Author: Admin_123

Can non-Jewish campers attend Camp Zeke?

Can non-Jewish campers attend Camp Zeke?

We welcome everybody with open arms, regardless of whether a family is Jewish. Our goal is to create a joyful community that’s based on universal values including kindness, welcoming new members of the community, and inclusion. We look at these values through a Jewish lens, but camp is a totally comfortable environment for a camper of any background.

Many of our campers don’t do anything “Jewish” at home, and come to camp for the cultural connection to Judaism. We also have many families with one Jewish parent and one non-Jewish parent, whose kids go to church on some holidays and temple on others. We also welcome non-Jewish campers and staff, who have a wonderful experience at camp.

As long as a camper is comfortable in a Jewish community, they will do great in the camp community regardless of their religion.

In a typical summer, roughly half our staff aren’t Jewish, 20% of our families have at least one non-Jewish parent, and a few campers have no connection to Judaism at home but just appreciate the values and community of camp.

2022 Emails to Enrolled Families

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

6/22/22 Email: Preparing for Camp: Six Insider Tips to Prepare Your Camper – Seventh Installment

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, one a quick reminder:

Diligent, our COVID testing company that will be administering camper PCR tests on arrival day, requires all families to submit an intake profile form. Currently, many of our families have not completed this form. (HUGE thank you to those who have!) In order to better streamline the arrival day procedure, the Camp Zeke admin team will be creating profiles for those families, and you will receive an email from Diligent confirming that your profile was created. Please look out for those emails and ensure you provide Diligent with your driver’s license and health insurance card. If you do so in advance, your intake process on opening day will be a lot quicker. If you wait, please remember to bring your license and insurance card to camp when dropping off your camper(s). 

Now to the fun stuff!

* * *
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- page 10.]

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.”

See you soon!
The Camp Zeke team

6/8/22 Email: Preparing for Camp: Pre-Camp Conversation Topics – Sixth Installment

Dear friends:

With camp around the corner, 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. Before getting to Mr. Ditter’s advice, a couple quick reminders:

COVID Testing
Just in case you missed it, our last email was all about testing. (You can click here to see all our prior advice and guidance emails.) Here are the key action items from the testing email:

  1. Fill out Diligent Urgent Care’s online form (here are the instructions).
  2. Complete Diligent Urgent Care’s consent form and bring it with you on opening day.
  3. Take your camper for a PCR test three days before camp and bring the result with you on opening day. This must be a PCR test — not a rapid test taken from home.

Also, please note that testing at camp this summer will be run through your insurance by our testing provider, Diligent Urgent Care. If insurance doesn’t cover a particular test, then it will be the family’s responsibility to pay Diligent for the testing cost ($50 per test).

What Should We Pack?
Our parent handbook has all the details about preparing for an amazing camp experience. It includes a packing list, information about medical forms, transportation details, and everything else you need to know to get ready for the experience. Click here if you just want to see the packing list. Don’t forget to bring two sturdy refillable water bottles (the most commonly lost item at camp)!

* * *
Please see below for some conversations that you can have with your campers in the weeks leading up to opening day. If you have any questions as you prepare for the summer, don’t hesitate to be in touch! We’re always here for you.

Sunny regards,
The Camp Zeke Team

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 their unit head or any member of the Camper Care Team.]

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!

 

5/31/22 Email: Preparing for Camp: All About COVID (Parent Action Needed) — Fifth Installment

Dear friends:

As we have written before, we know that everyone is a bit “COVID tired.” We are no different! Our biggest hope is to have the most normal summer possible while ensuring a safe environment for our campers and staff, and complying with all relevant public health guidance. This makes for a careful balancing act.

Our most important job (and highest priority in every element of camp planning) is to keep our camp family safe. But unlike a family of 4 or 5, we have a family of 550! And unlike school, those 550 people live together in one big community. This means that we have to be very thoughtful and intentional about how we approach COVID safety planning.

Among the most important components of our COVID safety plan are testing combined with a pod system during the first five days of camp. By doing everything possible to establish a “bubble,” we can hopefully enable a summer that feels as normal as possible.

In this email, we have three sections: (1) an overview of our testing protocols (some of which will go through camper insurance); (2) a discussion of what happens if a camper tests positive for COVID (which is entirely possible based on current COVID rates); and (3) three “to-dos” that each parent/camper must complete. Please see below for more details. Also, please note that as CDC guidelines evolve and the state of COVID changes, our COVID plan may also change.

