The Matzav Shmoooze: Camps, Rabbeim, Tuition – The Truth


camp catskillsDear Editor,

With summer camp registration approaching and all the talk about rabbeim not being paid enough, I feel like I must pen this letter to Matzav. As an insider in many factions of running camps, I can attest to all of the following.

A very painful thing happens every year in our community, especially in day-camps: Rabbeim who really need time off mentally and physically are all forced to work during the summer. That might not be so bad in and of itself, but it must be publicized that, on average, their entire pay is approximately $3-3,500 a summer. That is the high end of the spectrum. The thing is that camps give half off or a steep or not-so-steep discount for their children. Do you know that, in the the end, most of the salary or half of it goes back to the camp? This leaves rabbeim with no significant earnings. Some even have to pay even more out of pocket.

Herein lies the betrayal: Do you know that almost every kid who goes to camp, especially rabbeim’s kids, are eligible for lunch programs? This amounts to a huge windfall for the camps. It is an open secret in the industry that if no lunch money would be given through the government, the camps would not open. Ask any director. The utmost concern for a director is passing the lunch inspection. The camps are not like yeshivos. The profit for a successful camp is enormous. Otherwise, they would not be open.

Some sleep-away camps even put the staff kids on the lunch program and force the families to pick up the girls or boys who went off ground to day camp elsewhere for the day to be brought back for meals when the inspector comes. There is no need to tell you about the degrading speeches and admonishments from the director to his staff who do not get paid and work for room-and-board only on the days preceding the inspection.

So, in essence, the camp is making money off the rebbi’s child, who gets paid next to nothing and then it is taken back. How do we expect anyone else to treat rabbeim right if our own mosdos don’t? It would not hurt any camp to give them free tuition.

I know that they will tell you that there are trips, etc., but that is not the case. The profit is so huge that the least they can do is give the rabbeim a break. The camps can swallow it without a dent and still make exorbitant amounts of money.

There is much to write, but not enough time. I hope this will at least help someone.

A Concerned Matzav Reader

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  1. You say that it costs the Rabbeim money to work for the summer, as they come out losing money. That may be true, But look at the facts.
    I looked up a camp online. I chose Camp Romimu, as I believe it’s a popular choice for many boys. For a full summer, they charge $4,740 per camper. Let’s say you have 3 children. That works out to $14,220, or 7,110 per month.
    If you multiply that out by 12 months, that comes out to $85,320 per year. So someone would have to be making at least that much after taxes in order to be “making money” sending their kids to camp. Otherwise, it would be cheaper to stay home and watch the kids there. That’s considering only 3 kids. Many people have more than that. When a Rebbe gets a break in the cost, that can be factored in pre-tax, as they don’t pay taxes on the cost they are saving.
    Oh wait, I forgot to take something into account – when you’re in a camp, food is provided for you. Food is a huge expense, and not having to pay it for 2 months can actually save a decent amount of money.

    The issue of Rabbeim not being paid enough is not a new one. It’s been discussed many, many times before. People always say Rabbeim need the summer off to recharge. Do you think other people don’t need time off? We work hard all day, many times taking on multiple jobs, to be able to afford tuition for our children. We often have to work right up until Erev Yom Tov and on Chol Hamoed, because our jobs don’t give us enough vacation time to not work on those days. Most people could use time off to recharge, not just Rabbeim.



