MAILBAG: Why Do Camp Rabbeyim Get Paid So Little?

34

Dear fellow brother,

I was shocked and horrified when I found out that my sons camp is paying their Rebbeim the same salary as they were 35 years ago. After doing a little research it seems that it’s not only my sons camp. IT’S MOST CAMPS!

Why is it that camp tuition has gone up over 50% in the last 35 years due to inflation and other factors but yet the rebbeims salary has stayed the same $3000? That means based on inflation, the rebbeim are getting paid a measly $1400 (compared with 1985). And yes there are benefits, but let’s admit, every job gives some benefits.

I HAVE TO ADMIT I AM DEEPLY EMBARRASSED & ASHAMED.

These Rebbeim have given their lives for OUR children. These rebbeim are malochim. To sit with children for 3, 4, 5, 6 hours a day, you need the patience of a saint, and yet they give over so much with love and dedication.

LET’S STAND UP AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

Call your camp director. Call your local Rov. Call Torah Umesorah, The Agudah, Chasdei Lev…..

THE WORLD STANDS ON THE TORAH OF TINOKOS SHEL BEIS RABBAN!!!! LETS STRENGTHEN IT!!!!

A concerned parent

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.

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34 COMMENTS

  1. The camps would be happy to pay the Rebbes more if the parents would be happy to pay for it. Are you offering to pay the difference?

  2. Rabeiem get paid by their yeshivos an entire year even though they do not teach there during the summer months , so in essence they are getting more. Plus they teach a couple of hours during the day, then get the rest of the day off, they get a free bungalow and wife and kids go up for free to the country so when you factor all of those perks together, they end up with a rather sweet deal. Oh I forgot about the tips they get as well.

  3. Maybe it is time to raise the Rebbe’s salary for the other 10 months. Or maybe raise the salary and make it an 11 month position like in Lakewood and Eretz Yisroel,

  4. I agree with the sentiment, but you must learn a fundamental of business.
    Why do they pay so little? Because they can, and the rabbeim still come. When they stop coming, the salary will rise.

    The fact that they are tzaddikim is irrelevant. Business is business.

  5. As a rebbi who has worked for tjose salaries in sleepaway camp I say: No one forced anyone to take any job. If you don’t like take a higher paying job and stay home.

  6. Camp don’t profit as much as you think they do! All you’re doing is forcing them to raise the price, so instead, just leave it and give a higher tip to the Rebbe!

  7. This is one of the issues with so many people going into learning and klei kodesh… The salary range is determined by market pay range. Why would a camp pay more when they can have someone do it for cheaper. As per the market theory of wage determination, the equilibrium wage rate is only established when the number of workers available is equal to the number of workers needed. Since a lot of the rabbeim do not many other marketable skill, they need to take these low level jobs and unfortunately these jobs have a lot of competition creating a surplus of workers available.

    Instead of raising the wage rate artificially as you propose, rabbeim should learn skills or trades which they can do during the summers which would help offset the amount of available workers which would increase the salaries. Unless this is accomplished the only thing artificially raising wages does is create more of an incentive for rabbeim to apply to these jobs.

  8. For simplicity, a 4 hour work day equates to half a work day. Camp is usually about 2 months. So essentially they are getting paid $3k for a month’s worth of “full time” work, if a full work day is 8 hours (many full time employees work longer hours). That equals an equivalent base salary of $36k a year. That’s a low salary, but take into account that some camps give the staff free or heavily discounted rates for lodging, food, and other amenities for the employee and their family which can equal thousands of dollars. That seems reasonable to me for a side job that has no risk involved. I’m betting most rabbeim are in it for the camp discount, not for the paycheck. The real question is why camps could pay so much 35 years ago. Also, you can’t say they’re getting paid $1400 today (when they’re actually getting a $3000 check) because $1400 in 1985 is equal to $3000 today. That’s backwards, and not how economics works.

  9. Take a look at the trips and food and all other luxuries (air conditioning etc) that camps now have as compared to the camps in the 80s and there is most of the answer.
    Also many camps cover all expenses of the rabbis no food cost no childcare cost no vacation cost. Some provide washing machines etc.