I. COVID TESTING

Camper Insurance for COVID Testing
We are working with the same testing company as last summer, Diligent Urgent Care, to administer PCR tests to campers.

Due to changes in government funding of PCR tests, Diligent will run this summer’s PCR tests through each camper’s insurance. If insurance does not cover the cost of a particular camper’s PCR test, then the family will be billed directly by Diligent at $50 per test.

There will be two screening tests in the first week of camp. Of course, if a camper in a particular pod tests positive, then that pod will have more than two screening tests. Diligent is hopeful that insurance will cover the cost of tests, but it’s possible that some insurance providers will not. In this case, the family will be responsible for the cost.

Pre-Camp COVID Testing 
Every family will need to arrange for their camper to take a PCR test from home three days before camp starts. Camp requires a negative PCR test (not a rapid antigen test) before entering the facility. Please make arrangements now to have your camper tested at a local medical office before camp.

Please note that there are important differences between PCR tests and rapid antigen tests. The pre-camp test done from home must be a PCR test. Any test that you can purchase and take from home will not qualify.

Opening Day Testing/Day Five Testing
Every camper will receive a rapid test and second PCR test upon arrival to camp. Each bunk will be a pod during the first five days of camp (just like in 2021). On day five of camp, we will administer a third PCR test to every camper and staff member. Assuming all results come back negative, our pods will expand.

Explaining the Testing Schedule
We have deliberated extensively with our team of doctors and public health consultants regarding this particular cadence of testing. Here is the rationale: Everybody will take a PCR test from home three days before camp starts. The only reason this test is three days before camp is so that we can have results back by opening day. Of course, a camper could contract COVID in the window between being tested from home and coming to camp.

This is why campers will then take a rapid test and PCR test upon arrival to camp. The rapid test upon arrival will give an immediate result, but rapid tests aren’t as sensitive as PCR tests and can give false negatives. The simultaneous PCR test will only give us a result the next day, but it will be a much more accurate result than the opening day rapid test.

The goal of the opening day testing is to screen out any cases of COVID that might have developed in the three days before opening day. We will then administer a final PCR test on day five of camp. This will be our final assurance that there is (hopefully) no COVID in camp. If we have all negative results back from that day five test, which is certainly our hope, then we will expand our pods and camp will feel like pre-Covid times (with a little extra hand sanitizer!).

II. A REALISTIC ASSESSMENT OF COVID RATES     

COVID Rates in May of 2022
Heading into the summer of 2022, COVID rates among kids are significantly higher than they were at this same time last year. As one of our COVID consultants, Dr. Laura Blaisdell, recently wrote in a May 23rd 2022 article for the American Camp Association: “Last week the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reported 93,000 childhood cases of COVID-19 compared to the 9,000 reported last year at this time.”

A Bubble with Pods
We have an extensive safety plan to create a bubble in camp. Our staff will be staying on site for their time off, our campers will be tested before arriving and on opening day, and each bunk will be its own pod pending the day five COVID test. Our hope is to establish a bubble in camp.

However, we know that testing isn’t flawless and can miss positive cases. We also know that current COVID rates are very high. That means that it’s entirely possible that COVID will make its way into camp this summer.

So What Happens If A Camper Tests Positive?
If a camper tests positive from home, then they will stay home until they test negative. If a camper tests positive on opening day, then the camper will go home before coming into camp. Every camper who enters camp will have tested negative on a PCR test from home and negative on a rapid test on opening day.

While this is a promising start, testing is not flawless. This is why, during the first week of camp, each bunk will be its own pod. If everyone tests negative on day five, then it suggests that we successfully established our bubble. That means pods can expand and camp will feel much more like any other typical summer.

Things get a little trickier if a camper tests negative from home and negative on the opening day rapid test but positive on the day one PCR test or day five PCR test. Indeed, we had this very experience in the summer of 2021: We have seen that a camper can test negative from home, negative on opening day, and positive on day five. That’s why we have our pod system pending the day five negative test.

If we have a positive case in a particular bunk, then our medical team and public health consultants will determine the appropriate outcome based on their medical judgment and CDC guidance. Subject to their approval and discretion, here is the most likely outcome:

The positive camper will be moved to separate housing, together with any other campers who test positive, for the CDC isolation period which is currently five days. The positive group can hang out together and have fun, but they will be isolated from the rest of camp. The rest of the positive camper’s bunk will likely quarantine together in camp, do activities together, and stay as a pod for the CDC quarantine period which is currently five days.

