Monday, October 26, 2020

Camp Shoshanim, an all-girls sleepaway camp that operates under the auspices of NJY Camps, has announced that its program has been canceled. The news comes on the heels of a disappointing summer for families who had hoped that camp would find a way to open in accordance with the safety guidelines of COVID-19. Unfortunately it was unable to do so.

In a letter sent to parents, board president Stephen Seiden said: “Camp Shoshanim has provided an exceptional program for Orthodox Jewish girls since 2009. We look back with pride over the last 11 years at the experience we were able to provide and at the incredible young women who have been part of this community. We have no doubt that the summer of 2020 would have been an amazing time for the girls, had the COVID-19 challenges not interrupted our plans.”

Since its establishment, Camp Shoshanim had been highly subsidized by NJY Camps with the hope that one day it would sustain itself. After an extensive eight-month evaluation process it became clear to the board that the program would not reach this milestone and that the current business model was no longer viable, a reality that was made even more apparent by the difficult financial situation brought about by the pandemic.


As campers and parents processed the unexpected news, many took the time to reflect on what Camp Shoshanim had meant to them.

“Shoshanim has been our summer home for the last four years,” said Deena Fisher, a Teaneck resident and Camp Shoshanim’s baking specialist. “As both a parent and staff member I am saddened that Shoshanim is closing. Our family will cherish the friendships that we made at camp and the experiences will always hold a special place in our hearts.”

Throughout the last 11 years the Shoshanim community has evolved and flourished, largely thanks to its director, Esther Staum Katz. “Since Shoshanim’s inception in 2009, Esther has spent countless hours building and running a summer camp program of exceptional quality,” said Seiden.

Katz made it a priority to get to know all of the campers and create a welcoming environment where each girl felt included.

“Esther was always so warm and friendly, taking the time to get to know each of us individually,” said former camper Tamar Nissel. “Even when I returned to camp years later to visit my younger sisters on visiting day, Esther seemed genuinely excited to see me and talk to me. She made the Shoshanim experience even more amazing!”

NJY Camps announced the news last week so that parents would have sufficient time leading up to summer 2021 to make alternate plans. They also said they are working with the Foundation for Jewish Camp to provide recommendations on alternatives to Camp Shoshanim.

“Camp Shoshanim managed to fill a niche that many of us were looking for in a sleepaway camp,” said one parent who preferred to remain anonymous. “It provided Modern Orthodox girls with a safe, loving, Torah-observant environment where they could enjoy summer activities in a non-co-ed setting.”

In an effort to honor the legacy of Camp Shoshanim, leaders plan to organize a virtual gathering in the coming months where campers and staff can join together and share memories with one another.

A representative confirmed that all other programs under NJY Camps’ umbrella will continue to operate. Those who pre-paid for Camp Shoshanim this past summer or elected to roll over payments toward next summer can expect a full refund.

By Andrea Nissel