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This Chanukah, Get Rid of Masks and Get Together with People

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Dear Parents and Campers,
Without paying attention, summer ended, fall is at its peak, and Chanukah is on its way.

“We wondered what to sing together with a crowd. Nothing fancy, maybe even easy. We dug and dug through a thousand tunes and finally discovered one without words…” (Gazoz, “Eo Oh”)

We wondered how we could run Camp Skimama as we do every Chanukah, but this time, without skiing, without snow, without flights, without leaving the country. To keep all the ingredients in our successful formula but also adapt them to the current situation: Chanukah vacation, Israel, with COVID-19, kids stuck at home, and we all know our kids have spent enough time online in front of screens. We want to travel – no, we deserve to travel. So if there’s not going to be any skiing, then at least we need to create an experience with activities in the sea, in the air, and on the land. In vans and planes. In the south, the center, and the north of the country. Just like with every meeting like this at Kimama, the instruction for our staff was clear: go the farthest, be the most creative, the most bold. Let’s offer our campers everything we might have thought was “impossible.” And here’s the result: Kimama Race!

How does it work?

Campers are divided up into groups of 14 along with two team members who are among our very best. They choose a common group goal for competitors (Holocaust survivors, youth at risk, cleaning beaches, etc.) and head out. The group travels from place to place in fantastic vans, They’ll spend half the day competing and the other half hanging out and relaxing. Campers in the winning group will be awarded personal prizes as well as the chance to contribute in Kimama’s name to the goal they chose for the competition. To succeed at their task, they’ll have no choice but to tackle a few challenges: An introductory dive. Ropes park. Eilat. Snorkeling. Hot air ballooning. Dancing. Evening activities. Jerusalem. Knowledge. Speed. Effort. Cooperation. Kayaking in the Dead Sea. The Kinneret. Bike trip. Friends. Music. Like the song says, “Nothing fancy, maybe even easy.”

But how can you do it all during COVID? Don’t you listen to the news?

We are constantly listening to the news, and to the Ministry of Health and all government decisions. We’ve seen that even last summer, most of the educational programs in Israel, both private and public, ceased operating, for obvious reasons. The fact that we succeeded in holding activities throughout the entire summer, without any mishaps, shouldn’t be taken for granted, and it didn’t happen just by chance. It happened thanks to the rigorous policies we upheld, along with the lifestyle and stringent practices we accepted upon ourselves. We put forth a great effort to maximize the time we spent and the activities we did in the open air, we were careful about masks in closed areas, we took temperatures twice a day, we were cautious about treating health incidents, enforced strict records of health declarations, encouraged social and personal hygiene practices, kept pods (capsules) apart, and most of all, remained on high alert. We practiced forceful risk management all summer long, every day, at all times. And that’s what we’ll be doing this Chanukah as well.

Sounds great, but will there be other Kimama activities this Chanukah besides the race?

Glad you asked. The answer is YES. Out of the saying, “Every crisis brings opportunity,” a new Kimama program was born during the first lockdown: Kimama Van. When we started talking about isolation and pods of up to 10 campers, we asked ourselves how we could possibly offer Kimama in pods? And here’s our way: Kimama Van – 5 days, 7 campers, 2 staff members, and one van, with a program to die for. Think of the most amazing parts of Kimama, then make them even better, and then crank them up just a little MORE. And thanks to the incredible success of Kimama Van this past summer, this plan is now being run throughout the year, including during Chanukah vacation. If you open your eyes and look around, here and there you’ll see more and more Kimama vans touring around all over Israel. Like the classic Israeli song, “Good people in the middle of the road.”

I want to take this opportunity to thank our skilled team of counselors, coordinators, and directors, most of whose friends are on unpaid leave while they’re here with us at Kimama, figuring out each day how to communicate with and thrill the next generation of kids who deserve the very best. Our team members are a fantastic personal example to our campers.

