Out Of The Mailbag: (Who Are Our Camp Counselors?)

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    Y.W. Editor

    Dear YWN,

    As we sit in the midst of the summer, it pains me to watch what has now become of summer camps for teenage boys. In my eyes sleep away camp was an integral part of Chinuch; and a part of maturity for young staff members. As a person who went to camp for many years, was a waiter, JC, and counselor for a number of years, I can say first hand that being a staff member in camp as a teenager helped me deal with many things that take place later in life. Is it so horrible for young men to take on a responsibility for 8 weeks in the summer?

    Before camp, our camp would have a staff meeting, and the head-counselor, who is a very well-respected Menahel of a very large elementary school would say that without a doubt the 8 weeks in camp have more of an effect on a young impressionable child than 10 months of school. It is not even debatable. We are talking about children who spend 8 weeks in a sheltered environment; not just the hours that they are in school. No outside influences other than those who are in camp.

    Many of the great Askanim or leaders in our communities, if you were to look back, were leaders in camp before they became who they are today. There are so many talents and experiences that emerge from being apart of camp; why let it fall away like it has?


    Concerned & Saddened.


    Well said. The only thing that bothers me is the SEED part. What the SEED bochurim do is a tremendous thing and they have lots of results to show for it. Many communities were built up and “turned over” to more frum due to the accomplishments of SEED and they therefore should not be knocked. Otherwise, your point is a good one and I don’t know what the eitza is. Who says thousands of bochurim should have a month less of “during the zman” learning because the camps need good counselors? Perhaps the Yeshivos Ketanos should go until Tisha B’av, albeit on a more lax schedule in July than the rest of the year? That makes more sense to me than shortening the Zman of the Yeshivos Gedolos.


    if only we knew how important limud hatorah de’rabim was we wouldnt think twice!


    I think you are combining two seperate issues. One, is keeping bochurim in Yeshiva instead of allowing them to go to camp and the second is bochurim going on seed programs instead of going to camp.

    Regarding the first problem, the writer has to realize that the number one goal a bachur has to have in yeshiva is to become a lamdan and yarei shamayim. Yeshiva bochurim don’t leave Yeshiva unless it’s for something that has to be done at that moment. Even Yeshivas that encourage the talmidim to do JEP once a week, limit it to that one time. It’s not just bochurim. A yeshiva wouldn’t encourage a kollel fellow to leave Yeshiva to be Marbitz Torah either, untill after studying in yeshiva for a specific number of years. Of course, if there was an immnent dire need, the Yeshiva’s would send out, but otherwise certainly not.

    Being that the counselors we have in camp aren’t such a problem that we have to close down the Yeshivas (They are all pretty good, they get intervied to see if they are menchin, which is the most important) the need for seed is much more important. These bochurim go to towns where there are Jews that have no shaichos to Yiddishkeit and can mamash turn around a family.

    Of,course evryone has to use seichel; if your son is the type that needs constant suopervision, then seed is not for him.


    Very well said. Unfortunately, this is not a new problem. There is no doubt that camp is an integral part of a childs growth, as it certainly was part of mine. It is amazing that people question why so many children these days have no positive role models and end up places they should not be r”l. One of the main reasons for this is that the Yeshivas are not letting most of these role models attend camp!! And for the high school and beis medresh boys who just need a break, keeping them in yeshiva or in a yeshiva camp, as opposed to being a staff member in camp, has a negative effect not only on the children they could have helped, but on themselves too.


    I hate to be the one to say this, but chinuch is so important that in some cases, it needs to override the benefits of limud hatorah. For instance, many rabbeim in yeshivos might want to learn full-time, however, it is recognized that there is a need for talmidei chachomim to serve as rebbeim in yeshivos ketanos even though that may not be like sitting in front of a gemara for two sedorim a day. The same goes for camp. If some of the finer bochurim can serve as counselors and show kids the appropriate way to act, play sports and approach bain adam lachaveiro, we would create a generation of children who are even more respectful of torah and ultimately be more interested in learning – resulting in a net limud hatorah that is even greater.


    I agree with everything said. My little brother went to a well-known camp last summer and told us how his counselor slept through Shacharis every day. I nearly threw up after hearing that. I’ve been a counselor for 4 summers, including currently in a well-known camp, and it is so true that camp can have ten times more of a hashpa’ah on a child than anything else. Parents and the hanhala of camps should be recruiting and interviewing to the enth degree!


