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Jewish day camps offer fun and inclusive programs

Journal Staff

Campers at Chabad’s Camp Gan Israel

JUNE 21, 2018 – How would you like to learn how to write a play? Make a robot out of Legos? Become a mad scientist? Maybe you’d like to travel to a trampoline park, or mini-golf course that glows neon? Or perhaps you’d just like to kick back and swim in a pool or lake?

Campers will be able to do any and all of the above at Jewish day camps on the North Shore this summer. And if you haven’t enrolled your child yet, there’s still time – camps are still accepting new applicants.

The JCC of the North Shore offers summer programs for campers in preschool all the way through high school. All programs are located at the JCC in Marblehead. Kindercamp is for the youngest campers. To be eligible, campers must be at least two years and nine months old, and not yet have entered kindergarten. Kindercampers will enjoy a full day of music, sports, science, and swim. Each week will feature special events like a carnival and Israel Day.

Campers entering first through seventh grades can attend Camp Simchah Classic. Simchah Classic is divided into two camps with different programming: Simchah Classic Junior for campers entering first through third grades, and Simchah Classic for campers entering fourth through seventh grades. Simchah Classic camps are notable for their wide selection of elective activities, such as computer coding, chess, drama, and more. “Recognizing the varied interests of our campers, Camp Simchah offers something for everyone,” said Leah Reich, director of camp, youth, and family programs.

Campers in Simchah Classic Junior participate in a different elective per week for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, campers in Simchah Classic devote a larger portion of the day to their chosen weekly electives, and have breaks for free and instructional swim.

Students entering eighth and ninth grade take part in the Leader-in-Training (LIT) Program, which prepares campers for responsible positions later in life. Participants in the LIT Program take part in teambuilding activities, counselor training, and field trips. They also help out with special events for younger campers.

Campers entering tenth grade can take part in the Counselor-in-Training (CIT) Program, which is free of cost, but requires a six-week commitment. Those interested should fill out a program application, write a one-page essay, provide two letters of recommendation, and participate in an interview.

The JCC also provides specialized programming for campers with special needs. “JCCNS is proud to offer a fully inclusive camp with special accommodations and staffing available for campers needing additional supports,” said Reich. Those interested can contact Inclusion Director Melissa Caplan at mcaplan@jccns.com. Parents must schedule an interview with Caplan to go over the exact nature of their camper’s needs and how the JCC can tailor a program to meet them.

In Peabody, the North Suburban JCC is running a camp for two to five-year-olds. The camp is a preschool during the year, and will be led by its teachers. Campers will enjoy a busy day of projects, stories, Jewish music, cooking, and will be able to enjoy running through sprinklers at the outdoor playground. The camp shares space with the Harriet and Ralph Kaplan Estates, an assisted living facility, and campers will have many opportunities to interact with residents. For more information, contact Early Childhood Director Susan Novak at 978-471-5520.

Chabad of the North Shore will run Camp Gan Israel, which is broken into three different age divisions. All divisions have programming in arts, sports, swimming, and Jewish learning, and each group has special events and mini-courses each week. Campers entering kindergarten through eighth grade attend different trips each week, which include visits to farms, zoos, and water parks, among many others.

Preschoolers aged 2 to 4 attend Mini Gan Izzy, which is located at the main Chabad location at 44 Burrill Street in Swampscott. It is the only group that meets there – all other age groups meet at Chabad’s new campus on 151 Ocean Street in Lynn. Programs are offered in sports, art, music, swimming, and Jewish learning. Each week, camp-wide events include talent shows, glow parties, and magic shows.

Campers entering kindergarten through second grade can attend Junior Gan Israel. Like Mini Gan Izzy, Junior Gan Israel has fun events each week, like pajama day, cooking day, and a glow in the dark party. The Sabras (grades three through five), and the Pioneers (grades six through eight) enjoy special courses each week in yoga, gymnastics, and sushi-making, to name a few.

All programs are designed with Jewish values in mind. “We will have various Jewish themes throughout the summer that we will be learning about and engaging with in exciting ways,” said director Shmaya Friedman. “through art, cooking, science, and a whole bunch of other hands-on activities we try and bring these themes to life for our campers.”

Children enjoy dancing at Camp Hadar.

With Camp Menorah closed and Camp Simchah at the JCC, Camp Hadar in Salem, New Hampshire is the area’s only remaining Jewish day camp located in a rural outdoor setting. It’s located about an hour north of Marblehead, and offers transportation for a nominal fee. The camp is for boys and girls ages 4-15, and older campers can take part in a CIT-training program. It will run from June 25 to August 17, and parents can pay by the week. To register, email info@camphadar.org.

Three blocks in the morning are scheduled, and alternate between sports, arts, and Jewish and Israeli culture activities. During the period after lunch, half the camp has free swim in the lake, and the other half take part in an elective of their choice known as a chug. Chugs change every week, and have included anime and improv classes. After a snack break, the campers switch.

“I’m a teacher, and I’ve always valued academic choice,” said director Jonathan Heller. “The morning is scheduled, but it’s very important that campers get to choose how they spend their afternoons.”

Every other week, campers from fifth to eighth grade go on field trips and participate in teambuilding activities. Because Camp Tel Noar is only 15 minutes away, Hadar is in the early stages of a partnership with them. Among other ideas, the two camps hope to organize friendly competitions, start a big sibling mentoring program, a leadership program, and an exchange of some of the Israeli counselors from Tel Noar to Hadar.

Whatever your age, interests, or schedule, the North Shore’s Jewish day camps offer something for everyone.

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