I’d also like to thank you for your trust, your understanding, and the opportunity you give us to be creative over and over again.
I invite you to join us,

Avishay Nachon
CEO, Kimama

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How to Run a Summer Camp During COVID-19

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How to Run a Summer Camp During COVID-19

by Avishay Nachon, CEO and owner, Camp Kimama Israel

Over the last few weeks, the question has come up of whether and how it’s even possible to run a summer camp during COVID-19. Every day we hear about more restrictions and new prohibitions – and if you listen to the news, sometimes it seems like it’s impossible to do anything at all beyond just staying home. 

But we think differently. We believe it’s possible to run summer camps and what’s more, we believe that summer overnight camps are the only way to guarantee children’s health over the summer vacation. Therefore, we’re calling on the government to make private summer camps the most appropriate substitute for the educational and occupational framework for every child and teen in Israel.

Summer schools have already proven their inefficiency, with many instances of infection, anger at the system, and failure in every way. Summer camps run by professionals, on the other hand, could adapt themselves quickly to the dynamic changes necessitated by the new procedures.

So is it actually possible to run a summer camp during COVID-19? Absolutely! 

Overnight camp could be the safest option for spending summer 2020. A summer camp which lasts two weeks, held in a supervised setting with a doctor, clinic, isolation room, activities conducted in “capsule” form, and a variety of educational and interactive activities – this is the only possible substitute which gives children a secure occupational framework. Instead of spending two weeks shut up in isolation at home in front of a screen, summer camps let children spend two weeks in youth villages, out in the open air, with activities centered around the sea, pool, grassy areas, sports fields, a spacious dining room and supervision by professional staff to look after their every need.

Our task, as camp operators, is to ensure that camp takes place in the safest possible way, with extra attention to strict procedures, without diminishing campers’ enjoyment. At Kimama, we’ve formulated a number of principles based on outlines provided by the Ministry of Health and based on our professional experience as the largest and leading private summer camp organization in Israel. These principles include strictly requiring a health declaration form; taking temperatures twice a day, and in the event that a camper is running a fever, sending them home immediately; a spacious dining room which will run in shifts; a doctor on site to advise on all activities; isolation rooms; masks as mandatory equipment for campers and staff (along with a hat, water bottle, and sunscreen); not permitting Parents’ and Family Day visitation (to ensure two weeks’ removal from the external environment); “capsule” groups of up to only 25 campers; a strictly enforced cleaning regimen, the most diligent level of sanitation, and more.

So where’s the fun?

Just like every year – and even more so this year – an overwhelming majority of the activities will take place in open areas where a mask is not needed.  We will increase activities held in outside areas: the pool and the sea, sports fields, nature activities, sessions held in grassy areas and other activities held in open areas. Instead of choosing a themed track like water sports, dog training, cooking, or drama – all the children will experience a range of different activities, thus enjoying a selection of varied, unique attractions.

There’s no doubt that summer 2020 presents a major challenge for children, for parents, and especially for us as summer camp operators. Children’s wellbeing – keeping them safe and healthy – is always our top priority.  Creating clear procedures and ensuring they are followed will help make summer 2020 an unforgettable experience – perhaps even more than ever!!

Coronavirus in the Midst of Life

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Coronavirus in the Midst of Life

by Avishay Nachon

In case you don’t know me, nice to meet you, my name is Avishay Nachon. Seventeen years ago, I joined Deddy Paz and Ronen Hoffman, along with other talented individuals, to establish our life’s work – Kimama. And I’ve been here ever since. When I think about it today, I realize we did it out of a combination of naivete and youthful trust. Seventeen years later, we’ve managed to create a formula for a summer camp program for kids and teens that has become increasingly relevant over the years, and we’ve been blessed with a team of counselors and coordinators that we could only dream of for our own children.