    I have to agree with the writer. The issue was more about camp than about SEED. The only connection that there is between SEED and camp is that many of the bachurim who go on SEED are the ones who probably would have been counselors if the yeshivos let them be counselors in camp. I know of many bochurim in my son’s yeshivah who went for SEED because the yeshivah wouldn’t let them go to camp. It is not an issue of shortening the zman but rather of allowing those who want to go to camp, and can be of influence in camp, to go to camp. I think the yeshivos look at bochurim who want to go to camp as immature and that camp is Hefkarus; whereas camp is probably less Hefkar than any other summer activity the boys do.


    I would like to make a comment from the viewpoint of someone a little older Who no longer has sons in camp, but was in Camp, and was an ORIGINAL SEED!(1974)

    When my chevra went to SEED we went to the exotic land of Winnipeg Canada. The main purpose of our being there was to expose the Jewish Community to Frum people, and to Torah. We all sat in the Bais Medrash all day, learning with anyone who wanted. We learned with Children, teen agers and adults. There were classes for women classes given by the “yoshvey Rosh” (Both are today Maggidey Shiur,one of whom is also a well known Rov) or by their wives. There was no running around, galavanting! (Other than a couple of trips taken by the chevra, together, with permission from the “hanhalla”) We went to another sity the next year, where the schedule was the same. There was a great purpose in what we did and we did accomplish. Please do not denigrate the SEED programs!

    As far as Counsellors in Camp. I spent a summer in an Agudah camp. Reb Yaakov visited and spoke about the importane of camp, because of the frum atmosphere and it is a place where the chaverim are all frum. When a counsellor asked him afterwards if Camp is so important then maybe everyone should leave yeshiva to go to Camp. Reb Yaakov answered him that every boy, in every yeshiva must discuss this with his rosh Yeshivah. Each boy and each case needs their own Psak.

    Generalities do not work. Yes camp is very important, Yes The best boys should be counsellors, but that is only WITH the guidance of his rebbe!


    I’ve never been to camp. I’m way too Yeshivish. Still, it seems unfair to call bochurim second rate just because they go to camp.

    Mr. Letter writer: Name callers like you may be the source of your own problems.


    This is the classical catch 22 situation.

    On the one hand, we want our best bachurim to learn as much as possible, on the other hand, we want the best bachurim to be the counselors of our children for the influence they can have on them.

    Practically speaking, extending the yeshiva ketana school year through Tammuz albeit on a lighter schedule is not all that practical considering counselors are STILL needed for the time that the children would be in english classes. Moreover, kids would still be home at 5pm with nothing to do. The last 3-4 hours of daylight would make everyone crazy with not much to do.

    There are a number of fine yeshivos that do NOT require their high school bachurim to attend the “yeshivas camp” for Tammuz and the bachurim are allowed to work in camps. In fact, it does not appear that camps have a lack of quality counselors.


    Why do you say that the yeshivos that allow their bochurim to be counselors are second rate? I think they are top rate because they understand that accomplished bnei torah have what to give to the next generation and IT WON’T AFFECT their learning just the opposite they will gain just as you’ve said. Yeshivos such as Torah Temima who offer their bochurim to take counselor positions or go to the yeshiva camp and others are creating a situation where getting a counselor job is not so easy due to the limited slots available. So the camps can be selective as to who they take. SEED can offer those who can’t get jobs a way to spend their bein hazmanim appropriately.


    Rabbi Yisroel Reisman Shlita was a counselor when he was a bachur, and I’m assuming he went with the blessing of Rav Pam ZTL, as he is one of his closest talmidim.


    For one thing I think that the writer does not understand the chashivus of limud hatorah. A yeshiva bochur belongs in yeshiva if at all possible as long as possible.For a bochur who needs the extended break, the yeshivos should take each case on an individual basis. Yes, of course we want the children in camp to have counselors who are yirei shomayim etc. But I am wondering if the writer knows what goes on in camps. When we were growing up the situation was terrible in most camps. The head staff did not have a handle on what the counselors were doing on their day off etc.Yes, there were some very good counselors but they were a drop in the bucket.I remember in the camp that I went to which prided itself on having the best staff in the mountains(yiddishkeitwise) there was one counselor who put on a tie for davening no matter what else he was wearing. The head counselor made it his business to point it out, but this was a chashivus. In today’s age he would be considered an “oisvurf”. Realize that it is a great struggle to get good counselors but it should not be on the cheshbon of limud hatorah. I was in camp yesterday, on visiting day, and was pleasantly surprised with the staff. We need to applaud the heads of camp who struggle with this issue every year.


