Justification (November 28, 2021)

Justification for Camp Hikon

What is Happening

The world is facing crises on multiple levels and the public needs to start paying attention. Here is a taste of what’s coming:

  • Scarcity of lumber and other tree products. Forests in North America, Europe, Brazil, and other countries are going up in smoke, and the firemen can no longer control the fires. The unprecedented intensity of these fires destroys forests permanently. In the past year alone, we’ve lost 10 million acres of trees. Intensity of beetle infestations is also unprecedented. We are evidently facing the end of the era of abundant wood.
  • Instability in the power grid. The present power grid can no longer support consumer demand reliably, as evidenced by a month-long blackout in Texas and a year-long blackout in Puerto Rico. The infrastructure is aged and cannot keep up with rising consumer demand. The renewable power (solar and wind) which is replacing traditional power (coal and oil) are increasing instability in the grid since they come and go and create imbalance between power generation and power consumption. We are evidently facing the end of the era of reliable electrical power.
  • Increased vulnerability of public infrastructure through hacking. As governments rush to place systems on the internet, the cybercriminals crowd in to find and exploit security vulnerabilities. It has been amply demonstrated that it is virtually impossible to create a completely secure system, and so it is reckless to connect critical systems (like municipal water supply and rail transit) to the internet, but that is precisely what we are doing. The question is no longer when systems will be hacked, but how often. We are evidently facing the end of the era of reliable municipal infrastructure.
  • Collapse of the supply chain. Ocean shipping delays are already many times what they were in the past, and the problem is getting worse. From shortages of warehouse space to containers to dock workers to truck drivers the system is collapsing at many levels. We are evidently facing the end of the era of abundant goods from overseas.

Why it is Happening

The inexorable decimation of the global wood supply is happening for the following reasons:

  • The US Forest Service has been busy extinguishing small forest fires over many decades because they didn’t realize that the small fires serve the important purpose of burning up the dry brush on the ground.
  • Forests the world over have become more like monocultures as a consequence of clear cutting. The absence of a multitude of species means that entire forests can be completely destroyed.
  • Farmers the world over have been busy depleting precious groundwater so that trees spend far more of their life cycles in a parched state where they are extremely vulnerable to fire.
  • Today’s forest fires burn with such ferocity that they create their own weather systems featuring tornadoes and lightning which can ignite new blazes hundreds of miles away.
  • Recent weather patterns have been especially favorable to pine beetles which are now able to reproduce multiple times in a single season and exceeding the ability of trees to resist their onslaught.

The electric grid has become less reliable for the following reasons:

  • Demand for electricity is increasing with rising household incomes, the electrification of transport and heat, and the growing demand for digital connected devices and air conditioning.
  • Energy deregulation legislation from the 1990s excessively rewards cost efficiency and discourages redundancy and backup resources and reserves and measures against weather and other threats.
  • Increasing reliance on wind and solar distant from urban areas means that power now has to travel longer distances to the point of consumption, stressing already overloaded transmission lines.
  • The grid is an increasingly complex mishmash of components spanning more than 7,000 power plants delivering energy across 160,000 miles of high-voltage lines and millions of miles of low-voltage lines.
  • There has been a 67% increase in weather-related power outages since 2000 in the United States, reflecting the inability of the aging electrical grid to withstand increasingly extreme weather events.

Internet-connected public infrastructure has become less reliable for the following reasons:

  • Cyber security is a vast and abstruse subject and requires constant retraining as new threats arise.
  • A technological attack may be combined with a social engineering tactic similar to advertising which can sidestep the most sophisticated monitoring systems and timely security patching efforts.
  • Cash-strapped utilities don’t have the means or know-how to invest in computer security.
    Compromised computer systems may be difficult to identify, giving operators a false sense of security.
  • Victims are reluctant to come forward due to risk to reputation and potential civil or criminal lawsuits, thus hampering law enforcement.
  • Cybercrime often occurs across international borders, creating jurisdictional ambiguities and hampering law enforcement.

