Jacobs Camp Summer 2021 FAQs

We are excited to be planning for an in-person program for Summer 2021!

The health and safety of our families has always been, and will remain our top priority as we work to open camp safely. Living with the new reality of COVID-19, elements of camp life will look different, but we are committed to delivering the same level of excellence in programming and camper care as we always have.

Below are some FAQs to help you understand how we are planning for the summer ahead. We aim to be transparent with our decision making and will keep you posted as our plans evolve.

Please read carefully for important updates on Registration & Payment Info, Unit Specific Questions, and COVID-19 Safety Precautions and Procedures.

For other questions, please see our General FAQ section.

Registration & Payment Info

What will the dates be for camp sessions this summer?

You can find our session dates here. Please note that the sessions will begin about one week later than have previously started. After doing an in-depth look at our region’s school calendars, and surveying our families, we found many school calendars are in flux, and with expected changes to come, the majority of our families are comfortable with a June 13th start date for the first session of the summer.

Will Priority and Early Bird Registration be available for this summer?

Yes! We encourage you to register as soon as you can to ensure that your child will have a spot in their desired session. Here are the important registration dates you need to know:

  • October 1, 2020 - October 11, 2020 Priority Registration will be open exclusively for returning campers (those who were registered for Summer 2020), and their siblings.
  • October 12, 2020 Early Bird Registration will be open to ALL campers, new and returning.
  • October 30, 2020 Early Bird Registration ends. Register before this date to save $100.

I chose to roll my 2020 tuition over to 2021. Will I still have to pay a new deposit upon enrollment?

No. We are so grateful to those families who were able to roll over their paid tuition towards 2021 enrollment. As long as the amount rolled over is equal to or above the enrollment deposit ($250 per camper), those funds will be counted as your 2021 deposit and you will not need to pay an additional deposit fee when you enroll.

I donated a portion or all of my 2020 tuition to camp. Will I have to pay a new deposit upon enrollment?

Thank you SO much for donating your tuition! Your contribution has helped Jacobs Camp survive the extremely difficult financial situation brought on by the pandemic. If the amount you moved to 2021 camp registration is at least $250 per camper, then no additional deposit is necessary. If however you donated your entire amount paid, then it will be necessary to secure your child’s spot with a new deposit for 2021.

Will 2021 tuition be markedly higher due to extra costs brought on by the pandemic?

Every year the tuition at camp increases due to rising operating costs and ongoing improvements and upgrades to our program.

While we do anticipate additional expenses related to COVID-19—including additional staffing, equipment, testing and more – we are proud to let you know that we are actively fundraising to cover the majority of these costs so that we won’t have to pass the full burden on to our families. There will also be no additional increase between now and the summer.

Will there be scholarship money available?
Yes! We strive to make camp affordable for all families. Please be in touch with Anna (aherman@urj.org) for more information about our camp scholarship program. We know the financial realities of COVID-19 have changed the financial picture for many families and we have been actively fundraising to support this. We are here for you, and we are expecting to hear from many families who will apply for scholarship for the first time for the 2021 summer, so please don’t hesitate to reach out.

When will tuition be due?

All the URJ camps, including Jacobs, now have standardized payment and cancellation policies and schedules. that have been created to ensure that families feel confident registering for camp.

The payment schedule is as follows:

  • 150 days prior to Camp’s first session start date – 25% of tuition payment is due;
  • 90 days prior to Camp’s first session start date – an additional 50% of tuition payment is due (75% of tuition paid);
  • 60 days prior to Camp’s first session start date – final payment is due.

If you plan on paying any part of tuition on a credit card, please refer to our Credit Card Policy.

If you have any challenges with this schedule please be in touch with Anna at aherman@urj.org.

What will the cancellation policy be for 2021?

