by Rabbi James Greene, Executive Director, Camp Laurelwood
Jewish summer camps offer an unprecedented way to connect with identity and culture through fun and immersive activities. And, with the beginning of a new year, camps are once again opening applications up to campers, making this the perfect time for parents and families to select the camp that is right for their children. At Camp Laurelwood, Connecticut’s only Jewish traditional overnight camp, that means the staff is working hard to get ready for summer.
I can tell you that it was strange being at the camp last summer without hundreds of campers. We miss our campers and our community dearly, and we can’t wait to welcome them home this summer for our 84th season at Camp Laurelwood. Our campers and staff have been far apart from people and places that hold a lot of meaning for them for far too long.
Data and research shows that having immersive experiences in Jewish culture like overnight summer camp is formative to identity development and a long-term commitment to Jewish life. At Camp Laurelwood, campers in second through 10th grade get to explore their identity, grow their community and learn important values. They can enjoy the traditional amenities of summer camp, including two pools, 140 acres of open space, two beautiful lakes surrounded by trees and nature trails, and more.
This summer, the outdoor space of our camp will play an even more important role as we create a safe, healthy environment. We have worked for months to get to this moment, and we will be ready. As we have said all along, the come back is always better than the set-back.
We are very aware of the importance of making sure the community is safe. Working alongside a team of medical professionals, as well as utilizing the guidance from the American Camp Association, the Centers for Disease Control and the State of Connecticut Reopening Task Force, Camp Laurelwood is implementing new health practices for this summer to ensure the safety of our campers and staff. This will include wearing masks where appropriate and participating in routine health screenings and temperature checks.
Campers and staff will only come to camp after receiving a negative COVID-19 test, and they will be tested regularly throughout the summer. We’ve also redesigned our intake procedures, dining procedures and programming spaces to maintain proper health standards. Camp will also provide more spacing with outdoor meals and program space. We will group campers into smaller “cohorts” for their activities.
Although COVID-19 protocols will be in place, I am excited by the new things coming to camp this summer. Camp is a place where we get to practice building the kinder world we aspire to live in. This summer is a chance to practice that in so many different ways. That includes new program spaces like a garden and chicken coop so campers can explore the natural world and interact with animals. We are completing renovations to our pools, pool house and other spaces. Campers will be coming home to the place they love, but also a place that has been well cared for during their absence.
In addition to the new nature facilities, there is a new partnership with area Jewish professionals to build out camp faculty program. A faculty member will come each week and work with a program area of their interest, live at the camp, and spend time connecting with campers and staff. Eric Maurer, Executive Director at JT Connect in Hartford, will be one of the first faculty members this summer.
Camp Laurelwood is now accepting campers beginning in second grade, and has sessions that range from one-week long to the full summer. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (203) 421-3736 to arrange for a private, virtual tour.