Isaac Kaplan

"Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands?"

Monday, May 31, 2004

The Future of Boys' Summer Camps

With Shavuos and now Memorial Day weekend in the books, that means the next thing we're looking forward to is: the summer! And for much of our youth, that means a trip to camp in the Catskills or Poconos. I believe that camp as I knew it and camp as we will know it in a few years will be VERY different:

As the rift between the modern and yeshivish gets even more pronounced every day, camps are starting to shift as well. Many of the Yeshivish are getting stronger and stronger in advocating learning camps for the summer (except, of course, for Morasha Kollel. You can go to camp like Manavu and not learn a word, but CHAS V'SHALOM to learn in Morasha Kollel!), and others are getting strict about guys staying till Rosh Chodesh Av. When I was a kid in camp, I had many counselors who were borderline yeshivish, your average Torah Vadaas/ Ner Yisrael guy. Now, many of these guys were able to be counselors for both halves. I had a few buddies in my bunk who were really into camp; in fact, they would cry when camp was over! They always talked about how they wanted to stay in camp till they got married, and all that stuff. (Yes, I know, they most definitely needed to get a life.) But, fast-forward to a few years later, these guys are 18, they should be color war general, but NO! They're only going to camp for one half. They've gotta learn during the first half. And, a few years later, they're spending the whole summer learning. Granted, there are still a few rabbeim out there telling kids how important it is to be a counselor, to influence kids, etc. But that's only for the kids that aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer, the ones without the zitzfleisch to learn all summer. The really good guys are told to learn. And with the ever-fierce PR war still going on between Brooklyn schools, it won't be long unitl all kids are required to go to learning camps, because it won't look good otherwise.

The fact of the matter is that the shittoh against mainstream camps has some backing to it. I have seen it brought in the name of R' Moshe that summer camps are assur, and that this psak should even be publicized! However, this seems to be one of those psaks that haven't been practiced by the mainstream, such as the summer school psak, the air conditioner on a timer psak, etc. (For more anout the double standard in following R' Moshe, I refer you to my buddy Burry Katz's article (click here) about the Flatbush eiruv.)

And on the other side of things, it seems that the modern kids have gravitated more towards co-ed camps. I know of a few modern boys who were in Manavu and ended up switching to Mesora. A friend of mine was in camp in the late '80's/ early '90's that appealed to the frummer YU type. It was a boys-only camp, but the clientelle was more modern than your average Munk / Agudah guy. But in the mid-90's, enrollment was dropping, and the new kids who were coming were Russian immigrants and not the modern type. In the end, the camp was revamped, with a new head staff and more of an appeal to the yeshivish. It seems clear that most modern kids are going for the co-ed camps.

So with the Yeshivish going to one extreme and the modern to another, I believe that the camp situation in a few years, in the words of Billy Joel, will be "too high or too low, there ain't no in between."

Picture yourself in 2020 (if, ch"v, the Messiah hasn't come). Your looking to send your son to camp. It's between Morasha, Moshava, Morris, and Harim. Sounds strange, no? But to me, it sounds all too real.


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