Month: May 2021

Can a camper go home early if they miss home too much?

Can a camper go home early if they miss home too much?

Missing home is a totally normal part of the camp experience, and your camper should know that it’s totally normal to have moments when they miss their parents! The vast majority of our campers have an amazing experience and come back to camp summer after summer.

We also have a caring team of parents and adults who will make sure that things are going smoothly for your camper. Keep in mind, you can always contact your Unit Head just to check in. They’ll tell you how your camper is doing, who they’re making friends with, what they’re eating at meals, and how camp is going for them. We aspire for camp to be an open book when it comes to communication. You will be able to contact your unit head any time to see how things are going. They’ll give you a full update.

If your camper is not having a positive experience, then we will do everything we can to turn it around and make sure your camper is thriving. We will also be in touch with you to let you know if a camper is struggling, so we can decide together how to proceed. It is exceedingly uncommon for a camper to leave camp early–it happens less than 1% of the time. If we discuss your camper’s experience and decide together that it would be better for the camper to go home early than stay in camp, then we would give you a full refund for any days the camper does not stay with us. Again, this is incredibly unlikely to happen.

Most importantly, please do not tell your camper that going home early is an option. Your camper should come to camp feeling committed to staying for the full experience. Of course, if we see it’s not going smoothly, then we’ll let you know right away and decide together on next steps. In the worst case scenario, the camper can leave early and we’ll give you a refund for the days they’re not in camp.

But again, don’t tell the camper that. If you do, the camper will spend the whole first week agonizing about whether to stay or go: “I’m making friends, but I miss home;” “Camp is fun, but I’d love to see my parents;” etc. Each camper should be prepared to have an awkward first few days — every new camper does — while they’re meeting new kids, getting to know the facility, and bonding with staff. Once we get past the first two-three days of camp, then it becomes an amazing experience in which campers make lifelong friends and memories. Camp gets more fun with each passing day, and each camper should be committed to staying for the full experience.

2021 Emails to Enrolled Families

Please scroll down to see all our advice emails about preparing for camp!

6/24/21 Email: See You on Monday

Hi camp families!

It’s a sunny 75 degrees here on Hickory Lake and our staff cannot wait to see everyone. Just a quick reminder that camp starts on Monday, June 28th. Drop off times can be found here:

Over the last few days, you received an email with Unit Head contact information for your campers. We wanted to take the time to introduce you to all of our amazing Unit Heads and our Director of Camper Care.

Riva, Director of Camper Care
Riva has been involved in Jewish overnight camping for the last 15 years. Her roles ranged from camper care to supervising upper and teen girls and staff to overseeing biking and hiking trips. When not at camp, Riva is a early childhood educator. Riva and her husband, Robert, recently moved from Maryland to New Jersey and have three grown daughters.

“It’s important for me to connect with all campers and staff, which is vital to fostering a long-term impact. I love helping instill a strong Jewish identity in campers by bringing awareness of core Jewish values in a relaxing, approachable way that allows everyone to be confident and the best versions of themselves.”

Katie, Unit Head and Assistant Director
Katie is a PhD student at Clemson University studying Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management with a focus on summer camps and youth programs. She is actively involved in the American Camp Association, Y-US, and the Clemson community, but is most happy when she’s away at camp! Katie is also a professor who teaches classes about camp management.

Katie is a multi-year returning staff member at Camp Zeke, who began her time with us as a unit head and has become involved in all aspects of camp management. Katie assists with camper and staff needs throughout the summer, and she is involved in all aspects of camp management as a Assist Director.

Meissa, Unit Head
Meissa is a teacher who loves coming to Camp Zeke summer after summer to serve as our Teen Unit Head. Meissa oversees our popular teen leadership program and manages all aspects of the teen experience for rising 10th through 12th graders. Meissa was born and raised in a small town called Keur Momar Sarr in Senegal, West Africa. Meissa initially came to camp as our head soccer coach, having been the captain of his college soccer team. He relies on those same skills to help motivate his staff and the teens in his program.

Throughout high school, Meissa lacked confidence in lifting weights, playing soccer, and long-distance running, but he motivated himself to start living an active life, and though it was hard, his mind was set on his goals. He started to see himself grow and became proud of his abilities. This is something Meissa loves to pass on to campers at Zeke and as his year-round work as a kindergarten teacher.

