Amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus, almost all Jewish summer camps have cancelled sessions this summer, disappointing kids and parents alike. Since then, some camps have pivoted to virtual models, offering online options to replace in-person programming. And Jewish youth organizations have stepped in with classes, crafts, and even group activities that kids can do from their living rooms.
Online offerings may never live up to the magic of in-person summer camp, but they can help kids stuck at home connect with friends and learn a new skill — while giving weary parents a much-needed break.
If you and your kids are exploring unconventional options for this unconventional summer, here are six places to find online offerings for kids from kindergarten to high school.
Sprout Brooklyn is partnering with the 92nd Street Y to provide virtual camp offerings for kids as young as two years old. Programs for toddlers include daily tumbling, storytime, and “Disney Parade Dancing” (sign me up, please). Kids from kindergarten to sixth grade can participate in full or half days at the Virtual Summer Experience, which includes typical summer camp activities like music, yoga, and Jewish culture. They can also participate in a Hebrew language immersion program. For those kiddos who wanted to be on the computer all summer anyway, Brooklyn sprout also offers STEM workshops in subjects like graphic design and video editing.
The details: Weekly sessions take place from June 29 to August 21. Campers can choose between full or half days.
For Jewish teens who may be missing out on the culminating years of summer camp, BBYO is offering a variety of programs centered around leadership and Jewish identity. Two-week sessions involving team-building, Jewish history, and community organizing are available throughout the summer. Some programs are only open to teens who are already members in BBYO. If your teen is looking for a less scheduled form of Jewish entertainment, BBYO’s On Demand platform, created at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, hosts teen-oriented discussions and events every day.
The details: BBYO offerings take place in two-week sessions throughout the summer. Each session involves about two hours of class time per day.
Summer in the Cloud
Summer in the Cloud is a virtual summer camp collectively hosted by several New York-area JCCs. Each day’s session will start with an online flagpole event, and campers can focus on electives like cooking, American Sign Language, fitness, and theater. Summer in the Cloud is open to kids from kindergarten to sixth grade.
The details: Summer in the Clouds is a morning-only program, with an afternoon class from 4-5 p.m. available. Weekly sessions will run from July 6 to August 21.
#myUSYfiSummer, the USY’s slate of virtual offerings, is perfect for kids and teens who want more control over their schedules. For a flat fee, campers can pick and choose from dozens of programs related to academics, the arts, and Judaism (some “premium” programs require an extra fee). Stand-up comedy, college prep, and even composting workshops are all options. Some are stand-alone classes, others take place over several weeks.
Details: The program runs from July 1 to August 14. Campers can choose their own schedule each day.
Camp Ben Frankel
Normally located in Belleville, Ill., Camp Ben Frankel has launched a virtual program that aims to recreate the atmosphere of summer camp as much as possible. Besides celebrating Shabbat and Havdalah, campers share special activities with their online “cabins.” Electives include podcasting, book discussions, and a Dungeons and Dragons club.
The details: Weekly sessions run from June 22 to July 17 (more may be added at a later date).
While few Jewish summer camps have pivoted to offering a full slate of virtual activities, many have devised new programs and resources for campers stuck at home. Events hosted by camps within the Union of Reform Judaism’s network are open to everyone, and a comprehensive schedule can be found here. Some camps operated by the Ramah Camping movement are operating programs specifically for registered campers
Irene Katz Connelly is an editorial fellow at the Forward. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.