When the Bunk is Also a Bedroom


What’s a Jewish summer camp experience without s’mores and “bug juice”?

Several dozen campers will be able to find out in the next few months — online.

With many Jewish camps shuttered this year because of the coronavirus, a group of young women with camping backgrounds have designed a Jewish camp that will offer Zoom sessions in July and August.

With three classes a week, Camp Yalla (“yalla,” a popular Arabic expression in Israel, means “let’s go”) will try to duplicate the in-person camping experience that will not be possible for many Jewish children, says Miriam Lichtenberg, the camp’s director of Jewish programming. The camp’s two executive directors are Mariel Falk and Avi Goldstein.

Lichtenberg, 23, a native of Teaneck, N.J., and an alum of Camp Ramah and Camp Nesher, graduated last year from Barnard College and is spending this year in Israel as a Jewish Service Corps fellow with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, working with at-risk youth; for Camp Yalla, she has designed a series of educational programs for young Jews ages 8-12.

“I feel passionate about working with kids and young adults,” Lichtenberg tells the Jewish Week in a phone interview from her apartment in Tel Aviv. “I’m a camp person through and through.”

The new camp (campyalla.com) will consist of three consecutive two-week sessions, beginning on July 6, and include hour-long morning bunk activities and afternoon electives each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Campers will sign up in advance for electives in subjects like dance, beat boxing, indoor camping trips, improv comedy, yoga, virtual world travel and aquarium visits. Programming will be geared to East Coast time.

To give prospective campers a taste of what the camp will be like, the leaders will offer a free trial period on three Fridays: June 12, 19 and 26.

While the camp sessions will not take place on Shabbat, an erev Shabbat service will be offered before sundown on Fridays, featuring reading material and a newsletter that Lichtenberg is creating, to be followed by a Saturday night Havdalah service.

Lichtenberg says she will judge the success of the “one-time” camp by the number of participants who register for traditional camps next year.

And the s’mores? Campers can make the marshmallow-and-graham-cracker snacks as a Camp Yalla session during the week.

“We hope to have a cooking class when they can do it together,” Lichtenberg says.