Moshava Ba'ir in Bergen county

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week that day camps statewide would be allowed to open this summer. Today the state posted its first guidelines for child care and day camp programs

The six-page pamphlet provides a preview of the changes camp will offer: Group sizes of 10 or fewer children, individually packaged lunches and counselors wearing masks.

Many of these changes and expected changes have led day camps to cancel for this summer.

Sprout Westchester Day Camp, run by the Zionist youth movement Young Judaea, planned to open on July 27 with half-day prior to Cuomo’s announcement and is still committed to that timeline.

Westchester is “where we felt the community was the hardest hit,” said Executive Director Helene Drobenare, referring to the February coronavirus outbreak in the New Rochelle  Jewish community. “And it was really the most viable option for us, on our own outdoor site with green grass and open air.”

But Young Judaea’s camp in Brooklyn will not run in person at all, as it relies too much on indoor space and the use of city parks. Instead it will run virtual sessions for its kids.

Moshava Ba’ir, a Bnei Akiva-affiliated camp in New Jersey, plans to open July 7, one day after day camps are allowed to open in that state. The Kaplen JCC in northern New Jersey announced Tuesday that it also would open its day camp.

In an email to parents, Moshava Ba’ir said state “guidelines will impact many aspects of our camp and may limit the number of campers that we can accept,” but that the directors expect “a healthy, meaningful and enjoyable experience for your children this summer.”

Simcha Day Camp at Darchei Torah in Far Rockaway has been advertising recently that it will open for the summer. Other camps in the Five Towns/Far Rockaway area are still trying to understand the state’s requirements and see if applying the restrictions to their programs will enable them to provide a fun camp experience.

Camps are still wary of the potential for COVID-19 to run rampant among their campers. They aren’t sure what camp will look like under social distancing protocols, how much it will cost camps to implement those measures while serving a potentially reduced number of campers, and whether it will be possible for little kids to follow the new rules.

Manhattan’s Marlene Myerson JCC, which runs camps in New York City and upstate, announced it was canceling its summer program the same day Cuomo made his announcement about opening camps.

“The Cuomo piece was something we were waiting to see what would happen, but practically it wasn’t the decision maker,” said Genna Singer, the JCC’s director of camps.

At this point, Singer said, state guidelines are not the key factor. She said it’s simply too late for many camps to prepare to open after months of thinking they would not.

“In all of this, time was not on camp’s side,” she said. “We were faced with really hard decisions in a very short period of time, and I don’t know that any guidelines would have changed that for us. … I don’t know that it would have changed our decision.”


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