We are following the URJ cancellation policy, which is standard across all URJ camps and has been modified to ensure that families feel confident registering for camp:

  • Cancellation by 90 days or more prior to the first session start date – 100% of tuition is refundable. Deposit in non-refundable.
  • Cancellation between 90 days and 45 days prior to the first session start date – 75% of tuition is refundable.
  • Cancellation by 45 days or less prior to the first session start date – no refunds will be given unless stated below.
  • Camp reserves the right to refund any eligible refund in multiple installments as determined by Camp.
  • Full refunds will be given without penalty (including deposit):
    • for campers on a “Waiting List” (those not able to be placed in their desired session at Camp) if at any time they choose to be removed from the list or are ultimately unable to be placed;
    • if Camp is unable or elects not to open because of government regulations, orders, or guidelines;
    • if Camp is required to cancel the session of a child with a pre-existing health condition;
    • if Camp is unable to secure a rental facility;
    • if Camp is unable or chooses not to open at their own discretion.
  • Refunds will not be made if Camper has attended any portion of the session at Camp. This covers all circumstances, including, but not limited to:
    • Camper’s homesickness
    • Camper’s refusal or inability to participate in the normal activities at Camp
    • Camper’s violation of any rules, regulations, or policies at Camp for which Camper has been provided notice, and as described in “Camper’s Participation and Camp Program Expectations” section of the terms and conditions.
  • Change of Session
    • If Camp is required to make a change to Camper session prior to summer, Parent will be notified by Camp in writing. Camp will provide an opportunity at that time for Parent to cancel Camper session without penalty (including deposit). Parent will also be eligible for this change of session refund for all children in their household at Camp regardless if the sessions of the sibling(s) were not changed.
    • A change to the Camper session is defined as one or more of the following: a change of camp geographic location, session dates, session cost, or session “Program” offering (this is for specialty camps only).

Unit-Specific Questions

What unit will my camper be in since they were not at camp last summer?

Camp units will be determined by the grade they are entering after summer 2021. Every camper should register for the unit that is appropriate for their post-summer 2021 grade. Please see below about a change to Olim grade levels.

My child is entering 3nd grade and missed their summer as an Olim camper. What unit should he or she be signed up for in 2021?

All entering 2nd AND 3rd graders will be in our Olim program for Summer 2021. We feel very strongly that the Olim experience is such an important and FUN introduction to camp, and we really want all of our entering 3nd graders to have the opportunity to have that experience!

We also recognize the social and emotional challenges brought on by the pandemic and want to give our youngest campers the opportunity to have a successful and fun first-time camp experience.

Will the Olim session still be 10 days?

We have extended the Olim experience from a 10-day program to a 14-day program for several reasons:

    • COVID Safety We likely will be following the “bubble” model of camping, wherein the campers will be strictly with the kids in their cabin for the first week of camp. Extending the Olim session allows them to have a full week of all-camp activity.
    • Shabbat The longer session allows our Olimers to have two Shabbats – doubling what is arguably the most fun time at camp!
    • Pick up Day With a 2-week session, we are able to offer the opportunity for child pick up on a weekend, instead of a Wednesday as it has been in the past.

Will there be a traditional 6-week Chalutzim session for entering 10th graders?

We are very happy that we will be able to provide an amazing Chalutuzim experience for our oldest campers. However, due to COVID safety protocols, the Chalutzim session for 2021 will run as a 4-week session instead of six.

While the guidance on best practices is constantly changing, one thing which was consistent with camps that ran successfully last summer was that all campers arrived and left on the same day.  Camp will also need the time for an extensive cleaning in between sessions for everyone’s safety.

This group, like all units at camp in 2021, will need to stay at camp for the duration of the session with no trips.

We know how important it is for our Chalutzimers to have all of their “lasts” as campers at the end of the summer, so we will run Chalutzim during second session so they can close out the summer together.

While the session will look a bit different, it will be no less special! We are already working on ways to make this summer exceptional for this group! They will have experiences that are unique to them, and it will still be an amazing way to finish their camper careers!

Will there still be a Kochavim 1-night overnight program for entering 1st graders?

Yes. We are committed to having an overnight program for our campers who are entering 1st grade.  Because of COVID precautions, it is unlikely that this program will happen during our summer season of June 13th - August 4th. However, we will hold a program for these campers so they can start their Jacobs Camp journey before the next summer. Please stay tuned for more information!

COVID-19 Safety Precautions and Procedures

***Please note that this information will be updated as we get closer to the summer.  ***

How will you make decisions about COVID-19 protocols?