    And our boys, even, or especially the top ones, lose out on the opportunity to hold down a job. And a job in camp, any position, will be so helpful for chinuch in their later years.

    Years ago, actually not so many, the top boys from a major yeshiva were the ones who went to the nursing home erev Shabbos to play music and entertain. Now, if a boy learns an instrument some wonder what “issues” he has that he needs such an outlet. (I’d prefer to think he’s well-rounded, not a chisaron.)


    >Is it really better to send these boys for the weeks that they have in the summer to SEED programs, where most have no experience in Kiruv, nor have any desire to be in the field of Kiruv, to run to some exotic area of the country (or some other country) for the sake of running around freely in the name of Kiruv?

    As a member of a small out-of-town Jewish community that greatly benefits from over a dozen SEED counselors I am deeply disturbed and offended by the letter writer’s negative SEED comments. Without those counselors local boys and girls would have zero point of reference of bnai and bas Torah young adult role-models. I would hope that any counselor attending a SEED camp would be doing so on his/her volition.


    This post really struck me the wrong way. Before I go on the attack, I will state that as a formal camp counselor for many year (who worked his way up theough the ranks) I do not know the state of camps right now. It has been over 15 years since I have worked in a camp nor do I personally know any boy who is a counselor. So while I assume not much had changed in the past 15 years, maybe I will be told otherwise.

    First off, what bothered me the most was the labeling on “better” Yeshivos. Or the Yeshivos who do get a full summer off as a “2nd rate” mosid. Why is there this need to label in such a way that will create a system of hierarchy that will influence thier choice of mokomos not based on what is best for their child, but will give them a better chance of finding a good shidduch? What about the boys who go to this 2nd rate, and are lamdanim, but nebech….must be second rate if that is the Yeshiva that they go to? While I get the point that you are trying to make, why must you diminish the qualities that these places possess by classifing them in a Negative way.

    Next, I think that we have to either trust the camp system, who are running a buisness and therefore will aim for the best staff possible. Think about it, who would you like leading your kids a counselor who is a baal midos, yiraeh shamayim (yes they have this type in 2nd rate Yeshovos too) who will be busy with the welfare of your child or the Lamdan, who also is a yiraeh shomayim, but too busy with his face in a sefer all day to interact with your children? Silverlake, and all the Yeshiva camps serve a valid purpose for the style of bochorim who have that particular style of learning. For some, the location of the Yeshiva (Ie: near the beach) does not all the Yeshiva to stay put. For others it allows a change of sceanary in a relaxed location. Plus many of them use thier month off to work in camp as well.

    If there is a problem with the counselors, then it’s time to combine the sleepaway camps with the learning camps as well. They might not be able to be the counselors but there presence will be noticed and will be a role model (for those who are) for your children.

    just me

    The writer says “who are fine yirei shomayim”. Are you saying that if a bocher (the young man is still a “bachur” even if he isn’t in “the best yeshiva”)is the type that doesn’t go to a learning camp or stay in a non-NY yeshiva he isn’t yirei shamayim? That is pretty elistic. No wonder you don’t beleive in SEED. Those out-of-town, non-black hat types can’t POSSIBLY be worth the time of a 17 year old. My son is a staff member in Camp Bei Kayta. He is required to go to as many sheurim and sedarim as any learning camp. He is also earning a little money.

    So what’s your problem? Relizing that not every boy is meant to sit and learn all day? Hashem did creat Zevuan and the TYPE of person that a Zevulan needs to be. Or do you have a problem with boys learning that they can earn some money and not just always take from somebody.


    As Dave375 in connection with Rabbi Reisman, once upon a time choshuva bnei torah were camp counselors and there was nothing wrong with it. It wasn’t just Rabbi Reisman. It was countless rabbonim and Roshei yeshivah including Rav Yisroel Belsky, Rav Laibel Katz, Rav Nosson Scherman, etc, etc, etc.

    The issue here is not what is more important: learning or being a role model. To frame the question that way is a deflection of the real issue. The real issue here (as with so many other issues currently facing the frum community) is why we think that we doing things so much better than they were done a generation (or two) ago. I don’t know what the exact optimal balance is between learning and being mashpiah. But one thing I do know: If all of these Rabbonim and Roshei yeshivah were able to spend summers as counselors with the full blessing of their own roshei yeshivah, and with no apparaent detriment to their deveolpment as gedolei torah (actually they would probably say that it contributed significantly to their development as mechanchim) then we should probably pause for a moment to consider why we think we are so much smarter (and frumer) than they were.


    the truth is if you ask your sons rebbe how many months off the kids should have he will tell on1 not two!!! In eretz yisroel all the chadarim go till 9th of av!!! maybe thats why the israeli kids are so much more advanced when it comes to limud hatorah!!!!