Chloe, Unit Head
Chloe was born and raised in New York, and is a rising senior at Elon University where she is majoring in Project Management and minoring in Jewish Studies. Chloe was part of Camp Zeke from the beginning, as a founding camper our opening year! After she graduated as a camper, she joined our staff as a counselor, which has been her role for two years. This summer, we’re excited to have her as a member of the camper care team as a unit head!

Michael, Unit Head
Michael is a Unit Head on the Camper Care team. He is a proud New York City Teacher who loves to travel and play hockey. His goal is to compliment kind and caring atmosphere at Camp Zeke. He has helped many children achieve by helping them believe in themselves. Michael has a reputation for helping make activities exciting, and he also runs a “Hollywood Performance Club.”

Fernando, Unit Head
Fernando is returning for his fifth summer at Zeke. Fernando has held numerous jobs in camp over his years with us, but he found his home on the camper care team. Prior to returning to Camp Zeke, Fernando completed a prestigious and highly-competitive training program at Disney.

Fernando studied Tourism Management at university and he is passionate about different cultures and languages. He is a much-loved member of the Zeke family and his positivity and spirit are contagious. He loves sports and staying active, and has played soccer, volleyball, basketball and tennis since he was a child. He also loves kayaking and paddle boarding on Hickory Lake. Fernando comes to camp from Veracruz, Mexico.

Mariana, Unit Head
Mariana is from Cancun, Mexico. She fell in love with American summer camps when she was 12, and has been working as a counselor since she was 17. She is the director of the Hebrew Scouts of Cancun, and studied last year in the Machon le Madrichim in Israel. This will be her third summer at Zeke. She loves surfing, cooking and all nature related activities. She is currently studying mechatronics engineering in Mexico City and she is really excited to meet all the new campers and staff this summer!

Sunny wishes and see you soon!

6/18/21 Email: Our Camp Songs

Dear Friends:

Before telling you all about our camp songs, please see below for a few quick reminders:

  • Domestic Campers/Telehealth/PCR Tests: After your telehealth visit (see 5/11 email), please take your at-home PCR test and mail it back by: June 22nd for first session campers; and July 14th for second session campers. Every camper must take a molecular/PCR test before departure.
  • International Campers/PCR Test: Please arrange a PCR test within three days of departure. The telehealth visit is only for domestic campers. This must be a  molecular/PCR test, not a rapid antigen test.
  • COVID Vaccine Upload: We strongly encourage all eligible campers to receive the COVID vaccine. We have added a form on CampInTouch to upload your COVID vaccine card. Vaccinated campers do not need to be tested or schedule the telehealth visit.
  • Parent Handbook: For our packing list, arrival schedule, and other details about preparing for camp, please see here.
  • Teen Leadership Sign-Up: Our teen leadership sign-up form is now live in CampInTouch for every family with a rising 10th-12th grader.

As a reminder, to see all our pre-camp preparation emails, please visit this link. And see below for this week’s article!

* * *

To see what pure joy looks like, you don’t need to look any further than a song session in the third week of camp. By that point in the summer, the community feels like a huge family. The kids are completely at ease, being their truest selves, and the friendships are rock solid. The youngest camper knows the oldest staff member and everyone in between. And by the third week, every last person in camp has memorized the words to our songs.

What do our song sessions look like? Just as a particular meal comes to an end, a camper looks up and notices our head song leader plugging in her guitar. She quietly hums a melody. A few voices chime in from around the room. Another song leader appears across the dining room. The humming turns into words. The song starts getting louder. Some campers drum a beat on their tables. 

Pretty soon, the entire camp is buzzing. The campers are jumping up and down with pure joy, singing their hearts out. The chefs have left the kitchen and they’re dancing with their arms around each other’s shoulders. The counselors have started a conga line. Everywhere you look, it’s smiles from ear to ear. It takes a couple weeks for camp to get there, but once it does, the community becomes pure magic.

Of course, we’ll make some small changes for COVID this summer, like having song sessions outdoors, but the spirit of the song sessions will remain exactly the same as it always has been.

We like to pass along our most popular camp songs before the summer starts so our new campers feel right at home when they arrive to camp, and our returning campers remember the starry nights by Hickory Lake. We sing lots of songs you’ll already know, like “Lean on me” by Bill Withers, “One Day” by Matisyahu, and “I’m yours” by Jason Mraz. We also sing songs you might only hear at camp, like “Od Yavo Shalom” (until there is peace), “Brich Rachamana” (a post-meal song of joy and gratitude in Aramaic), and the official Camp Zeke song!