We are working with a team of medical experts, including infectious disease doctors, to guide our decisions and revamp our protocols and procedures. We are also working in close coordination with the American Camp Association and Foundation for Jewish Camp to gather learnings and insights from the field. One of the tools that we will be using are learnings from camps that ran and the American  Association - like this article here. We continue to closely monitor CDC guidelines.

We know that the best practices surrounding COVID-19 are continually changing. We will remain responsive to ever-evolving local standards and protocols.

We will be as transparent as possible about all COVID-19 safety protocols as they are developed and keep parents up to date as we determine new policies.

Will camp look different next summer?

Yes, while we are committed to delivering Jacobs Magic with the same excellence you’ve come to expect from us, we can safely say that some elements of camp will look different.

We will share updates on all of the changes as we finalize things, but some examples of what we are thinking about include (but are not limited to):

    • Pre-camp testing and screening
    • Quarantine protocols
    • Travel to and from camp
    • Procedures for the dining hall
    • Procedures for the health center
    • Capacity and spacing
    • Limiting campers and adults coming and going from camp
    • Avoiding large group gatherings of campers during the first week of camp, and whenever necessary
    • Cleaning protocols
    • Medical staff
    • PPE

Will there be support for the mental health and social and emotional needs of campers and staff?

We recognize that while a return to camp life is much anticipated and exciting, it also brings with its anxieties and concerns. Our campers and staff have lived anything but normal lives over the last several months. Some of whom may have suffered their own losses and adjustments to new family situations due to COVID. Changes to our camp program and routine will bring some unfamiliarity and adjustment. Our staff will be trained in supporting our campers and building community at this unusual time. Our top-notch Community Care Team made up of mental health care professionals, as well as our excellent Medical Team, will provide additional support to campers and staff. As always, we will communicate and partner with families as challenges arise. We know that the connection, routine, and support that camp life offers will be eagerly welcomed and is exceptionally important today for our campers and staff.

Will campers go on trips outside of camp during Summer 2021?

No. While the guidance on best practices for camps is constantly changing, one thing that was consistent with camps that ran successfully last summer was that all campers arrived and left on the same day.  Campers will need to stay at camp for the duration of their session.

General FAQs

Trying to decide whether Jacobs Camp is right for your child? According to the American Camp Association, the best way to proceed with choosing a camp is:

  • Involve your child in the selection process. Review your child’s preferences and let your child ask questions.
  • Review brochures, videos & websites with your child. (And, if you’ve found this page, you’ve already begun that process!)
  • Get answers to some key questions – which we’ve taken the liberty of giving you our answers below!
  • Speak to the Director or a camp representative – by phone, online, or when they come to your community.
  • Ask for references of families who have had their child attend the camp. Speaking with these families can give you valuable insight about the camp and the families that send their children there.

We’ve tried to respond many of the questions we are asked most frequently. If you have a question that is not covered below, please email us and we’ll get back to you with a response. (And, who knows, maybe your question will make the “frequent questions” page!)

TELL ME ABOUT THE CAMP DIRECTOR.
Anna is so excited to be the Director of the URJ Henry S. Jacobs Camp. Anna grew up in Dothan, AL, and began attending the Henry S. Jacobs Camp at age 11. In addition to being a camper, Anna also was a counselor and unit head. Following graduation from the University of Alabama, she became the assistant director at Jacobs, after which she served as a congregational youth director and as the assistant director of the URJ Meetings and Conventions Department. Anna then transitioned to the assistant director of business operations for the URJ’s camping system. In this role, in which she partnered with our 14 URJ camps across North America, she gained a wealth of camping knowledge.

Throughout, she remained connected to Jacobs Camp as a lay leader, serving as the Camp Committee - Development Committee Chair. She also met her husband Nadav at Jacobs Camp, and surrounded by family and many friends from Jacobs and the URJ, they were married at the chapel on Lake Gary.

Anna is thrilled to be returning home to lead the Jacobs community, and to inspire generations of future campers to create Jacobs “magic” every summer.

WHAT ARE THE CAMP’S GOALS AND PHILOSOPHY?
The URJ Henry S. Jacobs Camp, the Reform Jewish Movement's summer camp serving the Deep South: Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Western Tennessee & the Florida Panhandle. Since 1970, Jacobs Camp has provided a caring Jewish community that builds young people! A summer at Jacobs is an unforgettable religious, cultural, recreational and emotional experience.

