Herzl Camp became the latest in a line of Jewish camps to announce it would not be opening for the summer of 2020. An email went out to camp parents Wednesday afternoon, shortly after the summer staff was notified.
“While many of us have been anticipating this decision, we all were hoping for a different outcome,” said Gary Kibort, Executive Director. “We love our campers and staff. It is painful to realize that the buses will not roll in, their voices will not fill the Chadar, and the Mercaz will welcome Shabbat empty and silent.
“Losing a summer at camp is a loss and disappointment for all of our campers and families.”
The camp said the decision is guided by recommendations of the American Camp Association, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the camp’s Health & Safety Committee, and the State of Wisconsin.
The announcement comes less than a week after the Union for Reform Judaism 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.
Herzl Camp offering a week of virtual gatherings and Q&As. “A summer without camp is new to all of us,” said Camp Director Drea Lear. “We are going to take some time to be together, share our concerns, and acknowledge our loss.”
Beginning in June, Herzl Camp will offer virtual camp activities at no cost.
“The coronavirus has clearly shown us the value of friendships, community, and Jewish traditions,” said Lear. “Learning and growing together is critical so we will move forward with the kind of togetherness we can have this year, knowing that we will come together again at camp when we can.”
At this time, August Family Camp, Aggadah Camp for 20s & 30s, and October Family Camp are still on as scheduled. In late July, a final determination on these programs will be made based on social distancing practices and regulatory advice available at that time.
All families will be offered the option of a full refund, rolling forward to 2021 tuition, or giving some or all of their tuition as a donation.
“We want our families to make the choice that fits their families’ situation,” said Kibort. “We know many are hurting now. That said, to keep camp in position to run in 2021, we will need the community’s support. Making a donation ensures that Herzl Camp survives the coronavirus.”