Our very own Cantor Melanie Blatt, one of the most talented song leaders in all of Jewish camp, made a couple videos of our harder-to-find camp songs so everyone can learn them before camp starts. Check out this webpage with some of those videos along with lyrics to all our most popular camp songs:

Warmest regards,
The Camp Zeke Team

6/13/21 Email: Getting (Parents & Kids) Ready for Camp

Dear friends:

As you get ready for the summer, we like to share advice from various experts in the camping industry about how to make your child’s time at Zeke the most valuable and successful experience it can be.

As all of you recognize, camp is so much more than just a fun summer — it’s a profound step in each camper’s journey of growth and personal development.  With this perspective in mind, please read on for some advice about how you and your camper should prepare for the experience.

Just a few quick reminders first:

  • Domestic Campers/Telehealth/PCR Tests: After your telehealth visit (see 5/16 email), please take your at-home PCR test and mail it back by: June 22nd for first session campers; and July 14th for second session campers.
  • International Campers/PCR Test: Please arrange a PCR test within three days of departure. The telehealth visit is only for domestic campers.
  • COVID Vaccine Upload: We strongly encourage all eligible campers to receive the COVID vaccine. We have added a form on CampInTouch to upload your COVID vaccine card. Vaccinated campers do not need to be tested or schedule the telehealth visit.
  • Parent Handbook: For our packing list, arrival schedule, and other details about preparing for camp, please see here.
  • Teen Leadership Sign-Up: Our teen leadership sign-up form is now live in CampInTouch for every family with a rising 10th-12th grader.

As a reminder, to see all our pre-camp preparation emails, please visit this link. And see below for this week’s article!

Warmest regards,
The Camp Zeke Team

Getting Ready for Camp
By Bob Ditter

Some parents, especially ones who have never been to camp as children themselves, make the mistake of thinking that camp is about the activities or the facilities. While those are important aspects of camp, that’s not what camp is. Camp is about making some of the best friends of your life. It’s an exercise in self-reliance and social learning.  
Since campers live in groups, it is also about learning the give-and-take of making decisions and getting along with all those “brothers” or “sisters” they suddenly inherit when they arrive. In a time when resilience – the ability to stick with something and recover from a setback – is a great quality to cultivate in our children, camp is an increasingly attractive option. I can’t tell you how many parents have told me how much more confident, calm, purposeful or focused their children seem after a couple of weeks of the overnight experience.
But Are We Ready?
Are you ready as a parent to let your child go? Children are like little membranes – they pick up all of the subtle emotions of their parents. [So please keep a positive, upbeat attitude to reinforce that camp is an incredibly valuable life experience. Your kids will pick up on the message – both spoken and unspoken.]

Think of camp as “life experience with training wheels.” Camp professionals have been helping kids separate and become more independent for years. This is their true business. They tell you they teach swimming or arts and crafts or canoeing, but what they really teach is self-reliance and resilience – in other words, [essential] skills for life.

Reassure yourself, as a parent, that you’ve done your job. All the advice, coaching, caring and goodwill you’ve given your child over the years is in there. Trust the job you have done. Let your kids try out their wings, even if it means they take a little nosedive once in a while. [All of us on the Camp Zeke staff will be there to help them along and support them the whole time, so they will soar, even without you there.]

How Do We Get Them Ready?

I created a few tips for parents to help them and their children get ready for the adventure of camp. They are as follows:

(1) Involve them in shopping for camp, maybe even doing some packing together.
(2) Pack a favorite personal item, like a tee-shirt, cap or small stuffed animal.
(3) Have them “practice” sleeping over with friends or relatives and writing letters home.
(4) Talk with them about the fun things they are looking forward to doing at camp. Watch the camp videos together.
(5) Share stories about your own first times away from home. (Keep it positive!)
(6) Point out what your child does well and how that will be an asset at camp.
(7) Mail a letter to your new camper one or two days before she departs for camp, so that it will be there on her first full day at camp.

Pre-Camp Discussions
It also helps to have a few conversations with your child, before they head off to meet their new friends. Here are a few things you can say – not all at once, but a little over time – in the time before camp starts:

(1) Every camper is part of a group and as your parents, we expect you to cooperate and help out.
(2) If you are having a problem, your counselor is there to help you. Don’t wait to tell us, you can tell your counselor. Be honest and ask for what you need.
(3) Clean-up is part of camp. You do it every day. We expect you to participate.
(4) There are many new things at camp, and you may not like them all or be as good at some as you are at others. We expect you to try!
(4) Go about making a new friend or two. If you are timid about meeting someone new, ask about what they like and be a good listener.
(5) Not everyone has to be your friend, and you don’t have to be everyone else’s friend. If you have one or two good friends at camp, that’s great!
(6) Have fun and tell us all about it in your first letter home.

