expenses and that families sending their children, regardless of who pays, may be jeopardizing some or all of their scholarships. Quite frankly, I think the letter lacks teeth. "You may be jeopardizing some or all of your scholarship?" The passive voice isn't particularly convincing, is it?

Following this letter, two editorials have appeared in the Jewish Week decrying such a policy. The first letter comes from the paper's editor, Tough Choice: School Scholarship or Summer Camp. The second from NCSY International Director Don't Make Summer Programs 'Luxury Items'. Both articles decry the policy. The first editorial makes the argument

Both articles focus on the expected, the value of Jewish camping. The CEO of the Foundation for Jewish Camping is quoted in the first article saying "Families should not be "penalized" for wanting a full Jewish educational experience." In the second article the Rabbi begs that schools not be defined as "luxury items." Both editorials call for recognizing the value of the other, and working together.

Personally, I'm not so interested in weighing in on whether or not camp is a luxury or not? Let's just say that 99% of Americans would not even understand arguing over the necessity if a multi-thousand dollar summer "experience" is a basic expense or luxury. I hail from a working class town and can easily count myself amongst that 99%. Where I grew up, camp generally referred to spending your days at the Boys Club or the Girls Club (they've since combined). Other kids spent their mornings at (free pubic) summer school, followed by (walking to) swim lessons. High schools went to summer school/junior college, worked, and/or joined a sports league. If a high schooler mentioned going to camp, it most certainly met they went to a 3-4 day intensive for some club or sport. [Full disclosure: in elementary I had the one-time opportunity to spend 2 weeks in a Jewish day camp and it was absolutely wonderful].

To me the question is simply one of priorities and yashrut. Is it proper for some parents to enroll their children in expensive summer programs (or purchase other expensive consumer items or services) all while asking other parents and donors to subsidize their tuition? Is it proper and upright to take on another financial obligation when you can't meet your first obligation? One would think the answer would be obvious, but if it was obvious, we wouldn't be having this discussion, would we?

Frankly, I have little shaychus to the entire discussion. Paying $7000 for an Israel or other Summer experience for one, single child is about as relevant to my life as discussing purchasing a Rolls Royce (note to the second editorial author: I don't compare new cars to yeshiva education or camp. The reason people do compare to cars, imo, is that people save for a single car over several years, and yet have bills equaling the price of a new car arriving in their mailbox each summer. That is why an equivalence continues to be drawn).

It seems that while the school administrators and camp administrators duke it out over luxury camping vs. not doing so, there is a demographic that goes completely unnoticed (the demographic that doesn't get the experiences, only the bill). I'd consider our family part of that hidden demographic. We have a list of reasonably priced luxuries that might enhance our lives and our children's lives, but we are maxed out by tuition to the point where after-school gymnastics, ballet, art, or tennis is simply out of the question. We'd like to be able to take our children on road trips or go to an amusement park. But spending an extra low four figures would overrun the budget and make it very difficult to meet tuition on cash flow alone. Yet no one seems to recognize when parents ask for assistance to do what "everyone else" is doing, that they aren't just putting the burden on those who do, but those who will never do.

The end.


SQ said...

SL, Why can't a same, knowledgeable person like you be in charge of our communal institutions? Please?

tesyaa said...

You know, I have gotten over the idea that scholarship families have luxuries that I choose to deprive myself of. (I'd love an iPhone, for example). As I commented on a different blog, people who deprive themselves of luxuries such as cleaning help are choosing delayed gratification and should congratulate themselves on their discipline. This is because scholarship families have little or no ability to save for retirement.

While yes, giving scholarship funds to families who spend thousands on camp puts the burdens on others, I'd say that this policy is going to be changing quickly. Most schools can't afford to take a $7000 haircut on a single child so he can go to a fancy camp.

I'd add that the struggling families I know who send their kids to sleepaway camp uniformly choose the cheapest camps available. I really don't know anyone who's struggling whose kid goes to a luxury camp. Maybe that varies by community.

Avi Greengart said...

I agree with you overall, but wonder where you draw the line. Dual income families need some sort of supervision over the long summer vacation. Some part of camp is not a luxury but a necessity for these families. If you draw the line at sleep away camps, what about expensive day school-style camps? Isn't a camp that brings in "Yehuda" to sing for six year olds a bit over the top?
If you draw the line at anything pricier than public town camps, you run into a hashkafic argument: do children need to be in a Jewish environment 24/7 to grow up frum? If so, then that pricey day camp isn't perceived to be a luxury any more. If not, then why is it OK to send them to the local Arts program over the summer but during the year they need to be in yeshiva? It's not even an insignificant amount of time. We may not be farmers who need our kids for help with the harvest any more, but the schools take a quarter of the year off anyway.

Unknown said...

Great post and agreed wholeheartedly.

I don't see why schools can't be the ones who run the camps, thereby mitigating a lot of these issues (and potentially other ones).