  10. This is stupid

    “Why Do Camp Rabbeyim Get Paid So Little?”

    you answered your own question: “To sit with children for 3, 4, 5, 6 hours a day”
    because they work so little .
    (lol at camp with 6 hours a day of learning)

  11. Firstly I’m a Parent of campers, not a camp owner. Unsure if your referring to day or sleepaway camp. Regardless I disagree. Camps for the most part are businesses not chesed organizations. Day camp Learning is very minimal, maybe 2-3 hrs per day. While sleepaway camp learning is longer, they are given a free bungalow, and all most Food is paid for all summer long. Furthermore more there is no calling parents for follow ups, and no marking tests, or nightly prep of new material. If this still bothers you please step up to the plate and generously tip your childs Rebbi. Rabbeim do a fantastic job, but cut the whining already, many people are underpaid.

  12. According to your logic they should get paid at least as much as a prof baseball player.
    The fact is that wages and prices go according to the rules of supply and demand; and, for every Rebbe that exists, there are twenty capable Yungerleit that would love to have his job, especially in the mountains. So we’re doing just fine.

  13. Well, at least the rate of pay for Rabbeim has remained steady. the rate of pay for counselors, compared to 30 years ago has decreased, to the point where in the early 80s, I was paid $650 as an 18 year old to be a counselor. I PAID for my own 18 year old to be in camp in the last few years.

    Now, I didnt read all the comments, and perhaps this was mentioned…. the cost to house a rebbe and his family for the summer, is a significant “benefit”, as is having their children in camp at a reduced, or even no cost.

    This isnt a “rebbe” thing. It is a “we can get away with it, so we can” thing.

    To the letter writer, is almost surely a Rebbe, his wife or parent, have you reviewed the operating expenses of “camps” before writing this attack piece? At the very least did you compare the operating expenses of the camp your kids rebbe works with say their expenses 30 years ago? what are their insurance premiums now, compared to 30 years ago? the expense to “entertain” todays generation compared to that of 30 years ago?

    Perhaps come back with some pertinent numbers to back up your attack?

  14. The letter writer has an extremely valid point and is completely right. As the proud wife of a Rebbe who works really hard with extremely long hours, working early in the morning till late afternoon, the commentators here seem to be very misguided.

    Not sure what camps the rest of you are referring to but our camp is local and we don’t have any of those “perks”. We don’t get free stays in the country or anything else. And no, my husband doesn’t get paid 12 months to cover the summer. And tips are a joke.

    We proudly do it because this is the Torah lifestyle we want. But yes, they get paid very little, yes some Rebbes work long hours, with no glamorous features some of the posters mentioned. It amounts to about 1.5 camper’s tuition when they’ve got 20-30 campers in the bunk.

    It is worthwhile for the parents who can afford to give a larger tip to realize that these Rebbes can definitely use it. And for the rest of you to actually find out the facts and appreciate how hard your Rebbe is working for your child.

  15. They are paid very fairly the work that they do (3 hours a day tops), especially once you factor in all the perks- tips, free/discounted bungalow and camp for their kids, free food for 2 months. I’m not sure why you dismiss these incredible benefits, which other jobs have similar benefits?

  16. I just read the headline, but my initial reaction is: …and I’m wondering why my son (who loves to learn) comes home every day and tells me they just heard a story, or got through 2 lines… But I’m sure there’s more to it…

  17. The rebbeim and the parents are both being stiffed. Tuition for yeshivos and camps has gone up much more than salaries. Probably about 10 times in the last 40 years, whereas inflation would have predicted 3.5 times. Are people really making 10 times what people with comparable jobs made 40 years ago? That money is going somewhere: to camp owners, insurance companies/lawyers/plaintiffs, tons of extra staff, etc. And forget about schools: multiple teachers per classroom, school social workers, contracting out for things that teachers are supposed to do for themselves, etc.

