Camp Ramah In Wisconsin Announces Closure For 2020

While Camp Ramah in Wisconsin was holding out hope that it may have summer programming by delaying the start of camp, ultimately the challenges caused by COVID-19 were too much to overcome.

In a video posted Wednesday evening, Executive Director Jacob Cytryn announced that both Ramah’s overnight camp in Conover, Wisc., and day camp in suburban Chicago would remain closed for 2020.

“As the seriousness of the pandemic shut down our lives in mid-March, we remained optimistic that, with support from different governmental and regulatory organizations, we could make timely and thoughtful decisions that would give us confidence in operating our camps this summer,” Cytryn and board president David Kushnir wrote in an email to camp families. “In the intervening months, our team has explored countless scenarios, modifications to our program, and health protocols that would allow us to operate safely this summer. Ultimately, based on the unanimous recommendations of our Board of Directors and medical advisors we have determined that we cannot open camp and meet our sacred obligation to ensure the health and well-being of our campers this summer.”

In TC Jewfolk’s Campfire Conversation last week, Cytryn discussed many of the challenges that the camp faced, including items such as getting food and other ingredients as the coronavirus is affecting the supply chain.

On April 30, the same day that the Union of Reform Judaism announced that all of its camps would be closed this summer — including OSRUI which draws kids from the Twin Cities to the Oconomowoc, Wisc., camp — Ramah announced that the earliest it would start would be June 30, two weeks later than the expected start. At that time, Cytryn said that the organizations that needed to give Ramah permission to operate include — but aren’t limited to: State of Illinois, Cook County, State of Wisconsin, Vilas County, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the American Camp Association, and AMSkier, our insurance provider.  Additionally, the National Ramah Commission, its medical committee, and the Ramah Wisconsin medical committee, would need to establish protocols and procedures for keeping our camper and staff populations safe.

“Now that we have made this decision, we are focusing on the two painful repercussions for the camp community: the sadness that one thousand campers and staff will not enjoy this summer at camp and the profound impact the cancellation has on the financial health of our camps,” Cytryn and Kushnir’s letter said. “We are confident in our ability to weather these challenges, because of the love for camp, each other, and our community, which define us as Ramahniks.”

Camp Ramah is one of the six camps that received money from the Minneapolis Jewish Federation’s $1 million fund to help camps as they face the financial blowback from the closures.

Ramah announced their virtual summer activities, and will be hosting a Zoom event Friday, May 20, at 3 p.m. to welcome Shabbat and share some reflections of camp.