FAQs

Group of camper's hands joining in the center

Common questions

Here are common questions about camp’s Jewish program, fitness, cooking, athletics and sports, and gourmet organic food.

We’d love to discuss these questions and any others you might have. Please contact us at questions@campzeke.org or 212-913-9783.

Group of male campers outside their bunks, one boy pulling a funny face directly to camera
  • What do our families say about Camp Zeke?

    Below are some highlights from our Camper Satisfaction Insights survey, which is completed by 8,000 parents from 70 Jewish camps. Our families rated Camp Zeke on a one to five scale. Every result below exceeds the national average – thank you!

    • 99% of our families said they would return to Camp Zeke next summer. (The researchers told us that we had the highest score in the country in this category!)
    • 99% of our families had high “overall satisfaction with this summer.”
    • 99% of our families said their campers had high “overall enjoyment of camp.”
    • 95% of our families gave us top scores for the quality of our cabins. (A full 15 points above the national average!)
    • 94% of our families gave us top scores in the category of “overall cleanliness, adequacy, and quality of facility.” (7 points above the national average.)
    • 97% of our families said that camp “created the feeling that campers are part of something greater.”
    • 99% of our families have immense faith in “the leadership and staff of the camp and the way it was run.”
    • 91% of our families said their kids enjoyed the “variety, quality, and healthfulness of food.” (A full 17 points above the national average!)
  • What are the benefits of joining a newer camp?

    As we head into our fifth summer, kids and teens have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be pioneering campers in our warm, mentor-filled community, and take ownership over the first Jewish camp that celebrates healthy living. Our founding families are forever part of our history.

    Joining a newer camp is really easy for campers. Since we’ve been growing a lot since our first summer, we don’t have long-established friend groups or cliques because so many campers are new. Our campers get to build the community together while making lifelong friendships.

    Although Camp Zeke is a newer entity, the team running the camp has years of experience in the industry. Moreover, as part of the Specialty Camps Incubator, we are backed by four major foundations (Jim Joseph, AVI CHAI, the Foundation for Jewish Camp, and UJA-Federation of New York). Between the four of them, they have committed nearly two million dollars to ensuring Camp Zeke provides a truly remarkable experience to our campers. In addition to this funding, we work hand-in-hand with experts from the Foundation for Jewish Camp, who are oversee every aspect of Camp Zeke’s development. As one of the Foundation’s flagship camps, we aspire to set the standard for best practices in the industry.

  • What is the history of Camp Zeke?

    Camp Zeke was founded thanks to a $1.2 million grant from the Specialty Camps Incubator, a project of the Jim Joseph Foundation, AVI CHAI Foundation, and Foundation for Jewish Camp. We are eternally grateful for their unbelievable generosity!

    Also, thanks to the kindness of the UJA-Federation of New York, we are situated on a truly spectacular site in the Pocono Mountains — complete with a private lake, heated pool, full gym, and upscale cabins! The UJA is also generously funding part of our year-round program, which includes fitness and culinary arts events in Jewish communities all over the country.

  • What are the drawbacks of the one week session?

    The Challenge of One Week

    The appeal of the one week session is also its challenge: It’s just a week!

    By the time a camper becomes fully comfortable in the camp community, the one-week experience is already nearing its conclusion. Here’s what we mean: For all campers, the first day can be a bit awkward. We organize countless ice-breakers and group bonding activities, but campers still arrive without knowing anyone, and they have to take a big step out of their comfort zones to meet new people and establish their first friendships. Of course, learning to overcome challenges is part of the value of camp!

    By the second day of camp, they start to form bonds with their bunkmates and begin learning the camp routines, such as where things are located, the words to camp songs, our many traditions, and the names of their favorite staff members. It’s only by day three or four that kids get into a rhythm and start to feel truly comfortable in their new environment. Just as things become really fun and campers first glimpse the magic of camp, it’s almost time to go home.