  18. my husband works in a yeshiva camp that has a 3 hour sader. He is paid less than the quoted amount in the article of $3,000. We do not get a bungalow, payment towards one, free food or any sort of child care. He gets his salary plus a little from Dirshu and that is ALL. The camp told him upfront that the salary is low but he should expect at least his salary amount if not more via tips from the parents. Sadly this is not so as maybe half of the parent body tip. This does not reflect on my husband ability as a Rebbi but the complete disregard of social norms and a basic thank you as well as the knowledge of what the camps are paying on the parents end. Why do we go up if he’s paid so little is simply, a little is better than nothing. To say there are more lucrative jobs back home is a joke as there are NO jobs to be had. Yes he is paid in the summer from his yeshiva the same as all year but that amount is a joke as well as he makes less than my cleaning help. He is in chinuch not for the money but because he feels deeply that your children need mechanchim just as he was lucky enough to have his mechanchim. A basic thank you via a tip from a parent, in the summer or during the school year means so very much, not because it’s helpful but because it’s a thank you and that gives the rebbi and his family a massive dose of positivity to continue teaching and more importantly caring for your child in a chinuch setting

  19. “It amounts to about 1.5 camper’s tuition when they’ve got 20-30 campers in the bunk.”

    an overly simplistic way to look at things. how many hours a day is your husband working at this day camp? 3? 4? how much pre and post camp time is spent preparing or reviewing? how is he compensated compared to the counselors of these same kids who work for at least the same amount of time every day. the rest of the camp staff?

  20. i have run 2 camps in the past; rabbeim are choshuv , however a bungalow even 2 rooms with kids in dc and full food is rented out in any chassidish camp for 10 grand a summer !!!!!!!!!!! so the rebbe that is on grounds is getting 3 plus the shave kesef of 10g thats why the wifes make them go

  21. I think it’s a good thing they don’t pay so much because if they would, I think many more people that aren’t fit for the job, would take it because it is a good paying job, so whoever is doing it, are obviously doing it for the right reason of giving over to the next generation and not for the money

  22. If a mechanech feels that the pay at a camp is below what he he should accept he can say no, its not worth it for me. Yet, all the mechanchim I am friendly with look forward to going to sleepaway camps (as my neighbor says “I only run one air conditioner for a few hours a day since the most of the family is up in the country with me so my electric bill savings is a great gain as well as a much lower food bill”).

    Also of all the organizations you list to complain to why is Chasdei Lev listed. They are not a lobbying organization but are dedicated volunteers who help make the lives of our mechanchim easier.

  23. The writer is 100% correct….as I’m a rebbe in camp ,COMMENTATORS
    PLEASE GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT
    Most of us are not getting these extravagant benefits.
    Working 4+hours….
    No IM NOT ON GROUNDS
    NO FREE BUNGALOW
    NO FREE FOOD
    Yes a PARTIAL discount on camp.
    That’s it
    Please dont Knock your child rebbe.
    Understand what they put up with.
    I come home some days COMPLETELY DRAINED.

    SHOW YOUR APPRECIATION.

  24. If the market for rabbis is efficient, then the decline in real wages must be the result of a growing supply of rabbis. If we want rabbis’ salaries to rise, we need to cut down on the number of bochurs studying to become rabbis.

  25. I have another significant question that was touched on by some of the commenters. Why do they have so many children in each learning group? 20-30 campers? Everyone knows that the attention span of a child in a camp in that environment is much more difficult to hold and the larger the group the less likely the children will learn a word. I asked my kid what he is learning (masechta, subject, anything) and he had no clue. Again it comes down to the camp making a few extra bucks not only at the expense of the Rabbeim but at the expense of the children.

    When I was a camper I remember learning groups being about 6-8 kids and they were taught by teenage counselors or unmarried bachurim. I guarantee no one was getting $3,000 a summer and I don’t think there were many if at all any married Rabbeim.

  26. the value of a bungalow has increased and so has the value of food, for those camps that provide accomidations and dining to rebbeim (as well as free daycamp) the compensation package is worth tens of thousands of dollars tax free, not to mention the wives are given a vacation too from their regular responsibilities.

  27. Let’s take a step back and ponder this for a moment. First, let’s ask ourselves a serious question, and the answers may vary a bit. That will expose the motives involved.

    Why are we going to camp, as campers, counselors, rebbeim, and why must this be in the Catskills?

    I get it that the air is fresher, less polluted, and a bit cooler than the city. These advantages come with a price. And the costs to many are greater than they appear. Roads are less safe, attitudes are freer and allow for more risks, and the opportunities for danger abound. The sheer number of warnings that are needed indicates these additional risks. The travel back and forth for the husbands/fathers that work in the city is another cost, in money, time, and dangers. I won’t give suggested answers. Readers here may do that for themselves.