So, good luck and congratulations on giving your child the “gift” of growing up! It will serve them for years to come.

6/5/21 Email: 6 Tips to Prepare for Camp & Teen Leadership Sign-Up

Dear Friends:

We hope your camp preparation is going well! Please see below for a fun article with some tips about preparing for camp. This one comes from a retired camp director named Jamie Lake. Before getting to Jamie’s article, a few quick reminders:

  1. Domestic Campers/COVID Testing: Unless your camper is vaccinated, please schedule the telehealth visit mentioned in our May 16th email to set up your at-home COVID test. Vaccinated campers do not need to be tested.
  2. International Campers/COVID Testing: Please arrange a PCR test before departure. The telehealth visit is only for domestic campers.
  3. Parent Handbook: For our packing list, arrival schedule, and other details about preparing for camp, please see here.
  4. Teen Leadership Sign-Up: Our teen leadership sign-up form is now live in CampInTouch for every family with a rising 10th-12th grader.

As a reminder, to see all our pre-camp preparation emails, please visit this link. And see below for this week’s article!

* * *
Six Insider Tips to Prepare Your Child for Overnight Camp
By Jamie Lake (appeared in Kveller)

My camp duffel bags are 30 years old.* This is the first time since 1986 that they will not make the trek with me from Chicago to Wisconsin for a summer filled with outdoor adventure and friendship. As a life-long camper and now retired camp director, I have enough experience to write a doctoral dissertation on how to prepare your child for the essential Jewish-American tradition: going to overnight camp. Instead of boring you with endless suggestions, I’ll share some tried and true advice.
1. Shop, label, and pack with your child. Gathering items and labeling them with your child’s name, especially for the first timer, can be a lot of work. Doing this together sets the stage for the camp experience where your child will be responsible for her belongings. Kids should know what they are bringing with them, and parents can keep an eye on making sure that unnecessary or banned items don’t end up in your child’s luggage. [As a reminder, see our Parent Handbook for Camp Zeke’s packing list.]
2. Be smarter than the packing list. Camp directors spend years creating and reworking the camp’s packing list, but this list is designed for a generic camper, not your camper. You’ll want to follow the packing list recommendations, but you also don’t want to send unnecessary things. For example, if your daughter hates wearing sandals, don’t send her to camp with sandals even if they’re on the packing list. (This logic should not be applied to toothbrushes, soap, or shampoo no matter how much your child may dislike using them!) Also, resist the Jewish parent urge to go way beyond what is recommended on the packing list. Your child will have limited space to keep all of her belongings. I promise that once she gets to camp, she won’t need every gimmicky camp accessory or 10 extra t-shirts.
3. Talk about camp, but avoid the scary-funny stuff. Keep in mind that the funny memories you have about mishaps from your days as a camper may only be funny because of the time that has passed since the experiences. You want to avoid mentioning that one time a bat flew into your cabin… Instead, focus on neutral memories, talk about what they are looking forward to, check out the photos on the camp’s website, or watch the camp’s promotional video together. [Read guidance provided by camp about how to get past the pre-camp jitters. It’s totally normal for kids to be nervous before camp!]
4. Practice, practice, practice. I hope that one of the reasons you are sending your child to camp is to help them gain independence and a sense of personal responsibility. Begin now by having your soon-to-be camper manage their own hygiene routines (teeth brushing, showering, hair brushing), keeping track of their things, and making their bed with minimal reminders. These are skills that kids will use at camp, and you won’t be there to keep on them. Your child’s counselors will provide gentle reminders, but they will really appreciate a camper who is ready to do these things without much prodding. [Also, critically, please make sure that your campers are prepared to apply sunscreen every day and check themselves for ticks every day. We will have signs and reminders around camp, but campers need to be taught the importance of this from home.]
5. Manage expectations. This can take on many forms in the weeks leading up to camp. Camp is an unbelievable experience, but similar to home, it is not always perfect. It’s OK to be honest about this with your child. The same idea applies to homesickness. Missing home is a normal part of being away from home, and it doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun at camp. In both scenarios, what’s most important is that you discuss with your child who they can talk to at camp if they are having a bad day or are really missing your dog. Kids should know that the adults at camp [Camp Zeke’s counselors, unit heads, nurses, camper care specialists, and directors] are there to help them problem solve.
6. Do not make The Promise. With the best of intentions, many parents tell their campers that they will come get them if they are not happy. This is the worst thing you can tell a camper. First, the statement sends the message to your child that you don’t believe in her ability to succeed at camp. Second, it sets up unrealistic and low expectations about camp. These feelings often leave campers to take the easy way out if they are ever sad at camp instead of working through the issues and gaining independence.
The camp experience begins long before your camper arrives at camp. These suggestions will help set them up for success and, hopefully, lay the foundation for them to be become life-long campers, too.
*Note: Do not expect your duffel bags to last as long as mine. I think this is a case of, “they don’t make things like they used to.”

