Summer for Philadelphia-area Jewish kids often means camp — and a sampling of area camps shows they’re preparing with an array of new programs and improvements.
Summer camp is a place where kids traditionally have discovered important values like friendship, independence, integrity, diversity and community. And at a Jewish summer camp, children have the opportunity to explore their Jewish identity in an environment that encourages them to think and act creatively.
For example, one mainstay, Camp Ramah, is introducing a farm-to-table initiative available to rising third- through sixth-graders. Rabbi Joel Seltzer, the camp’s executive director, said campers will be able to “spend time in the organic garden learning about, planting, producing, cooking, identifying and harvesting our herbs.”
The camp is also adding new specialty tracks such as a drama academy and a music academy. These programs will offer campers “of all ages an intensive drama and musical experience” that allows them to learn the skills of “acting, songwriting, and song leading,” Seltzer said. The programs will be taught by theater educator and Ramah alumna Ariel Warmflash and Josh Warshawsky, respectively.
A grant from the Jewish Federation Real Estate Group will enable Ramah to open two new camper bunks for the first time in decades. Seltzer said this will help the camp accommodate more campers in the summers to come. Additionally, the bunks will be used for year-round retreat activities.
Meanwhile, Camp Harlam is offering specialty sports clinics and arts workshops led by professional artists and coaches.
Basketball, digital photography, soccer and hip-hop dance are some of the activities that will be offered this summer. Lisa David, the camp’s director, said that within the arts department an interactive science elective will be available to campers interested in hands-on scientific activities.
Harlam has added a teaching kitchen that will be used for intimate group programming. Campers will use amenities such as electric ranges and various workstations to improve their baking and cooking skills. Throughout the summer, the camp will renovate its Chapel in the Woods to upgrade the chapel’s seating and accommodations, David said.
Camp Gan Izzy in Bucks County is offering a new professionally-led arts program for 3- to 5-year-olds designed to promote creative expression and exploration. The program will include “a preschool division for 3- and 4-year-olds and a transitional division for 5-year-olds,” said Jill McGlone, the camp’s administrator. “Innovative art forms will be explored as well as age appropriate workshops and trip.”
At Camp Galil (Habonim Dror) in Ottsville, a teen social justice program called Bonimot Tzedek will be launched that enables its high schoolers to choose a topic and work toward social change.
“In May, the high schoolers chose to focus on gun control laws in their communities,” said Molly Wernick, the camp’s assistant director of community engagement. “These campers will spend the summer, and into the school year, learning about the complexities of the issues surrounding guns.”
Pinemere Camp is launching The Green House Project, an Israeli partnership that will investigate sustainability, water purification, climate change, and food production, said Mitch Morgan, the camp’s executive director. The camp has also added six new basketball hoops, golf games, cooking class programs, water toys, and baseball equipment.
Camp Nock-A-Mixon in Kintnersville will debut an amphitheater with a 25-foot movie screen and state-of-the-art sound system, said Gary Glaser, the camp’s director. The amphitheater, which the camp will use for guest performances and musicals, can seat 900.
And Play by Play Sports Broadcasting Camps (SBC) recently announced an undisclosed investment by Seventy-Six Capital, a sports tech venture capital firm co-led by former Philadelphia Phillies star Ryan Howard, which will allow it to greatly expand its camp venues, activities and educational platforms.
The camp, which teaches children the art of sports broadcasting, will be held at Villanova University and feature guest speakers including Howard and Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman Stefan Wisniewski, said Jeremy Treatman, SBC’s founder and co-CEO. The camp will be co-taught by Neil Hartman, a former CSN anchor.