Surprise Lake Camp closed last year because it wanted to, not because it had to. The country’s longest-running Jewish sleepaway camp decided before any New York State recommendations were issued that it was the only choice.
“The safety, health and welfare of our campers and our staff has always been paramount,” says Camp Director Sheryl Kirschenbaum. “Because we were so transparent last year and made our decision early, our parents trust us. We made a decision to close not because we had to close, but because we thought it was right.” Founded in 1902, Surprise Lake plans to open its 360-acre campus this summer as a bubble for campers ages 7-15. Kids and staffers will need a negative COVID test prior to arrival, and will then be put into pods.
The camp renovated its Main Dining Room last year and will use that and tents to allow for social distancing during meal times. Kirschenbaum is also working with Dr. Laura Blaisdell, a board-certified pediatrician who has helped Maine officials create safe camping protocols. Included in the new rules are more nurses and housekeeping, as well as electrostatic sprayers to sanitize common areas and bunks.
Kirschenbaum also plans to communicate with parents to give them as many updates in real-time as necessary. As for the fun of Surprise Lake, which has always connected Judaism to the outdoors, this year is going to be even more nature-filled and sans cell phones.
“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,” Kirschenbaum says. “Everything we do at camp reflects these goals…we disconnect to reconnect.”
382 Lake Surprise Rd., Cold Spring, NY