For middle schoolers too young to get a job and too old for day camp, here’s a new option: Camp Tiyul, a two-week travel camp featuring day trips to water parks, New York City tourist attractions, Six Flags, and the like.
The camp was launched by Stacey David, director at the Rabbi William Horn and Dena Religious school at Congregation Ohr Shalom, the Summit Jewish Community Center.
The trips will leave from the synagogue in the morning and return every afternoon.
“I really believe in camping for Jewish kids. I am who I am today because of Jewish camp,” said David in a phone interview on Jan. 31. “I want to give that to kids — especially those who have outgrown day camp and never went to sleep-away camp. It’s this post-b’nei mitzva age group that I want to capture. I want to see them grow in their Judaism.”
While overnight and other kinds of day camps need huge investments to open — to cover land purchase and facilities development — David’s idea is graceful in its simplicity. It’s not a new idea. The JCC of Central New Jersey’s Camp Yachad, for example, offers a similar program for kids entering fourth through eighth grades (although day trips alternate with weeklong out-of-town excursions). Still, after eighth grade, campers age out.
Through Camp Tiyul, 40 kids, entering seventh through ninth grades — one busload — will go on a trip every day (“tiyul” is Hebrew for “tour”). The campers will bring their own lunches, to keep costs down (although the camp will provide snacks and T-shirts), and the oldest of David’s four children, now a college student, will serve as one of the counselors. There will be a one to 10 ratio of counselors to campers, and David plans to hire another educator who is CPR certified and a second college student as counselor.
Registration for the program officially opened on Feb. 3. By the Friday before, three campers were already signed up.
Although the trips themselves are not Jewish, David said she plans to infuse each day with a bit of Yiddishkeit. There will be Israel updates on the bus every day along with a talk about Jewish values related to the destination. “When we go to Camel Beach, we’ll learn about water conservation in Israel,” she said. Each week includes one day of community service.
David said she hopes the program will grow over time. “I’d love to be able to spend a night at a Jewish overnight camp, or have a Hershey Park overnight adventure,” she said. “I could also see adding buses, or expanding to a month-long camp. I think there’s really a need for this kind of camp for middle schoolers.”
David has been dreaming about her camp for 10 years. “I’m finally in a place now where my kids are older and grounded in their own summer plans. They aren’t counting on me to drive them around,” she said. At 17, 14, and 12, her other children attend Young Judaea’s Camp Sprout Lake and Camp Tel Yehuda as campers and counselors for the summer. “I can really dedicate my time to this,” she added.
Camp Tiyul will run Aug. 4-15, and campers can sign up for one or two weeks. The cost is $500 for one week and $1,000 for two weeks, $450, $900 for Ohr Shalom members. Contact David at 908-273-2800 or Stacey@summitjcc.org.