Jewish summer camps prepare for a COVID-safe season

By Stephanie Goodling
HAKOL Editor

This summer, Jewish camps are hopeful to provide the same fun for their kids as always, while being safe during the ongoing pandemic. The Lehigh Valley’s own Camp JCC is building on its experience of a successful summer last year with exciting additions like their brand new outdoor pool (read more here), and other camps in the region are also opening their bunks with appropriate precautions.

At Pinemere Camp in the Poconos they are looking forward to not only a new COVID-safe environment this summer, but also a new director. It was announced in January that Eytan Graubart will become the next executive director of Pinemere Camp (see article on page 14 of February 2021 issue of HAKOL).

Camp Harlam, a URJ camp also in the Poconos, is continuing to prioritize health and safety.

“We want to ensure we are prepared to deliver a safe experience for each of our campers. We are looking forward to sharing some new spaces with our community this summer, including Goobie’s Low Ropes Course and Slip’s multi-use outdoor fire pit. Although elements of camp will look different this year, we are committed to delivering the same excellence our families have come to expect from us,” said Harlam Director Lisa David. 

This sentiment was echoed by many other camps, such as Camp Galil in Bucks County.

“We are very much looking forward to summer 2021,” said Galil Director David Weiss. “We are hoping to be able to welcome our largest-ever delegation of Israeli shlichim this summer. In addition, we are hard at work preparing the facilities to be COVID-safe this summer. We will have a number of protocols in place to protect our campers and staff, and so programming will look a little different. That being said, our counselors are incredibly creative, and they can't wait to pull off an amazing summer.”

That same creativity in counselors can be found right in Allentown, as well, at Chabad’s Camp Gan Israel.

“At Camp Gan Israel, we are thrilled to reopen our doors back to campers! With a new summer, we will be providing social distance friendly programming and activities with the same classic camp feel our campers love. With exciting new programming, top notch counselors, it’ll be our best summer yet!” said Devorah Halperin.

TheZone, a Jewish sleepaway camp in the upper Catskill region of New York, has plans in place to welcome campers back to their two campuses.

 “The safety and well-being of our campers is our first priority,” said Tova Bracha of TheZone. “From sanitizing stations, mask distribution, social distancing measures, activity sanitizing and special food service, no expense has been spared in readying the campus. With testing requirements and enforcement of all safety standards and distanced sleeping arrangements, we are able to go above and beyond the requirements issued by the state. While we are all hoping for a return to normal, we are planning for all eventualities and are confident that following our detailed safety precautions, we can run an amazing and safe summer. Although the state has not yet issued the 2021 camping guidelines yet, we are committed to keeping those rules and keeping TheZone safe for all.”

Camp Ramah in the Poconos has not announced its official 2021 plans at time of press, but in a statement from November 2020 on their website, they said they are “working with a team of medical experts, both in our own camp community, and in partnership with national organizations such as the National Ramah Commission, the American Camp Association, and others. These committees are crafting a blueprint of guidelines that we will use to operate safely this summer.”

If your kids are looking forward to camp this summer, the good news is that you can get out the label maker, even if things are going to look slightly different.