    Three Days of Joy for Every One Day of Transition/Packing

    Three week sessions are often harder on parents, but they are much better for campers. When campers stay for a three week session, they spend a much larger percentage of their time being fully immersed in camp. The first days of transition become distant memories that are replaced by deepening friendships, new experiences, “secret” cookie raids, campfires, and lots of camp songs and traditions. The experience is then capped off with color war, lazy day, many of the most popular all-camp programs, and finally, a beautiful, song-filled banquet as a final send-off for the campers. The kids go home at the same time as everyone else, they immediately engage with friends after camp, and the experience lives on after the summer. Campers who stay for a shorter time tend to be among among the only ones to leave early, which can also be an isolating experience for them.

    As one camp expert, Steve Baskin, puts it: “A camper in a one-week session is only fully integrated for a couple days of the seven (roughly one-fourth) versus 15-16 out of 21 (three-fourths) of three week session.” This is why three week campers are more likely to gain the most from camp; they simply have more fully-integrated days of the camp experience. As Baskin explains, “I like for campers to have three days of joy and comfort for every one day of disorientation/packing, which is essentially assured in a three week session.”

  • What’s the most common session length?

    The vast majority of our campers attend a three or six week session. About 40% of our campers stay for the full season.

  • How do you ensure a smooth transition for new campers?

    We do a few things before camp starts to make sure new campers feel totally at home once they arrive to camp. In the lead up to camp, parents of new campers can contact us for an introduction to another camper or two in the same bunk. That way kids will already have a familiar face when they arrive to camp.

    We also encourage new families to attend an orientation at camp, which normally takes place on one of the first Sundays in June. That’s an opportunity to meet new and returning families, get to know some of our amazing staff, and take a guided tour of our 500-acre summer home! We love showing our new families the special spaces where our campers gain fitness and cooking skills, make amazing memories, and form lifelong friendships in a warm, Jewish community.

    By the time campers meet another person in their bunk, meet some staff at the June orientation, and tour camp, they’ll come fully prepared to dive into the experience!

  • Why has Camp Zeke gotten so much coverage?

    The community’s support and enthusiasm for Camp Zeke reflects a widespread feeling that fitness and good nutrition need to be at the forefront of the national Jewish conversation. This is why we see ourselves as much more than just a summer camp. We’re an integral part of the up-and-coming Jewish wellness movement, and we aspire to be a key voice in the national Jewish conversation about healthy living!

  • Is Camp Zeke accredited by the American Camp Association?

    Yes! We are fully accredited by the ACA. This means we meet all the highest standards in the camping industry. Beyond accreditation, when we plan the summer, our primary concern is the safety and well-being every camper and staff member in the community.

  • How does communication work over the summer?

    Every night, we post hundreds of pictures so parents can go online and see their kids in action, and We send home three to four email newsletters a week to explain everything going on in camp. Parents also have a unit head who they can call any time for an update about how their camper is doing, who their camper is making friends with, what they’re eating at meals, etc. Parents can also write letters and send emails into camp as often as they want. We print the emails every morning. Kids can write letters home, and they can also speak to their parents by phone. Before camp starts, we have an line system to schedule calls home. Parents can schedule one call per week. We also have a visiting day on July 21st for the kids who are staying more than three weeks.

  • Tell me about Shabbat

    Shabbat is one of the most fun, joyful days of the week! We have festive Shabbat meals, complete with challah and other special foods made by campers. Before Shabbat begins, we decorate Café Zeke with beautiful artwork that campers created during the prior week. On Friday night and Saturday morning, we have song-filled services with everyone in camp dressed in white and blue.

    On Saturday, the entire camp has a late wake-up, we replace many more physically-challenging electives with more reflective ones, and everybody comes together to appreciate our blessings, strengthen our friendships, and relax before the new week. At the end of Shabbat, we dance and sing in the new week with an all-camp Havdalah service.

  • What does Judaism look like at camp?

    You’ll see our love of Judaism and Israel in everything we do! During meals, we serve many traditional Jewish and Israeli foods, and as part of our culinary arts program, campers prepare these foods in a healthy way. Our fitness options include Krav Maga (Israeli self-defense), Israeli dancing, spirituality on the hiking trail, Torah yoga, and other similarly-inspired activities.  We also have special events about Israeli life and culture, such as Israel parades and Israeli music concerts. The common theme running through Camp Zeke’s program is the Jewish teaching of shmirat ha’guf, or taking care of the body.