For the last two years, I’ve lived in New York, where I’ve worked on setting up and developing Kimama’s activities in North America. Over a relatively short period, I’ve learned to love Manhattan and everything this city has to offer. I’ve met with lots of organizations and leaders of the Israeli and Jewish community in the U.S. and see the community’s need for an informal program to strengthen the connection to Israel and our children’s affinity for Jewish culture.

Kimama’s head office continues to be run from Israel and as part of my move to New York two years ago, we started conducting most of our meetings by video conferencing. Over time, I’ve started enjoying the advantages: meetings are focused, there’s no time wasted before and after meetings, and everything is a lot more efficient. But as someone who grew up with Kimama and is connected to everything happening within the organization, I make sure I visit Israel every two months, mainly to meet with the wonderful team working with me there and to see up close that what I see through the screen corresponds is actually happening on the ground.

My most recent visit to Israel was in February, and I was happy to get to the office and see how hard everyone was working to get ready for the coming summer. The phone was ringing off the hook, there were lots of new campers signing up from all over the world, and in every work-related conversation it was clear that we were riding the wave. Just a moment before I returned to New York, there was talk about some kind of a flu spreading through Europe and we decided it was better to cancel Camp Skimama in Italy over Pesach, just to be on the safe side. There were already 50 campers signed up and we assumed there would be more. Everything had been ordered ahead of time, but we didn’t think it was right to take the chance that Europe might be closed off. Relatively speaking, the decision to cancel Camp Skimama was easy to make. And then I flew back to New York. Even there, there was plenty of work to do getting ready for the summer.

Within a very short time, we discovered that this coronavirus wasn’t just a little thing we could ignore, and before we knew what was happening, we were forced to close the office and go on unpaid leave. In the 17 years that I’ve been with Kimama, this was the first time I needed to stop. It’s just not something I’m used to. I’m used to stepping on the gas and going.  No stopping along the way.  What’s the point of taking a vacation now?  But planning is one thing, reality very much another.

In every crisis, there is also an opportunity

So everyone was at home, glued to the news, we held a few meetings to prepare for the situation, and very quickly discovered that unpaid leave is a nice way of putting it, but it had nothing to do with us. Between March 15 and May 15, we were at home, but we were all working from morning until night on all kinds of things. Among others, the question came up for managers: how can we hold Kimama camps during the coronavirus period? Hint: anyone who suggests that we do it online is out of the game. That’s not what we’re about. Not that it’s a bad thing, it’s simply not what we love to do, and we also couldn’t find a single manager within Kimama who thought that was the right way to do it.

Within 24 hours, we came up with 6 great ideas. We voted and chose the idea that we loved most. And it seems like we hit the bullseye.  It came up that we’d need isolation, that if we were going to have activities, it would be best in a “bubble,” and also, during those challenging days, there could be up to 10 participants. I’ll remind you that this was during the period of not going more than 100 meters from home, no more than 10 people, soon all the restrictions will be eased…

So how do we do Kimama in a bubble?  Here’s the secret: 7 campers ,5 days, 2 staff members, 1 van, and a program right out of Hollywood: Kimama Van!  Imagine all the best parts of Kimama… then make it even better, and then kick it up one more notch, and here’s what you’ll get: https://www.kimamavan.org/

Our team’s mission was – within 2 weeks – to get the site up and running with registration forms, recruit staff members, build a program and tracks, finalize deals with the van suppliers, sleeping arrangements, activities, etc. And thus was born the program for Kimama Van. Registration is open, and very soon all the spaces will be gone…

But that’s just one example of something “Kimami” that we evolved during the coronavirus period.

Our second idea arose from our need, as Israelis living abroad, to come to Israel during this challenging period.  New York is closed, there are no schools or kindergartens, most summer camps aren’t opening, and a return to normalcy doesn’t look like it’s happening anytime soon.  From getting to know Kimama families abroad, we’ve seen that lots and lots of Israelis come to Israel every summer with their kids. And then they need a structured framework for their children – but there are no schools or kindergartens, and it’s not always easy, or possible, to find a structure like this for just one week. With this idea, we decided to put together our new summer day camp.

