This summer is shaping up to be like no other. It’s clear that, for a majority of Jewish camps, summer 2020 will not go on as it normally does. And yet, we all want to be supportive of these essential institutions and communities. Just what can we parents do to lend a hand at this unprecedented moment?
This week at Camp Kveller, we laid out the honest financial realities of the Jewish camping landscape, and also offered ways to build community while supporting each other and our camps. Here’s the most important thing to know: Even if you can’t write your camp a large check today, you have valuable things to contribute to your camp community!
Our guests this week — Corey Cutler of Foundation for Jewish Camp; Carla Naumberg, mom and parenting author; Bradley Solmsen, the executive director of Surprise Lake Camp; and Jacob Cytryn, the executive director of Ramah Wisconsin — were transparent about what the camp community is doing during this time to survive financially and stay strong and connected throughout this summer.
You can click here to hear, first-hand, what they have to say. Or read on for our top takeaways, below.
1. Advocate for the distribution of communal funds that were previously allocated for summer camps this year. Institutions, including your local federation, synagogues, and the like, often have funds in place to support camps and campers in terms of tuition assistance. Because many camps are not happening, these institutions may not have considered moving forward with distributing said funds to your camps. Here’s the rub: While some costs will not be incurred this summer — like food, transportation, and summer staffing — approximately 50 to 60 percent of camp costs are fixed and have already been spent. So here’s what you can do: Reach out to these institutions and advocate for your camps. Remind them of the importance of supporting your camp this year so it’s available to your community next year, and each year after. You got this!
2. Let your camp staff know that you care and ask if there is a way to help. We could all use a friend these days. Some of the recurring themes of this week’s conversation was an appreciation for connecting with one another and the importance of community during this time. Your camps may have (non-financial) ways for you to be helpful, such as reaching out to first-time campers who were not able to make it — you can help keep them in the fold for next year! Some camps may ask you to share testimonials about camp to keep the camp community and spirit alive and strong.
3. Keep spreading camp values and love. Although you may live in distant locations, camp is a lifelong community. Take this time to reach out to other camp community members who may be going through a difficult time. Part of this time can and should be about simply being there for each other as a kehilah, as a community.
4. Rollover this summer’s tuition to next year. This makes a huge difference to camps in terms of cash flow! Of course, camp administrators fully understand that many of us are going through dire financial times and do not want to assert any guilt over this ask. Obviously, your family’s needs come first! If, however, you might be able to allocate any portion of your tuition dollars towards next year’s tuition or as a donation, it will make a difference.
5. Donate money. If you are able to do this, it’s obviously one of the best ways to support you camp during this tough time. Most camp donations are being matched dollar for dollar — or even dollars! — during this time. This financial decision does not need to be made today, or even tomorrow. If and when you can lend any financial support, it will be welcome! Do not feel obligated to make financial decisions that you are not prepared to make just yet.
We encourage you to think out of the box to grow this list! No matter how or what you do, the important thing is that camp professionals are feeling the love. Keep it up, Camp Kveller!