The global supply chain has become less reliable for the following reasons:

  • COVID-19-related delays are being introduced at every stage of the shipping process. Port congestion has risen sharply, and major ports have record backlogs of vessels waiting to unload.
  • New extreme weather patterns increase the annual probability of events that are more intense than manufacturing and/or shipping facilities are built to withstand.
  • Old unresolved international disputes and new conflicts are contributing to an uncertain geopolitical climate, and such forces can quickly destabilise shipping.
  • Modern supply chains are exceptionally long and vulnerable. Like all chains they are only as strong as their weakest link.

What We Should Do About it

Boys who will face these challenges need to learn different skills than those which were taught generations ago. And we as a society need to be doing different things to shield ourselves from these coming problems. One of the most pressing problems we face in the built environment is the pervasive reliance on electrical power for keeping our homes safe. Since electrical power has been reliable in the past, we can’t imagine how to manage without it. But imagine we must. People are now dependent on air conditioning and refrigeration to the point where its absence is an existential threat.

There is a better way. Tosafos teaches that people who live in stone houses are never too hot. Since we expect wood to be scarce anyway, it’s time to start learning and teaching about natural building techniques. Not necessarily with stone, which may be expensive, but rather with adobe (earth, water and straw) which is available everywhere, and serves the same purpose. Earth dwellings are not temporary structures, but fine homes which may stand for hundreds of years. The ancient Persian city of Yazd is built almost entirely out of adobe buildings. And when built according to passive solar design principles, these homes maintain their comfort in all seasons in most climates of the world.

It must be noted that heat waves and blackouts usually travel together, since the biggest challenge for power grids is servicing air conditioners in the summer. But when the system collapses in a blackout, it will be too late to start building houses which are naturally comfortable. The number of experts who can do this properly is at present small and the demand at that time would far outstrip supply. And in any case, many lives would be immediately lost in a prolonged heatwave/blackout.

Instead, we need to build the demand through training our youth to prefer earth construction, and over time the knowledge and expertise available will increase and the industry will be built up.

Another thing we need to start taking seriously is the imminent collapse of the supply chain. We have been accustomed over generations to rely on foreign imports for both food and manufactured goods, but this is no longer a viable long-term strategy. The supply chain is in crisis in very many ways, and the circumstances causing shipping delays are getting worse daily. So products from overseas which were once abundant, will probably soon be scarce or unavailable. This is a big blow to a society in which almost everything comes from overseas, and signals that we need a profound change in how we educate our youth. We have to think ahead and instead of pushing our children into the various professions, start giving them artisanal skills so they know how to make useful things with their hands.

Camp Hikon will teach many of these ancient skills but it cannot possibly serve all of the Yeshiva boys who could benefit from its teachings. Instead, we are committed to publishing a curriculum which can be taught in Yeshivos in place of the traditional English, Science, Math and History curricula, and which would integrate our teachings into the traditional secular education framework. The planned curriculum would teach all the traditional subjects but with a special focus on teaching skills the boys need. For example, a math word problem would speak not about the irrelevant point of collision of two trains about to crash, but about how a roof overhang is designed to admit the winter sun but to exclude the summer sun. A biology lesson would focus not on tedious details of protein synthesis, but on how crops may be grown in the arid Southwest. History is full of clever solutions by ancient peoples to adapt to their environment, but present curricula eschew these lessons in favor of teaching about the circumstances under which ancient peoples conquered each other. For those who worry about whether students will still be able to pass the regents exam, please note that the major challenge of teaching is in getting students interested, rather than in shovelling knowledge into their brains.

As a bonus, teaching manual dexterity is a powerful tool in engaging struggling boys not in Limudei Chol alone, but in Limudei Kodesh as well. Principals will testify that the teaching of manual dexterity to struggling Yeshiva boys quickly builds their self-esteem, and can predictably enhance their connection to Yiddishkeit.

