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Welcome to Your Quarantine Summer Camp: Camp BaBayit!

As if pandemic home-schooling were not enough, now parents have to be camp directors, too?

Marjorie Ingall
May 21, 2020

OMG, no summer camp?! You know how passionately I feel about Jewish camp! You know how awesome it is for long-term positive Jewish identity! While I’m sorry for the kids and for the Jewish institutions that will suffer this summer, let’s pour out a cup of bug juice for the parents, too. Just whomst is on deck for summer programming after spending all spring managing home-school and after-school? Exactly. Fellow parents on the hook for providing summer programming for cranky Jewish youth, I present a modest curricular proposal for House Camp: Camp BaBayit.

Before the session starts, have your children iron the leftover name tapes from their first summer at camp onto all their clothing. (Experienced camp parents quickly dispense with name tape; by year two you’ve devolved into writing the kid’s initials in permanent marker on their T-shirt collars; by year three, you’re not marking anything, in a nod to sacred impermanence and/or a metaphor for God’s relationship with the people Israel.) Make your kid iron on name tapes anyway despite the futility thereof, so that they know how you have suffered for them and so that they learn how to use the iron they will need for their shirts in a decade or so when the new Great Depression is over and they can maybe get a job.

And now, your first existential camp director question: Does your camp have a no-electronics policy? (In a normal camp summer, sure! This summer: Are you nuts? This is just my opinion.)

Erev Opening Day: Replace your child’s comfortable mattress with an ancient paper-thin one that makes deafening crinkling noises.

7 a.m.: Reveille! Everybody up! Blare some trumpets or cornball Israeli pop! Enjoy this time!

8 a.m.: Time for tefillah! Pray that you will make it to the end of the day.

9 a.m.: Breakfast (aruchat boker)! Can you make the oatmeal ... more gray? Can you figure out how to make a pancake taste nasty?

10 a.m.: First peulah! Jewelry-making (tachshetanut)! Give the children all your tangled necklaces to unknot. It’s like getting new jewelry!

11 a.m.: Second peulah! Art (amanut)! Pass out googly eyes and craft glue. To quote Catherine Newman: “We call this the ‘instant friends kit,’ and it simply involves gluing googly eyes to various objects to make pet rocks, leaf friends, and marshmallow ghosts.”

12 p.m.: Lunch (aruchat tzaharayim) and Top Chef competition! Put out a random assortment of foodstuffs, tell the kids to make lunch, you crown the winner.

1 p.m.: Swimming! No pool, and/or no desire to enter the COVID-19 petri dish even if beaches are open in your community? Time for swirlies!

2 p.m.: Color War/Maccabiah! So many ways for a kid to win points for their team: Put away toys, sweep floors, do laundry, be utterly silent ... plus, you know, sportif things.

3 p.m.: No zipline? No problem! Kid in belt + bungee cord + ceiling fan = whee!

4 p.m.: Folkdancing (rikud)! Have the kids choreograph something while you lie on the couch and judge them. Do not let them put the results on TikTok.

5 p.m.: They have to write a postcard to Bubbe to get dinner.

6 p.m.: Dinner and ghost stories. (Take my word for this and do not Google “haunted Jewish camp” to get ghost story ideas. I just saw a LOT of Auschwitz links.)

7 p.m.: Smores, perhaps with this insane microwave contraption (that, TBH, I want).

8 p.m.: Evening period (peulat erev)! How about a virtual field trip to the British Library’s Harry Potter museum show? Alas, your child will be denied the formative camp experience of sneaking away to make out with a fellow youthful Jew behind the chadar ohel (dining hall) because there is no dining hall, or human being unrelated to you to make out with. Khaval!

9 p.m.: Hold hands, sway, and sing “Rad Hayom.” Let Ramah alums Ben Platt and Caissie Levy show you how it’s done.

10 p.m.” Lights out at Camp BaBayit; Ina Garten-size cosmopolitans and camp director Zoom commiseration time with fellow parents. Lailah tov!

Marjorie Ingall is a former columnist for Tablet, the author of Mamaleh Knows Best, and a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review.