Of course, there’s always a chance that we will need to ask the positive camper and that camper’s close contacts to go home, but we are hoping that won’t be necessary. Our current plan is to allow an in camp isolation/quarantine period in the event of a positive result.

III. SO… WHAT DO PARENTS NEED TO DO NOW?

  1. Fill out Diligent Urgent Care’s online form: https://patientportal.advancedmd.com/140599/onlineintake
    This is necessary for all in-camp testing. This document explains exactly how to complete the form.  Please note that insurance information must be provided. If this is omitted, someone from Diligent Urgent Care will be in touch with you.
  2. Complete Diligent Urgent Care’s consent form and bring it with you on opening day. All campers must have a consent form completed in order to be tested. For your convenience, all of these documents are also available on your CampInTouch account.
  3. Take your camper for a PCR test three days before camp and bring the result with you on opening day. Every camper will need to show proof of a negative PCR test before entering camp. This must be a PCR test, not a rapid test taken from home.

* * *
To see many more details about our COVID safety plan, please visit this webpage (the page will be continually updated between now and camp). As always, don’t hesitate to be in touch with any question at all.

Thanks a lot,
The Camp Zeke Team

 

5/25/22 Email: Preparing for Camp: Fourth Installment

Dear Friends:

In the lead-up to camp, we like to pass along resources to help you and your camper prepare for a successful summer full of happiness, deep friendships, and personal growth. This week’s email is all about logistics. We’ll go back to the fun stuff in the next one.

To read all the prior emails in our series of pre-camp advice and guidance, please see this link. We’ll update that link every time we send an email like this one.

Horseback Riding Form
The horseback riding form is now live on CampInTouch. A number of years ago, we partnered with one of our neighbors — a professional, family-owned riding school in beautiful Waymart, PA called Happy Trails Riding Center. Campers will be escorted by camp staff to the riding school with appropriate COVID protocols in place. Our horseback riding program will include four lessons of 1.5 hours each (a 30 minute individual lesson and 1 hour trail ride) per session. Because this program is run through an outside school, it is the only camp program with a separate cost. As noted on the form, the cost of the program is $650.

Teen Leadership Form
Our Teen Leadership program is a totally optional program for teens who are excited about taking on a leadership role in camp, mentoring campers, and planning/executing programs. Teen Leaders will be able to earn community service hours for successful completion of the program. The Teen Leadership program is open to rising 10th to 12th graders who are not in the CIT Program or Junior Counselor Program. If your camper would like to participate in the Teen Leadership program, please complete the Teen Leadership form now available on CampInTouch.

A Request from Our Camper Care Team
For returning campers (especially our countless multi-year returners), please update the pictures of your campers on CampInTouch. This enables our Camper Care Team to memorize names of the campers in their units before camp even starts. That task becomes far more challenging when the picture we have on file is from 2015! Although we deeply appreciate that so many of you have been with camp for so long. 🙂

Pre-Camp COVID Testing
Please note that every family will need to arrange for their camper to take a PCR test at a local facility three days before their session starts. Camp requires a negative PCR test (not a rapid antigen test) before entering the facility.

Camper Pickup/Dropoff Schedule
Due to our COVID safety plan, this summer, campers will be dropped off and picked up from camp by their parents. Please click here for the schedule. If you are flying to camp, please contact Rachel to arrange an airport pickup by emailing rachel@campzeke.org or calling 212-913-9783. We will send a more detailed email about COVID safety and camp’s approach in the coming weeks.

How Do We Prepare for Camp?
The starting point is reading the Parent Handbook, which has all the essential details about getting ready for the experience. Of course, once you review the handbook, if you have any questions at all about preparing for camp we’re glad to help every step of the way!

For questions about medical forms, transportation, and the packing list, please contact Rachel at rachel@campzeke.org or 212-913-9783. For questions about billing, deposits and financials, please contact our registrar, Barbara Lichter, at barbara@campzeke.org or 212-913-9783.

* * *
Our next email will have fewer logistics and more fun advice, so stay tuned! Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions.

