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Camp Unplugged

Louis Bordman was interviewed on Eisner Camp’s cell phone policy for Reform Judaism Magazine. 

What is the cell phone policy at Eisner Camp?

RJ_Summer_Cover_Reprints_Online_2013_v1.inddIt’s Eisner unplugged. No cell phones—that’s the longstanding policy of all 14 URJ camps. At Eisner we also prohibit handheld games or any touch screen devices. Our only permissible electronic devices are MP3 players.

Why do you believe cell phones and most electronic devices should be banned at camp?

Kids come to camp to be with friends and to learn how to navigate, mediate, and integrate friendships. The best way to do this is by talking and hanging out together. They cannot truly connect if they’re chatting on the phone or online, playing a solitary game, or watching their own movie.

We also find that campers need separation from their families and friends to be able to stand on their own two feet and make new friends on their own terms. If children have cell phones, instead of talking to a bunkmate about their fears or their joys, they’re likely to text or call a parent, which ultimately undermines their ability to gain the very self-confidence and independence that their parents are sending them to camp to attain. Constant contact with parents deprives them of discovering that they are capable of finding the inner strength to overcome their anxieties without relying on a parent to tell them, “You’re strong enough. You can do it.”

In short, at home, the parent strongly influences most decisions, whereas at camp, we give children the space to make their own choices. Campers are encouraged to participate in activities of their choosing and to not necessarily follow what other campers are doing. They know exactly where to go for what they need at camp: food—chadar ochel (dining hall), skinned knee—mirpa’a (dispensary), hurt feelings—a friend or a counselor. These learned skills give them a strong sense of independence, self-awareness, and “freedom” that can’t be replicated at home. Also, camp provides a safe environment for them to talk through issues such as peer pressure and Jewish identity with trusted young adults serving as their counselors, rather than their parents.

  • stuart

    woah, they banned handheld games and electronics? how long has that policy been in place? i know lots of people used to have their nintendo ds’s with no problem, and olim ’09 i had my ipod touch.

  • Sonia

    I think it is great to be unplugged!! I know my children became such good friends with their bunkmates in a way that probably wouldn’t happen if they were able to use electronics. The campers need to learn how to socialize without the use of electronics. I see how my children have become more independent and self-confident from being at camp. Others who I know have constant contact with their children while at camp, I don’t see the same skills being developed.

    • Bobbloggerstein

      It’s the camp’s job to keep campers engaged. Camp directors can’t base their programming decisions on what they did 30-40 years ago. Making smores isn’t going to cut it any longer for kids especially the older ones.

  • Bobbloggerstein

    I think this policy is too strict such as the 2-3 day suspension with a child having been found with a cell phone. No other camp has this draconian policy.

    Overall, I think these policies need to be reexamined when it comes to older kids 13 and above. While younger campers can be molded into liking traditional camp activities, older campers resent being treated like children. Perhaps during a camper’s free time they should be able to call their folks or friends back home.