2021 Updates

Health and Safety in 2021

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. 

We know that the best practices surrounding COVID-19 are continually changing. We will remain responsive to ever-evolving standards and protocols both within the camping industry and as required by our federal and local governing bodies and will be as transparent as possible as our summer plans continue to take shape. 

2021 COVID Playbook

Click to view our 2021 COVID Playbook

Register for Town Halls and Webinars Here

View Water bottle policy **NEW**

Summer 2021 & COVID Communications

What should you expect and when?

Read February 2021 Update

Shalom from GFC! We hope this email finds your family healthy and safe in what continues to be challenging times in so many ways. While many parts of our lives have changed over the last ten months, one thing has remained constant. We are so excited to welcome our campers and staff back to GFC this summer! 

Today’s email is intended to update you on our plan to open camp safely, while also recognizing that many things related to COVID-19 continue to evolve.  Over the coming months, we will share additional updates in writing and provide opportunities for you to have your questions answered by our staff in virtual town halls.

Creating and maintaining a healthy and safe environment for everyone has always been our top priority. As we prepare for Summer 2021, we continue to learn from the many camps that successfully ran this past summer, and we are grateful for the guidance from the American Camp Association (ACA), and our partnership with our colleagues across the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) camps.   

Here are some of our key strategies for the summer as we make plans for our community: (These plans will likely continue to evolve as we learn more about COVID-19)   

  1. Activities and Program – As of now, we are planning to have close to our full lineup of activities at camp – including favorites such as our ropes course, lakefront activities, and our farm. We are carefully examining how our activities may need to be modified due to COVID-19 and are following guidance from the ACA and URJ COVID-19 Medical Task Force in this planning. Modifications include additional time between groups for cleaning, relocation of activities to outdoor spaces, and smaller group sizes.   

Historically, our campers have participated in activities with mixed groups of campers from their unit and sometimes other units. This summer, at the beginning of each session – likely up to the first 14 days of the session minimally – activities and programming will primarily take place by pod. Pods will be defined by cabin group and by shared living spaces. This will help to minimize the interaction across camp and allow us to operate in smaller subsets of our camp community.

  1. Non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs)– Non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) will be a cornerstone of our COVID-19 mitigation strategies this summer. NPIs include mask-wearing, handwashing, physical distancing, and being outside as much as possible. We anticipate that when campers are interacting outside of their pods, they will need to be wearing masks and in areas that allow for maximal distance and airflow. Additionally, facility modifications, including hand-washing stations and sanitizers throughout camp, large tents with fans to allow for more outdoor programming, and more water bottle fillers are in process. We will share more detail around those updates later in the spring.

At camp, we strive to teach the Jewish value of derech eretz – caring for our community. This summer, every day will be an opportunity to put that value into action, following guidelines around NPIs for our campers and staff will be critical. We will be looking to each member of our community to do their part in keeping each other healthy.    

  1. Community Interactions – For Summer 2021, we plan to limit interactions with individuals outside of our camp community as much as possible, effectively putting a significant “bubble” around our community. We are realistic and recognize that given the size and make-up of our camp community, the GFC bubble will be different than your bubble at home.  

Some of the steps we are taking with this regard include: 

  • We will minimize the number of local staff who do not live in-residence at camp this summer. Local staff will have minimal exposure to the camp community, will wear masks when interacting with others, and will follow the same rigorous NPI standards with regards to physical distancing, handwashing, and sanitization as the rest of our community. 
  • In typical summers, we strive to be flexible with families’ outside commitments that may impact their time at camp. At this time, we do not anticipate campers being able to arrive late to camp or depart and return for any reason during the session.
  • We do not plan to have any visitors to camp while camp is in-session. Our Jewish Life faculty – the rabbis, cantors, and educators who serve as tremendous resources to our programming – will arrive at camp only in time for Opening Day, will remain at camp for longer this summer, and will not return to camp once they leave. 
  1. Vaccines – We continue to carefully track the vaccine distribution in the United States. At this time, we are planning for summer assuming that many members of our camp community, especially children, will not yet be vaccinated against COVID-19. As spring progresses, we will continue to monitor developments with vaccines and the timeline for its availability; we will remain flexible and adjust our protocols as needed.   
  2. Testing and Quarantine – Many camps that operated in Summer 2020 mandated a quarantine period for campers prior to arriving to camp. We will carefully balance the need to quarantine and limit interactions with others prior to camp, with the recognition that many of our campers are already attending school in-person.   

