Opinion: Bring Camps Back to Simpler Times | Avi Gutfreund

A lot of parents, myself included, were disheartened upon hearing that a number of large Lakewood camps will not be opening this summer. So many of our children look forward to and rely on their summer experiences to rejuvenate themselves for the coming school year, and a massive, gaping hole now must be filled. If not, I believe it could truly spell doom for many children’s academics next school year.

Now, the reason for why these camps are closing for this summer seems to come down to two primary issues. One is that some camps don’t have the facilities to accommodate them. As far as I know, there’s nothing anyone can do about that problem. But there’s a second problem – costs have been rising and camps say they simply won’t be able to cover their expenses. This we can fix.

I’m not all that old, but I vividly remember my own summer experiences as a child. The days were filled with exciting activities that actually didn’t cost very much. There was of course swimming and color war, etc., as well as sports leagues, woodworking shops, and so forth. We had one major trip, usually an overnight trip to a water park. There were no special stickers we stuck on our cars or all the other gimmicks that have become so commonplace.

Camps didn’t feel the need to advertise and come through on providing children with fancy trips and activities every other day. They didn’t need to be spending mindboggling amounts of money (and charging parents ever-rising fees) simply to attract campers. Things were simple. The ruach of the camp, the vigor that was infused into it had nothing to do with materialistic things – they were there because of the atmosphere of the camp.

And that’s something we can, and should, get back to. I am sure that there are many parents who are longing for their children to have a healthy, wholesome summer experience without the massive price tag that comes along with it nowadays. And, particularly with many camps now closing, an opportunity exists, an opportunity for a camp to open that provides a summer experience like the old times – simple, enjoyable, and exciting for the children.

We have become accustomed to thinking that children need fancy trips and activities to enjoy themselves. It’s simply not true. That is only the case because we have set their expectations so ridiculously and unnecessarily high. So let’s stop it and bring summer back to simpler times.


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There are 47 Comments to "Opinion: Bring Camps Back to Simpler Times | Avi Gutfreund"

  • Yankel weiss says:

    I learn with one of the camp directors. You are right on in your points about rising costs. I would rather send to a less frivolous camp. I hate the excess. I went to naarim and there was two major trips a summer lol. I wish the camps would go back to the wholesome experience. Not the garbage of spoiling kids.

  • TreeInTheForest says:

    From what I heard these are not the primary issues, the primary issues is finding staff. While in the past older bochurim would line up for jobs as counselors, so they could earn extra money in a good environment, society has not decided that 20 year olds need to be campers as well.

    At first this was just practiced by the wealthy, as they did not need the money, but now it has become a necessity for 18,19, 20 year old bochurim to have their own “camps” and spend their summers on trips.Such a great necessity, that if one can not afford it, then we must raise money for them to go on trips touring the country.

    So when exactly does this generation of permanent children grow up and learn responsibility? We expect them to be prepared for marriage when they are babied until the day before?

  • Yankel says:

    And maybe we go back to the day when parents made decisions for the children not children’s for the parents… And then camps wouldn’t feel the need to market to the children with all the childish gimmicks…

  • You Will Not Fill Up says:

    You want wholesome fun? Try opening a camp advertised as “wholesome fun”. Good luck filling up! You will go bankrupt with your expenses and shut down the next year. You are living in a generation of spoiled parents and spoiled kids. They claim they want simple and wholesome fun, but their actions speak louder than words. Good luck.

  • Mark Levin says:

    Even no frills of just renting a building
    Insurance pool costs and staff is a Fortune or money

  • Chaim says:

    So we should all have …
    Beautiful houses
    Fancy leased cars
    Stunning school building
    Insane weddings
    Fancy restaurants
    $1000 coats
    Out of control kiddushim
    Etc ….
    But camps should be simple and plain …
    Wake up and smell the coffee we are not living in the shtetel

    • m pipik says:

      lovee ur comment

    • love camp says:

      WOW!! love tihs comment. couldn’t of said it betetr!

    • write a comment says:

      Your glasses seem to have a speck on them.

      Most of us do not have beautiful houses, fancy leased cars, etc etc etc. Most of us live a modest lifestyle, but you only notice those that stick out.
      When it comes to camps, even those who live modestly are forced to shell out more money than necessary to accommodate those with ‘insane’ weddings (You should check the halacha. An insane person cannot be mekadesh)
      Keep fancy camps with their trips and magic shows. Just make some options for those of us who don’t darken the doors of restaurants and serve a simple mezonos for a kiidush for a newborn baby. There should be at least the option for those of us who have chosen to live a different lifestyle

  • What happened? says:

    The problem is we have not taught our children to appreciate limud Torah. When I was young camps that offered a full day of learning were full. Our boys should be asking us to spend more time learning.
    Something has gone off that are boys feel the need for “Real Fun” that isn’t hearing a new knaitch on a possuk.
    Hashem Yishmor!