It’s important to note that the Camp and the new Curriculum will inform and enhance each other. The camp will be able to hire expert teachers beyond the reach of Yeshivos, but Yeshivos will be able to incorporate far more material into a curriculum which spans multiple years of the K-12 system.

Helping Our Troubled Youth

Our young people have unmet needs. They need to be saved from the toxins bombarding them from all sides in their food, water and air. They need to be saved from wireless EMFs, which are the most insidious poison because it is impossible for the body to mount any defense against. They need to be able to create things with their hands. And they need better answers when they ask “Why do we have to learn this?” than the irrelevant answer always on the lips of teachers, “It’s on the Regents.”


Proclamation (November 28, 2021)

Proclamation: Understanding the News

Who has heard and seen such things? A steady stream of hair-raising news regarding an unprecedented escalation of modern crises in food, water, electricity, wood, foreign imports, and more crises yet to come. Some of them are life-threatening, and not merely for users of critical medical equipment, for are we not all critically dependent on air conditioning in a heat wave? Come, fellow Jews, let us gird ourselves and desist from the worship of progress and reliance on the broken reed of technology which when leaned on shatters but instead embrace sustainability to avoid the coming threats of serious morbidity and mortality, G-d forbid..

And to those who would pass off these scary reports as “Fake News” did not our sages already reveal long ago (Yevamot 63a with Rashi) “Said Rabbi Elazar: In the future all skilled workers will quit their professions and engage in working the land.” And do not stubbornly insist on waiting for other nations or peoples reject industrial agriculture, or urban infrastructure, or electrical networks, or wooden construction, or foreign products, or anything else, for has not the Creator given us supremacy over all the nations of the earth to rebuke many peoples and to be a light unto the nations?

Success in these unstable times requires rare skills and knowledge from ancient arts of all kinds but all this is sadly missing from Yeshiva classrooms. Our sages have taught that challenges expected for the future oblige parents to train their sons to meet those challenges (Rashi to Kiddushin 29a).

Therefore, ends of the earth tremble and ye deaf pay attention and ye blind behold and see! The undersigned Rabbis do hereby declare:

  1. It is proper for Yeshivos teaching secular studies to incorporate into their curricula the knowledge and skills needed to save students from the harms now occurring in the world.
  2. Camp Hikon is being established to teach much of the needed knowledge and skills as an integrated part of a strong program of Limudei Kodesh, and it is a great Mitzvah to support it.
  3. Yeshivos should encourage students who engage in Limudei Chol to enroll in Camp Hikon and it will be of great benefit to them.
  4. Campers attending Camp Hikon must maintain the pace of their home Yeshiva through Chazara and the like over the course of the summer.

Those who follow this proclamation and cooperate in order to rescue our young people from the sufferings of the arriving birthpangs of Moshiach, will merit our blessing to be saved, both they and their families to not see and not know of these troubles.

And we are signed on this proclamation below…


קול קורא (November 3, 2021)

קול קורא: חדשות מקרוב באו

מי שמע כזאת מי ראה כאלה זרם קבוע של חדשות מזעזעות המסמר שערת בשרנו על תגבורים חסרי תקדים במשברים חדישים במזון, מים, חשמל, עצים, יבוא חוץ, ועוד תשוב תראה משברים גדולים. חלקם שמגיעים לנפשות לא רק לנתמכי מכשיר רפואי חשמלי והלא מיזוג בשרב דבר השווה לכל נפש. בית יעקב לכו התאזרו ולא נאמר עוד אלהינו למעשה ידינו, ולא נבטיח עוד על משענת הקנה הרצוץ הזה על הטכנולוגיה אשר בהשען עליו תשבר אלא נעמיד מתנינו שלא נצטרך לאמר ח”ו גיא ההרגה ולקבור בתפת מאין מקום.

