Jewish camps do it right

Jewish camps do it right

While I completely agree with Binyamin Weinreich’s dismal assessment of the cost/benefit ratio and lasting value of today’s yeshiva day school education, I don’t fully agree with his final analysis (“Day school education: is it worth it?” February 22). As the parent of four day school graduates I continue to marvel at the emperor’s new clothes syndrome, whereby many are aware that a costly day school education turns off more kids to Judaism than it turns on. Yet we parents soldier on, keeping our kids in schools that almost bankrupt us while not making good on their promise to graduate kids who love yiddishkeit and speak “ivrit bi ivrit.”

The dirty little secret, as Mr. Weinriech underscores, is that “many graduates are Jewishly illiterate… and worst of all have no real love of Judaism.” I disagree, however, with Mr. Weinreich’s conclusion that a reason for this lack of success in transmitting a love for our traditions lays with parents who abdicate their responsibility to share in the education process or who do not have time to properly model a Jewish lifestyle.

Sadly, Jewish kids from committed Orthodox families who become disillusioned and ultimately less observant are all too common. From my family’s experience, I have found that Jewish camping (Camp Massad, Camp Ramah, etc.) does in fact provide both a tremendous connection to Judaism, Zionism, ritual observance, and improved spoken Hebrew. Many of our youth cite their Jewish camp experiences as their only positive Jewish experience, and the reason they remain Jewishly connected. Furthermore, it is often those camp friendships, even more than school friendships, that carry into adulthood.

Rather than ask what are our schools doing wrong, let’s ask what are our camps doing right. Perhaps we need to harness some of the educational approaches that exist in the Jewish camps and introduce them into our schools. Maybe then, the results that we seek and desire would be more easily attained.