5/27/21 Email: International & Domestic Flights: Packing Sheets, Towels, Pillows, and Blankets

Dear Friends:

We have received a few questions about this, so we wanted to send a quick email. For those of you flying to camp, we will provide sheets, blankets, pillows, and towels. You do not need to worry about packing those things. We will have them for your campers upon arrival. 

5/27/21 Email: Pre-Camp Conversation Topics (& Horses Sign-Up!)

Dear Friends:

Many of you might be thinking about the best way to prepare your campers for their upcoming adventure. To help with this, we wanted to share an article by Bob Ditter, a renowned child development expert who has focused his career on the benefits of camp. Please see below for some conversations that you can have with your campers in the weeks leading up to opening day.

Before getting to Bob’s advice, please a few quick housekeeping matters:

  1. Horses: We’ve finalized details of our optional horseback riding program. We partner with a local riding school that brings horses to camp, so this is our only program with a separate charge. The cost is $650 for six blocks of riding per three week session. The sign-up form is now live on CampInTouch
  2. COVID Vaccination/Testing: We strongly encourage every eligible camper and their entire household to receive the COVID-19 vaccine before camp. Unless your camper is vaccinated, please schedule the telehealth visit mentioned in our May 16th email to set up your at-home COVID test. Vaccinated campers do not need to be tested.
  3. Parent Handbook: For our packing list, arrival schedule, and other details about preparing for camp, please see here.

As a reminder, to see all our pre-camp preparation emails, please visit this link.

Talking About Camp
by Bob Ditter

Sending your child away to camp is a major milestone for most families, one that is often marked by excitement, anticipation and perhaps even some anxiety. Though camp is certainly about making friends and having fun, it is also about being on your own and being a part of a community.

One of the most important things you as a parent can do to help prepare your child for both these aspects of camp is to talk with your child about it before they go. In fact, it may be better to have several occasional, shorter talks rather than one long conversation…. Children usually do better with this sort of conversation if it is part of a more general discussion, either at the dinner table or, for example, while riding in the car doing errands.

The following are some sample topics for discussion that will help prepare your child emotionally for their big adventure at camp:

Friends. Camp is not anything if it is not about making new friends. If you are shy about meeting new kids, then learn to get to know others by being a good listener. Ask questions. Share what you have. Join in. Remember also that not everyone in your bunk has to be your friend, and you don’t have to be everyone else’s friend. As long as you treat others with respect and they do the same with you, then having one or two friends at camp is fine. Of course, if you have more, that’s great!

Respect. No matter how you feel about anyone else — your counselors or other kids in your group — I expect you to treat people with respect. If you are angry, upset or disagree, there is a respectful way to express it.

Activities. There are many exciting things to do at camp, many of which you may never have tried before. (If your child is tending to be a bit homesick or worried about being homesick, remind them what it was they were excited about doing at camp when they first thought about going there.) You may not like all the activities or you may be better at some than others. That’s normal. I, however, expect you to try. The more you put into camp, the more you will get out of it!

Cooperating. You, like every other camper there, will be part of a bunk. As your parent I expect you to cooperate with others and help out. That’s part of what makes camp so special — kids helping each other out. Most kids will help you if you are friendly and help them.

Give yourself time. One thing about camp is that almost everything is new — the kids; the activities; the routines; the bed you sleep in; the bathrooms; the food and more. It takes a few days to get adjusted, so be patient with yourself. Most of the time you will be having so much fun you won’t mind all the changes, but if you do, remember that you will get so used to things that by the time you come home you will miss them all!

