Covid Vaccine Policy

We require the primary COVID vaccination series and strongly recommend one bivalent booster prior to camp.  This applies to all Ramah staff, campers, and Gan campers ages five and up, in accordance with the recommendations of the AAP, ACIP and the CDC.

If you wish to request a medical exemption, you or your child’s doctor may submit a request to our medical committee.

We have included, below:

  • The March, 2023 email from Rabbi Ed Gelb, CEO, and Elizabeth Waksman, President of our Board of Directors, explaining our policies for kayitz (summer) 2023.
  • A statement from the National Ramah Medical Committee.
  • Additional links and resources.

March, 2023:

Shalom Ramah Families,This letter shares our 2023 COVID policies for Palmer overnight camp including an updated/changed bivalent booster policy, our vaccine requirement, and our plans for operating camp. Our goal, as always, is to provide a healthy and safe camp experience. Additionally, we want to run camp this summer with as little disruption due to COVID as possible. We also know that all policies and procedures may change as conditions evolve. Our professional staff and medical team have been working together to craft a policy that is medically sound and works for our residential camp setting. Dr. Michael Agus is the chair of our Medical Committee and serves on our board’s Executive Committee. Laura Berger, RN, is our new year-round Nurse Director. You can read more about them here and hereCamp is a different environment than home and school. We are a close community of approximately 850 people at a time and campers live in close quarters in bunks. We have campers and staff with varied health needs and challenges. For this reason, we require the initial COVID vaccination series and strongly recommend one bivalent booster prior to camp. Our strong recommendation for the bivalent booster is a change from our original announcement and is supported by the now amended National Ramah Medical Committee policy. Although we believe that receiving the bivalent booster is the best choice for all campers and staff, we do not feel that we can make it a requirement as the vast majority of overnight camps across the northeast and the US are not doing so, and neither is it a requirement in our schools. We feel our policy must fit in the range of the camping industry standard and we believe that this is a safe and reasonable standard. According to our medical team, the greatest benefit of the current booster is to the person who receives it (in terms of preventing both acute COVID and long COVID), and the greatest risk of declining the booster is similarly personal. This is in contrast to the situation earlier in the pandemic when individuals who were not current with their vaccinations contributed substantially to the risk for the entire community. Once we are at camp, and because COVID is no longer as serious a threat as it once was, we want our campers and staff to be able to fully enjoy camp and for COVID to not be a part of our daily experience. We will be asking everyone to test prior to camp so that we don’t have COVID positive campers coming to camp. After that, we will not be testing (except as noted below) or masking at camp. For all sorts of illnesses, our general approach is that we have established criteria for when campers and staff need to be admitted (i.e., stay overnight) into our health center (the MARP). Generally, this is when they have a fever, have significant cold symptoms or are experiencing diarrhea or vomiting. If a camper is admitted into the MARP and stays overnight, we inform the parents. When these symptoms resolve, the camper returns to the camp program. Occasionally, campers have symptoms that require us to take them to an urgent care center or to an emergency room. If a camper’s symptoms dictate this and the medical professionals at the facility determine that a COVID test is warranted to choose a treatment course, they would perform the test and proceed accordingly. This approach allows our medical staff to treat campers based on current and best medical practices. It also reduces campers’ anxiety about whether to be tested or whether someone they know has COVID. If you are healthy enough and able to participate in camp, then you can. If you are ill you can’t, and then you would be treated like anyone who is ill at camp. With the adoption of these policies, we expect to return to the usual situation at camp where the need to go home due to a medical reason is a very rare event, and based on the child’s medical condition and care requirements, not on a COVID test. In addition, we will not need to run a parallel “Covid camp.” For anyone interested, we will offer a Zoom meeting with Dr. Agus, Laura Berger, Rabbi Gelb and members of our senior team after Passover. We will send out the date and time as camp approaches. We are looking forward to a joyous summer at camp – filled with friends, laughter, learning and fun! ,כל טוב (all the best)Rabbi Ed Gelb (He/Him)                                    Elizabeth Waksman (She/Her)CEO, Ramah New England                               President, Ramah New England


National Ramah Commission Medical Committee

Covid-19 Vaccination Statement for Overnight Camps – Summer 2023

ונשׁמרתם מאד לנפשׁוֹתיכם 

Be particularly careful with your health and well-being (Devarim 4:15)

Maintaining the health, safety, and well-being of all the members of the Ramah communities is an essential Jewish value that guides all aspects of life at Ramah. We will continue to follow best medical and public health practices in order to achieve those goals. Covid vaccinations remain a vital component of that effort. 

The Covid vaccine and bivalent booster are now among the routine childhood immunizations recommended by the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), the ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and are included in the AAP/ACIP/CDC 2023 Recommended Child and Adolescent Immunization Schedule.

The National Ramah Medical Committee has endorsed the following statement. This statement applies to all Ramah participants at the overnight camps, day camps, and Ramah Seminar.

  • The primary Covid vaccine series is required for all eligible Ramah campers, staff, and staff children, in accordance with the recommendations of the AAP, ACIP, and the CDC.
  • The Committee’s preferred approach is that all camps also require the bivalent booster for all eligible campers, staff, and staff children.
  • The Committee has additionally deemed acceptable the alternative approach of requiring the primary Covid vaccine and strongly recommending the bivalent booster for all eligible campers, staff, and staff children.
  • A camp may additionally choose to require the bivalent booster for essential staff members (e.g., director, senior leadership team, rashei edot, medical/nursing staff, kitchen staff, staff members over the age of 50, etc.).

There are two important driving principles that guided the Committee towards making this statement.

  1. First and foremost is our intention to limit serious Covid illness related outcomes (i.e. hospitalizations). The Covid vaccine/booster combination has been shown to decrease hospitalizations due to Covid. During the summer of 2022, all Ramah campers and staff participants were required to be vaccinated against Covid and those over twelve years of age were required to have received a booster. Of those 11,062 participants, we had 938 documented cases of Covid, but no serious Covid-related medical outcomes. Our goal is to continue this trend during the summer of 2023, and limit the serious Covid outcomes in our communities.
  2. Additionally, the daily communal congregate living at summer camp, where groups of children and staff sleep in confined bunking quarters and eat in close proximity to one another, presents a unique set of circumstances and risks unlike any other. These circumstances require a degree of net community immunity that is different from the home or school setting. That immunity is partially provided by the Covid vaccine. 

As noted above in the positive mitzvah from Devarim, we are being particularly careful with the health and well-being of our Ramah communities. The Covid vaccine and bivalent booster requirement will enable us to strive for that important Jewish value as we prepare for another inspirational, fun-filled, healthy, and safe summer at all of our Ramah camps and Israel programs.

CDC Resources: