Camp Ramah of Northern California, a Jewish overnight camp affiliated with the Conservative camping movement, will not run a summer session, executive director Sarah Shulman told J.
Families connected with the camp, which had 380 kids and 200 staff at its Monterey Bay site last summer, were informed of the decision this morning.
“It is so sad to come to that decision because our kids need those relationships more than ever before,” Shulman said.
Shulman said staff and the board worked their way through a host of logistics, like what the camp would do if there was an outbreak on-site or how to obtain the right supplies, but also considered what restrictions including face masks and social distancing would do to the “kehillah,” or sense of community at the camp.
“The heart of the camp experiences are those close-knit experiences,” she said, pointing to the weekly Saturday evening Havdalah ceremony as an example.
At the end, the choice came down to “first and foremost, what’s best for our community and for the communities our campers [would be] returning to,” Shulman said.
Eden Village West, an organic “farm-to table” camp that last year had 180 campers at its site in Healdsburg near the Russian River, has also announced that it was canceling all of its sessions. This would have been its third summer.
“Sadly, the current health risks and uncertainties of running camp due to COVID-19 have made it nearly impossible for us to envision a path forward for overnight camp this summer,” director Casey Yurow said in an email to J. He added that staff would still farm the gardens over the summer and donate the food to pantries.
Ramah and Eden Village join URJ Camp Newman, Camp Tawonga and JCC Maccabi Sports Camp, which all announced their own cancellations over the past two weeks. Five of the region’s six Jewish overnight camps have all canceled their summer sessions.
As an alternative to traditional summer camp, Ramah NorCal, like other camps, is looking at possible ways to offer virtual activities and local meet-ups. It’ll all depend on how the pandemic evolves, Shulman said.
“We don’t know that now,” she said.
She noted that the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation has allocated $400,000 in emergency grants to the six Bay Area Jewish overnight camps to help them provide refunds, create alternative summer programming and give incentives to encourage families to donate or defer/credit their camp fees.
“That’s just a testament of the strength of our local Jewish community, and the importance of overnight camp in the ecosystem of that community,” she said.