ואם תאמר הכל זה “פייק ניוז” והלא חז”ל כבר השמיענו חדשות מעתה ונצורות ולא ידענו (יבמות סג.) ואמר רבי אלעזר עתידים כל בעלי אומניות שיעמדו על הקרקע ופרש”י יניחו אומנותם לעסוק בחריש ובקציר. ואל יבטיחך יצרך והרי אף אומה ולשון בחרה להזניח לא חקלאות תעשייתי, ולא תשתיות עירוניות, ולא רשתות חשמליות, ולא מבנים מעץ, ולא מוצרים זרים, ולא כלום, והלא הבורא כבר נתננו עליון על כל גויי הארץ להוכיח לעמים רבים ולהיות לברית עם לאור גוים.

הצלחה בתקופה משונה כזאת דורשת כישורי ייצור וידע נדיר מאומנויות עתיקות שונות למיניהם והלא כל זאת נאדרת מסדרי הישיבות. ואמנם חז”ל הורו לנו שמצוקות הצפויות בחיי הבן ראוי להורים לדאוג איך בניהם יעמדו בהם (קידושין כט., וי”א אף להשיטו במים ופרש”י)

ולכן קצות הארץ יחרדו והחרשים שמעו והעיוורים הביטו לראות. יוצא דבר מלכות מלפנינו ונכתב בשם המלך ונחתם בטבעת המלך מאן מלכי רבנן:

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  1. יש לחדרים ולישיבות הלומדים לימודי חול לשלב בלימודים הידע בדרכים הנבונים למנוע היזקים הללו המתרחשים בעולם.
  2. מחנה הכון מתוכנן ללמד הידע והמיומנויות הנדרשת תוך כדי שילוב בתוכנית חזק של לימודי קודש, ומצווה גדולה לתמוך בה.
  3. יש לישיבות לחזק אלה הבחורים שאין תורתם אומנותם להירשם לקייטנות מחנה הכון ויהא לתועלת רבה עבורם.
  4. על הבחורים לעמוד בכל זאת בקצב הישיבה שלהם תוך כדי שילוב של חזרות וכדומה במשך ימי הקיץ.

העוקבים אחרי קול קורא זה ונושאים בעול כדי לחלץ את צעירינו מתלאות חבלי משיח הבאות עלינו ר”ל לרעה הנם זוכים לברכתנו להינצל הם ומשפחתם שלא יראו ולא ידעו בצרות אלו.

והננו באים בזה על החתום…


Ten Things You Should Know About Camp Hikon (June 3, 2021)

Ten Things You Should Know About Camp Hikon

Naftali Schwartz

  1. At Camp Hikon there will be certain minimum standards in religious observance. Campers are expected to keep halachos governing Shabbos, speech, davening.
  2. At Camp Hikon your safety and the safety of others around you is paramount. We will use the buddy system where campers will concern themselves with their own safety and that of a friend.
  3. At Camp Hikon there will be no canteen. Instead, we will serve plenty of yummy snacks prepared in our own kitchen.
  4. At Camp Hikon we will serve meat less often than at other camps, but those served will be of superior quality from vendors like growandbehold or kolfoods if feasible. Meats are eaten as a side dish together with a vegetarian main dish.
  5. Our campers are drawn from diverse cultural backgrounds. All campers must be treated in a dignified manner. We all need each other’s help in meeting the significant challenges which lie ahead.
  6. Campers need to respect bedtime so they can be refreshed for the next day’s activities. First wakeup is 6 a.m. but campers who need a little extra sleep can remain in bed till 7 a.m.
  7. Memory skills are acquired through stories, songs and certain writing exercises. Campers are expected to join these activities to enrich the learning experience for all.
  8. At Camp Hikon campers and junior staff may not possess smartphones. Cell phone usage is restricted and reception is limited.
  9. At Camp Hikon we will have to turn away campers and staff who have received any of the Covid-19 injections due to clotting they cause in others related to ongoing shedding of the spike protein toxin.


