By Jonathan “J.C.” Cohen, Camp Director
When my children are campers here at Jacobs, I work very hard to keep my distance. I don’t ask questions about how they are doing, and the counselors rarely give me reports (except when my kids do or say something funny); my first-time camper daughter wasn’t even allowed to talk to me – all she could do was give me “the nod”. So, when they “come home” from camp, I am excited to hear all about it.
A couple of weeks back, my daughter Marisa concluded her first sleepaway camp experience, having “survived” ten days in our Olim Program. The truth is, her counselors survived ten days with her, while she thrived as a camper – navigating friendships, experiencing all of the programs & activities, and proving that she can do a lot more on her own than she claims!
This past Sunday, my son Gabriel wrapped up his fifth summer as a Jacobs camper. He emerged from his Maskilim cabin filled with joy – about friendships made and renewed, about everything great he got to experience, and about his wonderful counselors who truly made his summer awesome. And, I think he was taller!
Yesterday, my son headed off to Seattle (as an unaccompanied minor) for his third summer at URJ Camp Kalsman. And, in less than two weeks, my daughter will be heading to the URJ Greene Family Camp in Texas for their ten-day session.
Why do I send my kids away to camp?
As a camp director, the answer I most often give is that I want my kids to have an authentic camp experience; and, even with me keeping my distance, camp is just not camp with dad or mom around.
As a parent, I want for my children what so many camp families want for theirs: I want my children to reap all of the benefits that summer camp has to offer. And the benefits are MANY! Among them:
• Responsibility: Without parents around to keep things in order, my children have to learn how to be responsible for their stuff, and to some extent (with helpful counselors present and at the ready) themselves.
• Coping Skills: In the outside world, when my children face adversity, my wife and I are there to help them figure things out; and, I like to believe that between me, the social worker, and my wife, the rabbi, we give good suggestions. (We, for sure, give our kids A LOT of information!) At camp, my kids have to figure it out – getting advice not from “professionals” like us, but from their counselors and peers.
• Independence: The more experience they get handling situations on their own, and taking care of themselves on their own, the better able they will be to navigate the real world on their own. As parents we can’t and won’t always be there; because of camp, I know my kids will have the skills they need.
• Friendship: As they celebrate the joys of camp, and face the challenges that come with being in this type of community, my children will be side-by-side – hand-in-hand – with other children going through the same thing. You can’t live with people 24/7 and not form a bond with them. The bonds that children make with their camp friends are incredibly strong, and unbelievably long-lasting.
I am so pleased that my children have grown up at, and now get to be campers at, Jacobs Camp. And, I am so pleased that my children are also willing and able to go away to camp – without me! There is no better place in the world for kids to have the chance to grow than at summer camp.