Inclusivity & Mental Health
Dear Camp Solomon Schechter Community,
Since 1954, Camp Solomon Schechter has existed as a safe, welcoming, and nurturing environment for hundreds of campers and staff each year. Every year we are blessed to welcome campers and staff from across the globe, allowing us to build a community of individuals who have contributed to what our camp looks like today. We are so proud to have a community where each person is valued and respected for who they are, and we remain confident that our campers and staff leave camp at the end of each summer as a better version of themselves.
We know that Camp Solomon Schechter is one of the most rewarding and influential experiences that our campers and staff can have. When children come to camp, they are able to try new activities, grow in their independence and self-confidence, make new friends, and discover things about themselves they did not know. For many of these people, camp is a safe haven from the challenging world in which we live. We have a responsibility to protect our campers, and empower them to thrive in the world, no matter who they are, how they identify, or what their background is.
With this new Inclusion Statement, we hope to share our commitment to providing a welcoming, safe, and inclusive environment at camp for all. We welcome and encourage all family members to read our new statement. For some, this conversation might be new, but our commitment to provide an inclusive camp is not. For years we have welcomed LGBTQ+ identifying, gender-diverse, and non-binary individuals into camp. Our newly updated inclusion statement explicitly states our long-standing commitment to supporting every single person in our community, regardless of who they are.
It is important to acknowledge that this statement uses language that is shared across most of the overnight summer camping industry. This policy has been vetted by extensive research and communication with other camps and camp professionals in the field.
Thank you for the trust you give us to care for all your children during their summers. We are so proud to have a community that is built with so many unique individuals who make Camp Solomon Schechter the remarkable and life-changing place that it is. We know this is going to be our best summer ever!
Jonathan Schwartz, Board President
Zach Duitch, Executive Director
Adam Nickels, Camp Director
Camp Solomon Schechter Inclusivity Statement
Camp Solomon Schechter is committed to promoting racial equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging for all people in our community. Our Jewish values of inclusivity, respect, safety, and trust inspire us to create an environment where all campers, staff, alumni, and families are welcomed and feel safe.
We are proud of the community we have created together throughout our history. We have built a vibrant community that is rooted deeply in Jewish values. Camp Solomon Schechter welcomes all members of the community, supporting and embracing people who identify as LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, or Questioning, Intersex or, Asexual), gender-diverse, and non-binary.
We recognize that gender exists on a spectrum and may change at any point during a person’s life. We firmly believe in supporting every person at all points during their time in the CSS community, recognizing that their needs and identities may change during their years at camp.
At Camp Solomon Schechter, we bunk campers in cabins based on gender and grade. To support our campers’ development, cabin assignments can be made based on gender identity, rather than a camper’s sex assigned at birth. These specific housing arrangements based on gender identity must be made by both campers and parents in advance of arriving to camp. A member of Camp Solomon Schechter’s full-time team will liaise with these families to learn the best option for the camper to bunked in. Our team will also work with gender-fluid and non-binary campers and their families before camp to identify appropriate bunk assignments for these campers.
We recognize that for transgender, gender-fluid, and non-binary campers, any shared gender-segregated space can be challenging. Camp Solomon Schechter encourages these campers to share their concerns with a member of the full-time team, and we will work with them and their families to provide safe spaces where they can be free from stigma. For example, providing a separate and private space for campers to change clothes privately. No camper will ever be forced to change clothes in a separate space, within a shared gender-segregated space, unless requested specifically by the camper.
Camp Solomon Schechter strives to ensure the confidential information of a camper, or staff person’s gender status in accordance with state, local, and federal privacy laws.
All individuals at Camp Solomon Schechter possess the right to discuss their gender identity openly, whenever the person desires and with whomever they desire. If a camper or staff chooses to identify differently from how they do at home, whether that be using a different name or pronouns, if they decide to transition at camp, or if they choose to disclose their identity to a member of staff, this does not authorize Camp Solomon Schechter to share this information with their parents or guardians. Should Camp Solomon Schechter need to speak with parents or guardians, we will use the camper’s legal name and the pronouns corresponding to the camper’s sex provided at registration, unless requested differently by the camper or parents/guardians. In addition, to protect the confidential information of a camper’s gender status, Camp Solomon Schechter does not publicly share the gender-identity of campers in each cabin.
Should there be a situation where Camp Solomon Schechter is legally required to share a camper or member of staff’s gender identity, Camp Solomon Schechter will always provide an opportunity for the camper or member of staff to make the disclosure themselves first. Camp’s Executive Team will provide this camper or staff member with any support services they would need to do this in a safe and supportive environment.
Camp Solomon Schechter believes and recognizes that every individual has the right to use a name and pronouns that reflect their gender identity. Even if a camper or member of staff has not legally changed their name or gender, or if they are yet to undergo HRT (hormone replacement therapy) or surgical transitions, we will support and allow campers and staff to use their preferred name and pronouns. Though not mandated, all campers and staff will be able to share their preferred pronouns and names on forms that need to be completed before the summer season commences. Though, to be sure we address our campers and staff appropriately, we ask to be provided with this information, should the campers and parents choose to do so.
We also recognize that a camper may arrive at camp one year, identifying differently from how they identified at camp in previous years. In these cases, we will inform all of our staff of a person’s new name and/or pronouns to ensure these people are addressed appropriately. Deadnaming is the act of referring to a person’s birth name, after they have changed to a new name during their transition. We recognize that deadnaming can be a traumatic experience for those who transition, and we are committed to ensuring that deadnaming does not happen in our community. Additionally, some campers and staff may feel comfortable using gender-neutral pronouns such as “they, them, and theirs”, or would prefer to be addressed with just their name. For these people, we will work with our staff to ensure that our community is aware of how these people wish to be addressed and do so accordingly.
Each summer, all summer camp staff arrive at camp before the start of first session to engage in a week-long training program. During this time, staff engage in a variety of different training sessions, with some that focus specifically on gender inclusion and diversity at camp. Camp Solomon Schechter works with organizations such as Keshet to help provide this training for our staff with qualified experts and professionals in the field. We often seek additional providers for training to best support and prepare our staff, recognizing they are the key influencers in providing campers with safe and secure camp environments.
Camp Solomon Schechter is committed to maintaining an environment that is free from discrimination and harassment based on a person’s sex, gender, race, age, color, creed, religion, disability, ancestry, nationality or ethnic origin, citizenship status, veteran status, political affiliation, marital status, familial status, or any other reasons protected under Federal, State, and local laws. Camp Solomon Schechter affirms that no person shall be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be otherwise subjected to discrimination under any program or activity for which they are otherwise eligible.
Mental, Emotional, Social Health, and Wellbeing
Camp Solomon Schechter strives to include campers with varying levels of ability, differing emotional and social needs, and different gender identities. The safety of every camper, the impact on the broader community, and our resources play a major role in determining who we can support during the summer. There are limiting factors that impact our ability to be all-inclusive and the decision about whether a camper can enroll and/or remain at camp remains at the sole discretion of the Camp Director. It is difficult to create a document that addresses every challenge or nuance that may arise during the summer. Our goal of this document is to address how we work to make camp successful for as many children as possible.
Helping to Plan for a Successful Summer
In the late winter, Camp Solomon Schechter distributes a form to families known as the MESH Jot Form. The purpose of this form is for parents/guardians to inform camp about any significant MESH concerns their campers have, that can support in planning a successful summer for them. Parents/guardians must inform CSS of these concerns on this form or otherwise during the enrollment process as they arise. Parents/guardians should always err on the side of disclosure, feeling confident that we will maintain strict confidentiality and only share relevant personal information for the purposes of supporting your camper during their time at camp. Once the summer season has begun, and a significant undisclosed issue presents, it is highly unlikely that a camper can be accommodated in a successful manner.
When a significant MESH concern is disclosed before the summer, the CSS team will work with the camper’s family, and if necessary, pediatrician, and existing mental health support teams to evaluate if camp is the right setting for the camper and to create an action plan if it is determined that the camper can participate in camp. Our focus will be on the safety of the camper, the impact on the broader community, and whether the parents, mental health team, and camp staff reasonably believe, given our limited resources, that we can develop a plan that will ensure a successful summer. It is important to note that while we have mental health clinicians on staff and in our network for consultation, their role is not to provide individual therapy for campers.
