The conclusion of summer camps and the return of our children signals the end of summer. Yes, technically, the summer season extends until September 21 and the fall solstice begins on the 22nd; but for all intents and purposes the summer is over.
The question is why our children are home, rather than in yeshiva? It is no secret that children possess a critical need for structure. It is the need for structure and a balance of activity and education which the summer camps thrive on. It is so important that there are social services organizations both locally and abroad who subsidize or completely offset the costs of summer camps, enabling children from financially strapped homes to attend camp and further their development in a safe, warm, and wholesome environment.
I met a neighbor of mine the other day and asked him when he begins Law School at Columbia and he replied, that very day was his first day in session. Earlier in the day I received an e-mail, among my many e-mails, from Yeshiva University welcoming the students to the new semester. If colleges are in session, it accentuates our wonderment as to why our children are still home?
The Wall Street Journal ran a story in which they said that the cost to raise a child in 2022 has risen to $300,000. Commenting on the tweet from WSJ, Dovid Bashevkin, who is the director of education of NCSY, an Orthodox Union youth group and popular podcaster of the 18Forty Podcast and social media impresario wondered what a frum study of the cost to raise a child in 2022 would yield. He continued: “After school tuition, camp dues, and the cost of floor hockey equipment, that number would easily be around $500,000.” The overburdening cost of raising children in this modern, suburban society that we live in doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone. As Jews with a focus on large families, we all, knowing the pressures associated, would still choose to raise large families and pass down the mesorah that we received from our parents, on to that of our children. But the question begs itself: After spending upwards of $10,000 per child, when you consider canteen, clothing, tips, trips, and the like, why is there a need to entertain them for two weeks, which is a quarter of the whole summer, before sending them back to yeshiva? A two week vacation can’t be spent going away for just two or three days and winging it the rest of the way when many people are running to Florida, Israel, Cancun, or wherever else they are hiding out before they need to return for school. The pressure on mothers turned camp directors who need to come up with activities that satisfy the needs of three disparate age groups simultaneously, with middle class dads who unfortunately need to go to work in order to pay for the vacation from vacation, is creating a lot of undue and unnecessary strife and pressure at home.
We grew up in yeshiva hearing about how the fish in the ocean would tremble with the onset of the month of Elul and the commencement of the shofar blowing ahead of Rosh Hashanah. Nowadays if the fish in the ocean are trembling, it’s from an incoming cruise ship or a shark sighting in Long Beach. Not only aren’t the fish in the ocean any longer trembling from the onset of Elul, our bathing suit clad kids aren’t either because two weeks into the month of Elul they are still pulling the sand out from between their toes.
This isn’t just another attempt to find fault with yeshivas. We recognize all the tireless work on the part of the faculty and the teachers whose job it is to engage and stimulate our children for ten months out of the year. But the truth is, the teachers themselves would much rather be at the head of a classroom than figuring out ways to keep their kids busy and off of all the electronics that intoxicate the minds of our children from the youngest ages. The rebbeim that I personally have spoken to agree that there shouldn’t be more than three or four days at most between camp and yeshiva. I guess the reason why things haven’t changed is because people are suffering in silence or in the presence of their marriage counselors or therapists. In any case, it has gone too far and so I am opening the conversation here. Our kids belong in yeshiva getting on with their studies; and if not, for anything else, to be able to conceptualize why the fish in Kamenitz and Slutzk were trembling when the month of Elul arrived. Having spent eight weeks in camp playing sports, going on endless trips, and releasing all the energy pent up within them in their desks at school, they belong back in their desks maturing their understanding of everything they learned on a lower level the year before. Not coming home to a vacation from a previous vacation.