When 4-year-old Ezra Yahr came home from his first day at Beth Tfiloh Day Camp, the first words out of his mouth even before getting off the bus were, “Mommy, I had the best day at camp!” his mother, Jackie Yahr, shared.
This is the first day camp experience for Ezra, who does not attend Beth Tfiloh during the school year.
For his mother — who attended Beth Tfiloh as a student, camper and camp counselor — Ezra’s participation at Beth Tfiloh Day Camp brings the experience “full circle.”
“I feel very strongly that the Jewish camping experience is very important in a person’s life, as it’s a way to connect kids to their religion, to their Judaism,” Yahr said.
As to any concerns regarding COVID-19, Yahr is comfortable that all the activities are outdoors.
After two years of pandemic restrictions, many children and their parents are thrilled to be spending time outdoors, at several of the day and overnight camps that offer not only fun, but enriching programs. Several children shared some of their favorite things about camp, and their parents weighed in on what this summer means for them with COVID looming.
The Greenberg children are attending two different camps. Harlow, 7, is attending Beth Tfiloh Sports Camp, where she plays “everything,” including tennis, soccer, baseball and football. Harlow said she looks forward to “playing sports every day, swimming and riding on the bus.”
Blake Greenberg, 11, is attending Camp Louise, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. Blake looks forward to “seeing friends, having a sleepover every night and going down the water slide.”
Harlow and Blake’s Mom, Carly Greenberg, said that she is thrilled her kids are going to camp and is happy that they get to spend the day outside, having a regular summer. “I appreciate it even more now because they couldn’t go to camp for a year,” she said.
COVID is not as much a concern this year, Greenberg said, because both camps have taken extraordinary precautions to keep the children safe.
Ivy Ammann has two daughters attending Camp Louise this summer: Chloe, 11, and Jordyn, 9. The sisters will also spend three weeks at Beth Tfiloh Theater Camp after Camp Louise.
Both sisters look forward to attending camp.
Chloe enthusiastically shared that she was most looking forward to “spending time with friends and making games to play during bunk time.”
As for Jordyn, she is looking forward to “mermaid training, instructional swim and singing the goodnight song together as a camp before bed.”
Ammann went to Camp Louise as a child and will be working there this year, in programming and running evening activities. In what felt like a homecoming, Ammann said, “It was particularly special to see the camp I knew as a child through the eyes of Chloe.”
Ammann added that everyone has taken extra steps to keep kids extra safe.
Bradley Zajdel, 7, is attending J-Camp at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC, where he enjoy a range of stimulating activities, including playing tennis, swimming and playing games.
Bradley’s mom, Lisa Zajdel, said that the family started participating in various JCC programs when Bradley was just 12 weeks old.
“They helped raise my children,” Zajdel said. “It is really a wonderful place. They instill so many Jewish values and they make learning fun.”
Zajdel also grew up at the JCC, recalling the summers she and her family spent there since she was in preschool.
Dalia Kintisch, 11, gets the best of both worlds — four weeks at J Camp and three weeks at Camp Louise.
One of Dalia’s favorite things about camp is the spirit of J-Day. “There is a lot of sharing, singing and songs,” she said. “People are more open, letting loose and having fun and not letting what other people think” be an issue.
And one of her favorite activities at Camp Louise is arts and crafts, where in the past she has made jewelry out of copper enamel for her mom and her grandmother.
Elana Hoffman, Dalia’s mother, remarked that in addition to making friends and having fun, Hoffman loves that “camp activities are imbued with Jewish values.”
Hoffman said that Camp Louise has a very good COVID safety plan in place.
One young camper is transitioning from attendee to staff support as she readies for college. Maya Taylor, 18, just graduated high school from Beth Tfiloh and is looking forward to attending the University of Delaware in the fall to study nursing. She has attended Beth Tfiloh Day Camp since she was a preschooler, and this summer is working at the day camp as a nurse’s assistant.
Taylor has participated in leadership training in the past, though this is her first summer working. She looks forward to making campers feel comfortable in the nurse’s suite. “I was also a camper at BT Camps for many years so I definitely understand what the campers are going through and know that they just want to get back to the fun so we make sure that having fun is our top priority in the nurses’ suite,” she said.
Haydee M. Rodriguez is a freelance writer.