  • Brooklyn interloper says:

    Day camps don’t tell parents how to run their business. Parents shouldn’t tell day camps how to run their business.
    2)To Chaim: A big Mabrouck to the fortunate who can have all those items you enumerated.

  • Mutty says:

    Last Summer was “impossible” , I don’t know how the camps held out.
    For example: for the past 35 years every July my family and I made a trip to the Upper Delaware Water Gap for the day, it was always beautiful and never too crowded; This summer as usual I drove 2 hours with my wife, we arrived at the Water Gap 10:30 am and it was a Zoo, we couldn’t get near the place, it was filled beyond capacity, the Park Rangers let my wife use the restroom and than we had to leave, I drove another 1/2 hour to a nearby mountain lake and it was packed too.
    Since Covid attractions doubled and tripled in price, difficult to get coach buses and drivers, food and soft drinks doubled and yet I’m sure that many parents don’t even pay the full amount, they say I’m in kollel or I’m struggling etc. etc. , the day camps are probably saying “forget it” there’s an easier buck to be made.

  • Anonymous says:

    Lakewood scoop: Can you please put this up for a vote; higher price more fun camps or lower price and old time fun activities?

  • Brooklyn interloper says:

    Day camps don’t tell parents how to run their business. Parents shouldn’t tell day camps how to run their business.
    2)To Chaim: If it’s Hashem’s ratzon that yidden should have all the things you’ve just enumerated, so be it. If you don’t have those things don’t excoriate those that do.

  • Grow up says:

    Most ppl that are living these life styles is coming from insecurity. The coats the shoes the cars.. all insecure. They care soo much about what the next person thinks its ridiculous. A bunch of insecure ppl feeding off of each other. If one confident person would just be and show that he or she couldn’t care less that might just show ppl how cool a person really is cauz it’s totally personality not what you have and what you wear , that’s empty not goodness.

    • Brooke says:

      people like simple people. someone told me that her school told her that the most popular request when switching up the classes is, “can you put me in the simple class”

  • Not with it says:

    Most ppl that are living these life styles is coming from insecurity. The coats the shoes the cars.. all insecure. They care soo much about what the next person thinks its ridiculous. A bunch of insecure ppl feeding off of each other. If one confident person would just be and show that he or she couldn’t care less that might just show ppl how cool a person really is cauz it’s totally personality not what you have and what you wear , that’s empty not goodness.

  • Miriam Ifrah says:

    BH, there are endless options of camps to choose from & no doubt more boys camps will open to fill this void. No need to bash one another on living standards & how we are raising our children.
    Summer Camp has a unique opportunity providing children & staff a chance to shine & express their talents in a relaxed positive environment!
    Miriam Ifrah
    25 years giving children (& staff) a camp experience they cherish
    forever !

  • problem solver says:

    klal yisroel needs Mosdos and klal yisroel needs businesses. However lets not confuse the two. The same way a Yeshiva is not supposed to be a business, so too a camp should not be a business. A camp is a bein haymanim yeshiva. Its not meant to be a business. Back in the day, we had camp Aguda, camp Torah Vadaas and the chasidim had their camps. None were a private business, they were all a part of a mosod. Never would such a problem come up by chasidim because its ran as a mosod which has an achrayis to the people. If we would understand what role the camps play in our childrens lives. Things would be very different.

  • Q: what is the worst thing for a child to do in the summer? says:

    A: NOTHING!!!

    for a child to do NOTHING the whole long summer – that is the worst thing possible for the child, for the family, for the neighborhood, and for the child’s own future!!!

  • Anon says:

    my friend told me this years ago and now that my only son(I have bh many daughters) is grown up I see how true it is. In lakewood we strap the boys to their seats for 11 months a yr. The 1 month they have off has to be major. Maybe not as major as the lakewood daycamps have made it. But you get what I mean. These boys look forward to an exciting month. The 1st month they’re in yeshiva (camp) let’s get real it’s yeshiva with long recess which they go swimming and play ball in the 100 degree heat. Most boys don’t like yeshiva camp. So while wholesome simple fun is nice I’m not sure it’s going to work in Lakewood. Around the world many places have 2 months off so it’s relaxing and it’s a break so there’s no need for the over the top day camps lakewood has.

    • write a comment says:

      Around the world people have two months off

      No, only in America. In no civilized country does anyone think that two free months is appropriate. It is ridiculous and should not be used as a benchmark for anything. In Europe, Eretz Yisroel and wherever there are Charedi Yidden, nobody has two months off.