    We also hire many Israeli staff members. When they’re not coaching activities like running, yoga, strength training, Krav Maga, and dance, they’re doing things like telling campers about Israel around a campfire or showing kids the guitar chords to classic Israeli folk songs.

    We weave Judaism into our program just as seamlessly as we weave Israel into our program. For example, campers might sign up for a cooking elective in which they’ll throw on aprons and make whole wheat challah with our chef. While putting the finishing touches on their culinary creations, the chef might lead a discussion about how the rules of kashrut, just like the rules of nutrition, dictate what we put into our bodies.

    As you can see in our sample schedule, we don’t have “Jewish period” at camp — that’s because everything we do is Jewish!

  • Is Camp Zeke affiliated with a movement?

    Camp Zeke is pluralistic, egalitarian, and not affiliated with a particular Jewish movement. We know the Jewish community coalesces around healthy living, Israel, love of Jewish culture, and a desire for joyful, meaningful Jewish experiences. By focusing on the things that bring us together, our goal is for kids of varied Jewish backgrounds to feel completely at home!

  • Are interfaith families welcome?

    Absolutely! We welcome interfaith families with open arms. Camp is a joyful Jewish community that’s based on values including kindness, welcoming new members of the community, and inclusion. We recognize that Judaism and Jewish practice mean different things to different families, and we believe that every camper and their unique background contributes invaluably to our camp culture and community.

  • Are campers of all backgrounds comfortable at Zeke?

    Yes! We have a totally even split of campers and staff from every Jewish background — unaffiliated, reform, conservative, reconstructionist, interfaith, and modern orthodox.

  • How about modern orthodox campers?

    Yes! Camp Zeke is a comfortable environment for modern orthodox kids. Our kitchen is kosher, we offer optional morning services, and Shabbat is fully observed in the public areas of camp. Our modern orthodox campers and staff come back year after year!

  • Is Camp Zeke kosher?

    Yes! Our kitchen is totally kosher. Please contact questions@campzeke.org for details.

  • Can you accommodate special food needs?

    Absolutely! Our chefs and culinary arts instructors cater to all types of dietary requirements. Whether you’re gluten free, nut free, lactose intolerant, or vegan, we’ve gone out of our way to create delicious options at every meal.

    All of camp is sesame-free and nut-free. We also have a separate gluten free kitchen and a separate allergy kitchen.

  • Let's talk about nuts.

    Camp Zeke is nut free. We don’t serve peanuts, tree nuts, peanut butter or any products containing nuts. We use Sunbutter instead of peanut butter, and many campers say it tastes better! Please note that we use coconut products in our main kitchen, along with various seeds such as sunflower. Camp is also sesame free.

  • Is all the food local and organic?

    We work with local farms and serve organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible. We still serve many conventional foods too, which we either cannot buy local and organic, or which would be prohibitively expensive to buy local and organic. We do our very best to balance all the different considerations that go into food purchasing to ensure that our food is ethically sourced, healthy, and of course, really delicious.

  • What do campers cook in culinary arts classes?

    In addition to learning a wide variety of cooking skills and culinary theory, at the end of each summer, families receive a cookbook of everything the campers made in culinary arts that summer.

  • My camper is a picky eater.

    We have many picky eaters at camp and lots of options to ensure that everyone finds something they like. Our meals consist of big buffets with numerous choices at each one.

    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’s a rotating main course such as pizza made from scratch, chicken wings from a local farm, burritos rolled in our kitchen, and similar dishes. If we serve something like quinoa, we always include another main course for campers who want a more traditional option. And no matter what we serve, there’s also a backup option in case a camper doesn’t like the primary option (the backup option 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, and similar delicious and healthy snacks. There are also bottomless fruit bowls around camp. Picky eaters tend to do well with all these options, and many families actually choose Camp Zeke because their campers are picky eater.

  • What happens if a campers feels ill?

    If your camper is feeling under the weather at camp, he or she will receive comforting and professional care. Our health center is staffed 24 hours a day by two caring nurses, who know every single camper by name. They are overseen by our Medical Director, Dr. Chana Zablocki, who is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and practices family medicine in New Jersey.