    After reading some of the posts I feel the need to add more to what I said before.

    I think that we have to look at the big picture here and put it in perspective. Most camps provide a well structured, frum environment, that puts an emphasis on Torah, Midos and social/fun activities. With all the negative influences to be found in the city (movies, television, tzinus on the streets, etc) the camp environment still creates a safe haven for our children to attend. There are many people from whom our children will learn from (and not just the counselor) and I personally don’t think that we are near any sort of crisis situation.

    So lets take one post who almost threw up when he found out that his brother’s counselor slept through shacharis. (plus was that really necessary to phrase it like that? ) We all can agree that is was a wrong thing to do, and yes now these 8-10 boys have been exposed to the concept that there are people out there who don’t daven with a minyan. Plus one can question where were the camp’s administration when all of this went on. But, does this mean that all counselors are bad now? Are we now worried that because of this, we now have 8-10 new boys who are now at risk? Not at all. This is now an opportunity for a parent (or older brother) to sit down with their children about the real world. (Things that can be said to your child, “Yes davening in a minyan is a must, but now you can see that it is hard for some people and they have a srtuggle to fight thier Yetzer Horah.” Now it is easier, but might get harder for you in the future, what are some of the things that we can do now, to make sure that this doesn’t happen to us.” ….or even, “I’m glad that this bothers you. You now see that not everyone can make the right choice. I’m sure we will all have our challenges in life, but if you come to me when they come up we can find good ways of making good choices. And so on….)

    Next we have to think what does go on in camp…….good question. For the harsh reality, it’s a mokom teeming with teenagers who have been given a little more independence then in Yeshiva. Being that they are teens, they will act silly, be unrefined and not always make the best choices. There will be some who on their off day, do things that we frown about. However, there will be a mojority of teens who will rise up to the challenge. While maybe one or two will miss a tefilah, they will see the rest of the counselors who did not. They will see the structure that the camp provides and the emphasis they put on good midos, bentching by meals, daily set time for learning, sportsmanship and any other area that the camp takes on. Yes we should ask for the best possible individual for our children, but we don’t have to be frantic if all our expectations are not met all the time.


    i did not read all your comments but let me state my opinion

    maybe we should analyze the whole summer situation.

    the schools end a week before camp and start a week after camp that means the boys have a 10 week break does this really make sense?

    especially since many families cannot afford to send their children to camp their children are basically roaming for 10 weeks or go to a local day camp which again has a very short day

    why don’t we extend school thru july (like some chassidishe places) and have just one month of camp coinciding with the regular yeshivos.

    do we not realize what a financial and spiritual toll the summer months is taking on our community. should we imitate the Europeans who just have 2-3 weeks vacation and spend with the whole family.

    do the men belong away from their families every summer without any responsibilities for 8 weeks straight? who is watching after them?

    maybe this county idea is not such a good one


    I was a counselor for many years in a top camp until i got married. I enjoyed it very much, and felt that i gained more in those two weeks in camp, then i would’ve accomplished with “sof Zman” in yeshiva. but not everyone is like me.

    But what i always find shocking when reading posts on this site, is that some people pick on the leaves but miss the berries. All the writer is trying to say is that a yeshiva shouldn’t have a have a rule that you can’t leave, but rather the boys that would like to be counselors can be, without getting a guilt trip for leaving Yeshiva early. that’s all he is saying!

    his refernce to SEED and “second rate” yeshivos are just his way of saying, that camp ALSO is important for Klal yisroel, not JUST SEED. and that a yeshiva shouldn’t be judged by if it has bochrim in camp! read between the lines!!

    the writer probally got into a fight when he was a bochur with his yeshiva to leave early, and he is venting…

    but his point is 100% valid. (in my view 🙂 )


    I do not believe that those people that were never counsellors in camp learn better than those people who were counsellors. The proof is before your eyes.


    Just me, the problem is, I think it’s too late now. In former times, the counselors WERE boys who could have sat and learned, but it was considered healthy for them, and good for the klal, for them to be counselors. Now, talking to my teenage boys, there is a feeling that the boys who are working “don’t have what it takes” or “aren’t cut out for more” learning-wise. This is disenfranchising wonderful boys who are only TEENAGERS. If they are learning well during the school year, have good middos and hashkafos, who’s to say that they don’t have what it takes for gadlus as they mature?


