For fans of cliff notes, we’ve gathered some of our most commonly asked questions here. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, try checking our ultimate camp guide, our Knowledge Base. You can also always feel free to call or email us with whatever’s on your mind.
1. Honestly, I didn’t read most of the website… Can you give me the basics about this CYJ-Texas place?
Camp Young Judaea is a traditional, residential, Jewish camp founded in 1952. We are co-ed, accept campers between 1st and 9th grade, (ages 6 to 15), and typically have 300 campers per session. There are two sessions every summer, each three weeks long.
Our camp is located in a town called Wimberley, Texas, forty-five minutes outside Austin. Our staff is well-trained, thoroughly vetted, and at least 18 years old. The grounds have everything a camp needs—a 24-hour medical center, beautiful cabins, a number of sports fields, a lake, and a huge dining hall with kosher kitchens. (We also have some things we don’t need, like a couple awesome water slides, but more on that later.)
CYJ-Texas is a part of Young Judaea, the oldest Zionist youth movement in the United States. Through our shared commitment to Jewish values, Jewish pride, and love of Israel, we bring together Jewish youth of every imaginable flavor!
2. Where is Camp? More importantly, how do I get my child there?
Camp is in a town called Wimberley, about an hour outside Austin, Texas. (Fun fact: there are a number of synagogues in the world with capacity for the entire Wimberley population!) There are several ways to get your camper to and from Camp for Opening Day and Closing Day.
The most common way to get to CYJ is by one of our camp buses, which leave from San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, and Austin. We consider these bus rides the beginning of the camp experience, as they’re the campers’ first opportunity to meet each other, to meet some staff, and to start learning our songs and cheers. Given that the buses to Camp are covered by camp tuition, we recommend that everyone join their local CYJ bus if they can.
We realize some parents, particularly of first-time campers, may want to drive their children to Opening Day and/or home from Closing Day. We do encourage most families to bus to Camp, but most parents pick up their children from Camp by car.
Any campers flying in will be met at the Austin/Bergstrom International Airport. Camper flights must arrive between 9:00 AM and 12:00 PM on the Opening Day of their session; departing flights must leave between 9:00 AM and 12:00 PM on their Closing Day. Transportation to and from the Austin airport will be provided for free, so long as flights arrive and depart at required times.
We will organize group flights with a staff member from Miami and Los Angeles, depending on the number of campers registered. If you’re interested in sending your child on a group flight, please contact the camp office before you make your flight arrangements.
If you would like to send your child on a plane alone, be sure to familiarize yourself with the airline’s unaccompanied minor policies. Be sure also to keep us informed of your plans, so we can arrange with the airline to pick up your child without issue. We will call you several days before Opening Day to give you the name of the staff member meeting your camper.
3. Camp will end at some point… how do I get my camper home?
Most parents pick up their children from camp by car. Since we don’t have a visiting day, Closing Day is a great chance for families to see the grounds and meet the people that their children spent so much time with. We have activities ongoing throughout the camp, so visitors can get a taste of the CYJ life all morning.
4. My child has never gone to an overnight camp before… How will you make her feel welcome at CYJ-Texas?
We’ve been taking first-time campers of all ages for decades and we’ve become very adept at bringing newbies into the community. Our staff is trained in developing cohesion in the bunk, so they’re ready to build a cabin dynamic where everyone’s included. Bonding programs begin the very first day, (even earlier for those riding the bus), and the staff continues to nurture camper friendships throughout the season.
You should also know that even the kids who have been coming to camp for a long time will experience a certain novelty every summer. The staff dynamic is always slightly different, and the programming and amenities continue to evolve. Even the campers themselves grow and change on the off-season, so camp takes on a new appearance with their new perspective.
This means every summer feels unique, and veteran campers are more than ready to change their understanding of what CYJ-Texas is. First-timers may seem new for a moment, but in no time, they’re considered an integral part of the camp family.
Just like modern Israel, everyone at CYJ was a newcomer at some point, but there’s space in our camp (and our hearts) for everyone to find their home.
5. I’m worried about my child being homesick… will she/he be okay at camp?
Absolutely. Homesickness can happen to kids of all ages, but even the most serious cases are almost always gone by the third day of camp.
It’s easy to see why. Considering how full our schedule is and how much time they get with their peers, friendships develop far faster at camp than in the normal world. And with our talented staff trained in developing positive bunk dynamics, even the most tentative first-timers find their comfort zone at CYJ.
We also have our Camper Care Team for extra support, which includes our Parent Liaison/Camp Mom. When a camper’s feeling crummy, they know the professionals in the CC team are available with warmth and understanding.
For more on our staff’s homesickness preparation or for tips on what you can do to prevent homesickness, click here.
6. I don’t want to go three weeks without hearing from my child/ren! How do I contact my camper/s?
Letter writing is our preferred method for loved ones to contact their campers. Kids feel SO special when they receive letters from their friends and family because they can see how much effort you’re making just to say hi. Some parents even send letters before their kids leave for camp, so that their children get mail on the first couple days of the session! We also have time set aside for campers to write their own letters, so be sure to send your campers with the addresses they’d like to have!
We do not allow any packages at Camp unless it is an item that your camper forgot at home like clothing or glasses. Please click here for more information about packages at Camp.
You can also contact your campers through your My CYJ account. The platform allows you to email messages to your camper, who can then write responses to be uploaded. Your account also lets you see pictures and updates about all of Camp’s exciting adventures throughout the summer. (Note: many of these services include a fee.)
