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Surprise Lake didn’t get to be the country’s longest-running Jewish sleepaway camp by accident. In fact, it returns year after year because it lives by its mantra. Unplug. Connect. Grow. “Our mission is to create a nurturing camp experience in which young people learn essential life skills by being immersed in nature, developing relationships and exploring Jewish values,” says Camp Director Sheryl Kirschenbaum. “Everything we do at camp reflects these goals…we disconnect to reconnect.”

It’s an approach that has worked since Surprise Lake’s founding in 1902. Now, what Kirschenbaum calls “your summer home,” is a 360-acre camp for ages 7-16. It has a pool, water sports and dozens of “specialty electives” so campers can choose their own summer adventure.

And “we’re always adding special experiences, too, such as Balloon Animal Making, Juggling or Young Scientists,” the camp’s website says. “With so many options, campers will find lots to love!” Kirschenbaum says that in addition to the traditional blend of summer fun and Judaism, safety has become an even more paramount concern during the COVID pandemic.

The camp closed in the summer of 2020 because New York State mandated it. Since reopening, kids and staffers will need a negative COVID test prior to arrival, and will then be put into pods. In addition, Surprise Lake uses more nurses and increased housekeeping, as well as electrostatic sprayers to sanitize common areas and bunks. Kirschenbaum also plans to communicate with parents in real-time to keep them updated. With so much to experience and choose from, Surprise Lake is a special place, a home away from home for generations of happy campers.

382 Lake Surprise Rd., Cold Spring, NY

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