  3. i am a camp director of a (middle road chassidish camp w full sports trips…) lets clarify a few facts
    lunch program pays $650 per child for the whole summer – rebbes children eat so of course they are on the program
    in chassidish camps the counselors are all married
    bungalow space is at a premium if a rebbe has 4 kids in the camp he is working in ( 2 little in dc & 2 bigger boys)that would cost in a top chassidish camp $ 6000 plus you are saving the food cost & utilities of july & aug … (assuming the country means no benefits)plus a rebbe is getting some tips
    also the food in a chassidish camp is way over the top because the WIFES view the room and board as salary
    the problem is that the american camps are run as a business instead of as an extension of the mosad – camps can cover on 2100 plus lunch

  4. The cases you layout are far and few between there is always scum at the bottom of any jug. Don’t tar all summer camps with the same brush

  5. Concerned Matzav Reader I have a hard time feeling your “pain”, here’s why.

    1. I (who am not a Rebbe) really need time off mentally and physically yet I am forced to work during the summer too (for a lower rate of pay on an hourly basis than the rebbeim you write about, without standard camp tuition breaks for my kids),
    2. Rabbeim in the Summer don’t work more than 3 1/2 to 4 hours a day in a much less demanding atmosphere than during the School year (not to mention Sundays off for day camps and days off during trips, color war etc.) , giving them time off to recuperate mentally and physically
    3. I know of plenty of camps that don’t have food programs, including some my kids go to. I think you are severlely overestimating the economic impact of food programs.
    4. If a Rebbe’s child takes a slot in camp, that makes one less slot for a full paying camper, you failed to totake that into account in your calculations

  6. money talks & is todays avoda zara!!!! make a strike for all camp rabbeim & counslers etc… for better pay. start oraganizing it now & you still have many months to prepare for it & make the strike right before camps open so there will not be enough time to find replacements

    I wish you lots of hatzlacha

  7. This letter is quite suspicious as to the motive. It seems to come from a disgruntled camp employee, or worse, from a day camp Rebbi himself. It is a shame that the recent powerful speeches of Horav Ozeiry Shlita is bringing out this rather then staying focused on the issue of paying our Rabbeim respectful salaries and bonuses.

    All camps are profitable and we know it, for as the letter writer states, they wouldn’t be open if they weren’t. That has nothing to do with Rabbeim and possibly the lunch program helps. The bigger picture why this is is because parents pay these fees and many times at the expense of paying tuition. Bottom line – 7 grand for tuition (with a break) to pay 10 months of school is not paid on time but 4 grand for 2 months of camp is paid in full before camp starts. That is a reality and a sad one. Most parents will tell you they have no choice because what else do they do with their kids all summer – they have to go to work and can’t leave the kids home. Perhaps the Mosdos Hatorah should gather the Camp Directors and tackle this issue so that there is more money in the Yeshivos for the Rabbeim.

    The 1st comment on this letter expresses his and probably thousands of others frustration and that is a reality that is also a big part of the problem. Unless we first agree to put our Rabbeim and Moros on a pedestal and accept that they have the most important jobs in Klal Yisroel and therefore they cannot be compared to any other working person, we will never get to the goal of paying and treating Rabbeim like gold. If we continue to feel that they (Rabbeim) go to work just like we (Bal Habatim) go to work and therefore we are equal, we will struggle with accepting the push to pay our Rabbeim well.

    After all, look around over the year and what do we see? Funds to send Rabbeim food and packages for Yomim Tovim, funds to help Rabbeim make Simchos, requests to give Rabbeim Chanukah and Purim gelt (and if we want to follow the Mishna Berura we should be giving our Rabbeim money every Rosh Chodesh). Organizations mobilizing the community to help Rabbeim. Schools giving substantial tuition breaks (if even charging at all) to Rabbeim. So much is being done for our Rabbeim yet nothing to help the Bal Habos who struggles to pay his bills just as much.

    Then there is the argument of hours worked. The Bal Habos feels he has to go to work 12 months a year 5 or 6 days a week for 8 to 10 hours a day and still barely makes a Parnasa. Yet, the Rebbi works 9 – 2, has the summer off, has all Yomim Tovim off plus other school vacation days. How is that fair that we should be so concerned for them (Rabbeim) when we (Bal Habatim) work so much harder?

    If you are a person who feels your childs Rebbi is like you then you will never be satisfied. However, if you are a person who says I need to do mine but my kids Rabbeim and Moros are special and in a league of their own, then you can be happy for everything being done for the Rabbeim and even more, wish that they were paid enough that they should never feel like they are a chesed case.. The problem is you don’t feel that way – especially when it is a Rebbi or Mora that you think should have retired or been retired years ago.

