COVID-19 Updates & FAQs
We have opened kayitz (summer) 2021 and are so happy to be back together at camp! We will continue to update this FAQ page as we update and adjust our policies. We will continue to evaluate our community’s needs and the situation at camp and in our surrounding areas, and make adjustments as necessary, always being mindful of managing risk and making sure that camp runs safely. We appreciate everyone’s understanding that we have to be flexible and that camp may look different in order to accommodate health and state regulations. We value the incredible relationship we have with our camp families. We will always consistently communicate openly and transparently about all camp matters and update our families on any policy changes as they happen.
Please click here to read Rabbi Gelb’s July 16, 2021 update on our COVID testing results and updates to our policies for campers and staff.
Please click here to read Rabbi Gelb’s July 15, 2021 update to parents of first and full session campers who are picking up their first session campers by car on Sunday, July 25.
Please click here to read Rabbi Gelb’s July 9, 2021 update on our COVID testing results and updates to our policies for campers and staff.
Please scroll down to see FAQs and a number of additional resources, including a complete archive of all of our 2020-21 COVID communications. Please do not hesitate to reach out to contact our camp leadership with any additional questions or concerns.
A: We want to implement safe procedures for Closing Day, just as we did on Opening Day. Parents will be directed to park alongside the A-side road and must remain near their cars. Our staff will bring campers to their parents’ cars; parents will not be able to walk up to the camper bunks.
The window for picking up campers by car is 10am to 12pm. Families who are picking up their campers by car will need to sign up for a pick-up time slot using an online portal that will open on Tuesday, July 13, 7pm. Here is the link to the portal. We will be limiting the number of cars per time slot so that we can safely and efficiently reunite all campers with their families. Time slots will be available on a “first come first served” basis.
Here is an outline of the process:
- Pick-up time slots will be 10:00, 10:30, 11:00 and 11:30.
- You may not arrive at the camp gate for drop-off more than five minutes prior to your time slot. We realize that people driving to camp may not be able to precisely schedule their arrival to Palmer. Please take traffic into account when making your plans.
- If you arrive in Palmer early, please park and wait at the Big Y parking lot. You will be sent away if you arrive at camp early because we cannot block the road entering camp.
- You recently received an email from Marggi with your specific luggage assignment and the times are attached once again to this email. Based on your assignment, when the portal opens, please choose your time slot as follows:
- For Northampton luggage location: choose 10:00
- For Worcester luggage location: choose 10:30 or earlier
- For West Hartford luggage location: choose 10:30 or earlier
- For New Haven luggage location: choose 11:00 or earlier
- For all other locations: choose any pick-up time slot
- To enable our staff to check off our parents as they arrive at the front gate and make it easier for our staff to bring campers to their parents’ cars, please come with the name of your camper written clearly in bold marker on a full sheet of paper.
- Once we have brought all campers to their family cars during each slot, we will facilitate your departure from camp and we will then welcome the next shift.
A: All vaccinated and unvaccinated campers must receive two COVID PCR tests prior to their arrival at camp. The first test must happen on July 16. The results of the second test are needed by the time campers arrive on Tuesday, July 27. Due to test processing time, we are allowing the second test to be administered starting on Friday, July 23. When choosing your testing provider, please ensure that test results will be returned on time.
- PCR test 1: Friday, July 16
- PCR test 2: Testing may begin Friday, July 23
In the DC area, PM Pediatrics Urgent Care – Rockville location, is open 7 days a week, noon to midnight, and can provide same-day or next-day PCR results.
The results of both PCR tests need to be uploaded in PDF format directly to your camper’s CampMinder account as soon as you receive them. In each child’s forms and documents queue, you will find 2 different portals for uploading the 1st and 2nd PCR test results. Please click the grey button on the right of each to upload the PDFs.
If your test results are positive, please upload them to your account and also email firstname.lastname@example.org immediately.
Please contact email@example.com if:
- You need a letter stating that Ramah campers must have PCR tests (if you need this to get an appointment or to show to your insurance company)
- You need help uploading the test results to your CampMinder account
- You absolutely do not have computer access to convert your test results to a PDF
As a reminder, it is critical to strictly adhere to CDC guidance for unvaccinated individuals about safe practices for avoiding infection prior to coming to camp. Even for vaccinated individuals, we request that you exercise extra caution during this period, as well, including avoidance of crowded indoor venues.
These policies may continue to evolve as the Commonwealth of MA issues new regulations.
A: Our primary goals for Opening Day are to keep our community safe from COVID and to make sure we are focused on welcoming campers and providing great care as they transition into the camp community.