Ten Reasons to Support Camp Hikon (May 31, 2021)

Ten Reasons to Support Camp Hikon

Naftali Schwartz

  1. Hikon prepares campers by teaching how to navigate crises.
  2. Hikon prepares campers by teaching emotional intelligence.
  3. Hikon prepares campers by teaching social skills.
  4. Hikon prepares campers by teaching self-reliance in food, health and shelter.
  5. Hikon prepares campers by teaching language skills.
  6. Hikon prepares campers by teaching memory skills.
  7. Hikon prepares campers by teaching foundational texts of Judaism.
  8. Hikon prepares campers by teaching self-defense.
  9. Hikon prepares campers by teaching the abundance of the Briah.
  10. Hikon prepares campers by teaching the pitfalls of over-reliance on technology.


The Making of Camp Hikon (May 20, 2021)

The Making of Camp Hikon

Naftali Schwartz

I spent a good chunk of my career getting educated for and building stuff with hi-tech. After a midlife crisis, I eventually realized that what I really wanted to do is teach. I also soon realized that I wanted to teach something very specific: how to live the proper and serene life that Hahem wants for us all. As I delved more deeply into the natural ways of living, I also came to the realization that with all of the benefits we get from technology, we also pay a steep price. Looking back to my youth, I could see that while this Faustian bargain was somehow favorable in the past, those golden years of technology are long gone. Over the past decade I’ve found joy in gravitating towards a more natural way of living and eating, and separating myself from technology where reasonable. Over the course of my teaching career in the past decade, I’ve made a careful study of best teaching practices and I’m happy to report that this has yielded huge gains for both myself and my students. I’ve managed to achieve enough notoriety as a successful teacher that sometimes little boys I don’t even know will walk up to me and ask me to teach their class!

Transitioning from veteran teacher to Director of Camp Hikon was a natural next step. Most teachers in the Yeshiva system already understand the abundant contradictions between upholding Yeshiva policy and teaching the students something worthwhile in a way they can both enjoy and remember. Over time, this became especially difficult for me as I realized more and more how much best teaching practice diverges from typical Yeshiva policy. But if you open your own camp, suddenly everything is negotiable. You get to make sure your campers are finally eating the healthy food they so desperately need and not loading themselves up with anti-nutrients. You get to make sure they get enough sleep. You get to make sure they move enough, are exposed to nature enough, and are protected from the ills of screen time. You get to ensure their food, water and air are free of toxins. You get to ensure that skills are developed methodologically from the ground up. Looking back, it seems like such a no-brainer that I’m actually shocked I never thought of this before.

But Camp Hikon is actually much more than all of that. It is also a place families can send their campers to, confident that we’ll do something to fill the wide gap left by a Yeshiva system focused on practically meaningless Regents examination scores. A place where campers can acquire the emotional maturity they need to navigate the complex challenges coming their way. A place where they can re-learn the social skills they’ll surely need going forward. A place where they’ll learn in a loving environment about certain threats they will be facing which their parents never had to. Many parents wonder aloud if their little one is ready to hear about these things and aren’t some things best left unsaid. There is some truth in this, but it must be realized that at some point the cost of hiding the danger starts to exceed the cost of revealing it. In very many instances, we’re already beyond that point.

The community response to the message of Camp Hikon has been extremely gratifying. From a modest idea to cater to local Yeshiva High School boys, the concept has blossomed into an institution which attracts both younger and older campers, boasts both bay and girl divisions, and is a magnet for campers coming from all manner of Torah institutions all around the country and beyond. We are culturally diverse, but we’re all Torah Jews striving to fulfill the exhortation of the Navi to prepare ourselves for the challenges and the travails awaiting us in the late pre-Messianic era.


Uncertain Future for Camp Hikon? (May 18, 2021)

Uncertain Future for Camp Hikon?

Last week Camp Hikon achieved international notoriety through being smeared by NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo for “discriminating against vaccinated individuals”. This was very gratifying for us, since it highlighted the national hypocrisy whereby it’s OK for colleges across the country to discriminate against unvaccinated students in the fall, but it’s not OK for camps to cautiously “discriminate” and keep vaccinated counselors and campers away from vulnerable unvaccinated campers. Gratifying, yes, but also terrifying. How to reconcile a non-negotiable opening day coming up in 6 weeks with the abrupt political exile of Camp Hikon from NYS?