Getting help. Everyone has good days and bad days. If you are having a problem, your counselor is there to help you! You don’t have to wait to tell us if you are upset about something. After all, if your counselor doesn’t know what might be troubling you, they can’t help you. Be honest and ask for what you need… [And remember, if a counselor can’t help with something, campers can always come to any adult in camp, including of course, Lisa and Isaac!] 

Helping out. Camp is about fun, but it also requires that you help out. Clean-up is part of camp. You do it every day! As your parent I expect you to cooperate. 

Being positive. A great thing to remind your first time camper about is what his or her strong points are. I would focus not just on what they do well, but their positive qualities, such as what makes them a good friend or the type of person other kids would want to know. Helping children identify their strengths can help them when they are having a set back — one of those inevitable growing pains all children have from time to time.

Gratitude. A lot of people have worked hard to make sure you have a good time at camp. Your counselors, the people in the dining hall, the maintenance staff, the health staff — they all work hard so you can have fun. Be grateful for what others do for you.

Talking with your child about these kinds of issues is a great way to support them as they get ready take this important step on the road to being more resilient and self-reliant. For you as a parent it can give you more peace of mind as you allow your child to participate safely in a broader world — a world introduced to them in part by camp!

5/16/21 Email: Arrival Schedule, COVID Vaccines & More

Dear Friends:

We hope you are doing well! Please note that some of our staff are out of the office for Shavuot on Monday and Tuesday, so email responses will be delayed on those days. If a question can wait until Wednesday and onwards, that would be great. 

Camper Drop-Off and Pick-Up Schedule
This summer, campers will be dropped off and picked up from camp by their parents. Please see this link for the arrival day schedule and other important details. For campers flying to camp, please contact Rachel ( with any questions (after Wednesday please–she is out of the office on Monday and Tuesday for Shavuot).

COVID Vaccinations
Now that the CDC has authorized the COVID vaccine for 12-15 year-olds, we strongly encourage every eligible camper and their entire household to receive the COVID vaccine. Vaccinated campers will not need to take a PCR test before camp, a rapid test upon arrival, or a PCR test five days into camp. They will also help keep themselves and our entire community safer. If your camper is vaccinated, you do not need to schedule the telehealth visit mentioned in our May 16th email. To be considered fully vaccinated for COVID by first session, campers need to have their first dose as soon as possible and their second by June 14th.

Medical Forms & Vaccination Records Due May 20th
The Parent Handbook has all the information you need to prepare for camp. As it explains, medical forms and vaccination records are due by Thursday, May 20th. While the COVID vaccine is strongly encouraged, please note that we require all other vaccinations on the schedule recommended by the American Association of Pediatrics.

COVID Safety Plan
As a reminder, please see this link for our COVID Safety Plan.

Now for a Couple Small but Fun Updates…
Starting on Monday, we are installing hot-water-on-demand throughout camp. This means that our campers will be able to take showers of unlimited length without worrying about hot water tanks running out of water! The only question is whether this takes away from the authenticity of the camp experience??

On the note of hot water, we also just installed a massive brand new water heater on our pool, which will be roughly 80 degrees all summer. 

Finally, our facilities team installed a soccer field with a track around it, which we’re debuting this summer. They are also putting the finishing touches on a brand new baseball field. So we will have lots more outdoor space for our popular sports programs. We can’t wait!   

Prior Emails
You can see all our prior emails about preparing for camp at this link. We hope you have a great week!

Happy Shavuot!
The Camp Zeke Team

5/11/21 Email: Scheduling COVID Test Before Camp

As a quick reminder, please review the Parent Handbook on our website at this link. This has all the information you need to prepare for camp. Note that medical forms and vaccination records are due by Monday, May 20th. Also, you can find all our camp preparation emails at this link
This summer, every camper will receive a PCR test from home and a rapid antigen test upon arrival to camp. We partnered with Diligent Urgent Care to conduct all testing. The first step, which must be done now, is for each family to schedule a telemedicine appointment. This goes through your insurance and there are no copays. Please do the following:

1. Call Diligent Urgent Care to schedule a virtual telemedicine appointment at 201-834-8887 or just click herePlease identify yourself as a Camp Zeke camper and have your insurance information ready. 
2. The deadline for the appointment is June 15th for campers arriving on June 28th and July 7th for campers arriving on July 20th.
3. You will receive an email or text on your appointment day with a video call link. A parent/guardian must be present. The appointment will take 5 minutes. On the video call, please say again that you are required to have: (1) an at-home PCR test, and (2) a rapid antigen test upon arrival to Camp Zeke. 
4. The PCR test will be shipped to you following your telemedicine appointment. It test must be mailed back by June 22nd for campers arriving on June 28th and July 14th for campers arriving on July 20th. Please call 201-834-8887 if you don’t receive the test within 10 days of your arrival date.
4. Please complete this form and bring it with you on opening day of camp.

