As the old proverb goes, it takes a village to raise a child. And as we enter the unprecedented pandemic summer of 2020, the goal of this week’s Camp Kveller webinar was to help shore up our metaphorical villages to ensure they are as strong and resilient as possible!
Our guest lineup this week included two people who literally live in a village, that of Skokie, Illinois. Both are Jewish educators and extremely resourceful community members. On Thursday, June 25, Camp Kveller hosted Jane Shapiro, founder of the Orot Center for New Jewish Learning and bubbe extraordinaire, and Natalie Blitt, author, educational consultant at Camp Ramah Wisconsin and the program director at the i-Center.
If you want to experience the love and camaraderie of the webinar, you can find it on our Facebook Page. Here are some key takeaways that we learned from our guests:
1. Identify your village members
While many of us may be lucky to have family members who have always stepped up in terms of child-rearing, babysitting, or just helping the time pass, we have entered a new frontier in terms of needs. Now is the time to think bigger, more creatively, and out-of-the-box when it comes to identifying who may be able to be helpful to your family. Do you have multiple children? Maybe it’s time to empower or even employ those older kiddos as counselors-in-training for their younger sibs. Does your sister live abroad? She is part of your village; she can read your kids stories or teach them something over Zoom. Even grandparents, who may be self-isolating due to their increased risk of coronavirus complications, are still a part of your village. Think broadly about the people in your lives who you might not have initially considered in the past.
Natalie started a Facebook group called 2020-The Year We Had To Make Up Camp. It began when she realized that her Jewish educator colleagues and fellow parents were all struggling with what to do with their kids this summer. The intention was to help people brainstorm and share resources — and it now includes nearly 2,000 members, a mix of camp professionals and parents, who are all empathizing with one another and sharing practical advice. In addition to friends and neighbors helping one another, we are also seeing unprecedented collaboration among Jewish organizations and summer camps, allowing for more robust offerings and reach than would have otherwise been possible. Kudos to all of you
3. Support (and benefit from) independent initiatives
Many camp professionals, college students, and unemployed folk are offering interactive online programming this summer. There are so many options out there, from mahjong lessons to woodworking classes. Check out your local Facebook groups or city programs. Some helpful Facebook groups include 2020-The Year We Had To Make Up Camp, Parenting Under Quarantine, Jewish Response to COVID-19, and many similar options. Do a search in your favorite social media platform and you should come across a slew of ideas. You may discover extremely diverse offerings given the contagious entrepreneurial spirit that is spreading during this time! Additionally, backyard camps are popping up in a neighborhood near you.
As we all know, grandparents fall in the age bracket of the population with greater risk for coronavirus-related complications. A wealth of socially-distant grandparent/grandchildren activity ideas are available on the Jewish Grandparents Network. Additionally, this is a safe space where grandparents can commiserate, mourn, and bond over the lost time with their grandchildren during these precious years.
Of course, some grandparents have been called into active duty, as many parents have moved in with their parents in order to better help one another. These extended families are now living under the same roof as one cozy pod. This works for some, but quarters can be tight. Plan accordingly! (As Natalie joked, sometimes it takes a village and a vineyard.)
For grandparents who live near — but not with — their grandchildren, remember that so many activities can be done six feet (or more!) apart. For Jane, gardening has long been a pastime she shared with her grandkids, and that’s something they can still do safely together with a few modifications. For those families who are spread further across the country and/or the globe, many grandparents are reading to their grandchildren or playing chess together via video chat. Connecting online solely in conversation can be challenging, so we suggest activities that can be done “together” online: coloring, board games, seeing which words are autocorrected by Siri or Google… the possibilities are endless
One recurring theme of the conversation was the deep appreciation for the village members individually and as a community. The pandemic has provided the opportunity to appreciate the value, importance, and meaningful relationships that are actually being nurtured and growing during this time. We are all grateful for that!
Next week we will discuss inclusivity and how to address the needs of all kids this summer, with Dori Kirshner, executive director of Matan, and Howard Blas, director of the National Ramah Tikvah Network. We’re all in this together, Camp Kveller!