May 30, 2024
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Exciting Changes Coming to Camp Lavi

Camp Lavi, a Modern Orthodox sleepaway summer camp situated in the Pocono Mountains, has some big, exciting changes coming as it undergoes a transformation for the upcoming 2019 summer session. Following long-time Camp Lavi senior staff member Elana Nayowitz being appointed as camp director, camp ownership asked for a “reboot” of the camp. It was quickly determined that the camp wished to grow in terms of innovative programming, sports and recreation, improved facilities and good old-fashioned Torah values. Nayowitz’s challenge is clear: “How does one make a great camp greater?” To achieve these objectives Nayowitz knew she needed to bring on some senior staff all-stars to complement her existing “top-notch” staff of pros.

Rabbi Natan Schwartz, also a Camp Lavi veteran, is on board as the camp’s assistant director and rabbinic director. Schwartz immediately hired Rabbi Eli Slomnicki, a dean at The Ramaz School, as the camp’s rabbi and head of chinuch. Michael Pelikow, most recently of Camp Mesorah, joins the senior staff as head of operations and facilities. Already Pelikow has initiated new construction and the updating of facilities including new bunks, hockey rink roofs and general refurbishments. Rabbi Gotch Yudin joins the returning Cheryl Ernst as heads of boys’ and girls’ campuses.

Programming and sports continue to be part of the core of camp life. In addition to returning staff such as Alan Berger, who is in charge of programming operations; Lisa Kops who runs arts and crafts; Lauren Greene, who manages dance/zumba; and Barbra Elefant-Solomon, who manages drama, Nayowitz and Schwartz brought in Rabbi Yair Menchel of the Yavneh Academy to put a new spin on programming.

Lavi staple Mike Dube is joined by an expanding sports staff including camp sports veteran David Beitler of North Shore Hebrew Academy, and former basketball pro Donald Hennie, who runs athletics at TABC. Whereas Dube will run sports, Beitler will be able to concentrate on sports programming and intramurals with other camps. Hennie will run clinics and instructional sessions for kids who wish to learn or get better.

According to their website, Camp Lavi is a summer camp “where intramurals meets ruach and art meets achdut.” The camp operates on a dual session schedule and is open to children going into third through 10th grade. With emphasis on a family-like atmosphere, the camp prides itself on instilling in its campers a sense of belonging, self-confidence and respect. Speaking with The Jewish Link, Nayowitz discussed the new additions to the camp and spoke about what she’s most looking forward to this summer.

“Camp Lavi is pressing the reset button this summer,” Nayowitz explained. “When I was appointed as camp director, I set out to put together an all-star team of leadership that I felt could realize this vision I had. The many new additions to the camp, such as our expanded sports program, have gone a long way in making that vision a reality. As for what I’m most excited about, it’s definitely the energy and ruach that our camp is known for; that part’s never going to change.”

Rabbi Schwartz echoed her sentiments. He similarly sees the upcoming summer as an opportunity to return to the core ideas of what makes a good summer camp: giving the campers an enjoyable summer.

“One of the questions Elana’s always asking is ‘How do you make a great camp greater?’” Rabbi Schwartz elaborated. “In response, I answered that Camp Lavi has always been about having fun and giving the campers the best experience possible. What we’re trying to do is keep that core idea and build on it with more substance and opportunities.”

As for the upgraded sports program, Nayowitz says her goal was to expand on the two sports the camp traditionally played and bring in some new sports and activities like football, frisbee, dodgeball and fishing. As she explains, the goal she had in mind was to make the camp more accessible and diverse in what it has to offer.

“In the past, most of Camp Lavi’s sports program was centered around basketball and hockey,” Nayowitz shared. “What we’re trying to do this summer is incorporate new games in addition to those two, and also bring staff on that will teach the game rather than just having the kids play it. The clinics and instructional sessions will add a new layer to our offerings. Former pro Donald Hennie is on board to add an exciting figure on campus who will also help with the clinics. We’re really excited about having him with us this summer.”

When it comes to the new construction, the boys’ campus is said to have received an overhaul including updated bathrooms and showers; other structures are being repaired or replaced. Additionally, a covering structure has been placed over the courts, allowing kids to use them even in inclement weather.

“Additionally, what we’re trying to do this summer is go up in our value system,” Nayowitz said. “How we’re going about that is giving our campers access to the best equipment and space that will allow them to grow and have a good time along the way. In addition, the dune buggies, ropes course, water slides at the pool and classic activities will be returning. We’re working on an improved Camp Lavi from the inside out. It’s a tremendous amount of work but we know it will be worth it.”

If you are interested in registering a child for Camp Lavi, Lavi’s four-day trial for 6-8-year-olds, “Life at Lavi,” or would like to learn more about either, you can visit their website at https://camplavi.com. Additionally, if you have any questions or concerns, you can email them at [email protected] or call 201-684-9084.

By Adam Samuel

Adam Samuel is a journalist from Teaneck. He blogs at adamssoapbox.com.�

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