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I was asked this question: My child is asking for more money. We spent nine thousand dollars on camp and now they need more money. How did the Jewish summer camp canteens start? Is it Jewish tradition to take a lot of money from parents?
I will answer this by taking you on the journey of Jewish history and the development of the canteen. It is definitely Jewish tradition to put on weight. Is it tradition to spend nine thousand dollars on three weeks of camp? Let's delve into how it all began.
The First Canteens
Canteens started back in the seventh century. People used these bottles to hold water. They first tried using them for alcohol back in the 1300s, but they found that it was hard to sneak in full size canteens to bars. Thus, the introduction of flasks; also known as small canteens for people who don't have to go to work.
Canteens Are for Drinking
Circa 1982, Jews realized that nobody likes drinking water. Jews had not hiked for millennia, and this water was not quenching the necessary thirst of the suburban Jew. So, they started putting what they call bug juice into the canteens.
People loved the new juice, as did cicadas.
There Was an Issue
In 1983, for some reason, though they were drinking out of canteens, the Jewish campers were more sluggish and heavier. The question of 'why' came up, but they couldn't figure out the issue. The campers complained, 'I can't carry this thing. It's too much.'
They asked the camp rabbi and the rabbi said that it's hard work for children to carry canteens. To quote: 'Jewish children should not have to work so hard. And the bug juice should be cold. This stuff is room temperature. This is not right for our Jewish children. How can we expect our children to survive drinking lukewarm.' And they proposed the idea for camps to provide refrigerators. The ‘each child deserves a fridge’ campaign was too much, as they were too heavy to carry around on the hikes. How hikes made their way to Jewish summer camp is a very disturbing time in Jewish history, as is what is known as overnights. Two things that the Jewish community has fought against, along with anti-Semitism and thick crusted pizza.
The camp directors said, 'This is crazy. Why should kids have to carry around canteens?! We'll make a canteen that kids can walk into.' And thus, they made canteens where you could walk into the bug juice.
Kids complained about the walking.
What Was in the Canteen
At first, the kids walked into the canteen and saw bug juice. They drank it. One child, I believe her name was Sarah Rivkah, yelled, 'This is not quenching my thirst.' So, they gave her a sour stick and her thirst was quenched.
Being that they could only find sour pops and Sunkist fruit gems, the kids were not happy. They were writing home, and their parents responded by sending them what is known as 'packages.' Packages are a box of stuff that campers get to remind them that they're not at camp. Packages were filled with Paskesz. Whatever Paskesz could make. And to this day, thirst is quenched with sour sticks and Jelly Bellys. Twizzlers also quenches the thirst of Jewish children at summer camp, as is seen by the letters of package request. Somehow Paskesz also makes Twizzlers. How Paskesz found a way to put their name on all candies in Seasons is another piece of Jewish history.
And that is how we have the modern-day canteen.
They Weren't Making Enough Money Off Parents
The cost for one month of camp was at fifty-five hundred dollars. The camp directors were at a crossroads. 'What do we do? We are only charging twelve thousand dollars for a summer. Required tips are only at three thousand dollars. Parents should be spending more!' First, it was decided that the canteen should work as Paskesz dispensary. That pulled in some money.
After years of discussion, one member of the camp directors' union went to a bar in shorts. He snuck in Paskesz sizzler sugar pebble paper (you can eat the candy and the paper- heavenly) and a banana sugar bottle (also used as a gateway candy). Thinking back to the tradition of why canteens were used for water in the first place, the head counselor suggested, 'Let's start tabs. It works in bars.'
All of the sudden kids were buying more Paskesz.
Tabs Got Bigger
Kids get a tab. In the beginning, there was an issue. Parents knew about the tabs. They put limits on the amount a child could spend in the canteen. That's not fun. Any Jewish day school child can tell you that. And limits for an eight-year-old is not as profitable way to make money off of elementary schoolers. The Jewish National Fund knows this.
So, the decision was made to give kids autonomy. Let them decide. And that is when the 'kids should decide for themselves' movement began in the year 2016, along with BDS.
They stopped asking parents if it was OK and started sending bills to the parents. Tabs were limitless, Paskesz was happy, children were happy, and fruit bottles filled with candy sugar in the form of cocaine was abundant. And parents had to get summer jobs.
To keep their children from child services, parents did not fight the idea of elementary school kids deciding how much candy they should have. And now parents get bills for eight thousand dollars of sour sticks and candy rings at the end of the summer. And the camps stopped giving ice cream for dessert. Those are sold at the canteen. You can put an ice cream sandwich on your tab.
And now the camp charges parents for full board, and sells your child hamburgers and pizza at the canteen.
And that is how kids put on weight while playing sports all day.
'How did my kid put on weight at a sports camp?' They were playing tennis, basketball, football, soccer, hockey. They ran track at camp. And they went to the canteen.
And that is how you went broke. And that is why parents only send their kids to summer camp for a month, which is three weeks now.
And to this day, Jewish summer camps are the only place where an eight-year-old has autonomy as to a candy tab. And the camp still serves meals before charging your kid for pizza, fries, onion rings and Paskesz.
And packages today consist of fans, air-conditioners and sofas, so that kids should not feel like they're in The Mountains for the summer.
And when parents visit on visiting day, they carry with them a flask.
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