  • Joe Marketer says:

    In today’s world of marketing promotions and gimmicks, perhaps the camps can get businesses to sponsor these expensive trips.
    The buses that transport the kids on these fancy trips can have advertisements plastered on the outside of the buses saying something like, “Camp so and so would like to thank so and so company for sponsoring today’s fancy trip.” Probably a stupid idea, but I felt like throwing it out there.
    By the way, my stupid idea comes compliments of my business consulting company. The name of my company is called, “Thinking out of Thin Air.” If we don’t succeed in raising your profits within 1 week of consultation, you owe us nothing, except a few referrals and the shirt off your back.

  • Chaim says:

    What happened, I sure hope that you are talking tongue in cheek, but there is an in between.

  • Just Me says:

    I think we should cancel ALL camps this year and let the kids sit at home for the month doing nothing. When the kids ask why, we should tell them it is YOUR fault for being so spoiled and needing so much that the camps and us can’t afford your spoiledness. Kids today are spoiled rotten and I let my kids know it. If you don’t actively make fun of the society around them, they will become spoiled as well like the Rambam says in Perek 6 of deyos:
    דרך ברייתו של אדם להיות נמשך אחר ריעיו וחביריו as long as they are ריעיו וחביריו they will be like them. Make your kids feel like they are above them and don’t need to be spoiled and see if that works. It works for me!!! But maybe that’s “Just Me”……

    • write a comment says:

      Let us see if you can figure out the ‘middle’ route. Camps, but without gimmicks.

  • Stuck says:

    Even with inflation and rising cost why is the price of camp 35% higher this year?

  • Bd says:

    Our kids are spoiled!!!! My son chooses a camp by the one who has the most overnights. 🙄

    • Sleepaway Camps says:

      Why don’t more people send to sleep away camps. There are such amazing camps out there. There is more Gashmiyos in the day camps in Lakewood than the sleep away camps in the Catskills and Poconos.

  • concerned parent says:

    for sure the older simpler times were better.
    now here are some facts
    1. many in this generation kids and parents are spoiled
    2. by kvetching you will not bring back the good old days
    3. now days it is all obout competition
    4. the rich will always have more, the problem is the yeshiva/poorer crowd either feels they must keep up or bash them because of their inabilty to do so
    5. as a freind of mine noted, lakewood used to be a nice place before they built that verrazano bridge
    now all the gous come over from *** and ruin the whole place eith their lifestye
    6. face it its over. the town is not and will not return to old lakewood
    7. i wish you luck and applaud the effort but i dont think its realistick at this point

  • Jack Login says:

    Face it. This is NOT Yiddishkeit. Wake up now. Mashiach is looking at YOU.

  • Shalvas Achim Fan!!! says:

    A round of applause to Camp Shalvas Achim for giving the boys a geshmake summer, while keeping the costs low. Major Trip is boating at Lake Carasaljo/Bowling. The boys LOVE it, and they have a grand time! The ruach in camp is over the top!!! No bumper stickers, no gimmicks, just good old fun!

  • Leah says:

    True Yiddishkeit. Use it or lose it. It will catch up with you.

  • one of the "gous: says:

    on of my 1st awakenings when I moved here 2 yrs ago from the other side of the verrazano bridge..was the camps…
    im not looking to knock… but camps in Brooklyn were and are more wholesome than here. they r all attached to a mosad or chassidus and have to adhere to those rules..they will not do many things camps here do where one outdoes the other. they are not privately owned so do what we want.. lasher it all with a name of a rav attached.
    my children are asking to go back to Brooklyn for daycamp. frankly it’s easier to weed it out there than here .

    that being said I am mature enough to realize that every community has its “things”, nisyonos etc..
    maybe lakewood can stopped bashing the over the verrazanos(75% of lakewood stems from there from its inception) and work om their own gaius .. we r all yidden.. beautiful children of rbs”o. no one better than the other…
    a “gous” who did not move here for housing, lifestyle, finances…

  • The Truth Is says:

    This is the perspective I’ve developed after observing this trend for many years. The focus should not be depriving oneself of gashmius. It is not a healthy approach, surely not in this generation, and, as is fairly obvious at this point, it simply does not work. It doesn’t solve the problem, and it usually backfires big time, either right away or down the line. As many commenters pointed out, the root of all the gashmius stems from insecurity at a basic level. Depriving oneself the very thing that’s there to cover up for one’s insecurity will only only make it worse. The focus needs to be build inherent security in our children (and ourselves). Granted, it’s easier said than done, but unfortunately there is no other way to deal with this (if someone is truly interested in dealing with it, that is.) I know of at least one camp in town that operates with this principle as their bottom line. It’s not an over the top camp per se, but it’s not nearly shtetel standards by any means. They spend top dollar on some of their trips and activities, but it’s obvious to the kids and parents that it’s because the staff feel the campers deserve it. i’ve never sent there yet, but I am iy”H this year after hearing the same report from many parents. The results speak for themselves.

