The Rabbinical Alliance of America—Igud HaRabbonim, representing over 950 American Orthodox Rabbis—calls on New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard A. Zucker to reconsider his agency’s decision to refuse permission to sleepaway camps to open this summer.

For three long months, children have suffered greatly during the pandemic lockdown. In particular, children from large families and small homes have been unduly impacted by the “stay-at-home” order. Children need fresh air and exercise for both their physical and mental health.

Experts have spent hundreds of hours planning how to create safe and healthy summer camp environments. On June 9, 2020, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its “Suggestion for Youth and Summer Camps” tailored to meet the unprecedented challenges that we face with the Covid-19, Coronavirus pandemic. In its suggestion, the CDC presents a comprehensive plan for the safe operation of summer camps, which will reduce the risk of contracting Coronavirus and permit youth who desperately need a proper summer respite to obtain such necessary and vital rest and relaxation.

Additionally, the Association of Jewish Camp Operators, on May 10, 2020, issued its “Covid-19 Health and Safety Plan” which contains recommended protocols for New York State overnight summer camps. The goal of the plan, as they state, is “providing safe and healthy environments for campers and staff to protect them from the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The Rabbinical Alliance of America takes pride that among the exemplary physicians and medical authorities who reviewed and approved the recommendations and safety plan for sleepaway camps was our Director of Medical Halacha Commission, Rabbi Dr. Aaron Glatt, MD, FACP, FIDSA, FSHEA. Rabbi Dr. Glatt serves as the chairman, Department of Medicine, Chief Infectious Diseases and Hospital Epidemiologist at Mount Sinai South Nassau.

Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, executive vice-president of the Rabbinical Alliance of America stated, “The mental well being of our youth is fragile at this time. Our youth have been traumatized by Covid-19; their entire life has been stressfully turned upside down. As a rabbi, I have observed the detrimental impact of this lockdown on our adult population. The stress and mental anguish are magnified on our youth. At this critical juncture, we fortunately have protocols to safely operate overnight camps in accordance with the CDC and the recommendations of the Association of Jewish Camp Operators. We know how to run camps safely so that our children can escape the stress and confines of pandemic lockdown and begin to heal emotionally and physically with the fresh air and exercise of the outdoors.”

Therefore, the Rabbinical Alliance of America calls on Dr. Howard A. Zucker to affirm the guidance of the CDC and the Association of Jewish Camp Operators for the safe operation of a sleepaway camp so that children will not spend the summer confined in small homes with little exercise and fresh air.