    It’s all about our attitude.

  8. To all the above commenters, and everyone else.
    Most of you are not making the right judgment here.
    The main point is,
    #1 Even [??] if you pay full tuition, very nice, so that helps the administrator! It doesn’t help the rebbes meiger salary. He gets paid peanuts for the hard work he puts in.
    So please don’t mix in here about tuition. that’s not a factor when it comes to the rebbe.
    #2 It’s seems you don’t understand what a rebbe is doing, he is not “baby sitter” for you to be able to go to work.
    He is teaching Toras Hashem to your children, he is a shliach of the Hashem to educate your child in the derech hatorah which is the highest and most important thing it the world. Do we appreciate this fact, or are we looking at the rebbe as a babysitter?
    If would appreciate the rebbe, all the negativity about a rebbe not working as hard as a bal habayis would be nill.
    Besides that a Rebbe job is 24/7 non-stop, and way harder than most regular jobs.
    If want results, good children etc.. we have to help our rabbyim, no matter that you need a break. very nice. But how is that going to educate your children if the rebbe is worn out?
    And that is the point about camp. If you have the money for camp, also give the rebbe directly a $2000 tip for educating your children, it’s the most important thing in the world, and will ey”h see big results.
    yakov goldberg

  9. I am always perplexed – perhaps unreasonably so – but when one chooses to go into chinuch and it is an admirable profession – does one not know the ‘pitfalls’ of the salary issue. I have a friend who’s son went into chinuch, but had to leave it to make a living to supprt his family. Now I am in agreement that they should be paid a fair salary – but from where – if all the ‘bochrim’ are being encouraged not to work and learn, how are the yeshivos going to get money ?

  10. it is true that there is advantages to being a Rebbe. You feel an accomplishment at the end of the year – something that a typical office worker does not. The Rebbe knows and feels that a Shabbos / Yom Tov is coming as he prepares his class for that – the office worker does not – he gets home minutes before Shabbos / Yom Tov in a “huff and puff”. The list goes on and on. There are advantages to being in chinuch.
    The other side of the coin is that the Rebbe / Morah is doing a most valuable and critical job for the parents that should be appreciated, and not have to live on such a low pay scale. That is what Rabbi Ozeiry is talking about, and he is 100% correct.
    You entrust your precious children to these people to get a chinuch that will define your children’s future, life, and generations. Recognize that fact and appreciate them

  11. Wow. I don’t know who wrote the article but it’s clear to see the posters have no love for rabbeim. It’s amazing the hate and vitriol towards rabbeim just because of one anonymous person’s article. Agree or disagree why are rabbeim getting smeared in the comments?

  12. Hello? The point of the letter is that of course rabbeim are not too well paid and understood by all but to further crush them financially when it can be totally absorbed ?
    By the way i teach and the summer is so much harder than furing the year for many reasons i myself struggle and know what the letter is about. And about $650 a child from programs the camps all say that this is where they profit and when you have a few hundred kids its a crazy amount of money so either way they can cut a break to rabbeim

  13. As an aside, Camp Agudah has joined and will NOT be having visiting day this summer for the 2nd trip. Baruch Hashem, some sanity IS prevailing. Halivuy all camps should join in.

  14. If these comments are representative of how parents feel towards their children’s Rebbeim, these negative and hateful feelings are being transmitted to their kids. Is it any wonder then, that kids have no respect for their Rebbeim today, the way my generation did years ago?

  15. THis past summer $800 was paid to a camp so that my daughter could ‘work’ as a counselor for the second half of the summer. On the first day of camp she decided to stay in the camp that she went to for the first half. Although the camp was asked to refund the money that they asked for before cmap started, they decided not to. Maybe if camps were a little more decent in their ways, things would be a little better.