Anonymous said...

My husband and I both work. Who would watch my kids who are too young to be left alone. Call it camp call it day care it is a necessity not a luxury.

Miami Al said...

In Florida, the schools all run camps (caveat, because of our weather, our school campuses are designed to have outdoor activities year round, not sure that your schools have the facilities to run a camp there.

If a school offers a camp, then if the parents have two incomes, the student should be at camp there. Since the money is fungible, the school's account department can decide how to break it down between school and camp via scholarship.

Maybe there is an argument that the parents can choose a cheaper camp, but again, money in fungible, but no argument for a more expensive one.

Anonymous said...

If you get a chance, you might want to listen to this discussion about American Orthodoxy- the panel is very pro day school despite the large financial burden.

EP said...

I'd agree that no one who sends their children to camp should qualify for a tuition reduction. But the need for both parents to work complicates the picture.

Does that mean camp is a necessity? Some creative, imaginative thinking is needed.

Teenage girls in our community start camps for preschoolers of varying ages and have the camp in their house with the use of a nearby pool. The small children are supervised with creative activities planned by 14 and 15 year olds. If you think that's too young to be a counselor, you should see my nieces and how creative and responsible they are with their little ones. They always hire an 11 year old to help with the children. When the 14 and 15 year old counselors "age out" of the day camp, they have already trained their younger sister to take over the day camp job. They save their money from this (the do it yourself day camp is always much less expensive than a formal day camp) and use it to pay for their year in Israel seminary. This is in Baltimore, and this is the norm there. Loads of teenage-run camps, lots of little ones supervised and kept busy, mothers can go to work, and the year in Israel gets paid for by teenage sweat equity.

Sounds like a very healthy system.

Anonymous said...

How can any girl earn the $25,000 (including airfare & expenses) needed for seminary by working a few summers in backyard camp? And when the topic of seminary comes up, let's talk about scholarships and families with a girl in seminary. If an older sister is in seminary, do the parents of younger kids get a tuition break because they're paying for this non-necessity?

Let's not even talk about the fact that teenagers need lifeguard certification if they're taking kids swimming and they may not have the supervisory skills needed. Last summer I saw a few young teens with a gaggle of little girls on bicycles trying to cross 2 highway exit ramps. Let's just say I would not want my kids in that "camp".

But if I argue with EP, it really means I agree with her, correct?

Miami Al said...

Seminary Cost: $24000

Summers to save: 3
Weeks/summer: 12

Weeks of Camp: 36

Amount per week to pay: $24000 / 36 Weeks = $666.67

How many kids in "camp"? At 8, she needs to charge $83.33/week per camper, at 4, it's $166.67

At any rate, I wouldn't assume that the girls save up $25000, but perhaps some of it... The math doesn't seem to hard to reach, and I think it is a wonderful experience to have that sort of a business experience.

Children over 12 don't "need" camp so parents can work. Children under 12 needs the least expensive option for childcare that is "acceptable" for the community's level of frumkeit.

tesyaa said...

Al - I could nitpick on the math, but I won't - oh, I will. Summers in the NY area are a max of 10 weeks, not 12, but Baltimore may be different. And if 2-3 girls are running the camp, they need to split the money between them. There are expenses (art supplies, etc), but those are not too much, I'll agree.

Seminary is a big expense, and I'm surprised how many people think it's just a few thousand dollars. It's megabucks.

Ariella's blog said...

I remember a woman who reflected on the irony of being approached to give tzedaka to an organization that was supposed to fund camp for children whose families could not afford it. She kept her children home because she knew she couldn't afford it. It had occurred to her to ask for tzedka for it. But when her son entered a particular high school, they mandated that he attend sleepaway camp.

EP said...

Anon, 6:13 pm, you certainly may argue with me. I welcome debate! On the subject of lifeguard certification, my super-swimmer nieces all get their Red Cross lifeguard certification before they become camp counselors. As for the economics - how they pay for the year in Israel - they do not confide the economics in me so I can't tell you how they do it. The 11 year old is an employee, not a partner, so profits are split between the two sisters only, and I assume the older sister must get a larger share. They actively recruit for campers, and because of the high cost of camp their do it youself camp is very popular in the community. Also, they and their family are known in the community which gives them an advantage in terms of trust and reputation.

I do know they pay for the year in Israel themselves. Maybe they go to less expensive seminaries, sems for families who are used to the do it yourself model.

If they weren't my own nieces, I would admire their moxy, initiative, and ability. But since they are mine, I shall shrug modestly and say, it's done with the help of Hashem. Thank you for your comments.

Anonymous said...

Tessya: The problem is not that scholarship families have luxuries that you and many others don't, the problem is if you and others are indirectly funding those luxuries. If the scholarship families are using money that they could otherwise put towards tuition for luxuries and as a result the tuition goes up a bit for everyone else, that is a problem. And yes, I understand that day camp (but not sleep away) is a necessity for families where both parents work and the children are too young to be left at home alone or to get summer jobs of their own.

