Hot Days; Sticky Issues

Summer, along with intense heat, has arrived. And for many, it is a summer like no other in history.

As explored in detail in these pages, the decision by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo to prohibit the opening of overnight camps has sent administrators scrambling to explore out-of-state venues. As of this writing, some camps have found alternative sites in Pennsylvania or New Hampshire. Others have simply canceled. Meanwhile, the rest are still weighing their options, only days before camps were scheduled to open.

Parents and their children, already emotionally drained after long months under lockdown, are now grappling with their summer plans being turned upside down. For those families staying in the city, the thought of their teenage children having to stay here in the sweltering heat without a proper structure seems unfathomable. Even among those who did rent a place in the Catskills many are dealing with the fact that when they signed the lease on their tiny bungalow, they relied on their older children being able to be in camp — and there is literally no room for another few beds.

As askanim and families try their hardest to make the best of a very challenging situation, here are some pointers to keep in mind:

Even in the most relaxed of times, we must do all we can not to give the year-round Catskills residents a reason to feel resentful of the summer visitors. Now, with anxiety over COVID-19 still prevalent and a statewide regulation requiring masks and social distancing still in place, this is especially important to keep in mind. This isn’t a matter of being in the right, but of, as needed, going the extra mile to defuse tension and create a kiddush Hashem.

The new reality is also that many more children are using bikes and scooters to navigate through city streets and sidewalks. In addition to the vital importance of wearing helmets, it is crucial that parents have an earnest conversation with their children about getting around in a responsible and safe manner. A collision with a bike or scooter can leave a pedestrian — and the rider — with serious injuries, R”l, and even a near miss can leave someone shaken and traumatized.

Finally, with so many in our community either without a job or seeing their income dwindle drastically, this is an ideal time for those who can offer assistance to do so. While it may be relatively cheaper than sending to camp, the combination of day camp fees and skyrocketing air conditioning bills are major expenses that they simply can’t afford. In addition, those who have the ability to help a struggling city-stranded family get away for a few days through offering them a place to stay would be accomplishing far more than they could imagine.

The summer months and their long hours of daylight are always an ideal time for introspection and spiritual improvement. How much more so this summer, coming on the heels of the trials and tribulations of the past few months.

The leaves and the trees send us a message: summer is a time of growth and revival. And the passuk teaches us (Devarim 20:19), “A man is the tree of the field.”

Let’s do our utmost to nurture that growth.