7. You guys sure use a lot of Hebrew words, but my kid doesn’t know a samech from a smiley face! Is that a problem?
Not at all! We have campers with the whole range of Hebrew exposure—from our Israelis who speak Hebrew at home, to our campers who’ve never gotten to learn a single letter.
Our use of Hebrew is actually very accessible. Rather than conversing in the language, we just replace certain camp terms with their Hebrew counterparts. So instead of calling it our “dining hall”, we call it the “Chadar Ochel”; instead of “counselors”, we call them “madrichim”. It may take a couple days to get the hang of, but you can see how any camper could pick up the lingo.
8. What about the Jewish stuff? It says on your website that you keep kosher and Shabbat, but our family doesn’t do that. Is that a problem?
Not in the slightest. As a pluralistic camp, CYJ-Texas is invested in making camp available to the whole Jewish family. To that end, we make efforts to accommodate campers with more traditional customs, even though the majority of our campers may not observe with the same stringency.
All campers will be expected to participate in our morning prayers, our Shabbat practices, and our activities with educational Jewish components. But don’t worry! In classic CYJ fashion, these programs will all remain fun, interactive, and accessible to all.
We’ve made deliberate choices in our programming to make everyone feel comfortable and supported. Despite this, everyone will end up doing something they’re not used to because no one’s Jewish life is identical at home and at camp.
We think that’s great! We love when our campers try new things and we support putting the unity of our family above our differences. It’s one of the many things that makes CYJ an awesome place to grow and connect!
9. Does the program have any free time?
Yes! We keep our day pretty full, but we believe unstructured play and downtime are key for our campers’ health and enjoyment.
Every day after lunch, we have a camp-wide rest period called “menucha”. Campers get out of the sun for some nice relaxation in their cabins. They usually nap, hang out, play low-key games, or do a little letter writing.
We also have free time before dinner, when the kids can choose what they want to do around camp. Kids often use the playground, play basketball, hit the ga-ga pits, or just hang out with friends.
10. All this running around, playing outside, messy activities… Is my child ever actually going to be clean this summer?
Well, yeah, sometimes! Camp is a place where kids get to be kids, which does include getting sweaty and messy and all that good stuff. Still, in the interest of both health and good character development, cleanliness remains a central value at CYJ-Texas.
On a normal morning before lunch, we have a period in our schedule called “nikayon”, or “clean up time”. During this time, all the kids pitch in and clean their cabin, with a rotation of communal responsibilities that everyone participates in.
As far as keeping the kids clean, each cabin has private showers in them so that counselors can guarantee their campers are showering every night. Everybody gets their laundry done once a week and has their clothes returned to them folded and clean.
11. How do you keep campers safe?
Safety is our number one priority. Nothing else even comes close.
The staff receives exhaustive training in our emergency procedures and in the basics of first aid. Medical issues beyond their capabilities can be addressed in our state-of-the-art, 24-hour Health Center by our professional medical staff. We’re prepared to bring a camper to the nearest hospital in the rare situation when it’s called for.
Campers are accompanied by staff members at all times, even at night. Our system of late-night watch duty, called “shmira”, guarantees that there are staff members awake, available, and nearby should a camper ever need them.
Our camp’s (award-winning!) communications technology establishes a direct line between staff in their bunks and our head office. With this, priority information and instructions can be delivered instantaneously.
No employee is hired before clearing a series of reference and criminal background checks. We also offer trained security staff and maintain close contact with local law enforcement.
12. Is it okay if I pick up my daughter early from Camp so we can watch the finale of our favorite reality show? I’ll bring her right back!
Though there are a few exceptions, CYJ generally does not allow campers to come and go at any time outside designated start and end dates. Deviating from the camp’s schedule deprives campers of the experiences they’re there for, not to mention disrupts the dynamic for their friends and bunkmates.
We understand that there are a few unmissable family functions or other major events that occasionally overlap with the camp’s schedule. If you’re interested in an arrival or departure schedule that differs from the one established, please keep the following in mind:
- You must contact our office well before the summer to discuss any alternative arrival and departure times.
- CYJ is not responsible for providing or arranging any alternative transportation to or from camp.
- We do not consider doctor appointments, sporting events, or concerts to be compelling reasons to leave camp.
- We do not allow any arrivals or departures during Shabbat.
- Before arranging to remove them, please keep in mind what you wanted your child to gain from his or her CYJ experience, and consider the importance of their participation in the scheduled programming.
13. Can my son bring my grandmother’s antique china, his original Picasso painting, and our collection of Fabergé eggs?
On any given camp day, your child may be running, sweating, painting, hiking, dancing, or battling in an epic pillow fight. That means all property you send to camp is at risk of being broken, lost, or otherwise ruined. Understanding that CYJ is not liable for replacing said items, use your best judgment when preparing your camper.
A good rule of thumb: if it would be expensive to replace or you’d be sad to see it lost, don’t send it to camp. (Most technology is already forbidden, so this rule will probably make minimal impact on your packing plans.)
14. My child’s birthday is during camp! Will he get a birthday celebration?
Oh yeah! Campers with summer birthdays love having their special day at camp, surrounded by great friends and fun activities. First thing in the morning, the birthday girl or boy is recognized at flag raising in front of the whole camp! At lunch, everyone sings “Happy Birthday” for them, and the camper gets a cake to share with his or her cabin! Their counselors will also find a way to make the day special, sometimes with decorations and other fun treats. At CYJ, a birthday is always memorable!
For more on how you can help make your camper’s birthday special, check out our suggestions in the CYJ knowledge base.