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North Shore day camps serve up Jewish summer fun

Journal Correspondent

Fine and Performing Arts at JCCNS camp

JUNE 29, 2017 – MARBLEHEAD – After a chilly and wet spring, parents and their children are especially anxious for the warmer days of summer vacation and the welcoming start of the summer camp season.

Families on the North Shore have a choice of three Jewish day camps: the Jewish Community Center of the North Shore’s “Summer at the J” in Marblehead; Chabad of the North Shore’s Camp Gan Israel of the North Shore in Lynn and Swampscott; and the North Suburban Jewish Community Center’s “Summer Play” in Peabody.

The JCCNS has offered the Camp Simchah experience for over 70 years, starting at Lynn Beach and moving to its current 11-acre campus “on the hill” after over four decades at its former Middleton location.

“Summer at the J” camps has age groups for those from 2 years 9 months to those entering 10th grade. With nine one-week sessions, camp starts on June 26 and ends Aug. 25. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with extended care available.
All campers have instructional morning swim led by the aquatics department at the outdoor pool located on the JCCNS campus, and use of fields, tennis courts, and gym.

KinderCamp features daily schedules of music and movement, sports and games, instructional swim, and more for those between 2 years 9 months and entering kindergarten.

Campers entering grades 1 and 2 attend Simchah Classic Junior and those entering grades 3 to 6 attend Simchah Classic, both with rotating schedules of drawing, science, arts and crafts, sports, and instructional swim. The two groups also have a weekly choice of electives, among them science, engineering, computer coding, robotics, drama, cooking, rope course, dance, and more.

Older campers entering grades 6-8 have the opportunity to attend Simchah Travel Camp, with two or three overnight trips during the week and daily trips that may include kayaking, canoeing, indoor/outdoor rock climbing, museum visits, amusement parks, and beaches. Day trip destinations include Crane Beach, Canobie Lake Park, Salem Willows, and Water Country. Overnight trips may be to Caratunk, Maine, and North Conway, N.H.

The Simchah Counselor-in-Training Program partners with the North Shore Teen Initiative to provide campers entering grades 9 and 10 with two-week sessions that incorporate counselor training, leadership workshops, social justice field trips, volunteer projects, and fun social trips.

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Girls at Chabad’s Camp Gan Israel

Chabad of the North Shore’s Camp Gan Israel has been operating for almost 20 years, with Rabbi Shmaya and Aliza Friedman entering their seventh year as camp directors.

Aliza has directed Jewish day camps across the world, including in Dublin, Helsinki, and Boca Raton, Fla. She spearheads staff training and has extensive experience with preschoolers through teens. Rabbi Shmaya heads up Chabad’s youth programming, including “Jew Crew” and “Chai Five.”

All campers get a hot kosher lunch every day, and extended before and after care options are available for those who need more hours than provided by the regular 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. schedule. Camp runs from June 26 to Aug. 4.

Mini Gan Izzy for boys and girls ages 3-4 takes place at Chabad at 44 Burrill St. in Swampscott, where campers participate in sports and outdoor adventures, art and music, and swimming.

The Junior (entering grades K-2), Sabra (grades 3-5), and Pioneer (grades 6-8) programs are held at Chabad’s second campus at 151 Ocean St. in Lynn.

“It’s like an everything camp in one,” Aliza explained, describing the various activities all campers experience, from swimming at the Marblehead YMCA and Salem Forest River Park to the many specialties offered each week to the Friday Shabbat party with a specialty show that may be magic, puppets, the “bubble guy,” or a carnival.

Every Wednesday, the entire camp goes on a field trip to destinations such as Legoland, Canobie Lake, and Water Country. The older two divisions have additional trips on Mondays that may include bowling, skating, golfing, or laser tag.

They also have a choice of electives that include photography, horseback riding, boating, adventure camp, computer lab, art, and baseball clinic.

Camp Gan Israel’s flexible sign-up policy allows parents to craft schedules by the week, for a few days here and there, or for the entire summer. The user-friendly approach recognizes that many families plan family vacations and may need childcare on an irregular basis.

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For the little ones from 6 weeks to 5 years old, the North Suburban JCC in Peabody offers a state-of-the-art facility and “Summer Play” camp activities for toddlers and pre-kindergarteners from June 26 to Aug. 18. With flexible 2-3-4 or 5-day options, summer theme days, and water play, children enjoy gardening, exploring bugs, having camping adventures, and edible science.

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