Camp Kingdom 2011

campBy: Aaron Joseph. “Splendid magic.” These two words could deftly summarize summertime for those of us, who spent time in camp during our formative years. I am not talking about those who became homesick after a day and never went back to camp after their first experience. I am referring to us who spent summer after summer frolicking in rolling lush meadows of grassy green hills and golden sunshine days as camper and even staff member (very popular or just plain popular) in the mystical kingdoms of the (Catskill) Mountains.
As you float down Memory Lane you can recall with precise accuracy the names of so many special friends, and the outstanding moments of a game, activity or that amazing play that seemingly caped that particular summer. Of course there were overnight camping trips with the ever ominous Simon Shapiro lurking nearby, or the campfire story that kept you from sleeping for the rest of the summer.
There was that special staff member that inspired and seemingly ignited your life, and that particular moment that you came in to your own and recognized an outstanding Ma’aleh that may still drive you yet today. Mishnayos contests, choirs, leagues and of course color-war, and I’m sure there is this one haunting alma (doesn’t) matta song that once you start singing it- it lingers in memory for hours.
All this perhaps 25+ years later, if not more.
I must give credit were credit is due. While obviously a diehard sleep-a-way advocate- having spent the equivalency of 5 full years of life in one, after spending a couple of summers as a staff member in one local day camp, I must admit some of these day camps come very close to offering a near sleep away camping experience.
The huge financial discrepancy between sleep away and day camp aside- there is so much for comparison. There is a solid learning program in the morning. Granted, around Lakewood learning groups are not held at outdoor picnic tables- (perhaps some will begin to- once this article makes the rounds), and of course the relaxation of focusing on a squirrel chase as opposed to a Rebbi is not (yet) in the offerings! Yet Torah is being studied at an approximate level to that of the school year. Can there be a better threshold?
Staff members, counselors, junior counselors, attached staff, unattached staff, and even camp mascots are all bona fide, authentic Bnei Torah- super role-models that you can even check in on at any given time. In all probability the performance of the day camp staff member is far more efficient than their sleep away counterpart as they (usually) are able to rest up and reset each evening, and are then once again able to give it an ever invigorated accentuated “Ruach” with each following day.
Certain aspects have not (yet) been implemented locally and thus far have been sacrificed in the day camp program, probably due to oversight. This brief list of extras include: Cocoa Club, A Shacharis breakfast plan- at least for the older bunks or for the voluntary, and an occasional late night supper specials, and don’t forget inter-camp games. But these few impersonal grips aside- nothing at all seems to be missing. Oh- visting day???!
All in all, as our day camp season gears up, and those glowing happy faces eagerly run out each morning with that zestful enthusiasm, we can only be caught up in their joy as they wearily return each evening invigorated and impatiently awaiting the next morning’s horizon.
How to get these wonderful dedicated elation productions to increase their hours and perhaps lengthen their days can prove challenging. As believe it or not- camp staff (as camp enthusiasts know so well) work tirelessly to ensure a complete success- so that your child’s magical memories are just as mystical as yours. I for one believe that if proper recognition $$$ of the staff members is offered- for the very special atmosphere they create in your child’s life, they would surely be more then happy to go that extra distance.
As a staff member I surely advocate tipping- yes even in a day camp setting. I will not offer any guidance, but if you as a parent recognize the benefits provided by that teenager who applies himself to your child’s welfare something should be done on his/her behalf.
While the average sleep away camp suggests a $50. tip for a four week stay, and an extra $5. can go a long way- you can decide on something that would meet an appropriate criteria. I do have a small secret. Except for the few times that some ever gracious and appreciative parent palmed me a $100 bill, (in July 2002 it happened to me 3 times during the first visiting day!), a have completely forgotten amounts, and from whom I received them from. However- I surely still have some finely crafted and touching thank you notes- that surely meant more than the cash.
The final thought on the matter is how to get Yeshivos to amend to some of the day camp Ruach. I mean, wouldn’t it be wonderful if kids would simply jump out of bed and be at the bus stop without any parental input all year through. I mean, what would the mothers do in the morning? But then again- that’s perhaps why camp is so magical…. What I would do for even one more day.
So- as this special time of year unfolds- relive your own best memories and apply yourself to contributing to your children creating their own.

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  1. I do not have such good memories from when I was in camp. I went because my father sent me. I think that my children have a better time then I. I do not think it has to do with the parents experience. As far as adding “ruach” to Yeshivos, I think it is all in how it is played up at home. Where more emphasis is placed on excitiment in Yeshiva children would absorb that. But I agree with the op that one should always express appreciation when others devote themselves to your cause and this includes children. Expressive article.

  2. Which camp is this article trying to raise and give tips for? Can someone just write a nice letter to a counselor or does it have to include $$? Also be caution when near squirrels they could have rabies.

  3. “And supper sometimes” I am a proud parent of cky and my son gets supper more then just sometimes!! Thank you Rabbis Weber Ravitzki Serebrowski and Sussna..

  4. EXCELLENT POINT! If we only infused our children with the excitement that Yeshiva should have, and not just when camp is here, we’d have much happier & succesfull children in School. Aaron, impressed u brought out this point. Enjoy ur Summer!(or at least try to :))….. Trust me, I Hav that “Camp Missing Feeling” as much as anyone possibly can.

  5. For many kids the expreience of a real sleepaway camp is priceless. No matter how much the author tries to wax poetic about day camp being sleep away camop it is not tthe same experience. It is a shame that those who cannot afford this experience are not offered generous scholarships in a bakovodike way like they were in the past.

  6. This author seems to miss the point that when a sleep away camp blends the ruchniyous and gashmiyous it gives each person a geshmak of a time. Day camps cant and never will come close to what a sleep away atmosphere has to offer. Money is not an answer to everything when a child’s ruchniyous and gashmiyous is an important part of raising children

  7. This article did a good job on my memory. I am not sure what the point exactly is but I believe that he is correct in saying that there is not such a bid difference between sleepaway and daycamps anymore. Except the price. I send two older children to sleepaway camp since 9th grade and it costs a fortune. The younger ones seem so happy in daycamp and it is quarter of the price Although for five children it is also too much for my budget but we manage by cutting back on family vacations during the year.

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