There are two parts to this section: one is for those driving to camp and one is for those flying to camp. Please feel free to jump to the section that applies to your family.
If you are dropping your camper at camp:
Because we must test vaccinated and unvaccinated campers on Opening Day, families must sign up for their drop-off time slot using an online portal that will open this Wednesday, July 14, 7pm. Here is the link to the portal. We will be limiting the number of cars per time slot so that we can safely and efficiently process each car. Time slots will be available on a “first come first served” basis. Here is an outline of the process:
- Drop-off time slots will be at 10:00, 11:00, 11:40 and 12:20.
- You may not arrive at the camp gate for drop-off more than five minutes prior to your time slot. We realize that people driving to camp may not be able to precisely schedule their arrival to Palmer. Please take traffic into account when making your plans.
- If you arrive in Palmer early, please park and wait at the Big Y parking lot. You will be sent away if you arrive at camp early because we cannot block the road entering camp.
- Upon entering camp, you will be directed to park along the road on A-side. Please stay in your cars.
- After all cars have entered, our team will come to each car to administer the rapid Abbott BinaxNow test. The test results will be available in about fifteen minutes. During this waiting period, we also will screen as many campers as possible for lice. Parents must remain in their cars during this time period unless using the port-a-potties by the guard house.
- After we have processed the tests and are given the “all clear,” campers will say goodbye to their parents and their counselors will lead them to the bunk area. Activities will begin and campers will settle into camp.
- If a child tests positive for COVID, the parents will take that child to a designated urgent care center to take a rapid PCR test. If that test is positive, the parents will contact camp for further instructions (to discuss whether the child will go home or isolate at camp). If the test is negative, the child will return to camp.
- After all cars have been processed (approximately 40-60 minutes), we will facilitate them leaving camp and then welcome the next shift.
If your child is flying to camp:
- It is critical that campers flying to camp adhere to all masking policies during the trip.
- If your camper is not on the group flight from BWI to BDL Airport in Hartford, CT, we will contact you directly with specific pickup instructions in the days right before the flight.
- For those on the BWI to BDL group flight, you will meet the camp-designated chaperone at the gate. We will send additional details to these families next week.
- Upon arrival at BDL, the group will proceed together directly to the buses and head to camp. We will email you when they arrive.
- Upon arrival at camp, campers will be greeted by camp staff and will be administered the rapid Abbott BinaxNow test and receive lice checks. If the camper tests negative, they will join the camp program. Any camper testing positive will be retested with a rapid PCR test at a local urgent care center. If the camper tests positive, we will contact you, and the camper will isolate at camp in our medical facility. If the camper tests negative, they will enter the camp program.
NAVICA App for Opening Day COVID Tests:
To expedite the tracking of the rapid COVID tests that campers will take upon arrival at camp, we ask all parents to register their campers on the NAVICA app. This app will track the July 27 at-camp tests and not the pre-camp COVID tests. These instructions apply to all campers, whether being dropped off or arriving by plane.
This NAVICA app will generate a barcode that will be needed upon arrival at camp – either available on a parent phone or printed out from the website.
You can download the NAVICA app on your phone or register on the NAVICA website. Please use our camp address, 39 Bennett St. Palmer, MA 01069, as your camper’s address. If you have any problems installing the app (it should take 3-4 minutes) or have questions about the process, please click here for Step by Step Directions.
- If you are driving your child to camp: please either have the app open or print out the barcode for each of your campers to show the staff when they come to your car.
- If your child is flying to camp or taking a train: please print out the barcode and send it with your child in their pocket or backpack.
Marp (Health Center) Consultations:
On Opening Day, our medical staff will not be available for consults as they will be busy with COVID protocols and testing. If you need to consult with a nurse before camp, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a time to speak.
A:As we explained previously, we have reduced our staffing in certain departments this summer. One consequence is that we cannot accept camper packages this summer as we won’t have staff members available to deliver them. We will not deliver the packages if you send them. If your camper needs emergency supplies, you must contact your yoetzet (we will provide their cell numbers right before camp) and they can authorize a package delivery for a true emergency, or work out a different plan with you.
A: Yes. In consultation with the Ramah New England Medical Committee, we strongly encourage you to have your child vaccinated prior to their arrival at camp. Vaccinations are an essential tool in our efforts to mitigate risk at camp this summer and will help to provide our campers with a safe and wonderful camp experience. Every additional member of our community that is vaccinated, children and adults, will enable us to better protect the health and safety of our entire community this summer.