The Jacobs Camp is one of thirteen Union for Reform Judaism Camps located throughout North America. It is the Mission of the URJ Camping System to provide high quality and wide ranging Jewish Experiences in a Reform context to North American Jewish youngsters through a network of Camps and Israel Experiences. These experiences take place in a safe and healthy environment in which all qualified children have access to the most outstanding camping facilities and equipment.

Our Responsibility. When it comes to taking care of your children, we take our responsibility very seriously. As you know, raising a child requires a great deal of energy & effort and the willingness to send your child away for the summer takes a great deal of trust & confidence. We consider ourselves to be your partner in raising your child. When your children are at Camp, you can be assured they will be safe and secure, and we will do what it takes to meet their social, emotional, spiritual & developmental needs. We also hope to develop in them a range of skills & abilities, and instill in them a greater level of personal independence & self-sufficiency. When your children return home, we hope you will find them to be more self-aware & self-confident, and better able to make their way in the world.

Our Counselors are the Key. We believe that every moment at camp has the potential to be a Jewish teachable moment. Counselors who are positive Jewish role models are central to our mission.

The feeling that is created in cabins and the values of that community contribute significantly to the success of the camp experience. We train our counselors to use cabin time in a meaningful way to reflect on what it means to be part of a Jewish community, especially with regard to how campers relate to one another. Rest hour discussions, late night “cabin prayers,” Shabbat cabin programming, the use of Hebrew and camper conflict resolution are all important elements of our Jewish message. We are committed to fully engaging and empowering our cabin counselors and our entire staff as modelers of Jewish behaviors and values. This deep commitment emanates from the recognition that from our camps will emerge the next generation of leaders for our congregations and our Movement for whom the joys of Jewish living and learning and community are defining elements of their lives.

WHAT IS THE FACILITY LIKE?
Situated on 267 acres of rolling hills and woodlands, with a picturesque lake as its centerpiece, the Jacobs Camp’s grounds provide a relaxing, natural setting to experience the summer. And our modern facility, including more than 35 buildings (almost all of which are air-conditioned) and a diverse range of recreational spaces, insures we have a place for everyone to have a great time!

All of our facilities are within easy walking distance of each other, and campers are often seen interacting with friends of all ages as they transition between activities during the day. Our residential facilities encircle Lake Gary. Our primary community gathering places – the Dining Hall, the Breezeway, the Cultural Center, and the Chapel – are all clustered in the center of camp. And our main recreational facilities line the road from the “main camp” on back. Visitors are often astounded by the beauty & condition of the facility – it really is a “jewel” in the backwoods of Mississippi.

WHAT IS THE PROGRAM LIKE? IS IT A STRUCTURED PROGRAM OR ONE THAT EMPHASIZES A LOT OF FREE CHOICE?
The most important aspect of Camp is its program. In our activities we offer a wide range of experiences; we want each child to grow while at Jacobs, not only sharpening skills brought to Camp, but introducing new areas to learn and master. The Camp schedule is set up to require a certain amount of exercise-time and outdoor-time each day. The daily schedule reflects this attempt at balanced programming.

We pride ourselves on our high level of staff supervision, and on the high quality of our recreational and educational offerings. Within the limits of the daily schedule, though, campers are given many opportunities to pick-and-choose their activities – whether it’s Chugim (one-hour week-long specialty activities), Specialty Camps, or Shabbat afternoon free time. While we want to provide a safe, secure environment in which to experience camp, we know our campers like to have choices, and we look to provide them whenever we can.

HOW WILL I STAY IN TOUCH WITH MY CHILD?
Camp offers kids and parents the chance to develop a rarely practiced skill - letter writing. We strongly recommended that parents write to their campers at least every-other-day. A card, letter or e-mail, arriving regularly, does more for camper morale than anything else. If a camper receives no mail from a parent for five days, we will call home. The camp tries to ensure that campers write letters or postcards to their parents at least twice each week. It is a required activity. Your letters or cards from Camp may be short, but they will be regular.

WHAT IS THE CAMP’S POSITION ON ELECTRONICS?
Camp provides our children with a break from “the real world” in favor of the natural world. That is why we forbid campers to have mobile phones, pagers, portable televisions, etc. – these items may be part of the day-to-day life of your child, but they have no place at Camp.

That does not mean camp is technology-free. We sometimes use videos and PowerPoint presentations to complement our programs, and we believe that music can provide a great soundtrack to camp life.

Please see our electronics policy for more information on the types of devices we allow and don't allow at camp.

DO CAMPERS TAKE FIELD TRIPS?
In a typical summer, field trips are taken by Maskilim, Talmidim & Chalutzim camper units. For the past few summers we have also taken Garin campers entering the 5th grade on a special day trip!

Our oldest Gariners and the entire Maskilim unit usually take a day trip, visiting attractions in and around Jackson, Mississippi. Talmidim takes a three-day two-night trip; we have alternated between “adventure” trips to a nearby outfitter, and trips to cities within easy driving distance of Utica. Chalutzim embarks on a week-long trip to the Nantahala Outdoor Center in North Carolina, where they do whitewater rafting, hiking & mountain biking in an incredible outdoor setting.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE WEATHER IS BAD?
We don’t let a little bad weather get in the way of the fun at camp! Because we have such a wide-range of indoor facilities, we are able to keep our recreational activity program going rain or shine. And, for those activities that can only happen outside (like swimming), our counselors & specialists always have a “rain plan” – fun activities that can take the place of what campers are missing.

If the weather gets extreme, we have detailed protocols in place to make sure all campers are kept safe until the weather passes.

WHERE WILL MY CHILD LIVE? HOW ARE CABIN ASSIGNMENTS MADE?
Each of our air-conditioned camper cabin sleeps twelve to fourteen campers and two staff members in bunk beds. Every camper is assigned a set of cubbies for storing personal items. Two cabins share a bathroom - all newly-renovated. Each bathroom has 7 sinks, 7 showers, and 7 toilets. All top bunks are equipped with bed rails. Each cabin is equipped with a smoke detector. Bunk assignments are made on the basis of religious school grade and/or chronological age, geographic distribution, and social and emotional maturity.

HOW DO YOU SELECT, TRAIN AND SUPERVISE YOUR STAFF? WHAT IS THE STAFF-TO-CAMPER RATIO?
At Jacobs Camp, a great deal of pride is taken in the members of its staff, who provide a stable and caring home for campers all summer long. The staff is comprised of college students, graduate students, and professionals in various fields. Each year, we look for competent and energetic young adults to fill our staff positions. While many have grown up at Jacobs Camp, others join us from across the country and around the world - all bringing their own special gifts to share. An extensive training program is provided at the start of the summer season, and is ongoing throughout the summer. During the summer, staff are supervised and evaluated by members of our camp leadership team, all of whom have proven experience overseeing the work of staff members. Jacobs maintains a 1:5 staff-to-camper ratio.

WILL MY CHILD BE SAFE WHILE AT CAMP?
All of the URJ Camps are dedicated to providing safe and secure environments for our campers and staff. Jacobs conducts regular safety and security reviews and evaluation, and works closely with local law enforcement officials to make sure our safety standards and practices are the best they can be. During the summer season, a safety officer is on duty 24-hours a day. The health and welfare of our community will always be our top concern.

WHAT KIND OF CLOTHING SHOULD MY CHILD BRING TO CAMP?
We dress informally at Camp, and it is not necessary to buy new clothing for your child. Camp is primarily an outdoor setting and simple and modest clothing is the most appropriate. Girls usually wear T-shirts or blouses with casual shorts, pants or skirts, or sundresses. Boys usually wear T-shirts with shorts or pants. High-heeled shoes, designer clothes and expensive jewelry are neither necessary nor encouraged. We strongly discourage campers from wearing "inappropriate attire": Clothes that are intentionally tight or revealing should be left at home. All clothing and personal belongings should be clearly marked with the camper's full name. One of the most distinctive times at camp is our observance of Shabbat. In keeping with our tradition, we ask that our camp community dress in white tops, and either white or khaki bottoms for Friday evenings.

WILL MY CHILD NEED LOTS OF SPECIAL EQUIPMENT FROM HOME?
During the course of the session, your child will have many opportunities to learn or develop new skills. In almost all cases, the camp supplies the necessary equipment and supplies to participate. In particular instances where your child is seeking mastery of an activity, he/she may desire his/her own special equipment; be selective, and remember that the Camp is not responsible for loss or damage of personal items.

