Op Ed: An Open Letter to Governor Murphy – Summer Day Camps Must Be Permitted To Open, With Restrictions in Place


Dear Governor Phil Murphy,

A recent news report summed it up in its headline: “Summer camps are more important than ever. But are they possible during coronavirus pandemic?”

The answer is unequivocal.

Summer day camps are indeed “more important than ever.”

They’ve never been more vital, in fact, which is why we must do all we can to ensure that day camps for children of all ages will be allowed to operate in New Jersey for summer 2020.

For starters, children look forward to day camp all year. It’s what keeps them going, what keeps them motivated. Veteran educators have observed that many children gain more academically and socially during the summer than during the entire school year. The importance of day camp for the emotional, social and academic wellbeing of our youth cannot be overstated. And for children to have a successful school year come September, it is crucial that they be able to unwind, relax and grow in a camp setting.

After months cooped up in their homes due to the COVID-19 lockdown, unable to see friends or attend school, children will need the release of summer day camp more than ever, say education experts, psychologists and sociologists.

Next are these children’s parents. If parents are ever going to go back to work and the economy is going to rebound, children have to be able to go to day camp. Come late June, if day camps are closed, the ramifications will be unspeakably damaging. For many families, summer day camp isn’t just enrichment for the kids. It’s childcare for working parents and a needed relief for those same overstressed, overwhelmed and overworked parents.

We must not forget about the teenagers who work as counselors and staff members in these day camps. Without day camp, tens of thousands of these teens will be roaming the streets for months, with nothing constructive to do and nothing to fill their day. Day camp is a crucial source of work for these teens and other young adults. For some, it’s their only job all year, and they depend on money from day camp counseling to fund the rest of their year. In many day camps, the majority of staff are high schoolers and college students.

While COVID-19 has caused the cancellation of mass gatherings, day camps must be permitted to open with proper guidelines in place. These guidelines would be finalized by independent experts, including specialists in pediatric and camp medicine, epidemiology and infectious disease management. Some recommendations could include screening campers when they get dropped off, smaller groups, increased hand sanitizing, staggering meal times, and canceling all field trips and inter-group events.

Likewise, the day camps can restrict nonessential visitors, space out seating, close communal use spaces, serve meals in classrooms, avoid sharing electronic devices, and implement health checks.

According to research done by Psychology Today, day camp makes kids resilient to daily life stresses and helps develop other positive traits in children.

“A summer day camp experience is so much more than learning to canoe or singing songs around the campfire,” says Hugh Haller, President/CEO of the Camping and Education Foundation. “The lifelong impact that a camp experience can have on a child is monumental. Skills like social interaction, self-confidence, a love and respect for nature, healthy living choices – all of these can be learned and cemented at camp. It is truly a priceless experience and one every child should have a chance to enjoy.”

Day camp pushes children out of their comfort zone and exposes them to new activities and experiences that they may not be familiar with. Campers get the opportunity to try out different things and discover new hobbies or passions. By exploring various types of activities, children have a greater chance of finding something that they excel at or that makes them happy.

Day camps helps children unplug from technology. When kids take a break from cell phones and the internet, they rediscover their creative powers and engage the real world – real people, real activities, and real emotions.

Day camp is the perfect place for kids to practice making decisions for themselves without parents and teachers guiding every move. Managing their daily choices in the safe, caring environment of camp, children welcome this as a freedom to blossom in new directions.

On top of making new friends, campers also develop an appreciation for the qualities required to cultivate and strengthen these relationships. Day camp provides children with the core values of a strong, moral individual by teaching them about ethics, honesty, caring, respect and responsibility. Parents frequently report that after Day camp, their children are more kind, understand the importance of giving, are more equipped to stand up for what they know is right, and are willing to be more responsible.

In short, Day camp is not a luxury.

It is not optional.

It is absolutely necessary.


The Residents of New Jersey



    • no – have the camps, schools, yeshivos, shuls and businesses OPEN IMMEDIATELY not only in New Jersey but over the entire United States !!!!!!!!!!!!!
      there’s a Constitution of RELIGIOUS FREEDOM that can NOT be taken away by an executive order.

  1. What an insult to our intelligence!! Is it more important than school?? Why didn’t we see this letter regarding school?? I’ll tell you why. Because there’s big money to lose on the camps. If we all stopped paying tuition until school opened I guarantee that they’ll find a way to open school asap. Shame on matzav for even posting such a letter full of lies. Please. Sell it to the marines. The problem here is that moron Murphy may actually fall for it.

  2. wow everyone found their voices and suddenly letters are going out that camps MUST open!!! What about yeshivas and shuls????!!!??? No one cares? how sad!!!

  3. The article is signed “The Residents of New Jersey.” I can’t believe every resident signed onto this letter. A letter with a thousand signatures would go a lot longer. Furthermore, it says “Without day camp, tens of thousands of these teens will be roaming the streets for months, with nothing constructive to do and nothing to fill their day.” Not true. We’re talking about yeshiva bochrim who learn Torah and DON’T roam streets. Emes is more important than making a point when writing a letter.

    • don’t expect yeshiva bachurim under a lot of pressure to learn straight without a break remember yeshiva bachurim are humans

  4. whos taking the achrayous-responsibility for these children?
    its the owners of these camps pushing!!
    Lower the price and treat children like family will go a long way!

  5. Can someone explain why opening summer camps has become the sole focus of the frum community?? There are hundreds of Batei Medrashim that are shuttered, tens of thousands of little kinderlach that have been out of cheder for months, loads of kollel yungermen that have nowhere to learn. Why are the Askonim leaving even a single stone unturned to get these things open? Is it perhaps because the summer camps are owned by people who will actually lose a lot of money if they remain shuttered this summer? I am afraid so… Where have our priorities gone?

    • Couldn’t agree more. No shuls to learn and daven in, and on top of that Shavuos is coming up. Acting as if allow ing 10 people into shul is some big victory. There are many shuls with hundreds of mispallelim. 90% of people will not be able to daven in a shul. how are they even going to determine the lucky few who can go to shul?

      But they are moving heaven and earth to allow camps to open. I am not opposed to camps opening, but shuls, yeshivas and chadorim should have been the askonim’s first priority. Very hard to have any faith in the people “running the show”, whose interests are they serving?

  6. I couldn’t care less about sleepaway camps. They deserve to be closed. They only allow in the rich and well-connected. This is our 2nd year in a row where we were dumped onto the “waiting list”. Totally biased.

  7. The one and only criteria should be if it’s safe. Since the esteemed frum erleche doctors have not said it’s safe, why would anyone push this agenda? If it’s a sofek pikuach nefesh, be machmir. Who wants to go to the next world perhaps killing someone( with well meaning intentions)? Nobody knows if it’s safe yet shev val taseh odif

      • Midwest Joe

        Pony, it is not a safek pikuach nefesh, not even a sfek sefeichah

        To quote a doctor told to a family member “I have no idea what the Rabbonim are relying on because we doctors don’t have enough information to make any definitive statements”.

        Foolish doctor, instead of going to eight years of medical school and four years of residency, he should have just gone to Midwest Joe who knows the answers.

        By the way, I assure you that these frum doctors love and care for you and every member of the community far more than Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity do. What can their motivation possibly be other than concern for the fellow yidden??


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