How to Pick a Jewish Sleepaway Camp

Advice for how to navigate the plethora of Jewish sleepaway camp options.

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Every summer, thousands of kids trade in their phones, Facebook, and video games for zip-lines, s’mores, and bunkmates at Jewish camps. Campers at over 155 nonprofit Jewish overnight camps participate in activities ranging from color war and arts & crafts to waterskiing. While they’re having a great time, they’re also discovering values like independence, friendship, and community, in the midst of Jewish culture.

The questions that follow are designed to help parents navigate the plethora of Jewish camp options across the U.S. and Canada. You can also use this helpful Find-a-Camp search tool.

Here are some questions to help guide your search: 

First consider:

Am I looking for a traditional camp or a specialty camp that focuses on a particular activity?

Does my child need lots of instruction and structure? Or would they prefer more independence?

Does my child have dietary or physical needs?

What size camp will make my child feel comfortable?

Do I want the camp to be affiliated with a particular movement or organization?

What session length will appeal to my child and to our family plans for the summer?

What type of landscape are you looking for? How far from home?

What is my budget?

Once you've narrowed down your search to a few camps, explore these questions: 

What are the camp's values and philosophies?

How are Jewish experiences incorporated into the camp program?

Is the camp affiliated with any denominational movement?

Is the camp co-ed? What is the interaction like between different ages and genders?

How big is the camp? How many kids are in each bunk?

What percent of campers return each year?

Are there specialty programs or trips that cost extra? Will you need to provide spending money?

How does the camp ensure campers’ safety and security?

How are behavioral and disciplinary problems handled?

What is the camp’s technology policy?

Does the camp offer transportation to and/or from camp?

What is the minimum age of the counselors? What kind of staff training is provided?

Facilities and programming:

Is there a swimming pool or lake?

Are showers/bathrooms in the cabins or in another building?

Is the daily schedule very structured, or does it emphasize elective and individual choices?

What type of instructional swim program is offered? Is it required?

What other instructional or specialty programs are offered?

What types of programs and facilities are available in the event of bad weather?

How does the camp program meet individual needs and differences?

Food and medical:

What types of food are offered? Can allergies or other dietary needs be accommodated? 

Is the kitchen kosher?

How does the camp handle individual medical needs? What medical facilities are nearby?

Some nice things to know:

If your child has never been to a Jewish overnight camp before, they may be eligible for a need-blind One Happy Camper grant of up to $1000. Learn how.

Many camps offer early registration incentives or sibling discounts, and scholarships may be available from your camp, synagogue, or other Jewish organizations. Visit and contact your local synagogue or federation for additional information.

Families in the Northeast, New England, and Mid-Atlantic regions may be eligible for BunkConnect TM, a pilot program that matches income-eligible families with high-quality nonprofit Jewish summer camps.

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Alicia Zimbalist

Alicia Zimbalist is the senior manager, external communications at the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC). After directing public relations work for several companies in the private sector, Alicia followed her dream and brought her professional expertise to the nonprofit world. She joined the FJC team in 2009 to manage public relations efforts as well as support the Foundation?s advocacy and internal relations work. A native New Yorker, Alicia lives in Manhattan with her husband, Ross, and son, Sam.