CATSKILLS SUMMER CAMPS UPDATES: Letter From Town of Thompson Supervisor; Letter From Jewish Camp Operators


There are two important updates regarding the saga regarding the opening of camps this coming summer

First is a letter from the Town of Thompson Supervisor, following by a letter from two days ago from the Association of Jewish Camp Operators in Sullivan County.


May 7, 2020

Dear Neighbors and Friends:

The Town of Thompson is monitoring the summer camp situation closely. Presently Empire State Development “ESD” does not list summer camps as an “Essential Service” and therefore they cannot operate under Gov. Cuomo’s State of Emergency. It should be noted that while operation of summer camps is currently prohibited by the State, construction at summer camps is allowed as an essential service. Summer camps are regulated and permitted by the NYS Department of Health, not the local municipalities. Under NYS law the NYS DOH is the “Authority Having Jurisdiction” (AHJ) and we, local officials, cannot overrule their decisions, regulations or rulings. It is my understanding that there have been social media posts directing concerned citizens to call their Town Supervisors.

They might be better served by expressing their concerns additionally to our State representatives and the NYS Health Department since they make the final decision. Should the NYS DOH ultimately decide to allow summer camps to operate, they should do so only with a clear and enforceable plan to protect the campers and staff, our year round and seasonal residents, and protect our limited resources at Catskill Regional Medical Center. The DOH should move with the utmost of caution and make decisions based on medical science, not emotions or political pressure.

William J. Rieber, Jr.
Town of Thompson Supervisor
845-794-2500 Ext. 306


Respected Representatives,

We hope all is well with you and your families. We hope that we can together overcome this terrible challenge.

We are writing you to request that Sullivan County representatives understand the overnight camp plans for operation this summer, and not send a letter to Governor Cuomo requesting that overnight camps not be allowed to operate in Sullivan County this summer.

Camps will be run differently this summer.

We are interested in the safety and welfare of all our campers and staff, and plan to run camp completely differently this summer. As can be seen from the attached DRAFT guidelines, each and every camper and staff member will be tested prior to their coming to camp. Once in camp, we will enforce a full and complete lockdown in addition to implementing a regimen of well checks in our daily schedule:

• No out-of-camp trips
• No visiting day
• Staff will not be permitted to leave camp on their day off

Overnight camps are unique in that we CAN enforce a full and total lockdown. Additionally, we will not have any dual use facility – AJCO overnight camps that have a day camp are seriously considering canceling their day camps for this summer.

Many of the campers and staff that are in our camps have families with second homes or bungalows. If there is no sleep away camp, there will be thousands of youth with unstructured time on their hands roaming the Catskills.

If, G-d forbid, there is any kind of COVID19 outbreak, local health facilities will not be overwhelmed. Hatzoloh group has assured county leaders that they will transport the ill to city hospitals (which are currently well below capacity and dropping daily).

Camps, traditionally, pump many millions of dollars into the local economy. We love Sullivan County and see ourselves as partners in an economically viable and safe environment. We implore you to write a letter to the governor telling him that you welcome overnight camps with open arms!

Please review the attached DRAFT Overnight Camp Protocols.


Association of Jewish Camp Operators in Sullivan County.

Meir Frischman
Director Emeritus Director

Shimon Newmark

Shlomo Pfeiffer
AJCO Executive Board Member


Agudath Israel Camp Division
Camp Achim
Camp Adas Yereim
Camp Agudah
Camp Agudah Toronto
Camp Ahavas Yisroel Viznitz
Camp Arugath Habosem
Camp Bais Esther
Camp Bais Yaakov
Camp Belz
Camp Beth Jacob
Camp Bnei Shiimon Yisroel
Camp Bnos
Camp Bnos Belz
Camp Bnos Sanz
Camp Bnos Skwere
Camp Bnos Yakov
Camp Bonim
Camp Boyan
Camp Chayei Sura
Camp Chayl Miriam
Camp Darkei Emunah
Camp Dina
Camp Dora Golding
Camp Emunah
Camp Fay-Gah
Camp Gan Yisroel
Camp Ger
Camp Gila
Camp Hedvah
Camp Horim
Camp Kavunas Halev
Camp Kehilath Yakov
Camp Keren Shlomo
Camp Kochavim
Camp Kibbutz Hamesivtos
Camp Ma-Na-Vu
Camp Machaneinu
Camp Mikdash Melech
Camp Mogen Avraham
Camp Morris
Camp Munk
Camp Nu Yu Chalet Vim
Camp Ohel Baruch
Camp Ohr Shraga
Camp Rav Tuv
Camp Rayim
Camp Romimu
Camp Shalva
Camp Shearith Hapletah
Camp Shira
Camp Simcha
Camp Silver Lake
Camp Simcha
Camp Skwere
Camp Sternberg
Camp Stolin
Camp Sva Rotzohn
Camp Toldos Yakov Yosef
Camp Toldos Yosef
Camp Toras Chesed
Camp Toras Chaim Tashbar
Camp UTA
Camp Viznitz
Camp Yeshiva Chasan Sofer
Camp Yesh. Tifereth Yisroel