HOW CAN I GET A JACOBS CAMP T-SHIRT FOR MY CHILD?
A Jacobs Camp T-shirt will be provided to every camper.

HOW WILL MY CHILD'S LAUNDRY GET DONE?
Campers should have enough clothing with them to last at least 10 days. At least once every 10 days (even sooner for Olim), cabins will have a scheduled laundry day. Our laundry staff will pickup laundry bags from the cabins, wash and dry the contents, and return the clean clothes and linens at the end of the day.

HOW WILL MY CHILD GET TO AND FROM CAMP?
Parents are encouraged to bring their campers to camp on opening day, and pick them up on closing day. Bringing or picking up your camper provides an opportunity to see the Camp, meet the Director, the staff, and your camper's bunk counselors. If there is enough interest, the Camp offers closing day charter bus service to Memphis, Baton Rouge/New Orleans, and Birmingham. We will also pickup campers who fly into Jackson, MS.

HOW WILL I STAY IN TOUCH WITH MY CHILD?
Camp offers kids and parents the chance to develop a rarely practiced skill - letter writing. We strongly recommended that parents write to their campers at least every-other-day. A card, letter or e-mail, arriving regularly, does more for camper morale than anything else. If a camper receives no mail from a parent for five days, we will call home. The camp tries to ensure that campers write letters or postcards to their parents at least twice each week. It is a required activity. Your letters or cards from Camp may be short, but they will be regular.

CAN PARENTS CALL THE CAMP TO CHECK ON THEIR CHILDREN?
Parents are welcome to call the Camp during the summer to find out how their campers are doing. After we receive your call, our Camper Care Director will call you back, usually the same day.

CAN I VISIT MY CHILD WHILE THEY ARE AT CAMP?
While parents and other family members are welcome and encouraged to bring campers to camp and to pick them up at the end of the session, parents and other visitors are not allowed to come to camp during the Camp sessions.

HOW'S THE FOOD?
Jacobs' kid-friendly menu offers campers plenty to eat – and our campers have great things to say about the variety, the quality, and the taste! Almost all meals are served family-style in the dining hall, with bunks eating together at assigned tables. Breakfast includes a hot item and cereal. Lunch and dinner include a hot entrée, as well as the option to visit the salad bar. Whenever meat is served, a vegetarian option is offered. We make accommodations for campers on special allergy- or health-related diets. The Jacobs Camp is not a kosher facility, and we do not have a kosher kitchen or kosher plates and utensils. However, we do not serve pork or shellfish, or products containing them, and do not permit such products on camp grounds. At least one snack is served every day.

WHEN WILL MY CHILD GET TO VISIT THE CANTEEN?
Each night, prior to bedtime, campers have the opportunity to visit the Camp Canteen to pick their own late-night snack. We offer a wide selection of delicious snacks – from granola & cereal bars, to low-calorie cookie & treats, to candy bars and more.

ARE CARE PACKAGES ALLOWED?
Please see our package policy.

WHAT HAPPENS IF MY CHILD GETS SICK WHILE AT CAMP?
It is our hope that every camper will remain healthy and fully able to participate in all aspects of camp life all summer long. Just in case, though, Jacobs Camp has a range of systems in place to manage health care issues that may arise. The Camp's modern, well-equipped infirmary is staffed by medical professionals all summer long - usually a doctor and a nurse. We supervise the dispensing of medication four times a day. A Medical Form with comprehensive information will be all we need to take great care of your child while at camp.

WHAT IF MY CHILD'S BIRTHDAY OCCURS DURING CAMP?
Birthdays that occur during the Camp session will be celebrated. This observance is not only a treat for the camper, but a lot of fun for everyone. Ever had a birthday party with 300 friends in attendance? Please do not send food of any kind for your child's birthday, as we will provide a delicious cake to celebrate his or her special day.

DOES MY CHILD NEED TO BE IMMUNIZED?
Yes, the Union for Reform Judaism requires that all camp and travel program participants, staff and faculty must be immunized. For more information, read the URJ Policy Statement on Vaccine Status.