Warm regards,
Andrew, Elliot, Isaac, Laurie, Lisa, Matt, and Rachel (see our bios here)

 

5/16/22 Email: Preparing for Camp: Third Installment

Dear Friends:

In the lead-up to camp, we like to pass along resources to help you and your camper prepare for a successful summer full of happiness, deep friendships, and personal growth. Before we get to the latest advice, please see below for a few housekeeping reminders:

Pre-Camp COVID Testing
Please note that every family will need to arrange for their camper to take a PCR test at a local facility three days before camp starts. Camp requires a negative PCR test result before entering the facility. Please note that this must be specifically a PCR test, not a rapid antigen test. Following a negative PCR test result from home, camp will administer a rapid antigen test during opening day screening.

Medical Forms Due by May 20th
Please review the Parent Handbook on our website at this link. The handbook explains how to access the medical forms on CampInTouch. Please note that medical forms are due by Friday of this week (May 20th).

Also, if your camper will be taking medications at camp, please submit your medical forms to J Drugs as soon as possible. All medications must be pre-packed by JDrugs and mailed to camp. The form is on CampInTouch at the link above.

How Do We Prepare for Camp?
The starting point is reading the Parent Handbook, which has all the essential details about getting ready for the experience. Of course, once you review the handbook, if you have any questions at all about preparing for camp we’re glad to help every step of the way!

For questions about medical forms, transportation, and the packing list, please contact Rachel at rachel@campzeke.org or 212-913-9783. For questions about billing, deposits and financials, please contact our registrar, Barbara Lichter, at barbara@campzeke.org or 212-913-9783.

Prior Advice/Guidance Emails
To read all the prior emails in our series of pre-camp advice and guidance (just one email so far), please see this link. You can also find details there about arrival day and drop-off times. We’ll update that link every time we send an email like this one.

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 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.

* * *
Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions.

Warm regards,
Andrew, Elliot, Isaac, Laurie, Lisa, Matt, and Rachel (see our bios here)

 

4/29/22 Email: Preparing for Camp

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. The handbook explains how to access the medical forms on CampInTouch. Please note that medical forms are due by Friday, May 20th.

How Do We Prepare for Camp?
The starting point is reading the Parent Handbook, which has all the essential details about getting ready for the experience. Of course, once you review the handbook, if you have any questions at all about preparing for camp we’re glad to help every step of the way!

For questions about medical forms, transportation, and the packing list, please contact Rachel at rachel@campzeke.org or 212-913-9783.

For questions about billing, deposits and financials, please contact our registrar, Barbara Lichter, at barbara@campzeke.org or 212-913-9783.

Prior Advice/Guidance Emails
To read all the prior emails in our series of pre-camp advice and guidance (just one email so far), please see this link. You can also find details there about arrival day and drop-off times. We’ll update that link every time we send an email like this one.

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 drop off. Keep the goodbyes short and sweet.

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, and other caring adults. They 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.

* * *
Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions.

 

4/19/22 Email: Parent Handbook 2022!

Dear friends:

We hope you’re having a happy Passover! Around this time of year, we begin sending advice emails and reminders about preparing for camp. To kick things off, we’re pleased to share our 2022 Parent Handbook. We’re especially excited to introduce eLetters this year, which will enable much faster communication with your campers than snail mail! This email also includes the latest updates on our Covid safety planning for 2022. Please read on for more details.

Camper Forms
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 and all other camper forms are due by May 20th. Most forms are for parents to complete. Additionally, every camper will need an annual physical (done within 12 months of camp’s start date) and updated vaccination information prior to camp. If you need to schedule an appointment with your physician, please give yourself enough time.

eLetters
We’re excited to offer a new feature in CampInTouch this summer: eLetters! In addition to parents sending emails to campers like they always have, campers can now send a letter to parents on special paper with a barcode on top that gets scanned and uploaded right to your CampInTouch account. We plan to scan and upload these daily, which means that communication with your campers will be much faster than it has ever been before! All the details can be found in the Parent Handbook (page 13).

Covid
Friends, we know that everyone is a bit “COVID tired.” Our biggest hope is to have the most normal summer possible while ensuring a safe environment for our campers and staff and complying with all relevant public health guidance. This makes for a careful balancing act.

Our most important job and highest priority in every element of camp planning is to keep our camp family safe. But unlike a family of 4 or 5, we have a family of 550! And unlike school, those 550 people live and eat together in one big community. This means that we have to be very thoughtful and intentional about how we approach COVID safety planning. You can see the details of our COVID protocols at this link.