In cooperation with Bereisheet in New Jersey (partners for our day camp in New Jersey), we created a day camp at Beit Yannai which will run throughout the summer. This camp is specifically adapted to and aimed at Israelis coming from abroad for the summer who will be delighted to join Israelis from Israel.

Come get to know our new camp: https://kimamabereisheet.org/israel/

So what now?

Summer 2020 is going to be different, but no less “Kimami” than previous summers.

We’ve delayed the start of our overnight camps by two weeks to start on July 21st and run until the end of August. Our day camp is opening very soon now.

We understand that lots of campers from abroad won’t be coming to Israel this summer, but we are already saving their spot for next summer. Our management team is currently busy obtaining all the required authorizations from the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education, and we’re creating entire protocols detailing our operational preparedness to deal with COVID-19 conditions. All so we can create a safe summer. It’s challenging, but definitely possible, and we’re doing everything we have to according to all relevant guidelines.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you and show my appreciation for all the families who have shared their concerns, and to our wonderful Kimama team who are working day and night to create an unforgettable summer.

We recognize and appreciate the friendship we’ve created over the years and invite you to join us.

Avishay and the entire Kimama Team

An experience without screens – is it possible?

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An experience without screens – is it possible?

by Shai Resnick, Director of Camp Kimama Galim, 30, TV Addict.

My whole life has been full of memories of TV.

One of my haziest memories of childhood, based on my parents’ stories, was when I was in kindergarten. Every morning, I’d open up a bottle of chocolate milk in front of a TV show that perhaps some of you remember (and which our campers won’t recognize at all): Bouli the Snowman.

By the time I reached school age, I remember spending a ton of time watching Disney movies (all of them!!) with my big sister.

In high school, obviously I was the number one fan of all the TV romances – Love Life, Game of Life, Our Song, and so many more.

And even in the army, I remember that after two weeks on base, I’d come back  home on Friday, have a fast shower, and hurry to spend hours on the sofa, watching Grey’s Anatomy and unplugging from the world – not hearing or seeing anyone else other than the characters on the screen.

And then, I really tried to live without TV.  I remember my first year in university, making the brave decision not to bring a TV into my new apartment. Truthfully, it was a nightmare.  Lucky for me, the second year came along, bringing with it a new TV, with cable, of course!

But – and there’s a big but – by that point, something had happened. TV shows had ceased to interest me quite so much.  I was busy with sports, school, friends, dates, and of course, lots of treks outside along streams and nature, alone or with friends.

What I didn’t mention before was that Bouli the Snowman was the only program I watched, because most of the time, I was busy with board games, tag, and hide-and-seek.  After the Disney movies we’d watch only on weekends, the rest of my time was spent riding bikes and scooters with friends from the area, and of course, extracurricular activities, and hiking groups that got us out into nature, for trips already starting in fifth grade. In high school, while I watched lots of TV, most of my week – outside of school – was spent busy within boys and girls, sports, and lots of youth movement activities.

True, we’re not the same generation.  Today, there’s a lot more available to kids, and they use more of different kinds of screens, and their ability to learn and develop through this kind of access is a positive thing.

But we have the chance to bring them back, a little bit, to that time. To the period when we learned and developed from watching ants carrying crumbs or just from sitting around on the grass looking around, when we learned about hard work from those ants, when we created our own scooter club because at 4:00 p.m. we were bored and started riding around the streets of the community creating missions for ourselves. We went out at age 17 to hike the “Sea to Sea” route alone because we weren’t scared of being out in nature and we knew we had each other, truly, not just through a screen.

What an opportunity we have at Kimama!  To unplug from all the screens and distractions – to focus on ourselves, to look other kids the same age in the eye, to laugh, to be offended, to fall down, to get up, and to talk about stuff. We have the chance to hang out together and just be in a situation, really in it; feel it, grow from it, and not just document it.