We ask parents to begin the vaccination series as soon as possible. Ideally, all campers in this age bracket will be able to complete the full vaccination series two weeks prior to camp (by June 15 for first and full session campers and by July 13 for second session campers). This means that for first and full session campers, the first vaccine needs to be administered by Tuesday, May 25th.
After you have completed your vaccinations, please submit a copy (photo or scan) of your vaccination card to us.
A: The health and safety of our camp community is guiding our luggage procedures this year, which have changed significantly from previous years. Most of our campers (see exceptions below) will now be required to ship their luggage to and from camp using a highly reputable camp luggage delivery service called Camp Trucking.
Implementing these policies will cost each family $100 per camper (except international campers). We decided to charge each camper the same amount to provide some equity for our geographically diverse community.
Utilizing this luggage service will help ensure a smooth opening day experience for our campers and their families. Because families will not be entering camp (and going up to the bunks) on our opening days, they will not be able to bring their own luggage up to the bunks. We want all of our staff (counselors and adults) to be available to be giving their full attention to our campers and their families during drop-off time, rather than our having to assign a large group of staff to handle luggage deliveries. Additionally, for our A-Side campers, we feel that having their luggage unpacked and waiting for them in their bunks will help create a warm, welcoming environment for them on that critical first day of camp
We acknowledge that because our campers come from such a range of locations, the luggage policy is complex. Please review our luggage procedure carefully and let us know if you have any questions. We appreciate the spirit that we are all in this together!
A: We will follow all state and federal guidelines on mask wearing.
Campers will not be required to wear masks when inside their bunk or at bunk activities.
Campers will not be required to wear masks when outdoors or during outdoor activities.
Vaccinated campers will, by and large, not have to wear masks indoors.
Unvaccinated campers will have to wear masks indoors except in bunk settings. After we receive the day eight Covid testing results, and we are cleared, unvaccinated campers will be allowed to go unmasked indoors for edah activities.
Vaccinated campers should bring at least 10 disposable masks for each session they will be at camp.
Unvaccinated campers will need a fresh mask every day. To ensure that each person has sufficient masks for camp, please send your camper with a box of 50 disposable masks for each session that they will be at camp.
If you child prefers to wear a reusable mask, please follow these guidelines:
- Follow the CDC’s Guide to Masks, which specifies two or more layers and how to obtain a good fit for your child.
- If your child will be relying primarily on reusable masks, please send 14 masks as these masks must be washed after a single use and there is a ten-day laundry cycle at camp.
- Please send your camper with a box of 50 disposable masks for each session that they will be at camp, to serve as back-up to the reusable masks.
A:All campers will be tested on arrival day,whether or not you have been vaccinated against COVID.
We are currently planning to test unvaccinated campers on day 5, day 8 and then two other times during each 4-week session. These protocols may change as conditions change.
A: Yes. A COVID vaccine is required for staff members who will be employed at Ramah camps and Israel programs this summer. Staff members are required to be fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to arrival at camp. This includes all international staff.
A: Each Ramah camp has its own medical committee that includes several camp doctors and nurses. The chairs of the medical committees of all Ramah camps make up the National Ramah Medical Committee, which is chaired by Dr. Cliff Nerwin.
These committees also rely on the guidance, advice and expertise of consultants provided through the American Camp Association, AMSkier Insurance, JCamp180/Grinspoon Foundation, Foundation for Jewish Camp and Massachusetts Camping Association, among others. We have heard from the medical teams of camps that operated last summer, day schools across the US, infectious disease experts, and many others.
In regard to mental health and behavioral challenges, the same groups have provided a great deal of helpful guidance. In addition, we have been working all year with our camp psychologist, Dr. Alan Jacobson, and our camper care team to develop plans for supporting and nurturing our campers and staff. The directors of camper care from all the Ramah camps meet on a regular basis to plan and discuss best practices. We have been hearing from experts in the field and have talked to schools about what they are experiencing.
Steven M. Schwartz, M.D.
Dr. Steven M. Schwartz is a family physician, the Medical Director of Potomac Physician Associates, and the Chief Medical Information Officer of PPA. Dr. Schwartz received his undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University and his M.D. at Tufts University School of Medicine in 1994 and completed his residency in Family Medicine at Georgetown University. He is board-certified by the American Board of Family Medicine. Dr. Schwartz is the former associate dean and Director of Medical Student Education at the Georgetown University School of Medicine in the Department of Family Medicine. Dr. Schwartz currently maintains his association with Georgetown University and is a volunteer associate professor. Dr. Schwartz special interests include sports medicine, dermatology and integrative medicine, and he provides comprehensive primary care to newborns, children, and adults.
