Esther Katz with Nesher camper Yonina Silverman last summer. Katz will serve as director of the New Jersey Y Camp’s newest addition, Camp Shoshanim, an all-girls Orthodox camp launching this summer.
Photo courtesy Esther Katz
May 28, 2009
Ruth Miller had been looking for a sleepaway camp that would suit her 13-year-old daughter. The Baltimore resident wanted a place that put a premium on quality arts and sports programming. She wanted a small-ish camp. And she wanted it to be Orthodox and girls-only.
She was “thrilled” to find Camp Shoshanim. New Jersey Y Camps is launching its first all-girls Orthodox residential camp this summer, from June 29 to July 23.
Despite a sour economy that is hurting enrollment at other residential and day camps, 60 girls from around the country have already signed up for Shoshanim. The program will run for four weeks only this year and will be held, this year at least, at the Kislak Adult Center in Lake Como, Pa., the site of New Jersey Y Camp’s adult camp.
The camp will accept between 75 and 80 girls this summer, and, said Leonard Robinson, it hopes ultimately to serve 175-180 campers.
Robinson, NJ Y Camps director, said Shoshanim will ultimately attract two markets: Modern Orthodox families who like the idea of a single-sex camp for their daughters and families who would not consider coed camps but want high-quality programming.
“There are no all-girls Orthodox camps providing the kind of sports instruction and arts programming we offer. It is time to meet this niche,” he said. “There’s a pent-up demand for a camp like ours with a proper religious setting.”
Shoshanim’s target audience is a group that often finds itself in between other Orthodox summer camps. Shoshanim will not be quite as strict as Bais Yaakov camps, for example, but will provide a higher level of observance than coeducational camps run under Modern Orthodox auspices.
Open to girls entering grades three-10, Shoshanim has a dress code that calls for sleeves to the elbow and closed shoes. “We had a two-week discussion about the dress code,” said Robinson. “We knew that would determine our market.”
The camp will serve milk and dairy with holov Yisroel certification, a strict kashrut standard.
So far, the campers are coming not only from such NJ communities as Passaic, Livingston, and Teaneck and from New York but also from Detroit, Atlanta, Baltimore, and Philadelphia.
Yana Weiser of Philadelphia said both of her daughters will attend Shoshanim this summer.
She had three criteria for a summer residential camp for her daughters, she said: girls only, high-quality programming, and a modest dress code.
“I feel like this camp is the answer to exactly what I have been looking for,” Weiser said. “There are other frum girls’ camps, but not in terms of where our girls fit in.”
Esther Katz, in beret, enjoying color war last summer at Camp Nesher with staff and campers.
Esther Katz, an educator who served as head counselor at Camp Nesher, NJ Y Camps’ coeducational Modern Orthodox facility at Lake Como, will be the director of Shoshanim.
“I’m a firm believer in the idea that being a girl and being Orthodox shouldn’t stand in your way of doing anything. It should be a positive thing in your life, not something that holds you back,” she said. “Some schools require that girls go to all-girls camps. But there are also girls who go to coeducation schools for whom, when it comes to summer and hanging out at camp without the pressure of boys, it can be a great experience.”
New Jersey Y Camps runs a variety of summer camps for children with a variety of Jewish backgrounds, including Camp Nesher.
There are no current plans for an all-boys’ counterpart to Shoshanim, said Robinson.
“There are good ones out there,” he said. “Those needs are already being met.”