Camper Drop Off and Pick Up
Due to our COVID Safety Plan, this summer campers will be dropped off and picked up from camp by their parents just like in 2021. Please see this link for times and other details.  For campers who will be flying in and requiring a Zeke pickup, please contact Rachel at rachel@campzeke.org or 212-913-9783 for exact instructions.

Who Should I Contact with Questions?
If you have questions about preparing for camp (including questions about medical forms, the packing list, etc.), please contact Rachel at rachel@campzeke.org 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 our registrar, Barbara Lichter, at barbara@campzeke.org or 212-913-9783.

Warmest regards,
The Camp Zeke Team

Explanation About Buses

Buses in the summer of 2022 (updated 3/29/2022)

We are carefully watching the current state of COVID and relevant public health guidance to determine what camp will look like this summer. Our policies currently are based on last summer’s policies because some of the most relevant CDC guidance regarding quarantines and isolation hasn’t fundamentally changed our required response to COVID in camp.

If the CDC’s guidance changes between now and camp, we will revisit our approach and safety plan. To be sure, the plan will likely change between now and opening day, but we won’t know the details until closer to then because it depends so much on federal and state guidance.

Keeping the above in mind, here is our reasoning for not having buses: We’re currently planning to use a pod system for the first week of camp, just like we did last summer. Once we administer a COVID test on day 5 of camp, we’ll open up the pods to multiple bunks.

The pod system has an important goal: If a camper tests positive on day 5, then only their bunk will be impacted. Unfortunately, if we use buses on opening day, then kids from many different pods would be on each bus together. If a single camper on a bus tests positive on day 5, then it would have negative ripple effects across camp and could very well lead to countless kids across camp having to quarantine and/or isolate based on the current CDC guidance. Put simply, it could mean dozens of kids having to go home early, which we’re doing everything possible to avoid. Based on current CDC guidance for quarantine and isolation, we don’t have much latitude in this regard.

So why can’t we offer buses home? If we use buses on closing day, that will take staff members (bus counselors) out of the camp bubble. We need to ensure the integrity of our camp bubble throughout the summer. If staff members accompany campers on buses home after session one, that affects our session two campers. If they accompany campers on buses home after session two, that affects our post-camp retreat groups.

If between now and summer the COVID situation materially changes, then we’ll certainly revisit this policy. For example, if the next dominant strain becomes more transmissible and significantly milder, causing the CDC to change their current quarantine and isolation guidance, then we would certainly consider taking a different approach to bussing.

We also welcome campers who will be in the same bunk to arrange transportation to camp together.

Camper Pick-Up and Drop-Off 2022

Camper Pick-Up and Drop-Off 2022

This summer, campers will be dropped off and picked up from camp by their parents. Please see below for drop-off  and pick-up times. If you are flying to camp, please contact Rachel to arrange an airport pickup by emailing rachel@campzeke.org or calling 212-913-9783.

June 28th Camper Drop-Off

*Campers entering 2nd through 5th grade: Please arrive promptly between 11:00 am and 11:30 am.
*Campers entering 6th grade: Please arrive promptly between 12:00 pm and 12:30 pm.
*Campers entering 7th grade: Please arrive promptly between 1:00 pm and 1:30 pm.
*Campers entering 8th grade: Please arrive promptly between 2:00 pm and 2:30 pm.
*Campers entering 9th grade: Please arrive promptly between 3:00 pm and 3:30 pm.
*Campers entering 10th to 12th grade: Please arrive promptly between 4:00 pm and 4:30 pm.

If you have campers in multiple age groups, please arrive at the pick-up time of the oldest camper.

July 20th Camper Drop-Off

*Campers entering 2nd through 5th grade: Please arrive promptly between 11:00 am and 11:30 am.
*Campers entering 6th grade: Please arrive promptly between 12:00 pm and 12:30 pm.
*Campers entering 7th grade: Please arrive promptly between 1:00 pm and 1:30 pm.
*Campers entering 8th grade: Please arrive promptly between 2:00 pm and 2:30 pm.
*Campers entering 9th grade: Please arrive promptly between 3:00 pm and 3:30 pm.
*Campers entering 10th to 12th grade: Please arrive promptly between 4:00 pm and 4:30 pm.

If you have campers in multiple age groups, please arrive at the drop-off time of the oldest camper.

At drop-off, every person in the car will receive a temperature check and health screening, and every camper will receive a rapid COVID test.