Additionally, camps that operated in Summer 2020 had robust testing strategies. We anticipate the same for 2021 and are already preparing for protocols around testing, both prior to and during the camp session.   

We will have more details around quarantining and testing in April, as the summer nears and we have a clearer picture of the COVID-19 status in our communities.  

  1. Mirpa’ah (Infirmary) – We are fortunate every summer to have a health center staffed by physicians and nurses, generally about six people at a time. For Summer 2021, we are looking to expand our medical team and we have set aside additional space at camp as isolation/quarantine space, if needed. Many of our health care providers have been working throughout this year in communal settings and they are well versed in operating within the parameters of COVID-19. Our health care staff will follow guidelines based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, state and local health authorities, and the URJ COVID-19 medical taskforce - a group of physicians from across the country (of which one of our own summer doctors, Dr. Ed Septimus is a member).    

We know this email was a lot of information and we look forward to continuing to share more information in the coming weeks and months as camp nears. Please join us for three COVID-related town halls this spring.

Sunday, February 28 at 7:00 p.m.

Sunday, April 11 at 7:00 p.m.

Sunday, May 9 at 7:00 p.m.

We are committed to keeping our families informed, and we are always available for questions and conversation. Should you have questions regarding COVID-19 and summer 2021 or wish to discuss anything in this email further, please reach out to Rabbi Erin Mason, GFC Director, at emason@urj.org.

This summer in Bruceville!



Rabbi Erin Mason, Director

Larry Nathan, Director of Advancement

Stephanie Turek, RN – Head Nurse of Health and Safety

Ashley Swartz, APRN – Nursing Director




As we meaningfully consider every aspect of our program and operation, we have created the following FAQs to answer some of the questions you may have.  We will continue to update this information as it becomes applicable as we work to welcome us all back to Bruceville for Summer 2021.

Pre-Camp Precautions

Why do we still have to quarantine before camp, even if we are vaccinated?
  • There are still “break-through” cases, and we want to help make sure that you are not one of them.
  • There are other viruses out there that are not COVID. If you come in with one of those, we will probably have to rule out COVID by isolating you and your bunk while we test to see what you have.
  • Many viruses present with COVID-like symptoms. Quarantining with your family not only keeps your immediate family safe, but also helps to safeguard our entire camp community against COVID and other viruses that may make their way into camp. Thank you in advance for doing your part to help keep our community healthy this summer.
What kinds of COVID tests do I have to do before my Camp session?

See the below section of “Testing” for specifics. All pre-Camp tests are PCR tests. If your test comes back positive, please let the GFC office know.

Why Seven vs Fourteen Days?

Fourteen days is the CDC recommendation for unvaccinated individuals. We believe that seven is sufficient for fully vaccinated individuals to keep other viruses out of camp.


Is URJ recommending that we vaccinate our camp 12 years old and older?
  • Yes. The FDA has approved under an EUA (Emergency Use Authorization) the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children 12-15. This adds to the EUA for teens and adults 16 and older. Vaccinations will provide an important tool to mitigate the risks of COVID at Camp this summer.
  • Our URJ Camps Medical Advisory Team strongly encourages the families of all who are eligible to join our fully vaccinated staff. The higher our percentage of vaccinated individuals becomes, the better for the camp community.
Why do vaccinated campers need to be on the same testing schedule as non-vaccinated campers?
  • While vaccines are incredibly effective, they are not 100% effective.
  • The camper community is also not 100% vaccinated. Of the 2-dose Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, some eligible campers have had two doses pre-camp, some have had one dose pre-camp, and some have chosen not to vaccinate.
  • Because of the recent approval of the EUA, campers who have been vaccinated may not be fully immunized until partially through their camp session.
What if we cannot get both Pfizer doses for our 12+-year-old campers prior to the summer?
  • The ideal situation is to get both doses, three weeks apart, with the second dose administered two weeks before your session’s Opening Day. This will be easier  for those campers arriving second session.

  • If you cannot get the second shot, you are still protected two weeks after your first shot. The second dose can be given after camp.