I started out by saying I was addicted to TV, and I really am, but I believe that, thanks to the screen-free settings I participate in, I’ve attained the tools for knowing how to moderate my screen time, to understand how to enjoy a moment without needing to escape to a screen.

That’s what I want to provide to all our campers at Kimama – the tools to deal with a social setting, the opportunity to challenge themselves, to be with friends and to know how to enjoy the here and now, the experience of success – without a screen.

Arnon

Meet our Camp Directors – Arnon Rabin // Kimama Michmoret

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A Few Words about Arnon
Arnon (33) holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Jerusalem’s prestigious Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, where he majored in Photography, and  a Master’s degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Arnon joined the Kimama family in the Summer of 2007. Since then, he has filled a variety of positions at the entire spectrum of Kimama Camps, beginning as a counselor, then as a unit-head, staff-coordinator, and more. Six years ago, he founded Camp Kimama Carmel (now Galim), and has been its director for the first 3 years. Since 2016 Arnon is the director of Kimama Michmoret.
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Meet our Camp Directors – Efrat Ramati // Kimama Hof

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Nice to meet you

Effi Ramati, 35

Scientist. Educational entrepreneur. Leader.

MSc in Physics and Chemistry from the prestigious Weizmann Institute of Science. These days I’m finishing my PhD.

I joined Kimama in the summer of 2007 as a specialist at Camp Kimama Galil. Since then, I have filled a variety of positions at Kimama, from a counsellor to a camp director at Kimama Israel and around the world camps.

Favorite season: That is easy, whenever there is sun.

At the Sea: SUP

On the Mountain: Snowboard

My oxygen: Weekly yoga

One little dream: to fly to the moon

With friends: A good meal

Main life value: Love. Towards everything

My First Kimama Memory

I spent my first summer in Kimama as a twenty-two year old young woman. I didn’t understand at the time the meaning of this strange Indian name? I was shocked and wanted to go home. After a week at camp, I was Maccabiah captain, all covered in red with a whistle in my mouth. I was so full of energy; jumping and cheering, getting the entire camp excited with cheers and good creative competition. I was so excited by the energy of the togetherness. Since then, for the past 13 summers, I have not missed even one Maccabiah, it is one of the most amazing events at camp.

My Most Meaningful Kimama Experience

From my first year as a camp director, I was privileged to work with very talented staff. For the first time, I realized how challenging it is to manage a staff whose members are also your friends. Balancing between the professionalism that I demand of myself and the most important Kimama value – our sense of community and family – is very challenging. I feel that I learnt a lot from the process; lessons that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I am very excited about this coming summer.

What is so special about a summer camp?

In Kimama, like other international camps around the world, campers and counselors come back to camp year after year for more than a decade. Boring! No? In my opinion, one of camps most special secrets is creating a unique experience with friends. New energy, new colors, new challenges, that is what makes camp a life changing experience, at all ages.

My Aspirations

To motivate the next generation. I see education as a mission of great national and social importance.

“If You Think Education Is Expensive, Try Ignorance” (Lederer Eppie)

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Meet Camp Kimama-Galim Director!

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we are proud to introduce our newly appointed Camp Director, Shai Resnick.
In her own words:

I am 30 years old. I grew up in Manof, a small community north of Haifa. I hold a B.A. in Social Work from the Academic and Technology College of Tel -Hai. I am a big believer in education and the love of humanity, and has always been involved in informal education. In recent years, I have been working with youth in Israel’s social geographical periphery. I joined Kimama in the Summer of 2013, and since then has worked in a variety of roles, from a counselor, through a lead coordinator to director of programming last summer I was the camp director of our first summer camp in NY. I strive to drive change through education. To experience new things every day that make learn and grow, and most importantly to enjoy the journey!
In this upcoming Summer I plan to work hard in order to create an unforgettable experience for our campers!