Anonymous said...

Again, there is no questioning on this blog of local, non-Jewish options. There are several less expensive day camps on most communities run out of local schools at half the cost of Jewish camp.

More to the point, the lack of professionalism at day schools let's parrots get away with these shenanigans. Scholarship applications should ask very directly - what do your children do during thus summer and what does it cost; what does your family do for preach and what does it cost. If a third party is paying then that third party money should count as income in the calculation of need.

We are in times when we have to make hard choices. Face up

Alexis said...

Backyard camps are an enormous legal liability, not to mention parents who prefer to send their children to camps with trained, adult staff.

In any case, these camps are a substitute for day camp. If I sent my 4 year old to full time JCC day camp for 8 weeks, it would cost me $1600. I think it gets a bit more expensive for older grades as the activities and trips get more involved. The letter was about high school travel camps, which are several orders of magnitude more expensive. Find me an elementary school saying "no day camp" and then we'll argue about whether it's really necessary to send your child to one. IMO, it's a necessity for dual income families (they have to pay for childcare in any event) and even if you stay at home, a few weeks in day camp is not very expensive and provides a welcome break for everyone. Not everyone lives somewhere where the city/town provides activities. I don't.

JS said...

Good post.

The problem is that there is an ever increasing sense in our communities that children must be in a frum environment (and no, home doesn't count) all the time if they are to grow up frum. Camp and Israel and other travel programs and such are just as important as yeshiva. So nothing is a luxury anymore. It's all a necessity. This is why no one can be turned away for inability to pay. How can we deem the less fortunate to becoming off thx derech?

The solution is simple if we're mature enough and secure enough in our religiousity - commmunity or jcc camps for young kids are ok anything beyond that is not. When kids are legally allowed to work they should. End of story.

J said...

I'd also add that somehow it has become "unJewish" for everyone to not be made equal regardless of financial wherewithal. The NCSY director bemoans only the rich and elite as being financially able to afford camp as setting up a caste system. This is really too much and is completely warping the very concept of tzedaka.

tesyaa said...

If the scholarship families are using money that they could otherwise put towards tuition for luxuries and as a result the tuition goes up a bit for everyone else, that is a problem.

I just responded to a similar comment on another blog, so I'll repeat it here. If the tuition committee has figured out that a family's income & assets entitle them to X thousand in aid, and they choose to (for example) eat tuna every Shabbos and walk to work to save on gas money, and apply the savings to cleaning help, that's the way it goes. No tuition committee will come and take away money that people saved by scrimping. There are probably people who save money by never taking their kids to the doctor and spend it on cleaning help. It's very stupid, but you can't get rid of stupidity.

That doesn't mean that the scholarship committee shouldn't overlook blatant abuse. It's unseemly when a family receiving aid has lots and lots of extras, and it certainly breeds resentment. But if someone chooses to spend on extras instead of using their money practically, you can't legislate common sense.

YoelB said...

This is an old issue. Sigmund Freud, in his work on jokes/wit and the unconscious, told and discussed a number of Jewish jokes. One of them goes something like this:

An impoverished man borrows 25 florins from a well-to-do acquaintance, assuring him at great length of his distress. The benefactor goes to his favorite restaurant that day, and sees the schnorrer sitting in the restaurant with a plate of salmon with mayonnaise in front of him.

He reproaches him: “What, you borrow money from me, and then you go and order salmon with mayonnaise? That’s what you used my money for?”

“I don’t get it,” answered the accused, “when I’ve got no money I can’t eat salmon with mayonnaise. When I’ve got money, I mustn’t eat salmon with mayonnaise. So tell me, when can I eat salmon with mayonnaise?”

If I remember Freud's analysis correctly, the poor man realizes that he'll soon be poor again, so why shouldn't he enjoy himself while he can?

Abba's Rantings said...


"My husband and I both work. Who would watch my kids who are too young to be left alone."

the letter is really about sleepaway and israel programs. so do you really need to spend 8k to send your kids to morasha? you can't think of any cheaper ways to provide your kids with a safe and wholesome summer? or do you work 24/7 and morasha is thus a necessity?

Abba's Rantings said...


"I really don't know anyone who's struggling whose kid goes to a luxury camp. Maybe that varies by community."

at least in the MO sphere there aren't really any non-"luxury" camps. this is what the camps cost for 2011 (ranges are for different ages; prices for 2 months unless indicated):

ncsy sports: $2699 (1 month!)
ncsy seg: $3200 (1 month!)
mesorah: $4950-5800 ($7200-7800 without early bird discount)
moshava io: $5950-6250 (prices are down this year)
morasha: $6700-7975 (higher if credit card payment)
lavi: $7500-8500
seneca lake: $8700

some MO kids will end up in dora golding, which is considerably cheaper, but these kids are the exceptions. and while dora golding is certainly a bargain for sleepaway camp, it still isn't cheap compared to other options: $3685 to $4345 for full summer (or $3985 to $4595 without early bird discount).