Michael Agus, MD
Division Chief, Division of Medical Critical Care; Endowed Chair in Critical Care; Medical Director, Medical Intensive Care Unit and Intermediate Care Program; Co-Medical Director, Biocontainment Unit
Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School
• University of Pennsylvania , 1990 , Philadelphia , PA
• University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine , 1995 , Philadelphia , PA
• Boston Children’s Hospital , 1996 , Boston , MA
• Boston Children’s Hospital , 1998 , Boston , MA
Pediatric Critical Care
• Massachusetts General Hospital , 2002 , Boston , MA
• Boston Children’s Hospital , 2002 , Boston , MA
A: Please click here to read Rabbi Gelb’s July 16th update to families regarding staff days off during the remainder of first session and the beginning of second session. Please click here to read Rabbi Gelb’s July 9th update to families regarding staff days off during week 3 of first session.
We will begin each session operating in a “bubble” this summer. For first session, see the letter above for changes we have made. We are still planning that, for the duration of each camp session, campers will not enter and leave the camp grounds. Campers must arrive on time and stay throughout the session. There will not be any out-of-camp trips nor any visitors to camp.
At the start of second session we will restart our bubble protocols and likely reevaluate staff bubble rules after the day 8 test results and looking at the local and state conditions.
A: We plan to begin each camp session with programming that will focus on Covid safety, bunk bonding and fun programming at an edah (division/age-group) level, that will take place outdoors.
After this “pod” period, we will run a more familiar-looking camp program, including an array of chug (elective) offerings, following all COVID safety protocols.
At the start of the second session, we will reset all of camp back to the “pod” period.
A: Camper Care is the single most important thing at Camp Ramah New England. In anticipation of this summer, we have asked all families to fill out our COVID form. We know that our campers and their families have faced difficult challenges this past year, and that it’s even more important than ever that camp provide individualized care and support for every child in our care this summer. Talya Kalender, our Director of Camper Care, is overseeing a robust program of training this year for all staff-members to create a safe, warm atmosphere at camp, train them in how to recognize and address mental health needs and issues in their campers, and how to respond when challenges arrive. This will be a team effort of our entire year-round and summer 2021 staff. We are excited for Ramah to once again pave the way in terms of how best to create a transformative summer camp experience in which all of our campers can feel safe, and can flourish.
A: Kochavim will consist of campers currently in grades 2 and 3 and Ilanot will consist of campers currently in grade 4. We did this to balance the numbers between these two edot to maximize the camp program experience.
A: The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has updated their rules for quarantining close contacts or isolating for COVID cases to allow both to take place at camp. We will inform you directly if your child tests positive for COVID or is deemed a close contact.
A: Yes. If a camper has to miss part of camp due to COVID, we will apply a refund of $50 of tuition per full day missed of camp.
This refund amount reflects both our desire to be fair and helpful to our families and the reality that the costs of camp (year round work, infrastructure, staffing and program) do not measurably change if a camper misses a portion of camp.
A: We plan on having our dining room staff and much of our kitchen staff reside on site as in years past.
Our cooking staff are local day workers who will all be vaccinated and will undergo daily COVID screening.
Our foreign Kitchen staff who reside at camp will be vaccinated.
A: We will have protocols in place for situations in which a camper or staff member needs to leave camp for a medical situation. There will be a designated staff member present for the entire experience. Both the camper and staff member will be required to wear masks, observe appropriate social distancing, and visit a medical facility where strict COVID-related procedures are in place. They will then be allowed to return to their cohort(s) when they return.
A: Yes. There will be opportunities for our campers to see their friends/siblings/relatives who are in different edot (age groups) in a COVID-safe way. Our experience is that camp is small enough that these connections tend to happen in a very natural way, and we expect that to be unchanged this summer.
We will check in, especially with our younger campers, to make sure they know how to find their siblings and make sure they get that chance — especially on Shabbat.
A: We know that many parents enjoy seeing photos of their children as well as blog posts and other updates that share what’s happening at camp during the summer.
This summer, due to COVID, we have reduced the size of our staff and will not have a camp photographer, camp blogger, or camp communications specialist on staff. To create the best possible experience for our campers, we want our summer staff to remain focused on ensuring our campers are safe and happy by reducing the amount of time they would typically spend to ensure the daily output of photos and blog posts.
We would like to share our plan for communicating with our families this summer. Please understand that this is our current plan; we’ll remain flexible and adjust as we see how the summer is going and what we are/aren’t able to do.
- We will post a tzrif (bunk) photo for every tzrif by the end of the first day of each session (on our password-protected website photo galleries).
