The east end of the main hall of the Valley of the Sun JCC (The J) was abuzz with activity on Sunday morning. Representatives from more than a dozen Jewish summer camps from around the country worked their tables, talking to prospective campers and their parents about the amenities and programming each had to offer. The event also launched The J’s winter-spring programming, and was the beginning of a special registration opportunity for The J’s own summer day camp, Camp Shemesh.
“Program Launch is one of my favorite days,” said Kim Subrin, chief operating officer for The J. “It’s truly one-stop shopping where people can learn all that we have to offer. Not only will they learn about upcoming events and classes, they can take advantage of our incredible discounts on programs.”
The camps, some located as far away as Virginia Beach and the Oregon coast, offer everything from surf lessons to art classes to horseback riding, in addition to more traditional camp activities.
Sababa Beachaway, based in Virginia Beach, lets kids enjoy a summer of ocean-related programming in a laid-back Jewish environment. It features surf lessons, sailing lessons, scuba diving and more.
Dina Reimer, cousin to Sababa Beachaway owner Danny Mishkin, worked their table with her twin daughters, Morgan and Sydni, both of whom attended the camp last year.
Morgan explained sababa is Israeli slang for “it’s all good” and “the Jewish equivalent of hakuna matata” — a Swahili phrase popularized by the 1994 Disney film “The Lion King.”
“The deeper meaning is just to be fully present and enjoy the moment,” Morgan said. She recalled a particularly meaningful activity that had campers gather on the beach to discuss famous Jewish quotes and concepts to the sound of waves breaking against the shore behind them.
Also at the fair, Camp Havaya Administrative Coordinator Eva Bilick introduced her camp, which is focused on the arts. Formerly called Camp JRF, the revamped camp is housed at the University of Redlands in Redlands, California, and has been spared the wildfires and mudslides that have devastated that state. The kosher camp offers students traditional activities such as hiking, swimming and other sports, but also features in-depth workshops taught by professional artists.
Closer to home, The J runs a day camp, Shemesh Camp, throughout the summer. It offers a range of activities, including cooking, sports, science education and arts, allowing campers to customize their experience and find an activity that interests them. Running for 10 weeks, the rolling enrollment makes it easy to fit camp around other summer activities and trips.
Megan Rich, director of youth and camping for The J, said roughly 1,500 campers participated in Shemesh Camp last summer, and she expects the number to grow this year. She explained that an early-registration deal is available until March 4, when a sneak peek of camp activities will be held at The J.
A number of events are scheduled throughout the next few months to showcase additional summer camp options. Friendly Pines Camp, a residential summer camp in Prescott that is not a Jewish camp but does accommodate campers who keep kosher, will host two information nights. One will be on Feb. 5 at the Courtyard by Marriott Scottsdale Salt River and the second will be held on Feb. 20 at AZ Air Time.
On Saturday, Feb. 24, Camp Fair AZ will be held at Rancho Solano Preparatory School in Scottsdale, and will feature staff from a number of camps who will answer questions and assist in registration. JN