"I'd love an iPhone"

now this is much more important than camp. treat yourself! i love mine.

Abba's Rantings said...

this is a crituqe of the second article that i posted elsewhere:

r. burg writes, “In summer programs students connect to Jewish texts.” which summer programs he is referring to? NCSY Kollel is not the typical MO camp, which is basically a sports camps with a minimal amount of learning.

and the best justification he can come up with for expensive camps is to keep kids away from the internet? he can’t think of any other ways to keep kids away from the internet?

but where i really think he is out of touch with reality: “Now that high schools have started talking about such policies regarding scholarships, elementary schools are taking note . . . [But] realistically, what are working parents to do with their children who are home for the summer if sending them to camp will jeopardize their tuition assistance? Hire a sitter? That’s no cheaper and far less fulfilling from an educational standpoint.”

a) what about homes where there aren’t 2 working parents?
b) even in the most expensive areas it is still cheaper to a hire a sitter, particularly when one sitter may watch multiple children (and in many cases the family has a sitter in any case because there is a child in the house that is too young for camp)
c) there is a middle ground between keeping a kid in the house for the summer (with a sitter or a parent) and sending him to an expensive MO sports camp. depending on geographic area and the camp, sleepaway camps are 2 to 5 times more expensive than day camp. what is wrong with sending kids to day camps instead? is a sleepaway sports camp really 2 to 5 times more “fulfilling from an educational standpoint”?

this article represents for me why there is a “tuitionn crisis” (among others). there is a simple inability on the part of our educators, rabbis and communal organizations to think even a tiny bit outside the box.

Abba's Rantings said...


if you don't mind the 3gs, you can get it for $50 with a contract (or $20 for a refurbished model, but i wouldn't go that route)

Zach Kessin said...

For the high school students why can't they get summer jobs? That way they would learn how to work and that when you work you get money. Or maybe that is why they can't get summer jobs.

At some point the comminty will figure out that at some point you can't have everything and trying to do so will lead to disaster. I just hope its before the disaster.

Bklynmom said...

I send my children to sleepaway camp for a greatly reduced or no cost because I barter my professional services for the camp fee. And, unlike the yeshiva tuition breaks for teachers, my arrangement is that I don't get paid, and the money is applied to the camp fee. I do this while taking vacation from my regular job. Having seen a MO sleepaway camp as staff, and having seen the positive changes in my children, I am tempted to say camp may be more important for the development of a child's Jewish identity than day school. In camp, children get to be with others very much like them 24 hours a day; they get to meet MO (in our case) kids and staff from many places in the US and Israel, to see how similar they are, to see the values we are trying to instill in them at work. True, camp does not teach Hebrew or Tanach (maybe a little), or Talmud. But it does teach spirituality. Than having been said, if I did not have the professional arrangement with the camp, we would never send out kids; we too are strapped by yeshiva tuition. I also was just a a beneficiary of a free trip to Israel--the first time I have ever been there, and was only able to go because it was free. My kids have never been. The fact that children of many middle class MO parents lose out on the spiritual spects of Jewish camping, travel to Israel, etc, to me is very sad. I don't pretend to know what the answers are, and I am not yet ready to say "no" to day school for my children. But I do wonder if public school, combined with home-schooled religious studies (done by the parents or a tutor), and summer camp and Israel travel may result in stronger, more committed (if not "frummer") Jews than we are currently producing, at a lower monetary cost. I will now duck the flame-throwers :).

Anonymous said...

To Bklynmom,
And in the interests of Yashrut, I am sure you report this bartering income to the IRS (see, eg, about bartering income).

JS said...

What a surprise that the head of NCSY would say that summer camps are a religious necessity. NCSY runs two summer camps. Our leadership cannot be relied upon to lead when they have financial conflicts of interest.

Very sick that its a religious necessity that a parent or the community is expected to cough up over 20k per year per child for yeshiva and camp. Any other religions have such requirements?

Anonymous said...

What about inexpensive day camp for the working parents? On the order of Gan Israel or YMHA camps (where my kids went)? When both parents work, kids in suburbs have to be somewhere over the summer. In my town, the free summer program at the public school is 9 am to noon for 1 month only.

Abba's Rantings said...


"I do wonder if public school, combined with home-schooled religious studies (done by the parents or a tutor), and summer camp and Israel travel may result in stronger, more committed (if not "frummer") Jews than we are currently producing"

i think summer camp is very important for a public school kid (not convinced for day school kids from committed homes/commiunities). but is it more important than day school itself? are 2 months (even 2 months of 24/7 in a sleepaway camp) more important than 10 hours of the most productive hours of the day for 10 months?

obviously i'm not opposed to putting a kid in public school, but i wouldn't underestimate the difficulties and i certainly wouldn't recommend doing it for the sake of camp.

