Thinking of sending your kids to Jewish summer camp? Not sure where to start in your search or what you might want to keep in mind about the experience of your child, a child of interfaith parents?
It’s possible you haven’t considered any of the questions below, but you might want to: A camp that may seem warm and fuzzy may not be the most schooled in how to project an open and welcoming atmosphere to interfaith families.
Here’s what Interfaith Family’s president Jodi Bromberg, parenting blogger Jane Larkin and editorial director Lindsey Silken suggest asking the camp director. (Of course, you’ll want to adapt these questions as appropriate for your family.)
1. Do you welcome children of interfaith families at your camp?
2. Does the camp require that the child is being raised Jewish?
3. Can dual-faith or secular interfaith children qualify? What about children who are in the process of converting to Judaism? Does it matter which parent is Jewish?
4. Do you have a definition of who is considered Jewish by the camp and who is not? How is that communicated to staff and campers?
5. What’s the percentage of interfaith campers and counselors at your camp?
6. What training or education do administrative staff get on working with interfaith families?
7. What training or education do counselors or counselors in training get on working with interfaith families?
8. What programming is specifically done regarding Jewish education, ritual or practice? (Ask yourself: How “Jewish” do you want your child’s experience to be? There’s a wide range of options. Related questions to consider: Is the camp kosher or kosher-style? Is there Jewish education? Israel education? If so, how frequent is it? Do the children pray? When? What about Shabbat? Is the camp aligned with a Jewish denomination or movement? Are Jewish clergy on staff? Are they welcoming and accepting of interfaith families?)
9. Will I receive information on what my kids are doing each week, including any Hebrew words that they are learning (or any other Jewish education), so that I can understand and participate?
10. Do you do specific outreach to children of interfaith families, or anything specific to ensure that they are welcome at your camp? What will you do to ensure that my children are welcome at camp?
Once you’ve posed your questions, here are some follow-up suggestions:
Visit the camp. Go the summer before you are ready to send your child to see the camp in action — and take your child with you. Ask if the camp offers a family retreat weekend during the school year that your entire family can attend. Many families do this, and friends their child makes during the weekend often plan to attend camp together or request to be in the same bunk during the summer.
Let your child experience overnight camp before the summer. Many camps — especially those affiliated with a denomination or movement — offer weekend retreats for children, usually in third to fifth grade. These are kid-only experiences with camp staff. They are not billed as “check out camp” but rather as youth retreats, so they are a mix of experienced campers and kids going for the first time. If a child comes home excited about the experience, it’s a good indication that he or she is ready to go to camp, and that the camp is a good fit.
Camp can be expensive. Determine what you can afford. If you need additional help, there are scholarships for first-time campers and some camps offer assistance for interfaith families. (Interfaith Family recommends checking out Foundation for Jewish Camp’s BunkConnect and One Happy Camper programs.)
Does your child have a specific passion? Jewish summer camps have become hip to specialization: There are now Jewish sports, art and sci-tech focused camps. Today kids can have an interest-specific and Jewish camp experience at the same place.
This article previously appeared on InterfaithFamily.com at www.tinyurl.com/k9mxc3x