(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)


  1. @git meshige
    1. Camp starts in 7 weeks, not today.
    2. The letter explains very clearly that overnight camps are unique in that it is relatively easy to quarantine the entire camp together. In school, children head home each afternoon.

  2. Git Meshuge: There is no logical explanation except we dont want to return the deposits (but wont say this out loud).

  3. If children don’t get out and running, life would be near impossible for parents and children alike. Us moms, stressed beyond limits, are looking for the summer reprieve. The children need it and parents need it to rejuvenate just the same. It is definitely an essential; especially this year.

  4. You wanna know why camps should be open if schools are shut? Because parents are going meshuga! We gotta get dem kids out! Genug shoin! Are nerves are shot. We can’t take it anymore. To parents camp was like waiting for moshiach to come. We knew that if we just survive a little longer, soon the geula of camp will arrive. Charge whatever you want for camp, just take my kids, please.

  5. That’s the way camps should be run. I hope they continue to do that. Visiting day is terrible for campers, to say nothing of exhausted parents.

  6. Git Meshige: because the governor is lazy to open the schools for just a few weeks in June. The yidden know the risks if kids are left without a structure. They also are concerned about the mental health of all involved. We overworked mothers are praying to send our kids to camp.

  7. ” If there is no sleep away camp, there will be thousands of youth with unstructured time on their hands roaming the Catskills”
    ‘While I’m sure this was meant as a factual statement, it certainly reads like a threat. Thousands of iddeshe kinerlach “roaming the Catskills like some horror movie?? I guess the parents would disclaim responsibility and just let their kids “roam” with no supervision. That really speaks wells of the frum tzibur.
    Perhaps someone with a bit of PR sechel should review these letters before they are published.

  8. While I desperately wish that camps were open this summer, I feel like the frum communities should look into moving everything to day camps and just forgo sleepaway this year.

  9. Does lockdown mean that no outsiders will be allowed into camp? What about the numerous learning rebbeim who live off camp grounds and come each morning to teach?

  10. Neighborhoods in Brooklyn with large Hasidic populations have some of New York City’s highest levels of positive Covid-19 test results, according to Liam Stack of the New York Times. His reporting states that roughly 700 members of the community have died, and more than 6,000 have tested positive for the virus. Stack notes that Hasidic enclaves were left vulnerable to the coronavirus by a range of social factors, including “reliance on religious leaders who were in some cases slow to act and the insular nature of Hasidic society, which harbors a distrust of secular authorities.”

    I do not feel confident that Camp leaders will do a better job of safeguarding their members here than Hasidic community leaders did in Brooklyn. Sullivan County’s health care ranks 2nd worst in the State; we cannot meet the demands of COVID-19 currently, let alone when the population doubles over the summer months. Promising to transport ill members of the Hasidic community to the city only benefits those patients, but what about Sullivan County’s residents and essential workers who contract the virus due to an influx of infected visitors?

    I find AJCO’s letter extremely tone-deaf to the concerns of residents like myself. As someone with respiratory issues, it is unlikely that I would survive this virus, so opening these camps threatens my life directly. I certainly understand that business owners are dependent on summer revenue. However, the lives of Sulivan County’s 75,000+ full-time residents, the ones who pay taxes, vote, volunteer, and invest in our communities every day should be the priority. The economic impact of an overburdened health care system and mass deaths will be far worse than losing two months of revenue.

    The camps should be closed.


  11. Most of you are missing the point… As slabodka pointed out, sleepaway camp is a lot safer than day camps and schools, not the other way around.