Abba's Rantings said...


"What about inexpensive day camp for the working parents?"

that's not issue, but rather sleepaway camps that can cost almost 9k

JS said...

"i think summer camp is very important for a public school kid (not convinced for day school kids from committed homes/commiunities). but is it more important than day school itself? are 2 months (even 2 months of 24/7 in a sleepaway camp) more important than 10 hours of the most productive hours of the day for 10 months?"

It's an interesting question. I know several people from Conservadox or very LW MO families who were sent to MO sleepaway camps. All these kids went to MO yeshivas starting in kindergarten.

At these camps the rabbis and advisors found out the kids (I say kids, but they were around 14-16) were from less than wholly frum families and made the kids their "pet projects" for the summer - the goal was to get these kids to come home and try to make their families more observant. For example, get the mother to be more careful about Shabbos observance, toveil their dishes, and get the parents to agree to send the kids to Israel so they can grow religiously. The kids were told if the parents didn't agree to Israel the rabbis/advisors could find money for them to go anyways.

Summer camp did what yeshiva didn't - the kids all came back dedicated to going to minyan 3 times a day (even the girls), dressing more appropriately (more tznius for the girls, more yeshivish for the guys), and wanting to go to yeshiva in Israel. Oh, and they all got into huge fights with their families over observance in the home.

If you see that as a success (as opposed to brain washing), I guess camp is more effective than yeshiva.

Abba's Rantings said...


i don't think there is anything the least bit wrong with camp staff making kids from non-frum homes into "pet projects." and parents should know better. camps, just like schools, have mission statements. but it is completely unacceptable to turn kids against their parents or otherwise meddle in the family decision-making process. (sometimes it can be a grey area.)

also, i have to ask if you are basing your description on one particular camp (or as i suspect, on a group of camps run by a particular organization). i don't think there is conspiracy across MO camps to turn kids against their parents. i have some experience with one particular very large large MO camp (itself part of a larger network), and i can't believe that the rabbis/staff there would do what you described vis-a-vis the parents.

anon426 said...

I had some enterprising neighbors who never said no to babysitting (I love that). They ran a backyard camp in their house.

It was clear that those girls did not limit "camp enrollment" at all. The place was *crawling* with little girls. It had to have been dangerous. I've never been comfortable with backyard camps -- or unlicensed daycare for that matter.

Keep in mind that FSA money is available for summer camp (how much? up to $5,000 I think?) which is not available for school.

Against better judgment I am letting my 12 yr old son run free for all but 2 weeks of summer this year because I simply can't afford camp. We're hoping he gets a job, but since most backyard camps are run by teenage girls there are not many opportunities for this.

As a scholarship parent who also sends kids to a quality (non-backyard) camp I have made a great effort to mitigate the cost of that camp. I used to do volunteer work in the evenings for the camp until I reached the point where I simply couldn't handle it anymore. And I have uncomfortable conversations with the camp director where I have to ask for help with camp. I hate doing that!

Camp Gan Izzy is a great institution. Good camp and very affordable and starts right after school ends!

JS said...


I'm speaking of NCSY's Camp Sports (for boys) and NCSY's Summer Experience for Girls (SEG). I don't know if other camps do the same thing.

I know people that went to both camps and had the same experience I described above. The boys, in particular, all told me they had the same experience: towards the end of camp the advisor/rabbi would take the kid for a drive (I think to get some goody from a nearby town, not sure) and would pull over to the side of the road on the way back and say how he was so nervous about what would happen when the kid returned to his home, that the kid had made so much progress in camp religiously, had grown so close to Hashem, and would then go back home and it would all be lost, that thinking of this kept him up at night and he worried about the kid's neshoma. The kid then feels horrible and says, no, of course not, I love Hashem and I would never do that. This goes back and forth till the kid is crying (every kid told me he started crying) and the rabbi/advisor then made suggestions for what the kid needed to do to make sure he and his family stay close to Hashem including going to Israel even if parents didn't agree, coming back to camp next year, going to certain NCSY events, staying in touch during the year, committing to certain religious observances (usually tznius, dressing yeshivish, davening, shomer negiah), and talking to the parents about keeping a more religious home.

It's pretty obvious this type of behavior turns kids against their parents. I don't think it has to be done in this way - there are ways to get kids to want to be more religious without pitting their against their parents. I'd also argue this is highly manipulative and that this is a really sleazy tactic to use.

It's interesting that by this point the kids had been in yeshiva for over 10 years (roughly), but in one summer became super frum.

In case it wasn't clear, the families weren't wholly irreligious. They sent their kids to MO yeshivas and kept basic shabbat and kashrut - they just weren't as observant as they could be (e.g., mother doesn't cover hair, wears pants, father doesn't go to minyan or learn regularly).

Miami Al said...

Abba's Rantings,

Honoring your parents is a Torah commandment repeated multiple times in Tanach.