- We will post one photo gallery for every edah (division) per week (on our website photo galleries). These galleries will include at least one photo of every camper in that edah. We will announce the schedule for posting these galleries at the start of each session, so families will know when to look for them.
- Rabbi Gelb will continue to send his Friday update emails to the camp community.
- When possible, we will post additional photo galleries of other camp special events, as well as blog posts, videos and livestreams.
If you want to check in on how your child is doing at camp, we invite you to contact your child’s yoetz, an adult who is attached to your child’s edah; they will be happy to assist you! We will be sending out the names and camp cell phone numbers of our yoatzot shortly before the start of each camp session.
Additionally, you can always feel free to reach out directly to Talya Kalender, our Director of Camper Care, or Rabbi Gelb if you have any concerns about your child during the summer.
A: Sadly, this summer we cannot have a Visiting Day. We will make plans for full summer campers to connect virtually with their families mid-summer.
A: Our medical team has met and determined that it is very likely that the first week of camp will require everyone to observe strict masking, social distancing and “podding” (campers/staff in smaller groups). After testing and the first week has passed, they anticipate we will be able to run camp more normally. This is impactful on Kochavim for two reasons:
First, our camp psychologist feels that our campers will need time to adjust to our COVID-19 safety procedures this summer. We are confident that the kids will have a safe and fun experience. However, he feels that each camper’s cumulative experience will be greatly enhanced once we move to the second level of protocols and that having only a week at that level will not allow them to fully adjust and enjoy that aspect of camp.
Second, for Kochavim Bet and Daled (which traditionally start in the middle of our four-week sessions), the Medical Committee feels that introducing new campers to camp would force the entire camp to return to this initial “podding” protocol. We do not feel that is a tenable position for the camp to take.
Please click here for Rabbi Gelb’s full letter of explanation.
A: While it is our greatest hope to run camp in kayitz (summer) 2021, we realize that there are still many unknowns for this summer. As a result, we have modified our normal refund policy (which can be found here):
• In the event that camp cannot open for kayitz (summer) 2021, all families will again be eligible for a full refund of their deposits and registration fees.
• If camp opens but it is not medically safe for your child to attend (due to his/her health or a family member’s), you will be able to cancel your child’s enrollment and receive a full refund. COVID-related medical information will be required in one of our pre-summer forms. If your camper or a family member has an underlying medical condition that puts them in a high risk category, please be in touch with us so that we can work with your family and your medical professionals to determine an appropriate plan for camp as well as a decision-making timeline.
• If camp opens and you choose to withdraw your child without a COVID-related medical reason, our regular refund policy will apply.
• If camp opens but cannot run at full capacity, and so we need to adjust our dates, families will get a refund if the revised schedule does not work for them. Families will be given an opportunity to opt-in or opt-out of this revised plan. The fees for a revised camp session will be prorated less non-recoverable expenses as determined by the camp.
• Please visit our Day Camp COVID FAQ page for additional information regarding our refund policy at our Day Camp.
A: We promise to continue our pattern of regular, open communication to our camper families regarding how the COVID-19 pandemic may continue to impact Camp Ramah New England and our plans for kayitz (summer) 2021. We will communicate our plans via email and also archive them on this webpage.
Click here for Rabbi Gelb’s May email to camp families with Opening Day procedures.
Click here for Rabbi Gelb’s April, 2021 email to camp families (as a follow-up to our town hall Zoom meeting).
Click here for Rabbi Gelb’s March, 2021 email to camp families.
Click here for Rabbi Gelb’s February, 2021 email to camp families.
Click here for Rabbi Gelb’s January, 2021 email to camp families.
Click here for Rabbi Gelb’s December, 2020 email to camp families, focused on transportation.
Click here for Rabbi Gelb’s December, 2020 email to Kochavim families, explaining the changes to our 2021 options for current second and third grade campers.
Click here for Rabbi Gelb’s November, 2020 email to camp families.
Click here for Rabbi Gelb’s October, 2020 email to camp families.
COVID FAQ page for Ramah Day Camp, Greater DC:
Support Documents and Other Mental Health Resources:
Additional Resources From the ACA (American Camp Association):
Responding to Change and Loss — National Alliance for Grieving Children
Keep Calm– Webinar covering the science behind managing stress (Michelle Post M.A., LMFT)
Archive from Spring-Summer 2020:
Please click here to read Rabbi Gelb’s full letter to the community, announcing the sad decision that we will not be able to open our camps for summer 2020.
Please click here to see a recording of our Overnight Camp town hall meeting from Monday night, May 20th.
Click here for our May 13, 2020 update.
Click here for our April 30, 2020 update.
Click here for our March 25, 2020 update.