    All campers join a health and safety orientation during the first 48 hours of camp, which covers topics including: daily hygiene and hand washing; food safety; lyme disease prevention; poison ivy identification; appropriate behavior and relationships; safety rules; and what to do in the event of an illness or injury.

    Camp Zeke’s new health center is air-conditioned, centrally located, and feels like home. Our nurses live in the health center, and is right there when campers call. The nurse keeps an assortment of delicious snacks on hand, and kids who stay in the health center are allowed to watch television (just don’t tell the other campers!).

    At Camp Zeke, our top priorities are to keep kids safe and healthy, and make sure they have an amazing and memorable summer. Our nurses share this mission and plays an integral role in the camp community. When not caring for campers, the nurses join campers for meals and evening activities, jump in on daily electives, and are fully immersed in the camp community.

  • What ages are Zeke's campers?

    Our campers range in age from 7 to 17. High-school-aged campers can join our in-camp teen leadership program or our on-the-road travel program. See details about both. Also, please see the Teen section of this FAQ page.

  • My potential camper is 7 years old. Talk to me!

    When we assess whether a camper is ready for camp, one of the most important questions is whether the camper is excited to go. Regardless of their age, the campers who are excited about the experience do very well in camp. And we provide all the support they’ll need to thrive in the community. We put especially-strong counselors with that age group, and they help a lot with self-care. Also, our camper care team and unit heads constantly check in to make sure the youngest campers are successful. So it’s a very supportive environment for them.

    We also recognize that sending kids to camp is sometimes more challenging for the parents than the campers! We welcome parents (regardless of their camper’s age!) to call the office and get a full update any time.

  • How many campers attend each session?

    We have about 300 campers per session.

  • Who should attend Zeke?

    You can think of Camp Zeke as the health club of camps. People attend health clubs for a variety of reasons: to lift weights; to take dance classes; to practice yoga; to study martial arts; to take fun cooking classes; to be active in a supportive environment; to run; to swim; or to play sports.

    Different campers attend Camp Zeke with different goals and interests — just like different gym members, no two campers are alike! What ties everyone together is a shared commitment to fitness, good nutrition, creating a warm, mentor-filled community, and having the greatest, most fun summers ever! While campers might focus on individual goals, the whole camp works as a team to become fitter, faster, and stronger, and learn some healthy recipes along the way.

    For more information, please visit this page, which explains the different types of campers who attend Zeke.

  • What if a camper is homesick? How do you make sure campers are thriving?

    At Camp Zeke, we have a unique process to make sure our campers are having an incredible experience. Our staff includes an entire camper care team, whose only job is to ensure that every single camper is thriving in the community. In any given summer, the camper care team might consist of two social workers, two teachers, a psychologist, and our director of camper, who is an expert in child development with multiple advanced degrees. These people are always available to our campers and to our parents. Indeed, parents can always reach the camper care team by phone to check in about how their camper is doing.

    Our camper care specialists walk around activities to observe campers throughout the day, and they also formally check in with every bunk twice a day (during rest hour and at bedtime). In addition, on every single night of camp, our counselors fill out a form called a “bunk log” about how their campers are doing. That form lets us know whether a camper needs a warmer blanket or more toothpaste, had a moment or homesickness earlier in the day, or could use some help making friends. The first thing the camper care team does on each morning of camp is review the bunk logs. Their goal is to ensure that any challenge is fully resolved by noon of that same day. The camper care team also works closely with parents to make them partners in the process.

    The most important thing to keep in mind is that Camp Zeke is a small, tight-knit community in which we know every single camper. We’re watching every camper throughout the day, and parents can always call the office just to check in and see how their camper is doing. Campers and parents regularly express gratitude for the speed of our responses to their questions and the level of thoroughness with which we approach any request they have.

  • How do you ensure a smooth transition for new campers?

    We do a few things before camp starts to make sure new campers feel totally at home once they arrive to camp. In the lead up to camp, parents of new campers can contact us for an introduction to another camper or two in the same bunk. That way kids will already have a familiar face when they arrive to camp.

