Parenting Podcast: What Summer Camp Means for Jewish Families



Parenting Podcast by Wendy Grinberg, RJE

Parents routinely describe the experience as “life changing” and their returned child as “more independent,” “stronger” and “confident” as a result of the experience. Their children learned “leadership skills” and gained an “increased sense of self-esteem” and a “strong sense of self.” Children learned how to live with others and how to be part of the group. Parents observe that their children return home more mature in their relationships and in their behaviors. …Parents say that their children acquired new skills, largely because the experience allowed them to try new activities and build on strengths.

These observations are taken from the recently updated study “Limudby the Lake Revisited” about the effects of Jewish summer camp on children.I can hardly imagine a better description of the educational and growth experiences parents wish for their children. And yet, sending our kids away seems counter-intuitive. How can our young children thrive without our loving, caring presence?

It strikes me that birth is just the first in a long process of gradual separation. First children physically separate, and in young adulthood we talk about cutting the proverbial umbilical cord so that our children can become independent adults. The Hebrew tzimtzum describes the contraction of the Creator so that the creation could exist; if God once filled everything, God needed to contract in order for the world to have a space to be. In that space, there is simultaneously an absence and a strong sense of an enveloping, loving presence.Both are required for individuation and actualization. In this parenting podcast, you can hear camp director Jonathan “JC” Cohen talk about how the freedom of sleep away camp gives children the chance to blossom while still ina safe, loving and supportive environment.

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Wendy Grinberg, RJE is a URJ Parenting Specialist.

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One Response to “Parenting Podcast: What Summer Camp Means for Jewish Families”

  1. avatar

    I write as a former board member of a URJ camp, and as a parent and grandparent of children who have had Jewish camping experiences.
    The benefits Wendy describes in her italicized introduction to the above post are valid and important. But they are true of any “sleepaway” camp experience…a Y camp, a Boy Scout camp, or what Jerry Kaye of OSRUI calls an Indian camp.
    It seems to me that it’s our business — not just on this blog, but in the Reform movement — not to sell camping per se, but specifically Jewish camping. Yes, any camp can move our kids towards maturity, and many camps can teach them values, but it takes a Jewish camp (whether URJ, JCC, BBYO, or whatever) to get them into “yiddishkeit” in its broadest sense.

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