If you think it might be a good idea to just call the whole thing off and try again next year, consider that not opening this season would send precisely the wrong message. It would tell the world that there’s not a whole lot you can do when things go badly. If we allow ourselves the luxury of becoming victims of our own circumstances, we lose all credibility to set ourselves up as teachers of the youth in navigating future crises. Let’s face it, if we can’t get through this one, we may as well just close our doors for good.

So, yes, we will be opening this summer. But how to make it work? If no more than a few dozen campers were expected, we might be able to rent a farm with a large farmhouse. But the reality is that we’ll be hosting perhaps 100 boys and 100 girls plus ample support staff. It’s improbable any campsite with sufficient housing could be found.

Obviously, we’re going to have to build a campsite from scratch. First, we’ll need a roomy parcel of partially forested land in a town with weak zoning regulations. Then we’ll have to install one or two pools. A fleet of RVs or temporary bungalows or tiny houses can serve as bunkhouses. Public buildings like a shul, dining hall and gymnasium are a little more complicated, but still manageable. What about plumbing? We’ll have washing water piped into bunkhouses, but we’ll sidestep the complexity and expense and delay of a full septic system by adopting composting toilets. (Incidentally, if you’ve never seen a Kibbutz Lotan composting toilet, you’ve never seen a composting toilet at all.) What about heat and hot water? Wood-burning stoves. Electricity? In the summer months we won’t be using a whole lot, so a little solar or wind should be sufficient.

Setting up a campsite from scratch certainly seems overwhelming, but when you break it up into manageable parts, it doesn’t seem nearly so daunting. We have to believe that Hashem challenges us because He loves us. R. Avigdor Miller used to say that although we’re obligated to cry out to Hashem in need, this is not enough. We must also think our problems through and make an effort to arrive at reasonable solutions. And then we’ll truly receive Hashem’s blessing.


Camp Hikon for Yeshiva Boys Announces Opening Season (April 22, 2021)

Camp Hikon for Yeshiva Boys Announces Opening Season

Does spending the summer months just the same as last year seem discordant with the waves of infection, climate chaos and food insecurity sweeping humanity? How about a summer camp that actually teaches kids how to survive and thrive in the coming “new normal”?

Yeshivos are practiced in teaching our youth the skills they would use in settled society. But it’s blindingly obvious that the coming years will see the emergence of a society that’s anything but settled. The skills our young people will need to tackle the systematic medical, political, economic, and environmental crises which materialize and are compounded almost daily have little in common with Regents subjects. But it’s hard to imagine the Board of Regents taking this matter seriously, and it’s equally hard to imagine Yeshivos setting aside the Regents Exams anytime soon. Fortunately, there are still a couple of months left in the year when this new skill set can get the consideration it justly deserves.

What sorts of skills should we be teaching? First, enhanced memory skills will be critical in a world in which technology suddenly ceases to operate, as recently happened in Puerto Rico and Texas.

Second, our youth must learn how to be part of a cohesive group. As nations decline, government power will fade and lawlessness will proliferate. People will have to learn to look to their local group for protection.

Third, we have to teach where food comes from. Commercial food is not always the best choice even when available, and it will most assuredly not be, thanks to the fragility or our complex global supply chains in an increasingly unstable world. Of course, stocking up on canned goods is a start, but it’s critical to know how food is prepared and preserved.

Fourth, the ongoing assault on the environment and the escalation of extreme weather events implies that it should no longer be expected that people will remain settled in their communities for decades, but must be prepared to be on the move. We must be light on our feet as well as being light on the land. This best way to accomplish this is using the natural building techniques of our ancestors and sourcing mostly local materials found onsite.

Camp Hikon for Yeshiva Boys is being established this summer to meet all of these goals. (A girls division is also in the works.) For more information, call 347 764 8313 or visit our website at www.hikon.org.

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