    We also encourage new families to attend an orientation at camp, which normally takes place on one of the first Sundays in June. That’s an opportunity to meet new and returning families, get to know some of our amazing staff, and take a guided tour of our 500-acre summer home! We love showing our new families the special spaces where our campers gain fitness and cooking skills, make amazing memories, and form lifelong friendships in a warm, Jewish community.

    By the time campers meet another person in their bunk, meet some staff at the June orientation, and tour camp, they’ll come fully prepared to dive into the experience! Read details about the June orientation for new families.

  • What are the options for teens?

    Teens who are entering 10th through 12th grade can choose from one of two programs: (1) an in-camp leadership program and (2) an on-the-road travel program. Read about both programs.

    Some teens stick with the leadership program throughout high school, while others choose to exclusively travel. Many teens do both programs in different summers, so they’ll start with the leadership program in one summer and hit the road the next summer (or vice versa).

  • What is the ratio of staff to teens?

    In our in-camp leadership program, each bunk of teens consists of twelve teens and two or three staff members. In our travel program, the bus has thirty teens and four staff.

  • What is the phone policy on both teen programs?

    Teens who join the in-camp leadership program have the same device policy as the rest of camp (i.e. they do not bring phones or other devices that go online). Teens in the travel program can bring their phones on the road for safety reasons.

  • Where do teens stay on the travel program?

    Teens stay in hotels in each city we visit. Usually three to four teens stay in a room.

  • Can a one week camper extend to three weeks?

    While this is always possible, we recommend that parents register campers for the length of time that parents would like them to stay. If a camper is registered for a week, then the camper will likely stay for a week. If parents would like their camper to stay for three weeks, the best thing to do is enroll the camper for three weeks.

    Here’s why we suggest this approach: When campers are told that they can come for a week and then decide if they’d like to extend, they tend to spend the entire week struggling with the decision: “Should I stay? Should I go? I’m having so much fun, but I miss home. I can’t decide!” Instead of jumping into camp life, the campers deliberate about how long they should stay.

    When parents enroll a camper for three weeks from the start, then the camper arrives to camp knowing that he or she will stay for three weeks. It allows them to just enjoy camp life without having to make any big decisions about staying longer or going home.

    The one week session is a fine option. It’s a great introduction to the camp experience. If you keep your camper registered for a week, then you should assume that your camper will stay for a week. If you would like your camper to stay longer, then the best thing to do is register your camper for a longer session.

  • Why can't my camper arrive a few days after opening day, or a week or so into the session?

    We ask families to arrive only on the first day of camp. From a camper’s standpoint, going to camp and being away from home is a difficult transition. It becomes much more difficult when a camper arrives a few days after everybody else. Everything about the first two days of camp is structured so that new campers become comfortable and fully immersed in the camp community. We have ice breaker games, cabin bonding rituals, and lots of other fun things to transition kids into the camp environment. Missing those first days means missing some really essential aspects of camp. Also, once camp starts, every single day is full of excitement, adventure, and many new experiences. The whole cabin spends every day bonding and becoming closer and closer. Because the days are so action-packed, campers who come a few days late can feel like they missed out on lots of activities and they won’t have the same shared experiences as the other kids in the bunk. So to make camp the most successful possible experience, campers should arrive on the first day of the session and at no other time.

  • What is the drawback of the one week session?

    Our short answer is that a three week session is a much more complete camp experience, and we recommend the three week option over the one week option. To understand why we make this recommendation, please read on!

    The Challenge of One Week

    The appeal of the one week session is also its challenge: It’s just a week!

    By the time a camper becomes fully comfortable in the camp community, the one-week experience is already nearing its conclusion. Here’s what we mean: For all campers, the first day can be a bit awkward. We organize countless ice-breakers and group bonding activities, but campers still arrive without knowing anyone, and they have to take a big step out of their comfort zones to meet new people and establish their first friendships. Of course, learning to overcome challenges is part of the value of camp!

    By the second day of camp, they start to form bonds with their bunkmates and begin learning the camp routines, such as where things are located, the words to camp songs, our many traditions, and the names of their favorite staff members. It’s only by day three or four that kids get into a rhythm and start to feel truly comfortable in their new environment. Just as things become really fun and campers first glimpse the magic of camp, it’s almost time to go home.

