Camp TEKO Cancels Camp, While JCC Day Camps Delay Openings

The three largest Jewish day camps in the Twin Cities announced Thursday that they would be drastically altering their summer plans.

Camp TEKO, the Temple Israel-run camp is canceling all in-person programming for the summer, while the two JCC day camps in the Twin Cities have postponed the opening of their camps until at least July 10 due to the COVID-19 crisis. Emails were sent to parents of campers at TEKO, the Sabes JCC’s Camp Olami and St. Paul JCC’s Camp Butwin Thursday afternoon.

“As camps in the [Union for Reform Judaism] network shared last week, since our top priority is the safety of our campers and staff, at this point, there are too many risks — known and unknown — to operate Camp TEKO safely this summer,” Camp Director Abby Kirshbaum and Temple Israel Rabbi Jason Klein wrote. “If at any point new information emerges and conditions change that lead us to be able to provide in-person gatherings, we will explore this earnestly.”

The JCCs letters, said that JCC and leadership of the two camps have been closely monitoring guidelines and communication from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Minnesota Department of Health and Gov. Tim Walz. Both camps are holding out for the possibility of having in-person programming beginning July 13.

“We have weighed our options, thought creatively, and spent countless hours strategizing with colleagues in the field near and far,” Camp Butwin Director Ben Savin wrote in his letter. We remain hopeful that with additional planning time and continued social distancing, it will be possible for us to open in-person programming, with modifications that retain the spirit of Camp Butwin.”

For Camp Olami, which is the onsite camp at the Sabes JCC, it means the cancelation of the first session of camp, the first four weeks of the Summer Quest program, and the theater camp and its performance of Into The Woods. Camp Olami Director Allie Greenstein said that alternative theater programming would be a possibility in the second session window.

“As we wrap our heads around a session away from the tent, we do what camp-lovers do best – we adapt and make the best out of a rainy day (or what feels like several of them),” she wrote. “We can’t imagine a summer without you and are working hard to develop alternative programming.”

The announcement comes a day after Herzl Camp announced it was canceling camp for the summer, and a week after the URJ announced that all in-person activities were canceled for the summer, which includes the Oconomowoc, Wisc.-based OSRUI among its 15 camps. Ramah in Wisconsin, which is headquartered in Chicago, also announced last week that it was going to be delaying its start date to at least June 30.