Why Jewish Summer Camps Are Important for Kids and Teens
Every summer, parents send their children off to summer camp, and for good reason. Camp helps kids and teens make new friends, learn new skills, get fresh air and exercise, and grow as individuals. However, religiously-affiliated camps can do even more for kids and teens of various faiths, because they teach campers how to lead their lives with virtue, value and understand their identity and roots, and set a good example for others. Jewish summer camps offer especially important benefits in this regard, since only about 2.4% of all adults and 3.2% of children in the US are Jewish.
These sleepaway camp programs form a unique but natural fusion of Jewish and North American experiences that will feel intuitive to your child. They provide valuable opportunities to celebrate Jewish faith, cultures, and traditions, particularly for kids and teens who may feel alone in their heritage. At the same time, going away to camp is a common American tradition likely shared by many of their non-Jewish friends, classmates, and neighbors. This can help your child feel more connected to peers of all backgrounds.
Here are just a few excellent reasons to send your child to Jewish summer camp.
- Strengthen Jewish identity. Needless to say, childhood and adolescence are the most formative periods of our lives, which is why it’s essential to instill a strong sense of cultural and religious identity in Jewish youth. Summer camps offer programming that accomplishes this in a fun, supportive context, allowing kids to explore their identity free of stress or pressure. This is especially important for Jewish children and teens who live in areas that don’t contain an established Jewish community.
- Teach Jewish values. Summer camp allows kids to absorb and process Jewish traditions and values in a relaxing real-world environment. This ensures their comfort and engagement with the learning process, making them more likely to seek out similarly enriching faith-related opportunities. Camp also teaches children ways to embody their values in non-religious contexts and in the world at large.
- Connect Jewish individuals and communities. Particularly at a time when anti-Semitic incidents in the US are at an all-time high, it’s imperative that every Jewish child and teen has a network of friends, family, and community members to support them. Summer camp will offer your child Jewish role models and friends who can light their path, help them build confidence, and empathize with their experiences. Some camps even offer Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah, and B Mitzvah ceremonies.
- Kosher nourishment for the body and soul. Jewish camps feature Kosher kitchens, which means neither you nor your child will have to worry that what they are eating is tref. In addition to being Kosher, camp kitchen food is varied, nutritious, and delicious. If your child has any food allergies or special dietary restrictions, let camp staff know ahead of time so they can accommodate your child’s needs.
- Encourage proud and joyful practice of faith. Studies show that children who attend Jewish summer camps are more likely to retain their faith and remain active in it as adults. Because camp is all about fun rather than obligation, kids and teens are more likely to enjoy and celebrate their heritage, which helps them take pride in it. Children who develop a strong, proud sense of faith and identity are also more likely to pass it on to their own children later in life.
Celebrate Your Child’s Jewish Heritage With Surprise Lake Camp
Surprise Lake Camp is a nonprofit organization that provides a home away from home for generations of young people. We believe in the value of community and friendship. Our Jewish values and identity shape our connection to nature. We’re dedicated to helping young people unplug, grow, and develop values, confidence, and skills to last a lifetime, adding to SLC’s storied history as the nation’s longest-running Jewish sleepaway camp.
When you make a charitable gift to Surprise Lake Camp, you give children life-changing experiences. You partner with us to provide campers confidence, growth, friendships, and Jewish identity. Donate today!