Camp Young Judaea Midwest, a small overnight summer camp in Waupaca that serves people from varying Jewish backgrounds, has focused recent efforts on mental health.
Due to the pandemic, camp staff have found that children can struggle to interact with other campers and socialize without the use of screens, according to executive director Robin Anderson. With the help of an on-site camper care director, children are given the resources to make the most out of their camp experience, she said.
Before the start of the 2020 season, Camp Young Judaea Midwest accepted a grant from the Foundation for Jewish Camp to place more focus on the mental and emotional health and safety of campers and staff. This is part of a new initiative known as “Yedid Nefesh: Nurturing Mental, Emotional and Social Health at Jewish Camp.”
The grant provided funding for a mental health professional, as well as for mental health programming and training. Camps can receive up to $32,000 over three years, according to Anderson.
The pandemic has resulted in additional challenges for campers, increasing the need for focus on mental health, said Anderson. “The biggest [challenge] I saw had to do with communication with each other and relearning how to talk to each other,” she said.
For many campers, their experience at CYJM in the summer of 2021 was the first time they had been away from home for over a year, said Anderson.
But once campers spent some time at CYJM, they adapted to the environment. “At a certain point in the summer, camp felt normal,” said Anderson. With robust COVID-19 testing protocols, CYJM was able to offer a safe environment for campers to interact in ways they would have pre-pandemic with zero COVID-19 cases, according to Anderson.
About the camp
Children going into grades 2-9 experiment with boating, waterskiing, ropes courses, archery, robotics and more. With 120 kids per session, this small Jewish summer camp offers the amenities of a large camp with a small community feel, according to camp life director Rachel Ruskin.
“There is a real family feel that runs throughout the whole camp,” she said.
Camp Young Judaea Midwest is a pluralistic Jewish community, meaning children can feel comfortable participating with any level of exposure to Judaism.
”They learn about each other and they learn to build a more flexible global Jewish community,” said Anderson.