Going to Yeshiva in Israel is a contemporary cultural practice for American Orthodox Jews.

Clearly it is reasonable for the camp to push the latter at the expense of the former.

I think for identity, camp is probably more helpful than schooling. In school, you are mostly in subject matter, mastering material, earning grades, etc. Lots of Jewish knowledge can be imparted, but there isn't time to absorb it.

At Summer Camp, there is no pressure from school work. There is no reason not to go to Minyan, that's what you are doing.

Camping is also way less expensive in the US, because schooling will be provided for free, less cost of religious instruction, but you need to pay for summer day care regardless.

The Conservative Movement has put tremendous resources into camp at the expense of schooling.

They have the same problem JS does though...

Their most commited members come home, want to be observant, look around, and find the only observant Jews are in the Orthodox world.

The conservative movement lost their non committed families to the Reform movement, and their most committed children to Orthodoxy.

Lion of Zion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Abba's Rantings said...


i figured you were talking about NCSY camps.
again, i don't think this is typical of MO camps. perhaps i stand to be corrected, but it is definately not the case at the very large camp i'm familiar with.

Abba's Rantings said...


"Clearly it is reasonable for the camp to push the latter at the expense of the former."

i don't understand, unless you are being sarcastic

"I think for identity, camp is probably more helpful than schooling."

i don't know.

"In school, you are mostly in subject matter"

i think there is a tremendous amount of identity building, socialization and regulation of ritual behavior as well.

(btw, i'm not at all against camps. i just don't see a need to justify it with religious utility. i don't think there's anything wrong with sending a kid to camp so he can have some fun, enjoy the fresh air and let loose. and same with the year in israel.)

Anonymous said...

Why can't the yeshivas/day schools use their facilities for low cost summer camps? Even if they have to put in a swimming pool, they could still have a low cost camp. For those schools with a gym and some outdoor space, they have the facilities. They also have the teachers and employees to serve as counselors -- they can tell those that want tuition breaks for their own kids that they have to work year round for the same salary or they can pay full tuition. They can hire teens as low-cost counselors.

JS said...

"(btw, i'm not at all against camps. i just don't see a need to justify it with religious utility. i don't think there's anything wrong with sending a kid to camp so he can have some fun, enjoy the fresh air and let loose. and same with the year in israel.)"

Sure. But, I don't think those arguing for the religious necessity of camp (and thus, the need to fund it with communal money and not penalize scholarship families) are arguing for fun and fresh air. They're arguing for the kind of results I described above (though maybe not the methods) - namely, one summer of camp can make a kid more frum than 10 years of yeshiva.

Miami Al said...

Abba's Ranting,

"i don't understand, unless you are being sarcastic"

Very sarcastic, sorry.

"i think there is a tremendous amount of identity building, socialization and regulation of ritual behavior as well."

I went to a Conservative Summer camp. We washed and bensched each meal.

At school, the school can do what they want for lunch, but breakfast/dinner is whatever the home life is.

Point being, for two months, you are with only MO Jews, being MO Jews, with no pressure to do anything but be MO Jews. No "real world" responsibilities, just MO Fantasy Land, where you never have to choose between Maariv @ Shul or helping your child with their science project.

Again, if the goal is to impart knowledge of Orthodoxy, Yeshiva is the best methodology. If the goal is to impart identity, the 2 months of artificial time in MO-land should be more effective.

JS said...


The yeshivas themselves aren't low cost, what makes you think their camps would be?

The Kushner school runs a day camp called Gesher (

4 weeks are around $3250, 8 weeks are $4750. They offer travel programs for older kids too, it seems.

I could be very wrong, but I thought I had heard that the school loses money on the camp because it's so expensive to keep the facilities open and operational during the summer (I think insurance was another issue, again not 100% sure).

Mark said...

tesyaa - That doesn't mean that the scholarship committee shouldn't overlook blatant abuse.

What if the family has an additional source of income that wasn't disclosed to the scholarship committee?

Examples of such additional income might include their parents paying for groceries, paying the mortgage every few months, paying for Pesach hotels, paying for camp, giving them a credit card to use, leasing a vehicle for them, etc.

EP said...

Many of the writers on this blog express their frustration at not being able to afford the amenities that Bergen County offers - the homes, the schools, the camps, the cars.

And yet, there is a place a few hours drive from where you live where housing is cheap, shuls abound, schools are reasonably priced, recreation is one hour's drive away and your children can enjoy the equivalent of the pleasures of Great Adventures for no cost at all. I am referring to that bourgeois oasis, that prestige-lacking metropolis - boring Baltimore!

As for recreation: A one hour drive from Baltimore your children can spend Sundays visiting at no charge at all, every monument in Washington, the free Washington zoo, the Smithsonian, they can enjoy road trips to Gettysburg to the north and Mount Vernon to the south. West Virginia is nearby and WV has the cheapest hotels in the country and the most beautiful scenery on the Shenandoah Drive. And that's only recreation!

