Overnight summer camp is awesome. I don’t know if I’ve ever met a former camper who disagrees.
But why do parents send their kids to summer camp? More specifically, why do Jewish parents send their kids to Jewish summer camp?
In a terrific essay for the (Vancouver, B.C.) Jewish Independent, Kelley Korbin writes of her shock at hearing that “many Jewish parents send their kids to Jewish camps so they’ll meet a Jewish spouse.” So why does she send her children to Jewish camp? “It’s simple really,” she writes. “I chose Jewish summer camp for my kids because that’s where I went.”
She goes on to recount sweetly her many crushes and many kisses with Jewish boys at summer camp–and how, in the end, she married a wonderful non-Jewish man.
But while conservative American Jewish sociologists have argued for sending kids to Jewish summer camp on the grounds it prevents intermarriage, marriage doesn’t seem a particular concern to parents, at least according to a 2006 report by the Foundation for Jewish Camping. The survey of Jewish parents in the Los Angeles area did not ask whether intermarriage was a concern, but their responses to arguments for camp suggest that it was not. “He/she would have a good time” and “Being away from home with others the same age would help your child grow and mature” were significantly more persuasive than other arguments. Indeed, the only argument that might relate to intermarriage–“It strengthens friendships with other Jewish kids”–was considered persuasive by nearly the fewest number of parents. Moreover, the number two objection that parents had to Jewish camps after cost was the concern that their children should be exposed to “all kinds of kids, not just Jewish kids.”
While certainly some parents may be looking to make a shidduch for their little ones at summer camp, most just want their kids to have fun.