We are asking all 2020 camp families to please complete an on-line form, which will be sent out on Thursday May 21 at approx. 5:00 PM EDT, to indicate what portion of their 2020 tuition they are willing to donate to camp, and what remainder they are asking to be refunded. We ask that all families complete this form by Monday, May 25. We hope that all of our families will stretch, in order to be able to donate as significant a portion of their tuition as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions:
A: This decision is as devastating to us as it is to our Ramah families. We have been trying to find a way to open since the crisis began. In making this decision now, our Board of Directors relied on the unanimous guidance of the National Ramah and our local medical committees, as well as the advice of our professional staff. None of the recent announcements from Maryland or Massachusetts have provided us with a path forward.
In Judaism, the concepts of Pikuach Nefesh (preserving life) and Sakanat Nefeshot (endangering life) are powerful principles that require us to follow the advice of medical professionals and take great care in the risks we take. Vayikra 18:5 states, “You shall keep My laws and My rules, by the pursuit of which humanity shall live: I am the Lord.” It is our collective assessment that our overnight camp cannot operate safely should, despite our best efforts, an outbreak of COVID-19 occur while 850 campers and staff are living, eating, and sleeping in the confined spaces of camp. We also believe that we cannot keep our day camp families safe given the fluid and dynamic nature of this environment. Our medical team believes the risks are too great and the unknowns of this disease too many for us to open our camps.
Please click here to read Rabbi Gelb’s full letter to the community, and please read on to the next question to see additional information on why the National Ramah medical committee, along with Ramah New England medical committee, felt that it was unsafe for us to open this summer.
A: At the recent meeting of the National Ramah Commission Medical Subcommittee, lead doctors from each Ramah camp unanimously recommended against the opening of our day camps and overnight camps this summer. Our Ramah New England medical committee agreed with this assessment.
Some of the doctors on these committees directly addressed the policies and procedures announced by several private camps that plan to open this summer. Noting the lack of reliability of current testing procedures, our committees rejected the assumption that pre-camp testing can realistically produce a COVID-free “bubble” at camp. It is assumed, therefore, that camp would be required to manage cases of COVID, which our committee deemed an unacceptable risk to the health and safety of campers, staff members, administration, and infirmary personnel.
Recent reports of Kawasaki inflammatory disease among COVID-positive children, resulting in a number of deaths in the US, while rare, highlight the lack of adequate current knowledge about this new virus. Our doctors did not believe that social distancing policies could realistically be enacted in a camp setting, with unacceptable consequences should policies not be strictly adhered to. The data from other group living environments, such as jails, cruise ships, and homeless shelters, which are somewhat analogous to a camp setting, have shown that one or two positive cases usually lead to an infection rate of approximately 35% within the population.
There was unanimous agreement among the doctors on the National Ramah Commission Medical Subcommittee that the hoped-for progress with testing, treatments, prevalence of virus within our communities, and clear federal and state guidance has not materialized, and in some ways has worsened. Although a theoretical model of a camp opening with pre-camp screening, repeated testing, excluding admission to those most vulnerable, and managing the virus within camp could be hypothetically constructed, this would in effect be an “experiment” with the lives of our campers, staff, and families. No doctor on this committee believes that it is responsible for Ramah to risk the health of our camp community under these circumstances.
A: As was explained in-depth in our answer to the previous question, the doctors on our medical committees did not believe that it would be responsible for Ramah to risk the health of our camp community under these current circumstances.
We have listened carefully to the voices among our community who encouraged us to find a way to open camp. We have spent countless hours attempting to find some scenarios in which we could open camp in some form. We understand, as do our camp families, that there is always some inherent risk in operating a summer camp. However, we believe that our parents trust us to only open camp if we felt that we could reasonably ensure the safety of their children. As detailed above, we felt that there was too much risk, and too much that we don’t know about this virus, to feel comfortable opening camp.
A: There are several reasons why we felt we needed to announce a cancellation of our full camp season at this time, including but not limited to:
We do not foresee enough significant changes happening in the next few weeks that would allow us to feel confident about opening second session while still leaving us enough advance notice to properly prepare camp to open.
We felt it necessary to release our staff and allow them to pursue other options for the summer (other work, summer classes, etc.). While we know many staff-members will not be able to find other employment this summer, we did not believe that it was right to hold onto staff commitments any longer.
We recognize the tremendous anxiety among so many of our camp families, children, and staff-members, which was exacerbated by not knowing what was going to happen this summer. While we have waited longer than many other summer camps to make our cancellation announcement – a delay borne from our hope that, with additional time, we would be able to find a path towards opening camp in some form – we did not think it was right to prolong this uncertainty any further, especially considering all of the factors listed above.