Why does no one seem to consider moving from such a frustrating place as Teaneck seems to be for the middle class? In Baltimore, everyone is middle class and therefore frustration is minimized. Perhaps that's the problem. No one wants to live among those as middle class as themselves. Perhaps you are all "aspirational" - meaning you prefer to struggle in Bergen County, an upscale suburb, than be content in a more middle class less prestigious city like Baltimore? Hmmm. Food for thought.

Commenter Abbi said...

JS: your ncsy camp story sounds icky and borderline emotionally abusive.

JS said...

Only borderline?

If it was one person who told me this, I'd probably write it off, but it was several people who all told me the same story and the people were different ages so this wasn't just one aberrant summer.

Mother of a 17 year old said...

About seminary
Did any of you know that Michala gives $2000 academic scholarships for high SAT or ACT marks? They also give a 10% discount for prepaying so that their $20,000 tuition will hopefully only cost us $16,200. Good reason to get your child to study.

And this is without (B"H B"H a million times) qualifying for or asking for any needs based help.

A number of more right wing seminaries offer needs based scholarships so that the cost is about $13000 - $15000.

Anonymous said...

did you get that picture of the letter off the chump blog?

Orthonomics said...

Anonymous 9:15PM, I took the link from the blog hat tipped. I believe the answer is yes.

Anonymous said...

Where in the Torah does it describe a the yeshivish dress style or mandate it as a way of getting closer to hashem.

tesyaa said...

If a family qualifies for "needs-based" help to go to a RW seminary, it still needs to come up with $13,000-$15,000 plus airfare, expenses (many RW seminaries don't include meals), phone charges, and so on. Where does a needy family get that kind of money other than borrowing?

And now all the girls come home for Pesach, adding a second set of airfare. 25 years ago when I went to seminary, only the very rich or very homesick girls went home for Pesach.

I guess if you view seminary as a necessity you will come up with the money. But unlike a college degree, there's not return on the seminary investment except in the intangibles like the shidduch department. UNLESS a girl is planning on becoming a limudai kodesh teacher - I agree in this case, seminary is a necessity.

Mother of a 17 year old said...

As far as I know, when a RW seminary gives a scholarship it stipulates that the young woman may not return home for Pesach.
As for my own daughter, since Michlala is an accredited college, she will be coming home with hopefully at least 30 college credits and I don't think it is an insane amount to spend for a year away in college. Of course she may end up over credits, but I have a person who is 2 years ahead of her to talk to about which courses will count towards the core in Queens college.

tesyaa said...

Mother - oh, I understand it's a different situation if the college your daughter is going to takes Michlala credits. Not all colleges/programs do.

Mark said...

tesyaa - And now all the girls come home for Pesach, adding a second set of airfare.

Really??? Why on earth would they do that? Pesach in Israel is absolutely beautiful! My nephew in Yeshiva isn't coming back for Pesach, he's staying to enjoy it in Israel.

tesyaa said...

Mark, I wish I knew why and when this new fad started. It's a sign of communal wealth, that's for sure.

tesyaa said...

I should add, though, that some seminaries close their dorms over Pesach, starting around Rosh Chodesh Nisan. So if a girl doesn't have family, she has to scrounge Yom Tov invitations and maybe even a place to stay for 3 weeks. Back when I was in seminary the dorm stayed open (we kashered our small kitchens) and the faculty was very welcoming about inviting us for Yom Tov.

Commenter Abbi said...

When i was in seminary, I came the summer before and did Bnei Akiva's Tochnit Nissan for Pesach. We stayed on Kibbutz Meyrav and helped kasher their kitchens for Pesach.

We had a blast. I didn't come back from the US for 11 months.

Mother of a 17 year old said...

I have been told (by the people involved) that their daughter is getting a needs based price of $7000 for the year (in a very RW seminary).

I went to NYU and got 26 credits from a more right wing place than Michala. Since I am pretty sure my daughter will go to Queens I think we are ok with the transfer credits. I don't think she will be attending a college that doesn't recognize Michlala.

EP said...

Back to SL's point that she is being left out of the after school activities and recreational opportunities that others enjoy: If SL lived in Baltimore, she could afford much more. Her discretionary income would cover more that are now unattainable luxuries. The sale of her home in Ritzville would buy her a much nicer home in boring Baltimore, and her children could then have after school activities at much lower cost than in Ritzville, because things are done in the shoestring manner in boring Baltimore, the style that SL really has been advocating all along. The recreational trips described above are available to Baltimoreans because of their perfect location, boring enough to discourage those with Hungarian tastes from living there, but just close enough to the no cost attractions of DC and free Civil War battlefields in Virginia and Pennsylvania that those with Hungarian tastes are totally not interested in. Do not forget the cheapest vacation spot in the contiguous 48 states - West Virginia! Where the family can afford to stay in a motel and drive through the Shenandoah during fall foliage season. A change of place may change mazel. Just a suggestion.

