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The Problem with Loyalty to Just Movement Camps


By Rabbi Michael Mellen

I’m a Reform Movement kid, staff person, and rabbi all the way. My son went to pre-school at a Reform synagogue and I hope my daughter will do the same.  My son attends Hebrew school at a Reform synagogue.  I love the URJ camps and will likely send my kids to a URJ camp. I believe in the camps, the camp directors, and the experience that campers and staff have during the summer.  I want to spend time at URJ camps during the summer and have as faculty and as staff.  I was the Director of NFTY and the Director of URJ Youth ProgramsI’m in. 

And… I’m not.  I also love Camp Tamarack in Michigan, where I was staff for seven summers. My cousins love Camp Pinemere in Pennsylvania. I’ve talked with the Directors, staff and campers of Young Judaea camps, Habonim D’ror camps, B’nai B’rith Perlman, Camp Poyntelle Lewis Village, Louemma, Ramah, and many more.  Each creates magical, immersive, life deepening experiences.  Campers talk about their friends for life, the values of the camps, and the fun they have at sports, arts and crafts, with technology, music and games.  They often point to spiritual moments around Friday evenings or Havdallah as the memories they carry most strongly. 

However, the problem with loyalty to just movement camps isn’t simply that other wonderful camps exist.  The problem is that as long as we recruit for only movement camps, we are out of the summer camp conversation. Congregants, community members, already know our answer. We can promote and promote and promote, but it’s one-sided. It works to some degree, but leaves somewhere between 75% and 100% of congregants out of the conversation, depending on your success.  I want to be in and not at the same time.

When congregations recruit for multiple camps, including camps beyond movement camps, they are in the conversation again.  While a smaller percentage of those you speak with may go to your movement camp, two other things happen: 1. More kids end up at some Jewish overnight summer camp; and 2. While a smaller percentage of those you speak with may go to your movement camp, you’ll be speaking with more potential campers and parents.  More children will end up attending the camp who maintains your loyalty.

It’s not about loyalty after-all.  It’s about reengaging in the conversation.  Having a voice.

If you’re interested in learning more, please be in touchYou can make this powerful change and stay loyal at the same time.


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