A: We will not be able to hire or pay any summer staff. We are hopeful that some members of our staff will be able to find other opportunities this summer (other work, summer classes, etc.).
We hope to be able to assist our families and our staff-members by connecting families who might be interested in hiring great Ramah staff-members for personal work with their child(ren), whether in-person or on-line. Additionally, we will soon be surveying our families regarding their interest in virtual programming this summer. If there is demand, we may be able to hire some summer staff-members to help run this. More information on all of these possibilities will be coming soon.
A: We are committed to meeting our families’ needs during this uncertain time. We are offering full refunds on 2020 tuition for those families who request that.
However, tuition refunds would represent a dangerous cash drain for our organization. If we receive requests to refund the full amount (including deposits and tuition) from all of our families, we will have a major cash shortfall of $1.75M in the fiscal year that ends September 30 – a devastating financial situation for our organization.
We are hoping that everyone will agree that they should donate some portion of their tuition in recognition of the work Ramah has already undertaken for our families. We are hoping that many more of our families will be in the position to give even more generously so that Ramah can meet all of its financial obligations and be able to survive and thrive and begin planning for kayitz 2021.
We are asking all camp families to please complete an on-line form (“jotform”), which will be sent out on Thursday May 21 at approx. 5:00 PM EDT, to indicate what portion of their 2020 tuition they are willing to donate to camp, and what remainder they are asking to be refunded. We ask that all families complete this form by Monday, May 25.
Please continue reading our answer to the next question for a more complete picture of our financial situation and why we need donations in order for Ramah New England to survive.
A: Since our fiscal year began on October 1, 2019, we have been planning for kayitz (summer) 2020. We spend the ten months outside of the summer planning for camp, running programs, recruiting staff and campers, and maintaining and preparing our camp properties.
Our total budget this year was $6.3M, funded almost completely by tuition revenue.
Now, having taken a number of difficult steps to address the current crisis, we have cut our expenses in half, to $3.1M. Starting in March, when the COVID-19 crisis began, we significantly reduced our expenses, took a SBA PPP loan through the federal program, and gained access to a $500,000 line of credit. Now that we have made the difficult decision to close our camps for kayitz 2020, we are making additional and dramatic cuts: our summer staff will not be paid, our orders for summer food and other supplies will be cancelled, and our year-round staff members will face layoffs and pay cuts.
Parents have made tuition payments totaling $3.1M. We are committed to meeting our families’ needs during this uncertain time. However, tuition refunds represent a significant cash drain. If we receive requests to refund this full amount, we will have a major cash shortfall in the fiscal year that ends on Sept 30 – a devastating financial situation for our organization.
Ramah needs a total of $1.75M from our parents, alumni and friends to meet this year’s financial obligations and to pivot and begin planning for summer 2021.
Already, many people who love Ramah New England have said that they will step up to help address this dire situation. This includes the members of our board, all of whom have pledged to support Ramah to meet this challenge. This also includes dozens of families that already have told us that they would convert some or all of their tuition payments into donations – they have committed $180,000 to help Ramah turn the corner. Together with many alumni and friends, $1M has been pledged to help Ramah weather this storm.
Now, Ramah needs additional donations of $750,000 from our parents, alumni and friends. We hope that you, along with all of our parents, agree that a portion of your tuition payments should be donated in recognition of the work Ramah has already undertaken for our families this year. Ramah needs you right now so that our camps can return as strong as ever in 2021 and beyond.
The Harold Grinspoon Foundation, the Jacobs and Eisen families and our board of directors have stepped up to encourage our families to help at this urgent moment. Together, they will give $1 for every $1 of tuition payments that you designate as a charitable contribution to Ramah now, up to $500,000.
For more information on camp’s current financial situation, please click here to see the slides that Stuart Katz, the President of our Board of Directors, presented to the camp community at our town hall meeting on Wednesday night, May 20th. Please click here to see the full recording of that town hall meeting.
A: We are heartened that the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, the Jacobs and Eisen families, and our Board of Directors have created a special matching program to encourage our families to act immediately. These donors will give $1 for every $1 of tuition payments that you designate as a charitable contribution to Ramah now, up to $500,000.
We applied for and received an SBA PPP Loan. Our hope is that a significant portion of this loan will be forgiven, but we will have debt to repay from that loan.
