May 22, 2024
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May 22, 2024
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SAR Partners With Kol HaNearim for Summer Day Camp

Kol HaNearim (KH) is a not for profit organization that provides care for over 3,500 orphans and at-risk children at partner orphanages in Israel, often in the form of summer camp experiences and year-long programming. This year, the coronavirus pandemic put an end to business as usual, as COVID restrictions prevented travel for KH’s 300 overseas high school and college student summer recruits. These students included many from SAR Academy in Riverdale, who are often participants in KH’s summer programming.

In an innovative collaboration that made the best of a challenging situation, on July 7, SAR and and KH opened a summer program for 150 SAR students entering grades K-6, with KH’s teens and young adults as counselors.

“Many students had no plans for the summer and had already been home for four months straight,” explained SAR Principal Rabbi Krauss. “At the same time, many students, including my daughter Davida, were supposed to go to Israel on KH programs. So, we thought, let’s do good for all by creating a low cost program for SAR students using alumni and KH counselors.”

It was a win all around. SAR created three weeks of low-key, fun and educational programs that also indirectly supported children in Israel. “We are so grateful to KH for this partnership; it was amazing to witness their entrepreneurial spirit from day one. KH founder Michael Reidler took my call on erev Shavuot, heard the idea and said ‘yes’ on the spot,” said Krauss. “Andi Koppelman, KH executive director, hit the ground running and put together a fabulous program. SAR High School nurse Russi Bohm, and our student activities director, Adina Steinberg, volunteered their services to give these kids a great summer,” continued Kruass.

“This was an opportunity for us to prepare for our reopening on a smaller scale: 150 kids, instead of 950, and 60 counselors instead of 150 teachers,” noted Krauss, who added, “We learned a lot about mask wearing, social distancing, pods and individualized food service. I am sure we are better prepared for September based on our experience in July.”

Reidler stated, “It was amazing to get a phone call from Rabbi Krauss and then see, within a few weeks, Kol HaNearim and SAR partnering on this massive undertaking. I am so deeply impressed by SAR’s willingness to innovate in order to provide for their student body and families as best as possible. It’s rare to see such a big institution, like SAR, think so creatively and move so fast, but they do it with excellence.

“The real beauty of the KH/SAR camp was that, during this pandemic, it has been hard for individuals to make a positive impact,” continued Reidler. “Thanks to this program, the mission of KH to help children develop from ‘receivers to givers’ was fulfilled by SAR faculty and KH staff giving back to the community.”

In addition to such usual activities as arts & crafts, sports, sprinklers, dance/music and yoga, special events were arranged. These included challah baking, cookie/cupcake decorating, candy sushi making, “minute to win it,” a dance show, color war, color run, Israel day, gan ilan, drum lessons, tie dye day, Purim in July, Jersey and crazy hat days, Shabbat parties, and a Hatzolah visit.

“We had tefillah and chinuch every day. We used Zoom for parsha time with Lower School Associate Principal Sharon Richter. SAR’s chef Eran Ginzberg prepared hot, individually packaged lunches daily,” said Koppelman, who added that physical distancing was observed with desks six feet apart and campers limited to one location.

Alize Sperling, an SAR parent, stated, “I was so happy for Orly that she could go back to SAR after she had missed out on being there in person for so long. She was thrilled to go back to school and be with her friends. I trust SAR and felt very comfortable that they would run the camp in the most responsible way.” Fourth grader Orly loved yoga, “because we did tree pose contests and won every time. It was good to be back at SAR!”

Ellen Fischel, parent of first-grader Lauren and fourth-grader David, expressed, “We were excited to send our kids to the SAR/KH summer program. It was a great option that made us feel that the kids were safe, social and would have a good time, which they had.”

Fischel added, “Rabbi Krauss was completely transparent with information and safety protocols so we knew our kids were in great hands. Adina Steinberg, Andi Koppelman and the rest of the programming/nursing team did a phenomenal job keeping the kids safe and having fun in this new COVID world.”

Both Fischel children were happy to attend. Lauren enjoyed water play, color run, baking challah and making slime in art, while David enjoyed water balloon fights, roasting marshmallows and frisbee football.

“Many parents emailed expressions of gratitude, letting us know how much fun their kids had and how happy they were. Parents expressed their appreciation that their kids got to experience some sense of normalcy after Zoom school. This year, the kids were robbed of a normal Purim experience. ‘Purim in July’ allowed them to finally showcase their costumes,” said Koppelman.

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