    For me, I think the entire “going to the country” thing is passe. It is certainly popular, and I am there often enough to witness it firsthand. No, it’s not a bad thing. But is it necessary? Is it a basic need? Do we decide to go first, and then later look for a way to fund the venture? Or do we calculate our resources to see if we can afford it, and then make the decision to go? For many, the former is true, and that leaves me puzzled. This can explain those who go just because it’s the thing to do, rather than having a specific, well conceived plan.

    I think this direction of critical thinking provides some light to the discussion.

    And I do believe that our rebbeim are underpaid all year round, and certainly in the summer. But I do not have the answers for that.

  28. How much do the other camp employees make compared to what they made 30 years ago?

    I think it’s hard to make any judgements without knowing that answer to that question.

  29. @apushatayid – He works full day as I mentioned.

    You didn’t answer how his salary compares to other employees in the camp, especially those who also spend significant amount of time daily with the campers, namely counselors.

    I’m willing to bet he makes as much as any 10 counselors in the camp combined.

    You may not like e salary, but is from the higher paid emoyees in camp.

  30. To all those that criticize the writer of this article. Let me tell you a few things that I know from an insider’s perspective. As someone who has worked as a Rebbi in a few different camps in the past. I can tell you that they are truly underpaid. Many if not most camps contrary to popular belief don’t even pay for bungalows for their Rabbaim. Most don’t cover expenses for food, only those sleepaway camps that have lodging for Rabbaim on grounds will cover the food expenses. So no, the other compensation that is supposed to make it more worth it, is really not there and the cost of a bungalow alone is about $3500 to $4500 for a 1 bedroom bungalow $5000 to $7000 for a 2 bedroom bungalow a summer. I know that I personally didn’t make any money from being a Rebbe while I was a Rebbe during the summer. The reason why I did it was to offset some of my summer expenses so I wouldn’t fall into debt. I would work in the morning teaching in a camp which was only a few hours a day but still harder than teaching a full day during the school year, and then work in the afternoon as a lifeguard. In the evening I would tutor a boy and then I would give a lifeguarding course. By the time I ended my day it would be about 12AM. Please keep in mind that all this was not done to have extra money or to pad my bank account. It was to keep me and my family afloat and to pay off debt that I incurred over the year. To those that say well Rabbaim get paid for 12 months and only work 10 please rephrase that Rabbaim only get paid for 10 months it however is paid out over 12 months. On top of that there are many summer Rabbaim that are not Rabbaim a whole year rather they learn in kollel and they work extremely hard during the summer so that they can learn the rest of the year. They too do not have a salary of the rest of the year that some claim they have. People do not realize how hard it is for Rabbaim to get by. Please understand that your Rabbaim are people too who if not taken care of will have a burn out. I personally left teaching as it was to hard on me and my family I couldn’t afford to live on the money that I was paid as a Rebbe and still have time to be with my family and give them the attention they needed. It is extremely difficult to work nonstop and not to have any vacation. Even the most driven businessmen will take a vacation at least once if not multiple times a year, many Rabbaim can’t even take one vacation day. If Rabbaim would get paid a decent salary for the summer it would save them for a whole year. As they would have the rest of the day to recharge themselves for the upcoming year.

    To those that asked what is the comparison to other jobs in camps the answer is it depends the first year I worked as a head lifeguard in a camp was 6 years ago and when my mother heard how much I was paid she said my father was paid that much for being head lifeguard 30 years before (though that camp is known to be cheap in many other areas). The second year I took a job elsewhere and got paid 3+ times what I got paid the first year and the amount I got paid was increased year over year. A cook in a camp definitely gets paid more than they did 30 years ago a cook these days can get paid $50,000 a summer or more and gets free housing from the camp.

    To the person who asked if camps and the Catskills are a necessity as someone who was in chinuch for a few years, and who has spoken to many others who have been and still are in chinuch for many years. The answer is that for many if not most kids yes camp even sleepaway camp is definitely a necessity and for many families so is going to a bungalow colony.