Dear JCC Community,

If you have ever been fortunate enough to spend some time in summer camp, either as a camper, a parent, or a staff member, you know that it is a special place in many ways. At Camp Shai, one of our values or Middot is Kehila or “Community.” Our Kehila is intentionally fostered to create a space where campers and staff can truly be themselves and feel unconditionally accepted. Through this acceptance, we create a community that is built to endure, work together,  move past obstacles that come our way,  and thrive.

And we all know there were some obstacles in the last year!

Summer 2020 was unlike any summer I have ever experienced in my 13 years of working in summer camp. There were moments leading up to the summer where I was not sure Camp Shai was going to happen. There were many doubts in my head: “Can we really get campers to wear face masks for hours at a time?” “Can we follow all of these regulations?” “How will camp be fun if we cannot all physically be in the same place?” Our staff and campers were incredibly adaptable to all of these changes and my doubts were pushed aside. They showed me that our Camp Shai community is resilient, adaptable, and cares deeply about one another.

As the school year began, the Camp Shai community continued to adapt to support our campers. We opened Shai Learning Labs to provide small learning pods for campers, now called “students”, to come to the JCC where Camp Shai Staff provided support while students completed their virtual learning and in their free time, spent time socializing in small cohorts. For many of our Camp Shai parents, Shai Learning Labs allowed them to work in essential services. I cannot commend the Camp Shai staff enough for finishing one of the most difficult summers ever, to then quickly shift roles and provide an academic-focused environment for 45 students all while expertly maintaining health precautions. They went above and beyond to program around Jewish holidays that we do not normally get to share with our Camp Shai campers.

As summer approaches, I am thrilled to bring our Kehila at Camp Shai back together. While all of our health precautions will still be in place, the feeling of camp cannot be covered up by a facemask. I have confidence that our campers and staff will again come together to create that community of acceptance that keeps us coming back to Camp Shai each summer.

Shabbat Shalom,

Daniel Siegel
Interim Director of Camp Shai