    Three Days of Joy for Every One Day of Transition/Packing

    Three week sessions are often harder on parents, but they are much better for campers. When campers stay for a three week session, they spend a much larger percentage of their time being fully immersed in camp. The first days of transition become distant memories that are replaced by deepening friendships, new experiences, “secret” cookie raids, campfires, and lots of camp songs and traditions. The experience is then capped off with color war, lazy day, many of the most popular all-camp programs, and finally, a beautiful, song-filled banquet as a final send-off for the campers. The kids go home at the same time as everyone else, they immediately engage with friends after camp, and the experience lives on after the summer. Campers who stay for a shorter time tend to be among among the only ones to leave early, which can also be an isolating experience for them.

    As one camp expert, Steve Baskin, puts it: “A camper in a one-week session is only fully integrated for a couple days of the seven (roughly one-fourth) versus 15-16 out of 21 (three-fourths) of three week session.” This is why three week campers are more likely to gain the most from camp; they simply have more fully-integrated days of the camp experience. As Baskin explains, “I like for campers to have three days of joy and comfort for every one day of disorientation/packing, which is essentially assured in a three week session.”

  • What is the most common session length?

    The vast majority of our campers attend a three or six week session. About 40% of campers stay the full six week season.

  • How often do siblings see each other?

    Every day! Camp Zeke is a small, warm community in which all campers see each other throughout the day. Siblings have numerous opportunities to say hello and spend time together. To give a few examples, the entire camp gathers at: Morning Warm-Up; Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner; All Camp Hang Out; and Evening Activity. That’s a lot, huh?

  • How do parents and campers stay in touch?

    Parents can send letters and emails — we encourage them to write really often! Parents should expect campers to write home at least twice per week. Parents can also schedule one call home per week before camp starts. Calls home start after the first week of each session.

  • How can we contact you?

    Our year-round and summer office line is 212-913-9783. For general questions, please call us, or send an email to questions@campzeke.org. For more details and to contact other staff, please visit the Contact & Directions page.

  • Where is the summer camp located?

    We are located at 31 Barry Watson Way in Lakewood, PA. Camp Zeke is situated on 560 wooded acres in the foothills of the Pocono Mountains. For more about our site, please visit the Facility page.

  • How do I write to my camper?

    Our summer mailing address is: Camp Zeke, CAMPER NAME, P.O. Box 253, 31 Barry Watson Way, Lakewood, PA, 18439. This is where you should address letters to campers. For transportation questions, please visit the contact page.

  • Where is your year-round office?

    We have an office in Manhattan and Westchester County, and we also travel around the country meeting with families in their homes and at synagogues and community centers. If you would like to meet us in your area, please be in touch and we’ll schedule something. For details about sending us mail or contacting specific people within Camp Zeke, please go to this page for all our contact information.

  • How do you hire such good staff?

    In Camp Zeke’s small, tightly-knit community, kindness and inclusion are the highest value. We know that our staff is the single most important factor in turning those values into a reality while creating our warm, caring culture and ensuring that kids have an amazing summer.

    Because Camp Zeke is the first and only Jewish camp to celebrate healthy, active living, we receive a tremendous number of job applications from like-minded college and graduate students.  We are in the fortunate position of having numerous applicants for each open position, and that allows us to be extremely selective in the hiring process.

    Prior to being offered a job, each staff member goes through a multi-stage interview process and extensive reference checks. Training begins during seminars which take place throughout the year, well before the summer even starts. The week before campers arrive marks the culmination of our pre-summer training. Staff live at camp and learn from experts in health, education, safety, and child development. Training continues throughout the summer, and we evaluate staff early and often to ensure that they implement the lessons they learned during the off-season.

    Because safety is our number one priority, we have a 3:1 ratio of campers to staff and otherwise exceed industry standards in our training and hiring.

Our campers have made thousands of friendships, millions of memories, and lifelong skills in athletics, cooking, and joyful Judaism. We are proudly supported by:

  • Jewish Camp
  • Jim Joseph Foundation
  • Avi Chai
  • UJA Federation
  • The Jewish Education Project

We are fully accredited by the American Camp Association