Heading into the summer of 2022, COVID-19 had been a thorn in the sandals of Jewish camp directors.
The original SARS-CoV-2 virus wiped out the 2020 overnight camp season and delayed day camp openings. The Delta variant was identified in the United States weeks before a limited 2021 season. So, in 2022, even as the Omicron variant appeared to be waning, camps took no chances.
The directors of five popular Jewish overnight camps decided that campers and staff would be required to present evidence of vaccination in line with recommendations for their age by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The five were Camp Barney Medintz, Camp Coleman, and Camp Ramah Darom, in Georgia, and Camp Judaea and the 6 Points Sports Academy, in North Carolina.
The overnight camps made their vaccination policy decisions independently but arrived at the same conclusion. A search online found most Jewish overnight and day camps across the United States requiring COVID vaccinations.
Lori Zeligman, director of Camp Judaea, in Hendersonville, N.C., said, “Since all of us do have the same stance, it definitely makes it a lot easier,” in terms of a consistent message to parents.
“In speaking with our medical advisory team, their recommendation to us was that we respect everyone’s right to do what they think is right for their kids, but in our opinion, to enjoy camp and have the safest possible community at camp this summer, we have to require that everyone is vaccinated,” said Michael Drucker, director of Camp Barney Medintz, the MJCCA overnight camp northwest of Cleveland, Ga.
“We have a real sense of collegiality and a true team,” said Anna Serviansky, director of Camp Ramah Darom, located outside of Clayton, Ga. “What people don’t understand, unless they are in the business, is that you have a lot of responsibility to take care of upwards of 750 people at a time, to make sure they are healthy and safe, and having a good time. We all care about Jewish camp, and we all want each other to be successful and have as many kids go to Jewish camp as possible. This is what we believe in.”