Check out some of our most commonly asked questions here. You can also feel free to call or email us for additional information.
What is Jewish life like at CYJ? Is CYJ affiliated?
CYJ is not affiliated with any particular stream of Judaism. Our goal is to provide our campers with the tools to make choices about their Jewish Identity and connection to Israel. Our campers and staff come from a wide spectrum of backgrounds in Jewish beliefs and practices. We have our own Siddur (prayer book) and our own traditions when it comes to observance. The backgrounds of our campers range from those that haven’t had much exposure to Judaism in their communities, to those that identify themselves as Orthodox. Our kitchen is Kosher, with certification and oversight from Kosher Supervisors of Wisconsin. We often speak of the importance of physical and emotional health, safety and well-being at camp. We also speak of the importance of “spiritual health, safety and well-being.” Our aim is to create a sense of K’lal Yisrael, a unity among the Jewish people, starting with the community we create at camp.
What is Shabbat like at CYJ?
Campers look forward to Shabbat all week long. Each age group meets Friday evening before Shabbat to talk about their week. The whole camp then comes together for our Kabbalat Shabbat service. This is followed by a festive Shabbat meal, a rousing song session and a Shabbat-friendly Oneg (Shabbat celebration). On Shabbat morning, campers wake up later and, after a light breakfast, head to morning services. Kiddush follows and then campers have the opportunity to play sports, go swimming, read a book or hang out with friends. After dinner, Shabbat concludes with a Havdalah ceremony and then an amazing Israeli dance session. Shabbat represents an opportunity for us to do things differently. We keep Shabbat at camp. We see this as an opportunity to participate in a Jewish experience that we are unable to replicate in our homes. We eat meals as a community and most activities are camp-wide. Shabbat is our opportunity to come together as one big CYJ family.
What kind of supervision will my child have at CYJ Midwest?
Each camper lives in a cabin with 8-12 other campers and 2-4 counselors. We require that campers are supervised by staff at all times (even during informal and free time activities). Our staff members go through a highly selective hiring process. CYJ always has more applicants than positions for counselors. We have the opportunity to choose the “best of the best.” We rarely go through hiring services to fill positions, except to diversify our staff with Jewish young adults from places like the U.K. Once on site, our counselors and specialists go through a week-long training seminar led by the administrative staff and outside professionals. Our staff represents the single most important investment in the camp experience.
What happens if my child gets sick at camp?
Our mirpa’ah (Health Center) is staffed 24 hours a day by a registered nurse or doctor, who lives on site. Treatment at the mirpa’ah operates on a basis of standing orders reviewed and approved annually by a physician. Medical situations that cannot be handled by the mirpa’ah, will be referred to the local hospital and Urgent Care facility, just minutes away from CYJ. You will be notified if your child has been confined to the mirpa’ah overnight, your child requires a physician outside of camp, a prescribed medication, or the camper is a “frequent visitor” to the mirpa’ah.
What if I am unable to afford CYJ Midwest this summer, but I value the importance of overnight camp for my child?
No child is turned away for lack of financial means to afford camp. We offer several payment plans for families that would like to spread their payments out over the course of the year. CYJ Midwest also offers limited financial aid for need-based families. We highly suggest contacting a local federation, JCC and synagogue for additional scholarship opportunities. We have been successful in helping families find opportunities in their area, and we are happy to work with you to pull together resources. Many families help bring down the cost of tuition through referrals; we offer $100 towards tuition for each registered camper. For first time campers, there are a limited number of $1000 grants (with certain communities offering more) for programs longer than 3 weeks. After registering for camp, please go to www.onehappycamper.org and apply!
What is the food like at camp? Is CYJ Midwest a kosher facility?
CYJ is a fully kosher facility checked by the Kosher Supervisors of Wisconsin. Carefully prepared menus are kid-friendly, healthy and delicious. Breakfast always includes cold cereal and a hot entrée such as pancakes, bagels or eggs. Low fat milk, along with Lactaid and soy milk are available. Lunch and dinner entrees include various chicken and beef dishes and daily meals like homemade pizza and grilled cheese. At lunch and dinner, there is a salad bar that provides campers alternative choices to the main entrée. If there is a meat meal, there is always a vegetarian option. Campers are served a snack in the morning and afternoon and there is always fresh fruit available throughout the day.
What if my child has special dietary needs or food allergies?
We have worked with a variety of campers to accommodate their dietary needs or food allergies. CYJ Midwest is nut free (we serve Sun and SoyNut Butter!) and our kitchen has worked with lactose free, gluten free, vegetarian and vegan campers, as well as a variety of food allergies. We provide Lactaid, soy milk and vegetarian options at all meals.
How does my child get to and from CYJ Midwest?
CYJ has campers that travel from all over the country. Round trip bus transportation is offered (at an additional cost) from Chicago and other cities. Our campers that arrive by plane schedule their flights in and out of the Chicago Midway airport. A member of our staff meets our arriving campers at the airport. For cities with large numbers of campers, we have helped arrange chaperoned flights.
How can I check to see how my child is doing at camp?
Our goal is to make each family (both parents and child) comfortable throughout the camp experience. CYJ posts about 75-150 photos every day (excluding Shabbat) for family and friends to see what is happening at camp. Each first time family will receive a personal phone call from one of the directors within the first week of your child being at camp. We also send a weekly update to our entire community talking about the past week’s events. We encourage families to call or email us throughout the session if you have a question or concern about your child.
Can I visit my child at camp?
While parents and other family members are welcome to bring campers to camp and to pick them up at the end of the session, parents and other visitors are not permitted to come to camp during the camp sessions. We have campers from all over the world and this policy allows CYJ to make sure everyone has the same experience.
What’s the best way to keep in touch with my camper?
Everyone loves to get mail! We strongly recommend writing letters because opening an envelope is much more exciting than reading an email. Write as often as you like. We encourage families to mail a letter or two before your camper leaves home so mail is waiting for them at CYJ. We also offer a one-way email program where you can email your camper. Emails are printed daily and distributed with the rest of the mail.
My child will be celebrating a birthday at camp. What happens?
Birthdays at camp are amazing! On their birthday, campers receive a special cake to share with their entire bunk. The whole camp joins for every birthday celebration! We ask that families do not send special birthday food to camp. A package with something for the whole bunk to enjoy is a great way for your child to celebrate a birthday at CYJ. We suggest celebrating your child’s birthday before or after camp (that’s right, two celebrations – family and camp!) so everyone gets to participate in the fun.