When evaluating if our resources can help a camper be successful, and in order to determine our ability to develop a viable plan for the current summer, we focus on a camper’s well-being, their history, and any recent trends in their mental, social or emotional health. We consider how their overall progress has been going during the year, the timing of any significant events that have occurred, and how the camp setting is similar or dissimilar to other situations, which may cause them stress. We also balance the impact on the broader camp community, which includes the amount of time and attention a counselor must give to an individual camper. It is important to understand that when campers share their significant emotional concerns with other campers and camp staff, that can place an undue burden on everyone involved.
CSS recognizes that each camper’s needs are unique, and we look for indications that an individual camper needs to be successful in handling the vast majority of camp’s day-to-day programming. If a camper is unable to function in a percentage of the camp’s programs and/or requires intensive, individualized, one-to-one support to navigate each day, our resources may be unable to accommodate such a camper. It is important to know what while the way in which a situation has been handled in the past will likely inform us on how we handle that situation, it may not determine how that situation, or a similar situation will be handled today or at some point in the future.
Below are some MESH Challenges and how CSS approaches each one:
Many cases of campers with anxiety, panic attacks, or depression can be successfully managed at camp. Disclosing these issues prior to the start of camp is critical and allows our Camper Care Team to work with our staff to prepare them to respond appropriately. Sharing coping strategies and tools that have been successful with your camper enables our staff to work effectively and successfully with your child. In addition, we can provide opportunities for campers to take part in telehealth sessions with their personal therapist throughout the summer if requested.
Campers who express serious thoughts about hurting themselves usually cannot be accommodated at camp. The camper’s mental health team at home and the staff at camp must feel that a camper will be safe at camp. Campers who express serious thoughts about hurting themselves will be evaluated by our Camper Care Team in conjunction with the Camp Director, and if required the camper’s mental health team at home, if available. In most cases, camp will not be able to accommodate these campers and they will be sent home.
Campers may not cut at camp. Disclosing any history of cutting to the CSS Team is essential to the camper’s success during the summer. Recognizing there are different “types” of cutting with different risks, close consultation between the camper’s mental health team at home and the staff at camp is essential before camp to ensure that camp is a good choice for the camper. Campers who engage in cutting behavior for the first time at camp or have not disclosed previous self-harm behavior will be sent home.
Sharing your camper’s history of disordered eating is essential to helping campers have a successful camp experience. While we are unable to monitor individual campers’ food consumption on a meal-by-meal basis, we can provide tentative camp menus, weekly weigh-ins, nutritional snacks, and access to speaking/video chatting with a therapist.
Many, if not most cases of campers with A.D.H.D. can be successfully managed at camp. Disclosing an A.D.H.D. diagnosis and discussing with camp staff before the summer will enable us to work with you and your child’s support team, to plan for a successful summer at camp. Medication vacations are not allowed while your child is at camp. Camp requires focus and impulse control to maintain peer relationships and participate in the daily schedule. Timely assessment of all cases will also allow us to decide which of our resources to utilize to support your camper.
It is normal for campers to experience feelings such as loneliness, sadness, and worry associated with missing their family and their at home routine, especially during the first couple of days at camp. Campers who are involved in the decision-making process about choosing to come to camp are likely to feel more empowered to manage their homesickness. Campers who are being sent to camp by their parents and did not choose to come to camp are more likely to struggle longer and harder with homesickness.
- We expect that some campers will need extra support working through such feelings in the first few days. However, we also expect to see a positive arc of improvement as campers become more comfortable in the environment away from home and with daily camp routines. In our experience, after the second full day of camp, most homesick campers are fully immersed into camp.
- If you are concerned about potential homesickness, your child’s ability to independently manage their emotions, and/or your child’s capacity to settle into new routines, please share this on the MESH Jot Form or get in touch with Ruth Chaban.
- Refer to our Tips for Dealing with Homesickness for helpful information to prepare your camper for how to manage their homesickness.
Have any questions?
If you have any questions about how we can best support your camper’s mental health and wellbeing during the summer, please reach out to Ruth Chaban, Assistant Director of Camper Care and Inclusion (email@example.com). We have also attached some helpful resources if you or your family members are in need of support. We do not endorse the organizations, and you might find the information useful.
CSS has a zero-tolerance policy for forms of social aggression, and we define it as using one’s social and/or physical power to target someone else repeatedly. We address behavioral issues by teaching missing social skills, empathy, and conflict resolution, and by partnering with parents and providing additional structure if needed. If behavior is repetitive with no improvement, the Camp Director reserves the right to send campers home and/or to not allow them to attend the next summer.