You've Got Some Questions to Ask

Take a three-pronged approach.

First, think about why you’re sending them to Jewish day camp. What do you hope they’ll learn? Is it religious? Cultural? A sense of peoplehood or community? Specifically, think about what it means to be “both.” How do you want your kids to identify? Do you mean that you’ll be practicing two religions, or educating your children in both, or that you have a desire to expose your kids to your religion while educating them predominantly Jewish? The clearer you and your husband can be about your own goals, the better. How will you reinforce those values at home?

Second, you should talk with camp leaders, and ask lots of questions. It sounds like you’ve done your homework. But if you haven’t already, consider asking: Do you welcome children of interfaith families? What percentage of interfaith campers and counselors are at your camp? Does the camp have a definition of who is considered Jewish and who is not? How is that communicated to staff and campers? What training do staff get on working with interfaith families? What will the camp do to ensure that your children are welcomed? How will it communicate what they are learning each week, so you can talk with them about it?

Third, talk with your kids about why you’re excited to send them to camp, and keep your ears open to what they’re experiencing there. As a Jewish camp alum, I’m a big fan! My kids are younger than yours, so they’re not off to camp yet, but the thing I most remember is the joy I felt in being there. From Shabbat or Havdalah with hundreds of my closest friends to lively song sessions, it was fun and easy, and gave me context and meaning for Jewish life. At the end of each summer, I’d sob in the car ride back to New Jersey, heartbroken to be leaving camp. Now, I know your kids are at day camp, not sleep-away (yet?) but I hope for them an experience as meaningful and life-changing as mine.

Jodi Bromberg is the president and incoming CEO of InterfaithFamily, whose mission is to engage people in interfaith relationships in Jewish life, and move Jewish communities to welcome them.

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