Of course, you need to have a job or business in Baltimore. Thousands of families have sought out Baltimore because of the above factors and before moving, went through enormous efforts to find a job or to establish a business. The only people who move to boring Baltimore are those with moxy, initiative, the enterprising, and those willing to change their lives in exchange for a better standard of living. This leaves out a lot of the Ritzville population, especially those with Hungarian tastes. I have done preliminary research and it is a fact that there is no Cole Haan store within 50 miles of Baltimore? And there is no Eileen Fisher emporium closer than Chevy Chase, a high priced DC suburb? This is as close as you can get to proof that Baltimore is too boring for those who really like to spend money!

Now for Anonymous's inevitable question: "What does this have to do with camp tuition? This post is TOTALLY IRRELEVANT."

Thanks, Anonymous. I hear you. Next question?

Anonymous said...

My cousin moved to Baltimore as her husband learns in Ner Israel and despite having professional qualifications she was only able to find a mediocre job.

EP, if you read archives of this blog you will see that SL does not live in Ritzville. She doesn't say where but she's clear it's not in the high-rent tristate communities. Shame on your for judging when the facts are readily available.

EP said...

I did not even realize this blog has archives, nor did I realize that a key to understanding your various lives is researching these archives. The word "archives" to me denotes the research materials available in the National Archives in Washington, the records of the British War Museum, or archives affiliated with major universities. I am so busy researching the arcana of Abraham Lincoln's Cooper Union address that it takes up all my time and I haven't a moment to spare to incorporate the idea that the word "archives" applies to a "blog".

But now that I understand that SL does not live in a prosperous community, I hope she and you are able to figure out that I did not mean to personally demean her or your lifestyle, or to implicitly accuse you or her of shopping at Cole Haan or Eileen Fisher or other sins of consumption.

I have a feeling that irony is a form of communication that does go over well on computers. I'm just practicing my typing, actually. Please don't take my trivia too seriously. I just finished doing my real work, which is reading Madeleine by Ludwig Bemelmans, the childen's classic, in Hebrew and English to my 6 year old. So if I have offended anyone on this blog - and if I have neglected to research your "archives" - well, I can only hang my head in shame.

My niece grew up in Baltimore, her husband is in kollel, she worked very hard for several years getting her nursing degree and RN, and they live in a spacious, well located pre-war home in Baltimore bought for the shocking sum of $150,000, which her capable husband was able to renovate. Everyone has a different story, and I'm sorry your cousin's story did not turn out well. So far!

Orthonomics said...

My understanding (and my Baltimore readers can back me up here) is that there is plenty of financial difficulty in Baltimore too. I don't think the issues discussed are issues those in "inexpensive" communities can't relate to.

Anonymous said...

Hmm... EP - Didn't you tell us in an earlier post that you are not a mother?

Commenter Abbi said...

Seriously, EP, I don't know how long you've been reading this blog, but SL is pretty much the last Jew to live in Ritzville and complain about not being able to afford extracurricular activities.

I also don't know where she lives, but my impression has always been that SL lives a consciously frugal life and believes in limiting after school activities for her kids.

nephew of frum actuary said...

EP: Love Baltimore, but you need to get a job there. Starting a business is an 80% chance at failure (IIRC the stats).

Where I live the local school runs a day camp for under 2K for the whole summer, plus I'm taking it off pre-tax.

For a parent to send to expensive sleepaway camp (7K vs. 3K) and then claim poverty is just simply Sheker.

Orthonomics said...

Regarding Abbi's comment: I believe that extracurriculars can be a tremendous force in a child's life. I don't believe in signing up for extracurriculars for the sake of extracurriculars. Where a child has a specific drive and desire, it is a wonderful thing.

Here, we have camp directors asking schools to subsidize camp at the expense of tuition. The constant call for subsidization leaves those who are paying the bills holding the bag.

Law mom said...

I work, so I send my kids to the local city-run day camp. They get physical activity, and supervision from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. I've also used the local Lubavitch daycamp in the past, which is also inexpensive.

As far as I'm concerned, my kids get plenty of Jewish education during the year, and at home. A tiny bit of outside exposure (most of these camps are still 80% Jewish) is probably a good thing. Sleepaway camps are great - but they seem to provide the most benefit from a Jewish POV to those who aren't already in the Jewish day school system. When I was in public school growing up, my Jewish camp made a big difference.

miriamp said...

I'm home with my littles, so I keep my big kids home for the summer as well. This actually counted *against* my son when applying to high school, as the menahel was very concerned that my son had never been away from home other than a Shabbaton here and there. Since we live in a community without a boy's yeshiva high school, he will be in a dorm situation wherever he goes to HS. He was eventually accepted to his first choice school, and I think the fact that his best friend is going to the same school helped a lot. But camp did figure into the equation.

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