February 20, 2019

Want to send your child to camp, but short on cash?

The benefits of Jewish summer camp are well documented — but so are the costs when it comes to parents’ wallets. 

The good news is a variety of local camp officials report that things are improving for those seeking financial assistance and more affordable options. At Camp Alonim in Simi Valley, for example, director Josh Levine said scholarship funding has risen 300 percent over the last five years.

Part of that has to do with donors giving more money. 

“We are giving out more aid than we’ve given out in the past,” Levine said. “That’s due to a few reasons. A major reason is because of increased support from our donors. Increasingly, our donors are getting the message that camp is important.” 

Part of the solution is making it simple for families to take advantage of available funds to cover the thousands of dollars it may cost to go to camp, depending on the program and length of stay. Levine said he and his team make “our scholarship application process as easy and pleasant as possible. We know that asking for financial aid is uncomfortable for some families.”

The camp also is one of several in the area that benefits from the support of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. In 2013, Federation launched Tour de Summer Camps, an annual community bicycling event for which riders must raise at least $250 each to participate. Last year, the program raised nearly $500,000, a significant portion of the approximately $1.4 million doled out to camps in 2014, according to Jay Sanderson, Federation CEO and president. 

“It’s a Federation priority because we know that there is no greater driver of Jewish identity than summer camps,” Sanderson said. “In multiple studies, it was shown that if a child spends three summers in a row at camp, then their Jewish identity is almost guaranteed. That’s how effective it is.

“We have made summer camp a priority because we know the value of it,” Sanderson continued. “As a result, we’ve committed to and have raised more money.”

According to the website for the New York-based Foundation for Jewish Camps, kids who attend Jewish summer camp are 55 percent more likely to feel emotionally attached to Israel, 45 percent more likely to go to synagogue once a month and 37 percent more likely to light Shabbat candles. 

The foundation’s new BunkConnect program (