  • Akiva says:

    While I agree wholeheartedly with the letter, I realize it’s not realistic. I remember years ago in Lakewood where there was 1 overnight and 1 grand trip and 1 to the water park in the camp that I was in. As a 2 working parent family it’s hard to pay for camps because of how expensive it is. I wish there was a way of bringing down the costs but I don’t see how.

  • anonympus says:

    I believe that the camps are making our children more spoiled. With the over-the-top prizes and trips, we are teaching our children to have very high hasagos and only settle for the top.

  • Seriously?!? says:

    Its amazing how we are blaming our kids for being Spoiled! Its all their fault?!? NO! NO! NO!
    Ever ask yourself how they got spoiled? Who spoiled them? (You’ll probably say “the neighbor”)
    Look at yourself in the mirror – WE PARENTS SPOIL THEM! Don’t Shift the blame on to them. Everyone is scared to say no to a child…of course they’ll get spoiled! Everyone is lazy and its easier to give in to your child…of course they’ll get spoiled! “Don’t bother me now” says the parent “do what you want”…of course they’ll get spoiled!!! OH BUT ITS OUR KIDS FAULT!!!

  • Henny says:

    It’s the overhead that is the most affordable issue here. If people make small camps as a side business then the boys get the individual attention, small town feel, avoid the need for daily bussing (you choose one based on neighborhood) then people can walk off with a nice profit. If someone creates a camp coop- where camps can use group power for the major trips/bussing, a rare show and swimming pools then the day to day expenses go down dramatically, the money goes directly to the people investing creativity and efforts into making camp great again. I know many that have been looking for camps that do basic hikes and fishing, vegetable picking and make fun skits.

    • Sleep away camps says:

      Agreed to Henny. But that is a tough task. Unlimited amount of resources and details necessary. I’ll give you an example every location needs a base, no one is giving it for free and the base will need to be sanitized and cleaned daily. Another requirement is that who’s the ‘final say’ in each location. I wouldn’t send my child to a place that I don’t know who it is that’s taking responsibility from A – Z. That person is charging a lot if money. Instead of hiring 1 division head for 3/4K for the summer for 250 kids in his division your hiring that for every location so it brings up your cost drastically. I don’t know of any capable responsible individual that would take that achrayis for less than that. So Henny you’re right about the power buying regarding trips but what about all other expenses that will double. Another problem is sports where are they playing leagues, normal healthy boys want a real leagues Schedule and playing in normal fields. Oh do you’ll drive to the park… Transportstion.. drivers.. permits.. all those expenses we didn’t have in a large camp facility… who’s arranging all this? Next what about a pool ? Oh so we’ll drive aha! Again and now where are you getting a pool it costs money a lifeguard costs money… so you figured something for trips but if you have a clue what goes into camping it’s not that great of a business people aren’t making tons of money and the little money they are making they are sweating their pants off to give your kids a good time!!! And yes the camps are providing what the parents are asking for so there’s no one to blame!
      The boys come back energized refreshed and ready for another amazing year of shteiging!

  • Camp Lemala says:

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  • just 1 point says:

    the main issue is counselors. no counselors to be found. Camps will open this year. but they’ll cut out the nonsense. They’ll also do research on the children they accept into the camps. Not to take in the ones who have a reputation of being spoiled, or have gone to higher standard camps. This way they don’t need to compete.

    Goal: happy kids.

    And why aren’t girls camps having these issues?

  • Brooklyn interloper says:

    To problem solver. How do you know day camps aren’t a business?

  • Yoch Basser says:

    You need to find the overnight camp with the right balance of a Ruchniyos enfused summer of Geshmak.

    A learning camp may not be answer, but a camp away from the Catskill Scene (ie the Poconoes) Maybe.

    Find out if Bnai Torah are on staff and live in camp amd on campus with Mishpachos. Find out about the Learning. Find out about the Gashmiyos and if it’s too much.

    There are solutions for children over 6th grade.

  • Girls work says:

    Girls camps don’t have this issue because Girls camps stop for campers after 11th grade. So then Girls will be staff.
    It’s ridiculous that boys have the option in certain camps of being campers till they’re married and parents pay 3000 for that.