    The writer writes:

    What is happening to the Bochurim in yeshivos that allow camp? Are they no longer following Shulchan Aruch? Or are they becoming Maggidei Shiur and Roshei Yeshiva (or someone who follows Shulchan Aruch)?

    In addition, the Bochurim who “run around” at SEED are not responsible and can not be a counselor, and those who don’t run around learn, as a bachur is supposed to do.


    It is interesting to note that the Chabad overnight camps only take the best bochrim from the yeshivos with multiple references to be counselors and learning teachers in their overnight camp.

    I was once visiting Gan Yisrael Montreal, and stayed late. Late at night after lights out, and an exhausting day I saw many counselors sitting and learning in the Beis Hamedrash.

    The result is that the children come back to yeshiva and cheder with new chayus in learning, davening and mitzvos.

    We can learn from everyone, even Chabad.


    Someone wrote:

    “I’ve never been to camp. I’m way too Yeshivish.”

    What in the world is this supposed to mean? 🙂


    I am the one who wrote the letter and was not going to comment at all on all the misinterpretation of the letter. I appreciate all of the Rash & Tosefos that everyone has come up with. However, I was glad to see Zanvel Shlomo hit it on the head. Any reference to “better” or “2nd Rate” yeshivos was a pun on what stereotype people put on yeshivos and their policies. They were put in quotations for a reason. This was not to be interpreted as an attack on SEED at all. The work they do is phenominal. You still can’t deny the fact that there are a greater proportion of boys going on SEED than to camp for the reason alone that the yeshivos don’t let them go to camp. And after one summer of renting a car and checking out every surrounding city’s ball park and etc… they lose any Cheshek of returning to camp. It used to be that there were counselors who were in camp every summer until they got engaged. Counselors had their sheva brochos in camp. Today it is most probably unheard of.

    Again, this is not a knock on SEED. There has been such a strong shift of Bochurim who no longer go to camp and go to SEED, that I think you have to look at what the underlying reason is. I only picked SEED because if they are not in a learning camp or in SEED, then we know they are probably really not doing anything productive this summer.

    Camp is by far not the root of the problem. Obviously it is the society and stereotypes that were created by us. However, this is the result. And I don’t think people realize how far-reaching the effects of Summer Camps have on the children attending and the experience in life it brings to the staff members. If you never went to camp or didn’t enjoy camp, then you most certainly won’t understand.


    Zanvel Shlomo-

    Except for the part about the fight with my yeshivah. I only missed one summer because my yeshiva didn’t allow me; and that was in Israel. I guess I went to one of those “2nd rate” yeshivas otherwise!


    I remember when……

    Bochurim who envisioned a career in chinuch would go to camp as counselors to get shimush in dealing with children in an informal setting. Roshei Yeshivos would encourage these bochurim to go.

    What if they aren’t a good match for chinuch? Better to find out in camp at 19 than to find out is a Rebbe at 32!

    To flip the question around, instead of asking “why are the conselors lousy”, ask “Why aren’t the best-of-the-best going to camp, with encouragment? There should be competition to be zoche to be mashpiah on young children.


    not every yeshiva ketana has 10 weeks vacation. here in Baltimore I’m proud to say that the cheder ends the end of July and starts again in elul 6 weeks later. This has been the case for the last 55 years or so!


    as an old Camp Agudah counselor I have to laugh at those who knock the importance of having top notch bochurim as your sons counselors. Look around at many of the leading Rabbonim and askonim in America today and many have in common that they were counselors in camp. There they learned how to be mashpia on children, how to be able to talk to a parent about their children,how to speak or actin front of a large audience, how to become a responsible adult who were given the resposibilty of caring for someone elses treasure and most importantly they learned leadership skills.

    Those bochurim who don’t leave the daled amos of the bais medrash are not camp material

    they are more suited to become the next generation of rosh yeshivas. However , most boys don’t fall into that category and go to the country club settings of yeshiva campswith no responsibilities or achrayos and are losing the opportunity of a lifetime to learn these skills and learn how to become vital pieces of the next generation of klal yisroel.

    For many SEED has become a good way to see the country and get out of NY or Lakewood. I am not saying that SEED is a total waste of time but is it more important than providing our own kids the opportunity to have the best bochurim be mashpia on them or some kids in kalamazoo

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