To the extent possible, parents and campers should stay in their car during the screening and testing process. We will have portable restrooms available during this time–distanced from camp. Once the rapid test result is a confirmed negative, the camper will join their counselor and their summer adventure will begin.

During this time, we will organize contactless luggage removal. Parents will be asked to stay in their car and open their trunk while our staff remove the luggage. As we do things during any other summer, unpacking together is our first cabin activity. Counselors will help campers every step of the way.

Since we are establishing a bubble in camp this year, we will not be able to offer camp tours or have parents enter bunks.

July 19th Camper Pick-Up

*Campers entering 2nd through 5th grade: Please arrive promptly between 11:00 am and 11:30 am.
*Campers entering 6th grade: Please arrive promptly between 12:00 pm and 12:30 pm.
*Campers entering 7th grade: Please arrive promptly between 1:00 pm and 1:30 pm.
*Campers entering 8th grade: Please arrive promptly between 2:00 pm and 2:30 pm.
*Campers entering 9th grade: Please arrive promptly between 3:00 pm and 3:30 pm.
*Campers entering 10th to 12th grade: Please arrive promptly between 4:00 pm and 4:30 pm.

If you have campers in multiple age groups, please arrive at the pick-up time of the oldest camper.

July 27th Camper Pick-Up

Pickup for all Taste of Zeke campers will be at 2:00 pm, regardless of their age group.

August 9th Camper Pick-Up

*Campers entering 2nd through 5th grade: Please arrive promptly between 11:00 am and 11:30 am.
*Campers entering 6th grade: Please arrive promptly between 12:00 pm and 12:30 pm.
*Campers entering 7th grade: Please arrive promptly between 1:00 pm and 1:30 pm.
*Campers entering 8th grade: Please arrive promptly between 2:00 pm and 2:30 pm.
*Campers entering 9th grade: Please arrive promptly between 3:00 pm and 3:30 pm.
*Campers entering 10th to 12th grade: Please arrive promptly between 4:00 pm and 4:30 pm.

If you have campers in multiple age groups, please arrive at the pick-up time of the oldest camper.

Campers may only be picked up by their parent or legal guardian, unless the parent or guardian contacts the office in advance to inform us of other arrangements. Please note that you may need a valid photo ID to check out your camper at the bus drop-off or at camp.

Camp Zeke COVID Vaccine (Updated 2/10/2022)

Camp Zeke COVID Vaccine Policy (2/15/2022)

The Camp Zeke community strongly believes in the safety and efficacy of vaccines, masking, testing, distancing between pods, and other important measures that have been scientifically proven to prevent the spread and severity of COVID-19.

For these reasons, Camp Zeke is mandating the COVID vaccine for all staff. In consultation with our medical team and leadership, we are currently assessing whether the COVID vaccine will be mandatory for all campers. For the moment, our existing policy has not changed from the summer of 2021, when we strongly encouraged every camper to be vaccinated for COVID–and, as always, required all other vaccines recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The CDC recommends that everyone eligible get their primary series of COVID-19 vaccines and receive booster doses when eligible. Camp makes the very same recommendation for all campers.

As we get closer to camp, our current policy may remain unchanged or turn to a COVID vaccine mandate. In accordance with our current policy, we strongly encourage every camper to have a timely vaccine and booster. 

What is the timeline for vaccinations/boosters?

Every staff member must be vaccinated and have an up-to-date booster prior to arriving to camp. For international staff with limited vaccine/booster availability at home, we will arrange for a vaccine/booster immediately upon your arrival for staff training. If you have a choice about when to get boosted, please do so as close to the start of staff training as possible so the booster offers maximum protection during the summer.

Likewise, campers should have an up-to-date booster or vaccine prior to arriving to camp, with the booster administered as close to the start of camp as possible to offer maximum protection during the summer. 

What may lead to the current policy for campers becoming a mandate?

We are carefully monitoring the current state of COVID and will continually reassess our safety planning between now and camp. This means, for example, if the COVID situation deteriorates between now and summer, or it becomes clear that the mandate has become an industry standard and best practice, then we will reassess our approach.

What are camp’s other COVID safety measures?

To see details about our COVID safety plan, please visit this webpage.

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: https://campzeke.org/camper-pick-up-and-drop-off-2021/.

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: campzeke.org/current-families/song-sessions/

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 (rachel@campzeke.org) 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 rachel@campzeke.org or 212-913-9783. If you have questions about billing, please contact Elliot at elliot@campzeke.org 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 rachel@campzeke.org 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 elliot@campzeke.org 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.