  12. a few points ( i’m in the frum camping line)
    git meshige- mosdos should’ve been opened at least a week ago ,camps is a harder question
    lower tuition; every camp will give back deposits – the chassidishe camps lose alot less money IF THEY DONT OPEN
    godol hadora – both points are true
    A. many feel that if there was ever a time when camp is essential “ITS THIS YEAR”
    B. many feel that 10 weeks off & the astonomical cost NEVER made cents, if there was ever a time to copy monsey/ lakewood mosdos” ITS THIS YEAR”
    C. many of the locals feel that ny jews are so diff. & fast paced that we arent a good fit for sleepy sullivan & since the economy is anyway bankrupt & everyone is cranky STAY HOME THIS YEAR

  13. Git Meshige, the onus is on you to explain why camps shouldn’t be open. The decision to close the schools was always dubious, and motivated more by panic than anything else, but the rationale was that kids would infect each other and then come home and infect their families. At camp that can’t happen. They will go, those who are not naturally immune will get infected, they’ll get over it, and by the time they come home they will no longer be contagious. So explain why they should be closed?

    And yes, Gadol, it is a threat, and a serious one. If there is no camp, what do you think the kids will do with all their spare time? Do you think they will sit and learn Torah all day? Halevai, but get real.

  14. Yserbius123, daycamps are worse than sleepaway, because the kids are together all day and then bring whatever they catch home to their families. It’s the same problem as schools. Maybe it’s not such a problem after all — there is plenty of evidence that it isn’t, and that closing the schools was a mistake — but it’s the same issue as the schools, whereas overnight camps are much safer.

  15. Lmalone, how exactly do you anticipate being infected by kids in a camp that you have no intention of visiting, and who have no intention of ever visiting you? How are you possibly affected by them taking buses directly into the camp, staying there for 2 months, and then getting on the buses and going home?

    Besides which, as the letter says many of these kids will be in your county anyway, and there’s nothing you can do about that. The only question is whether they’re safely isolated in camp, or living in their families’ bungalows and spending their days at a loose end, which is asking for trouble.

  16. Your all concerned about your kids being able to play outside and do activities however the regular summer camps aren’t even opening. Dont you understand were in a pandemic right now? What makes you all special? How is it fair to the community that you enjoy bringing your children to just to put us all at risk? Your all going crazy? Your kids are stir crazy? How about our kids and parents? Were all going bonkers over the whole thing as well!! Guess what, your not special!! Were trying to protect our families and our community but not allowing this to happen due to the fact that while yes the mothers and children come up and stay but guess what, news flash, your husband’s travel back and forth every week. You all still go to temple and hate to burst your bubbles but the churches, camps and nonessential businesses are all closed so what all are the kids actually going to do cuz there are no field trips or anything at all. So just once take into consideration how your actions will affect everyone not just your lifestyle.

  17. All I’m hearing here is us and me. Aw, too bad that you’d have to look after your own kids and spend time with them doing something other than studying.
    The Orthodox and Hasidic community cannot be trusted to do the right thing. It’s all about you. Never mind the safety of those outside your community. I drove through Borough Park a few days ago. No masks on anyone, It’s like the pandemic doesn’t exist there. Camps won’t be able to keep a lock down. What about food deliveries? What about grounds keepers and maintenance people? Twice in the last month, yeshivas have violated the law by allowing students in. One came up with a lame excuse…”the yeshiva wasn’t open. The children just wanted to study.” Children inside with doors that were chained shut!
    I’ve got a home in the Fallsburg area. There’s concern over Orthodox the rental bungalow colonies as well. There’s going to be a lot of yelling at people for not wearing a mask,
    You are not on this planet, alone. It’s time you realize that.
    Stop being inconsiderate of others. I’m a Jew and I’m embarrassed by the behavior of some in the Orthodox and Hassidic communities. You’re no better than anybody else on this earth.

  18. Once again, an example of me, me, me. Stop, already! You’re not special. There is more to this world than you. Just as secular parents are dealing with this pandemic, so should you. And, you wonder why Jews are looked at in a certain way. Your behavior does not help those of us that are less observant.
    Here’s an example…
    Rebbitzen Goldenpickanicerscreenname May 7, 2020 9:00 pm at 9:00 pm
    You wanna know why camps should be open if schools are shut? Because parents are going meshuga! We gotta get dem kids out! Genug shoin! Are nerves are shot. We can’t take it anymore. To parents camp was like waiting for moshiach to come. We knew that if we just survive a little longer, soon the geula of camp will arrive. Charge whatever you want for camp, just take my kids, please.