For International Families Only:

This summer, every camper must arrive to camp with evidence of: (1) a PCR test taken from home in the four days prior to arrival; OR (2) a COVID vaccine with the second dose received two weeks before arrival. Every unvaccinated camper will be tested again with a rapid antigen test upon arrival to camp.  

Please make arrangements to have your campers tested or vaccinated so you will be able to provide the necessary documentation on opening day of camp. Please feel free to contact us with any questions.

Warmest regards,
The Camp Zeke Team

5/4/21 Email: Café Zeke: Food at Camp!

Dear Friends:

As you prepare for camp, we like to send emails with advice and details about the camp experience. This one is all about food at camp! Before getting there, a couple quick reminders:

Medical Forms & Vaccination Records Due May 20th
As a reminder, the Parent Handbook has all the information you need to prepare for camp. As it explains, medical forms and vaccination records are due by Monday, May 20th.

Who Should I Contact with Questions?
If you have questions about preparing for camp (forms, packing, etc.), please contact Rachel at or 212-913-9783. If you have questions about billing, please contact Elliot at or 212-913-9783. 

Without Further Ado…
Camp Zeke is all about food. We might be a little biased, but we look forward to meals at Café Zeke all year long. As you know, we think that delicious meals start with locally-sourced ingredients, so we stay away from processed foods, preservatives, and ingredients we can’t pronounce. Our chefs make each day’s meals from scratch using fresh, nutritious ingredients that result in delicious food that is good for our bodies.

So what can I expect my camper to eat in a typical day? 

At breakfast, there’s a hot main course that rotates every day, including things like scrambled eggs, waffles, pancakes, French toast, etc. We also have a cereal station with different cereal options, an oatmeal station with a variety of toppings, and a huge cold bar with fruit, yogurt, breads, cheeses, and lots of similar items.

At lunch and dinner, there are main courses such as pizza made from scratch, chicken wings from a local farm, burritos rolled in our kitchen, and similar dishes. And no matter what we serve, there’s also a backup option in case a camper doesn’t like the primary option (it rotates between rice bowls, pasta bowls, and a baked potato bar). In addition, we have a huge salad bar with fresh vegetables, pre-made salads, and all sorts of toppings, and at both lunch and dinner, we also have a soup station with various fresh-baked breads.

Besides the meals, we have three snacks a day and a canteen that includes a smoothie bar, trail mix, granola bars, and similar delicious and healthy snacks. There are also bottomless fruit bowls always available in the dining room. Of course, if you take Culinary Arts, you always get to try what you make. 🙂

If your camper has special food needs that you haven’t already spoken to us about, whether it’s an allergy or general pickiness, just reply to this email and let us know. We are happy to accommodate allergies and special food needs. We actually have a dedicated team of chefs who work in a separate kitchen and are solely focused on creating meals for campers who are gluten free, have allergies, are vegan/vegetarian, or need any other food accommodations.

Anyway, we’re getting hungry, so we’re off to get a snack! Read more about food at camp.

Warmest regards,
The Camp Zeke Team

4/26/21 Email: Making Way for a Formative Experience

Dear Friends:

In the lead-up to camp, we like to pass along resources to help your camper prepare for a successful summer full of happiness, deep friendships, and personal growth. Right around this time of year, as the weather gets a little warmer and families start really thinking about camp, both new and returning campers can feel some pre-camp jitters.

That’s totally normal! We wanted to share some advice from the Child Mind Institute about preparing your campers for the experience. Please read on for the Institute’s insight. Before getting there, a few quick reminders:

Medical Forms Due by May 20th
Please review the Parent Handbook on our website at this link. This has all the information you need to prepare for an amazing camp experience. Please note that the medical forms are due by Monday, May 20th. Also, to understand our COVID protocols, please visit this link.

Who Should I Contact with Questions?
If you have questions about preparing for camp (including questions about medical forms, transportation, the packing list, etc.), please contact Rachel Pineles at or 212-913-9783. (Please note: We do encourage each family to read the Parent Handbook first. It has many answers.)  

