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Backyard Camp Bonanza

June 25, 2020 | by Yonah Levi

Don’t know what to do with your kid this summer? How about a backyard camp?

This year, for obvious reasons, backyard camps are popping up like pimples after a greasy meal. For the record, just because you have a backyard does not mean that you are qualified to run a backyard camp. Similarly, just because you have a barbecue does not mean you are pit-master. With respect to running a backyard camp, it takes more than just back yardage. Your education and experience also matter, as do your safety record, liability insurance and criminal history.

For the record, backyard camp certainly is safer than front yard camp, which, in turn, is safer than cul-de-sac camp. Suffice it to say, no responsible parent would consider sending their kids to middle-of-the-street camp just like they would not consider sending their kids to median-strip school.

The strange thing about Jewish backyard camp is that many Jews with backyards do not use them very often. In fact, most Jews prefer gazing at their backyards while lounging indoors. There are a myriad of reasons as to why many Jews do not spend more time in their backyards, including but not limited to, flies, gnats, bees, wasps, hornets, spiders and ticks. Other reasons as to why many Jews avoid the outdoors include dirt, dust, muck, mud, slush and schmutz. Most Jews are highly schmutz-sensitive and are quick to point out if they see someone who has any schmutz, no matter how minuscule the amount, on their person. Jews can spot schmutz almost as quickly as they can spot cholent at a hot kiddush. In many ways, backyard camp is like a Schmutz Woodstock where kids come together to actually celebrate filth. In other words, if your children return from backyard camp without a smudge, that means they were neglected.

Backyard camp is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a healthy dose of sunshine. Many parents, as a precaution, lather their children in enough suntan lotion to cover a sukkah, which is understandable given the potential negative effects of solar exposure. But, perhaps another good idea is to explain to your children the difference between a suntan and a sunburn, which – in terms of severity – is similar to the difference between (i) nosy and nudnik, (ii) shpatzir and schlep and (iii) nosher and chazzer.

Some backyard camps feature equipment such as trampolines, which is crazy when you consider the frightening trampoline injury statistics. Indeed, it is surprising when a child uses a trampoline and does not get injured. It’s more surprising than when a child chooses a book over television or chooses bar mitzvah lessons over Little League. The world definitely would be a safer place without trampolines; it also would be a safer place without wedding-related chair-liftings.

If your toddler is mowing lawns at backyard camp, then your child is not at backyard camp. Your child is a landscaper, which is illegal, dangerous and likely to leave lawns looking less than perfect. If your toddler is ziplining from one side of the street to the other and bungee jumping off the roof, then your child might be in backyard camp in New Zealand. That would explain the insane commute and over-the-top waiver form.

While kids will do backflips and backspins for the chance to attend backyard camp, you will have quite a backlash, and many will back out, if you try sending them to backstab camp, backfire camp or backache camp. Of course, for kids who enjoy theatre, backstage camp is a good idea and for kids who enjoy eight-second violations, backcourt camp is ideal. For kids who enjoy taking a position and then withdrawing it, backpedal camp is for them.

What makes a Jewish backyard camp different from other backyard camps? Well, for one thing, some Jewish backyard camps play Jewish-themed games like Capture the Kugel, Shimeon Says and Pin the Tail on the Babka. Other Jewish backyard camps hand out Jewish-themed snacks like frozen knish-cicles, chopped liver chips and gefilte-on-a-stick. A few Jewish backyard camps regale their campers with classic Jewish-themed stories for kids. One such story is about a Jew who finds a magic seed that turns into a massive bowl of vegetable broth, titled “Yaakov and The Giant Bean-Stock.” Another story is about a rabbinical auto mechanic who is transformed into a tiny Corvette, titled “Little Red Rabbi Hood.” And, of course, there is the age-old tale of the attractive tsatzkele who falls in love with a descendant of the Baal Shem Tov, titled “Beauty and the BeShT.”

Final thought: A sleepover backyard camp is almost as nonsensical as a sleepaway day camp.

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