May 22, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
May 22, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

A Summer to Remember At Camp Mesorah

If the month of March in 2020 were to be given a one-word description it would be mysterious. As the coronavirus spread throughout the world there was no certainty as to what the future would hold. No one knew how long quarantine would last, how soon it would be before people celebrated a simcha with family and friends, and when children would return to school. All these questions had no answers, but one thing was for certain in the minds of Camp Mesorah Director Ari Katz and Director of Boys and Girls Campuses Deena Katz: Camp Mesorah would do everything in its power to give children the summer they deserve. A summer with sports, swimming, friendship, growth and experiences they will never forget.

On March 20 Ari called a meeting over zoom with the administration along with every division head and shared this exact sentiment. Ari clarified “The whole world is in limbo right now, but we will keep working towards our ultimate goal of opening camp for our campers.”

The next few weeks followed with speculation on all fronts as to whether sleep-away camps would be legally permitted by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Many newspaper articles were written about how a sleep-away camp that creates a “bubble” may be the safest place for children. It seemed as though Governor Cuomo would indeed give permission for sleep-away camps to open and the camp administration felt they were starting the home stretch of summer preparations. The programming team set up great activities, division heads spoke to parents, the medical team drew up protocols and the excitement began to build for what we all thought would be a wonderful summer in Guilford, New York.

On Friday, June 12, right before Shabbos, an announcement that few of us saw coming was made by Governor Cuomo requiring all sleep-away camps in New York to stay closed. Shabbos was filled with disappointment regarding the decision, however Sunday would bring more hope as an email from Ari and Deena echoed the same idea they had been pushing for the previous few months. They shared, “The campers needed a summer filled with fun and laughter, a chance to run around and play sports with their friends, express their creativity…and take part in spectacular night activities.” The end of the email re-encouraged many as it affirmed “we are currently exploring specific alternative options.”

Thursday, June 18 brought news that put the biggest smiles on the faces of the extended Mesorah family: “We are excited to announce that today we have secured two of the most beautiful campgrounds in Pennsylvania to house Camp Mesorah this summer with a start date of July 15.” On July 1 the campground rental was finalized and it was announced that Camp Mesorah would be moving to Milford, Pennsylvania for the summer of 2020. It was go-time, and the next two weeks took the efforts of the administrative team, the programming team, the division heads, all lower staff, and of course the extended Camp Mesorah family in order to pull off a successful summer.

The administrative team visited Mesorah’s new camping site for the first time. With lots to do, we spent the day walking through every building on the campus trying to answer questions like “Where will we do certain activities?” “How will we take advantage of some of the different areas and open spaces?” And along with Medical Director Sheryl Cohen, we figured how many campers could safely fit in each bunk, the dining room and other buildings.

It wasn’t just learning a new campus, there were many things that needed to be brought over from Camp Mesorah in Guilford in order to allow us to give over the full Mesorah experience. On a daily basis, 26-foot trucks were filled up in Guilford—with things like filing cabinets from the office to additional hockey courts—and driven over to Milford. As enrollment kept fluctuating, bunk assignments had to be changed, and as we learned our new campus, excitement sprouted as to how great this summer would end up being.

July 15 came around and we were ready. Campers had been tested, counselors and specialty staff had been oriented and division heads were ready to give the campers the most special of summers. Since that day Camp Mesorah has not looked back. With constant coordination with our medical team consisting of Dr. Cohen, Dr. Shannon Henning and Dr. Joey Shtazkes, Camp Mesorah pulled off what many believed was impossible. They gave their campers the time of their lives in a safe, fun, friendship filled environment.

The next few weeks were a testament to hard work of the Katzes, the wonderful programming team led by Shira Englander and the division head teams led by Head Counselors Ronit Wenger and Rabbi Jonathan Cohen. In addition to the great everyday schedule at Camp Mesorah where campers were able to swim, play sports and hang out there were many “special” activities that made this summer even more remarkable. Events like bar/bat mitzvah night, graduation night, tie-dye day, the color run and Zimriyah were just some of those highlights.

In addition to the everyday fun, a new learning program was implemented with Rav Ben Leybovich of Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh at the helm. The program was put together by a handful of post Shana-Aleph students who were left without summer plans due to the circumstances. The result was phenomenal. Forty post-Shana-Aleph boys learning with an intense yeshiva schedule. But that wasn’t all. The overpowering, inviting nature of the learning program completely changed the dynamic of camp. Daily schmoozes given by Rav Ben were standing room only, Thursday night chugs and Friday night tishes led by Rav Ben was one of the most popular Shabbos events among campers, and the Shabbos ruach that the learning program brought to the dining room was unparalleled. As a whole, it created an atmosphere throughout camp that not only is Torah central, but it is something we gravitate towards.

As the summer comes to a close it’s important to highlight the Camp Mesorah staff as a whole who made this all possible. The late nights, early morning, hundreds of phone calls and hours of meetings was well worth it. The goal of giving the campers the summer they deserve was met beyond expectations.

By Yehoshua Segal

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles