Lindsey Feldman, a 6th grade public school student, had planned to spend last July at her local JCC overnight camp. As the summer of 2020 brought devastation to the Jewish camping world and dozens of camps across the United States were forced to close, Lindsey was one of thousands of Jewish girls searching for alternatives.
Then her parents heard of CGI Poconos, the only Jewish overnight camp for public school children that was committed to keeping its doors open despite the pandemic. In the summer of 2020, against all odds, CGI Poconos operated their unique summer program while adhering to all Covid regulations. Lindsey and the girls she met at camp enjoyed a nature-filled, spiritually-deep camping experience that ignited their souls in a way they could never have imagined.
Now, as other camps seek to recreate themselves, CGI Poconos is soaring high and building on its previous success, attracting more children than ever before.
In preparation for its 10th season, the camp is collaborating with one of the most extensive ropes courses in the Northeast to provide enhanced climbing adventures for its campers throughout the summer. The premiere high and low ropes course includes challenging traverses, ziplines, climbing walls and top-tier professional instructors. In addition, the camp will offer an enhanced aquatics program with various boating and fishing opportunities along with a rich assortment of arts, sports, drama, and classic camping adventures.
While the directors are thrilled about the expanded opportunities, this focus on physical challenges and nature-based activities is not new at CGI Poconos. “By immersing our campers in nature and challenging them both physically and emotionally, we lay the groundwork for a deeply spiritual experience,” says founder and executive director, Gershon Sandler. “Like most American children, our campers spend their lives surrounded by screens, technology, and the externally-focused ideals of society. At camp, we prioritize a deeply immersive, screen-free environment that allows our campers to truly be themselves and to connect deeply with their peers and their Judaism. It’s life-changing and enhancing!”
With the pandemic affecting many parents’ ability to cover the cost of camp, Sandler insists on making camp accessible to every camper despite financial struggles. “Having been around for ten years, we see the lifelong impact that our camp has on the girls, and we need to make that available for any girl who’s interested,” he says. Many of the camp’s alumni have gone on to attend Jewish high schools, CTeen, Chabad on Campus, and even seminary in Israel.
With almost 100 campers already registered, CGI Poconos is gearing up to distribute over $150,000 in scholarships. A group of dedicated supporters is working to launch a Charidy campaign this week on Pesach Sheini to cover the cost of these scholarships.
“Pesach Sheini is all about second chances. Let’s give every Jewish girl a second chance to experience the beauty of Yiddishkeit,” explain the campaign managers.
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In the last 10 years, over 100 Shluchim have sent children from their Chabad Houses to CGI Poconos, and more than 500 happy campers have passed through its program. With new registration still coming in daily, there remain a few spots for staff members age 18+
who are experienced and passionate about working with girls from public school backgrounds. Interested applicants may submit here.