American Jewish summer camps spoiled for choice with virtual engagement

But to fill the summer void, almost all the 150 Jewish overnight camps in the US and Canada have offered virtual programming.

Summer camp [Illustrative] (photo credit: PIXABAY)
Summer camp [Illustrative]
(photo credit: PIXABAY)
Alongside the massive turmoil the Covid-19 pandemic has caused to daily life around the world, it has also disrupted numerous educational frameworks and, of particular important to Jewish life, especially in North America, summer camp.
The overwhelming majority of the 150 overnight camps in the US and Canada were forced to cancel camp, leaving 80,000 Jewish children with no plans for the summer, while many day camps were also forced to cancel or curtail their activities.
But to fill the summer void, almost all of these camps have offered virtual programming, something which has been greatly assisted by the Mosaic United organization, an agency of the Diaspora Affairs Ministry, together with Foundation for Jewish Camp. 
The two organizations created the website where various content and service providers can offer their wares free of charge and where summer camps, as well as synagogues and day schools can locate the kind of activities and programs they want for their participants and students.
So the Dror Yisrael educational organization offers an online Escape Room along a theme of the Ethiopian Jewish community’s mass immigration to Israel, while PJ Library offers virtual tours of Jerusalem.
Another provider offers Yemenite cooking classes, Yad Vashem offers Holocaust survivor testimonies, the Bina social change movement puts on virtual tours of south Tel Aviv to discuss societal challenges in the city, while music, performing arts and dozens of other activities are all available for camps and other institutions to chose from.
Mosaic United has also helped make available the new virtual camp platform to many Jewish overnight and day camps to help facilitate the use of the content providers available through the Experienceshuk service.
These new virtual facilities are also designed for use by camps for year-round engagement, which many conduct in pandemic-free times, and it is hoped that they can bolster the development of communities created by the virtual camp experiences.
“Jewish camps are the single most important experience in the development of Jewish identity amongst children in North America, and defining who they are as human beings,” said Jodi Sperling, director of the Jewish Camp at Home project of Mosaic United and Foundation for Jewish Camp.
“If we want to grow young Jews who care about the world around them and want to make a difference, that happens at camp, and it also inspires kids to care about being Jewish,” she said.
Ensuring that these opportunities and experiences are not lost due to the COVID-19 health crisis is crucial for the ongoing development of Jewish children in North America, she asserted.