The Canteen is a tribute to all things Jewish sleepaway camp. Hosted by the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC), this blog is written by campers, alumni, parents, and camp professionals and is a place to talk about parenting, camp fun, projects, crafts, recipes, and more – all tied back to Jewish holidays, traditions and, of course, camp!
Stefan Teodosic is the Executive Director of B’nai B’rith Beber Camp and the Perlman Conference Center in Mukwonago, Wisconsin.
There are two things that I am most proud of in my career as a Jewish camp director. The first is that I have never had a camper go home early due to homesickness. We have several strategies to work with kids, we create deep partnerships with parents and we use a non-cookie cutter approach to every situation. We match this with extremely well trained staff that are supported by higher level professionals. Every summer we help kids in their most difficult times and we take pride in helping them gain the independence that comes with making it through a homesick summer.
Camp is all about kids and a blog about homesickness is right in the wheelhouse of the Director’s Corner. However, it is the second thing that I am most proud of that will take center stage today. I take an immense amount of pride in the fact that I have never turned a family away from a Jewish summer camp experience for financial reasons. I philosophically believe that it is my responsibility to help families make the best choice about their children’s Jewish summer camp experience. I serve as an advocate for Jewish summer camps first and then help parents make an informed choice about enrolling their child in Beber Camp. This is one of the most impactful Jewish decisions that they will make for their children and a real fit is critical to unlocking the magic of a summer at camp. Once a parent has identified a true fit, it is my responsibility to make sure that their child has access to that experience.
As camp directors, we have several resources at our disposal to help parents make sure that camp is a reality regardless of their financial situations. We have excellent confidential processes for determining financial need, we have access to outside scholarship support, we raise funds internally through annual campaigns and we work out payment plans to spread out costs. Each family is different, and much like working with our campers during the summer, there is no cookie cutter method to a successful financial aid process. Finances can be a difficult topic and many of our families have negative feelings about the process based on previous experiences with other organizations. We approach the financial support relationship with the same level of customer service that we do when we are recruiting campers and working with kids during the summer. The strong partnership that we create during this process serves as the bedrock of a relationship that will play out over the next several years.
Camp is one of the best values available in the Jewish community and while there is massive return on investment, the absolute cost of a summer is still high. We don’t view the Jewish camp experience as a luxury, and since we want parents to share this philosophy, it is incumbent on us to make camp a financial reality for all families. That said, every camp that is committed to this philosophy needs to raise significant dollars to deliver year in and year out. If you have a passion for strengthening Jewish identity and positive youth outcomes, donate to the scholarship program at your camp alma mater. If you didn’t go to camp as a kid, but realize the inherent value in the experience, support your local Jewish summer camp. If you believe in camp, but didn’t go as a child and don’t live anywhere near a Jewish summer camp office, call the Foundation for Jewish Camp. I am sure that they will be happy to help you get started in supporting the field of Jewish camp.
Every dollar counts and you can be sure that your donation will positively impact a camper’s life this summer. I was a camper who received scholarship money and my passionate belief that camp should be affordable for all families stems from this fact. Due to the generosity of the Jewish community, I was given an experience that profoundly impacted me and led me to become a Jewish camp director. So, please consider a gift to a Jewish summer camp, as you never know how far your donation just may go.