Are you considering Jewish overnight camp for your burgeoning camper? The pandemic has made us appreciate the value of new experiences (and quiet houses), so it makes sense. But COVID has also strained so many families’ finances, and for many, tuition seems out of reach.
CJP works with partner camps to try to close the financial gap to make this experience possible for every potential camper. Not surprisingly, CJP saw increased need across the board this year. As such, the organization gave an unprecedented amount of needs-based funds—more than $500,000 to more than 250 campers with the help of generous donor support.
“When you’re looking at a camp’s website, the cost can be a major deterrent. I’ve worked with too many families over the years who have completely written off Jewish camp because they didn’t have the full picture of what support was available,” says Leah Finkelman, engagement manager for teens and camping at CJP.
In fact, many campers get financial help to attend. But families don’t always realize that they can receive funding from the camp itself, their synagogue, Jewish federations like CJP and other organizations that provide support and resources for families, she says.
For example, Wildflower for Kids provides camp scholarships and other resources for children who have lost a parent.
Other campers may be eligible for first-time camper incentive grants through One Happy Camper. Sometimes, siblings can attend camp at a discounted rate. Or adults in your family may be able to help cover tuition by supporting a camp with administrative work, recruitment or on-site classes. (Brush up on those woodworking skills!)
Camp Young Judea, an independent and nonprofit camp in Amherst, New Hampshire, offers need-based assistance and scholarships. Families can apply after registering, and requests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. They also offer sibling discounts; discounts for paying by cash, e-check or debit; and payment installment plans.
Camp JORI in Wakefield, Rhode Island, started as a Jewish orphanage called Jewish Orphanage of Rhode Island, hence the acronym. They partner with JAFCO Jewish Orphanage each summer to send 20 campers from their programs to camp.
The camp is committed to financial aid, offering a substantial amount from their own endowment each summer, says director Alicia McGee, a camp parent herself.
“We work hard with families to provide financial aid and find scholarship resources, as well as create payment plans,” she says. JORI also offers an early bird special that gives camp families $250 off tuition if they register for a session prior to Nov. 1. There’s also a “bring your friend to camp” incentive. If you bring a new camper to Camp JORI (for a full session), the returning family and the new family each receive a $300 tuition reduction.
“There is nothing like being in the bubble at Jewish overnight camp,” McGee says.
At Camp Ramah New England in Palmer, “No child will be denied the [camp] experience due to financial need,” says financial director Ed Pletman. Here, scholarship funds are available with the application process, beginning in November. In partnership with the National Ramah Commission, Ramah also provides financial aid for families with at least one parent in active American military service.
“Our review process carefully evaluates each families’ financial request and takes into account a wide variety of factors, including employment issues, medical issues, day school and college expenses and financial emergencies,” he says.
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Don’t see your camp mentioned above? Ask the administration about payment options.
“Our advice to all families is to ask questions and reach out to camp leadership,” says JORI’s McGee.
Check out CJP’s full list of camp affordability resources here. And don’t be deterred.
“What we found this past summer is that despite all of the ups and downs—masking, the resurgence of the Delta variant, questions about testing—parent after parent told us how important the camp experience was for their child. The social benefits of just being with other children, in person, being able to play outside and be part of a dynamic Jewish environment was so valuable and so appreciated,” says CYJ director Marcy Kornreich.
Find a directory of Jewish overnight camps here.