Making Camp Totally Affordable

Making Camp Affordable for Every Family

At Camp Zeke, we are committed to making sure the camp experience is totally affordable for every family. We want to make it a quick, easy, and confidential process to apply for financial aid. Please see below for details about how the process works. 
 
First, you register for camp at campzeke.org/dates-rates. We take a deposit of $50 for scholarship applicants, and that deposit is totally refundable if our scholarship offer doesn’t work for you.
 
Second, we will ask you to apply for One Happy Camper, which is a Foundation for Jewish Camp program that takes $1,000 off the price of camp. That funding will be in addition to your scholarship. 
 
Third, we will send you our PDF scholarship application, which takes about 10 minutes to complete. Once you send us back the scholarship application, we work on putting a fee reduction in place to ensure camp is totally affordable. 
 
If we cannot come back with a reduced price that works for you, then you can withdraw the camp application with no questions asked (and a full refund of the deposit). However, we always meet our families’ financial needs and will ensure that the scholarship offer works for your family. 
 
To ask a confidential question about our scholarship process, please contact our associate director, Elliot, at 212-913-9783 or elliot@campzeke.org.

Letter for Florida Families

April 2021
 
Dear Florida Families:
 
I hope you are all doing well! As you prepare for camp and start to look into flight options, we wanted to offer a new service: Camp Zeke has established a relationship with a travel agency that will help put all of our Florida families on the same flight. That way, your camper can fly to and from camp with the other campers from Florida who are traveling on the same day.
 
If you are interested in details, please contact Nadia at mytravel@pacbell.net. The name of the travel agency is Family Travel Concierge. Please note that this service is completely optional. 
 
You are also welcome to book your own flight if you prefer. If you choose to book on your own, please book a flight that arrives at Newark International Airport around 12:00 pm on opening day. Our staff will be waiting to welcome your camper inside the airport. Please plan to fly out on the last day of the session around 3:00 pm from Newark International Airport.
 
Whichever option you choose, please send me your flight details so I can coordinate the airport pickup on opening day. If you have any questions, please be in touch!
 
Best,
Rachel
 

Rachel Pineles
Director of New Families &
Director of Operations, Camp Zeke
Summer: Lakewood, PA
Winter: New York, NY
212-913-9783
rachel@campzeke.org

2021 Parent Handbook and Policy Updates


We are pleased to share our 2021 Parent Handbook! This has all the information you need to prepare for camp, so please please give it a close read. The camp forms listed on page 4 of the handbook are now live on CampInTouch. They are due by May 20th. For quick reference, please see below for a few policy updates and reminders: 

COVID Safety Planning
As a reminder, please visit this webpage for our COVID safety plan. We’re working with a company that will mail you an at-home COVID test before camp. No need to go anywhere to take it! We will send more information about this as we get closer to opening day.

Transportation
Due to COVID, we are unable to have campers from multiple bunks mix together on buses to camp. That means campers will need to be driven to camp this summer. Please see here for this summer’s pick-up and drop-off schedule.

For campers who fly to camp, please contact Rachel (rachel@campzeke.org). If you will be flying from Florida, please click here for some additional information.

Phone Calls 
While calls home are motivated by the best of intentions, we have found that hearing a parent’s voice often takes kids out of camp’s happy, self-contained community and leads to homesickness that wouldn’t otherwise occur. Having seen this year after year, we are no longer scheduling calls home. In exceptional circumstances, we can still facilitate phone calls by parent request. 

Screens 
As a reminder, all devices with screens are strictly prohibited, including phones, tablets, kindles, iPods, and handheld game systems. We appreciate your partnership in helping us keep these devices out of camp.

Cameras 
For privacy reasons and to avoid any photography in the bunks, cameras should also stay home. Our photographer will post pictures all summer on CampInTouch and campers will have full access to them after camp. 
 
Packages 
The camp community is about friendships and bonding rather than gifts and physical possessions. We have found that when a camper receives a package of gifts, other campers feel left out and it distracts from the cabin community. For this reason, no packages should be sent to camp. Of course, if your camper needs an essential item, our office will be glad to coordinate with you to ensure they receive it.  

* * *

We can’t wait to have your campers join us again in 2021, and we look forward to another wonderful summer together. Please read the Parent Handbook closely. It explain everything you need as you get ready for camp. Of course, please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions as you prepare for the experience.