A: We are asking all 2020 camp families to please complete an on-line form, which will be sent out on Thursday May 21 at approx. 5:00 PM EDT, to indicate what portion of their 2020 tuition they are willing to donate to camp, and what remainder they are asking to be refunded. We ask that all families complete this form by Monday, May 25. We hope that all of our families will stretch, in order to be able to donate as significant a portion of their tuition as possible.
A: The most significant challenge we are currently facing is to find a way to address our $1.75M budget shortfall for our current fiscal year, which ends Oct. 1st, 2020.
If families were to roll-over their 2020 tuition towards 2021, that would mean that Ramah New England would be using next year’s money in order to pay for this year. That wouldn’t significantly help us in the long term. It would, in effect, just be moving our problem down the road a few months.
Our focus right now is on finding a way to close out our 2020 fiscal year in as small a hole as possible, and then be able to enter our 2021 fiscal year in the best state we possibly can. This will allow us to be able to open for kayitz (summer) 2021 and run the best program possible.
A: We are committed to refunding 2020 tuition for all families who make that request. However, we need to review all of our family’s answers to the questionnaire, in order to determine the total amount of refunds requested. Once we have that answer, we can make determinations as to the method and timetable for our issuing those refunds. We will give answers to our families as soon as possible.
A: The “jotform” questionnaire being sent to all 2020 families includes an option to sign up for summer 2021! (We ask families to please complete that form by May 25.)
Our Palmer overnight camp will be opening our regular application, for new campers, very shortly.
We are offering a Palmer overnight camp Early Registration PRICE FREEZE – summer 2020 regular tuition rates for summer 2021 – until August 16, 2020. All families will need to complete our full on-line registration form when it is open, and pay their deposits, by August 16, 2020 in order to receive that Early Registration discount.
Day camp families can register for 2021 now but rates and discounts will not be published until the fall.
A: We wanted to keep the “jotform” questionnaire being sent to families on Thursday May 21 as simple as possible. So while that form allows families to check a 2021 session they’d like to sign their child(ren) up for, there are no additional questions.
However, there is a lot of information we ask of families in the full on-line registration form that we will need to have for 2021. Additionally, there are legally-required “waivers” at the end of that full on-line registration form that we need parents to sign.
• For questions about Kayitz 2021 registration, and/or if any of your child(ren)’s information is displaying incorrectly on our online form — please contact Marggi Shechanah.
• If you think there is an error in your 2020 tuition paid/owed, as displayed on our online form — please contact Ken Milgram.
• For questions about your donation to camp — please contact Mindy Goldstein.
• For any other questions regarding the functionality of our online form — please contact Josh Edelglass.
• For any other questions regarding your child(ren) enrolled in our overnight camp — please contact Talya Kalender.
• For any other questions regarding your child(ren) enrolled in our day camp – please contact Rabbi Jill Levy.
• For any other questions regarding our decision about kayitz 2020 — please contact Rabbi Ed Gelb.
A: Early next week, we will survey our families to hear which at home camp opportunities they would like for this summer, and then we will offer options to help serve your needs and to keep the Ramah community together. We are also looking into creating a platform for matching summer counselors with families who want to hire personal counselors/childcare helpers in their homes. More information will come shortly.
A: We are heartbroken for our Nivonim 2020 campers. It continues to be our hope that we will be able to gather our Nivonim 2020 campers in-person at Palmer at some point in the future. In the meantime, we are hoping to offer distance/virtual opportunities for our Nivonim campers to develop their leadership skills and be leaders in our Ramah community.
A: If you are a camper or staff-member who was scheduled to be on one of the DC flights, please call Southwest Airlines at 1-800-IFLYSWA in order to cancel your camper(s) flight reservation(s) per their policy.
If you are a staff-member with a flight booked from Israel, please contact Ed Pletman to arrange the cancellation of that flight.
A: Our friends at Pack My Rx have shared the following note:
To all camp families,
In light of the COVID-19 situation and Camp Ramah’s decision to cancel the summer of 2020 in order to ensure your camper’s safety, we, at Pack My Rx, will be issuing refunds to all families that completed registrations for 2020. If you need prescriptions transferred to your local pharmacy, please email us at email@example.com and we will take care of that for you.
Wishing everyone a safe and healthy summer,
Diana and Tania
And The Pack My Rx Team
Through our Ramah M’Rachok initiative, we are offered an array of on-line camp-style programming for families and children of all ages from March-June, 2020.
After surveying our families to hear what additional at home camp opportunities they were interested in for this summer, we launched our Ramah Ba’Bayit online programming options for June-July, 2020. Over 400 campers signed up.
Additionally, we created My Ramah Madrich, a platform for matching summer counselors with families who want to hire personal counselors/childcare helpers in their homes. Please contact us for more information.