Figure skating, private baths, passports, gold medal coaches? The new Jewish summer camp models (“Jewish camps invest in improvements for our gilded age,” AJP, 3/18/16) left me feeling dismayed. What do these activities have to do with helping our Jewish youth feel more connected to Judaism?
The costs of these camp experiences are astronomical; even with scholarships there are very few “ordinary” Jewish families who can cough up the thousands needed to send their children to these deluxe camps.
Why are we so anxious to show our children that privilege and money are the ideal values of a good Jewish life? Where is the value of tikkun olam (repair of the world)? How can our children feel connected to the most important environmental issues of our time when they can use all the water they want to in their “private baths”? Where is the delight in feeling fish tickling their feet in a mucky lake while they learn to swim to the dock and back? Million dollar pools don’t allow that.
Singing Jewish folk songs around a campfire with an old, battered guitar and an adored Jewish counselor builds more community than Olympic stars and world-class artists.
Waking up on a chilly morning in a non-“climate-controlled” cabin, stumbling out to the flagpole, raising the flag and singing songs to start the day builds more community than learning about “high-tech entrepreneurship.”
We are all so focused on the bottom line we are forgetting that childhood should not have to be sacrificed to the business world.
Maybe Jewish camps won’t “shrink and die” when parents wake up and realize that the simple pleasure of walking along a country road and seeing a dairy cow on a farm or a great blue heron fishing in a lake (as I did at the age of 8 at a summer camp that taught me to love nature), can create a deeper sense of wonder and value than a “state-of-the-art inflatable landing pad.”
— Jacqueline Portnoy-Bland