By Mindee Meltzer, LCSW
Director of Camp Tevya, a Cohen Camp

created at: 2013-07-17Do you have a 2014 camper-to-be? Make the most of this summer by visiting a sleep-away camp or two on a family road trip.

Just like campers, each summer camp offers its own personality. No camp is one-size-fits-all. Sure, you can read websites and brochures, but the best way to get a feel for the real camp experience is to visit in person—and in session. As a camp director, I love to welcome prospective families for tours throughout the summer; most camp directors would say the same. Many camps, such as all three of the Cohen Camps—Camps Tevya, Pembroke and Tel Noar—even offer special family days or mini-camps so you and your camper-to-be can “try out” camp. Now is the time to put these events on your family calendar, before summer gets away!

Ideally, your camp of choice will match both your child’s individuality and your family’s values. Here’s how to get started finding that just-right camp in seven easy steps:

  1. Start at OneHappyCamper.org, the website of the Foundation for Jewish Camp. You can search the database of Jewish camps all over the country, plus find out about getting $1,000 off your child’s first summer at many camps.  
  2. Ask friends for recommendations and where they are looking. Some children like to attend camp with people they know, while others prefer to hit the “reset” button and start friendships anew. Which would you and your child prefer?
  3. Consider how your camper will thrive: In an environment that is cozier or larger? Co-ed or single-sex? Sporty, artsy or with a wide mix? Able to handle specific allergies? Camp websites tell part of the story; a call or email to the camp director can tell you much more about a camp’s capacities and atmosphere. For example, I would tell you that Camp Tevya is a spirited and warm community that emphasizes forever-friendships and exuberant adventures, and enables kids to discover their own strengths and independence. Other camps may have different priorities; you’ll want to find a good match and a director whose words resonate with you.  
  4. Consider what kind of Jewish experience you want. In the Cohen Camps’ nearly 80 years running pluralistic Jewish camps, we find that many parents want a joyful, fun experience of living Jewishly that inspires and energizes in ways that complement but are quite different from their kids’ synagogue, Hebrew school or day school experience. You have many great Jewish choices, from movement-affiliated camps to independent businesses to independent non-profits (like the Chen Camps). Be sure to consider all your options.
  5. Consider the first-timer experience. If you or your child is hesitant about signing up for a full session, look for camps that offer short sessions for first-time campers, usually with an option to stay for the full session if your child is happy. Also, ask about first-timer tuition incentives; some camps, including the Cohen Camps, offer these beyond the One Happy Camper grants mentioned above.
  6. Do you want to tour? Or is your camper actually ready to go? Call, email and get on the schedule now! Many camps offer three “levels” of ways to try camp. GET CLOSE with a tour: in an hour or two, you can meet the director or lead staff, explore the camp facilities with a guide, see the camp in action and, most important, feel the camp’s sense of community and camaraderie. Book soon, because summer tours fill up quickly, especially on Sundays. GET CLOSER on special camp “try-out” days: you’ll get an even deeper sense by actually taking part in fun activities and dining alongside campers. GET YOUR CAMPER CLOSEST: there is still time to get in on mini-sessions, the perfect entry point for first-time campers, or this season’s second session.
  7. Enjoy the process. Visit a camp or two and talk with a couple camp directors and you’ll gain a much better sense of what you are looking for, even if you want to keep looking after your road trip. Whatever you find, you’ll share a fun day of adventure with your camper-to-be—and that’s pretty great, all by itself.  

Ready to get started? Here are four opportunities to get your road trip rolling:

“TRY OUT CAMP” DAYS:

Super-Size Tour at Camp Tel Noar, Sunday, July 28, 12:15-4:30 p.m.: Share lunch with the community and then take a family tour and choose among fun activities to try at the Cohen Camps’ close-knit, smaller, NUT-FREE, co-ed camp in Hampstead in New Hampshire.

Camp Day at Camp Tevya: Sunday, August 4, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.: Explore on a family tour, try activities together and enjoy lunch with the camp community at the Cohen Camps’ spirited, larger, co-ed camp on beautiful Lake Potanipo in Brookline in New Hampshire.

MINI-SESSIONS FOR FIRST-TIME CAMPERS:

Just for Girls: 3-Day Taste of Camp Pembroke, July 25-28: Enroll in this mini-session at New England’s only all-girls Jewish cultural camp, where summer sisters become lifelong friends, located in Pembroke, Mass., near Cape Cod.

Two-Week Taam (Taste) of Tel Noar, July 22-August 4: Sign your first-timer, age 7-15, up for this short session that includes all the regular camp activities and living in a regular bunk at the Cohen Camps’ close-knit, smaller, NUT-FREE, co-ed camp in Hampstead in New Hampshire.

For more information and to RSVP for any of these opportunities—or arrange a regular tour on another day—please email the office at info@CohenCamps.org, or call 781-489-2070. All Cohen Camps are pluralistic, kosher and within an hour of Boston, two hours from Hartford and four hours from New York City.

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