If you have questions about billing, deposits and financials, please contact Elliot Shriner-Cahn at or 212-913-9783. 

Warmest regards,
The Camp Zeke Team

* * *

Clearing the Fear to Make Way for a Formative Experience
Adapted from Child Mind Institute

Portraits of summer camp showcase sun-splashed kids playing sports, swimming, and getting freckles. Not pictured is any sign of anxiety, a totally natural reaction to a new adventure and a several-week separation. All kids experience a mixture of excitement and nervousness when summer camp approaches.

Of course, getting past these initial jitters is part of the value of the camp experience. Indeed, summer camps hone many skills that are useful for future success. These include resilience, self-reliance, social adaptability, and of course, the ability to overcome jitters before an important and valuable life event. The camp experience — being away from home among peers — also helps kids develop social skills, separate in a healthy way from parents, cultivate independence, and build confidence.  

The key to helping your camper get over the pre-camp jitters is to acknowledge their feelings and give them tools to tame those feelings, thus making room for the life-changing, skill-building experience they’re about to have:

1) Let your child feel a sense of ownership over the experience. Familiarize them with the camp environment by looking at pictures and reviewing the online map of camp, and teach them about the camp’s activities so they can formulate expectations.

2) Help your child get excited about camp: Take them shopping for new gear and focus them on fun things about camp that they can look forward to.

3) Avoid focusing on what makes kids anxious. Instead of asking leading questions like, “Are you nervous about making friends?” ask open-ended questions like, “How are you feeling about making friends?”

4) Don’t trivialize their concerns or offer glib reassurances. “There’s nothing to worry about!” or “Everyone loves camp!” may discourage your child. Instead, show that you have empathy and acknowledge their concerns.

5) Focus on concrete details in conversations leading up to camp. Avoid abstract issues like what it’s like to be away from home, and focus instead on cabin details (like the air-conditioning and private bathrooms!), song-filled meals in the dining room, lifelong friendships people make at camp, and warm nighttime campfires.

6) Reflect on your own formative experiences away from home and share positive aspects of them with your camper. Show that you are willing to talk about the new things they’ll be doing, whether it’s eating new food, sleeping in a bunk bed, getting along with cabin-mates, or even cleaning their own area and folding their clothes!

7) Go through “rehearsals.” A shorter-term sleepover or a night at Grandma’s will make it easier for your child to be away from home.

8) Don’t linger at the drop-off. Keep the goodbyes short and sweet. When you drop off your camper, stay upbeat and excited for them. If you are upbeat and excited, your camper will be too.

9) Make communication easy and accessible: Pack envelopes and stamps, and make sure your child understands how easy it will be to write to you.

10) Have goals for each letter, so your child will come away focused on how she is adjusting, rather than on how much she wants to come home. For example, in the first letter from your camper, the goal might be to make one friend within the first two or three days of camp. When you write initial letters to camp, you can stress that it’s normal for the first couple days to feel hard (and for that reason, don’t be too upset if you get a sad letter in the first few days of camp, which is an adjustment period). 

11) Try not to communicate your own anxiety; your child can pick up on your feelings even if you don’t verbalize them. What you want to share is your confidence in your child and the summer experience.

12) Help your child formulate realistic, goal-oriented plans for making friends or toasting the perfect marshmallow or passing a swimming test. The thrill of completing these plans can give your child a feeling of success and take their mind off of the jitters.

13) Make sure the staff and counselors know anything they need to know about your camper to head off problems and maximize the experience. Does your camper wet the bed? Are they anxious about water? And let your child know that counselors and the rest of the staff are there to support them, whether they have a simple question or a larger need.

And remember that the cost of a good camp covers more than the arts and crafts: It includes a team of professionals and counselors committed to fostering social learning in your child. [At Camp Zeke, we call this group our Camper Care Team. It includes a team of teachers, parents, nurses, doctors, and other caring adults who monitor the campers throughout the summer to make sure everyone is adjusting well and thriving in the camp community.]

Summer camp is a unique situation where your child engages with a large community of peers and learns how to interact socially in a less-structured environment than school. This is a time for kids to actively make decisions for themselves and develop a sense of self-reliance. Though you may be concerned and wish to intervene, your supportiveness will give your child room to take ownership over the experience themselves. And that’s what leads to the tremendous growth that kids experience at camp.