Are there any changes planned to this summer’s program?
  • Yes. To be careful, we will begin the summer with most activities taking place in a “pod”. These are like a “household” in which many masking and social distancing rules do not apply. A group of pods the same age is a “Unit”. As the summer moves along, and our testing program yields some answers, we hope to loosen our cohorts, mask policy, etc.
  • Certain activities deemed to be “high risk” for disease spread will be limited to cohorts.
  • Large group programs indoors will not take place or will happen under physical distancing conditions.
Who is advising URJ on Medical and Behavioral issues as we plan for the summer?
  • The Medical Advisory Group is a team of five doctors who have experience or specialization in public health and infectious disease.
  • They meet regularly to review and modify system policies.
  • Each camp has a local Camp Medical Director in addition to the physicians and nurses serving on-site during the summer.
Why does the camp community need to mask outside?

Week one is in pods. After that, depending on the group and the activity, campers and staff need a combination of 1) masks, 2) physical distancing or 3) take place outside.

Once we finish week one with no positive test results, most outdoor activities within a unit will not require masks.

What if a camper or staff member must leave camp for a medical emergency like an x-ray or dental problem?

Our designated camp driver, a vaccinated staff member, will be present the entire time. Both will wear masks, observe physical distancing, and visit a medical facility where strict COVID protocols are in place. They will be allowed to return to their bunks on return.

Will siblings and other relatives in different pods and units ever get to see each other?

Many of these connections happen in a very organic way, but with our COVID restrictions, it might be harder than usual. Our staff will make sure that COVID-safe opportunities abound as well as make sure that our younger campers can take advantage of them.

How do you decide what guidelines are needed to keep camp safe and when to change them as CDC guidance changes?

There is a group of staff members at the URJ responsible for developing guidance for URJ Camps. They work together with subject-area specialists.

What does it mean for Camp to be in a bubble this summer?
  • During each session, all campers are expected to arrive on time and not leave the camp grounds for non-emergency or non-business-oriented reasons. There will not be any out-of-camp field trips for campers.
  • If circumstances allow or the CDC recommendations change, we will review this policy.
Speaking of Masks…
  • Within Pods: Indoors no mask is needed. Outdoors no mask is needed
  • With Multiple pods within a unit: Indoors masking and physical distancing. Outdoors no mask and physical distancing between pods
  • Your camp packing list has specified the number of disposable masks you will need for your session (we recommend 6 disposable masks per day). We do not recommend cloth masks due to issues of cleanliness and loss.
Will all staff be living in Camp or will some be going home at night? How are you limiting that risk?

Some of our staff are from the local community and will be “commuting” to camp. Our staff vaccination rule applies to them, as well. All of them will be tested regularly throughout the summer, as opposed to staff in residence who are only tested at the beginning.


We are having trouble finding a PCR Test three days before opening day that will guarantee results by opening day.

We have arranged with Northshore Clinical Laboratories to mail all our families a home test kit for each camper.

  • Swab three days before camp
  • send the samples via pre-paid FedEx to the lab.
  • They will receive the next morning, run the test, and send the results to the Camp and you.
  • There is no charge
What if our camper is flying in for Opening Day?
  • If campers are leaving their parents at the airport and flying in, we will send you an Abbott Binax Now rapid antigen test for you to administer at home. It is authorized for home use. Take a photo of the negative test and upload to your CampInTouch account.
  • If campers are flying in with you or are being picked up and brought to camp by friends or relatives, your camper can go through the regular Opening Day testing procedure.
What happens if my camper tests positive for COVID during Opening Day?
  • You will not be able to enter camp. We will give you the address of the local clinic or hospital that has the capacity to conduct a PCR test so that you can obtain a negative test and return to camp.
  • If the PCR test confirms that your camper has COVID, we will try to make or find space for a later session.
What happens if someone in my child’s bunk tests positive during PCR Surveillance testing or later if someone in their bunk tests positive.
  • You will be notified by the camp by email.
  • We will begin to test the other campers in the pod for a week.
  • The pod will participate in a “shadow program”.
What is FedEx does not deliver to the lab in time to get the test results on opening day?

There is an extra day built in to the process, but if FedEx cannot get the sample to the lab, we will make arrangements for you to go to a local lab, or you are free to wait in town for the results to come back. It will be easy for you to track the sample to the lab through FedEx.

What happens if my camper had COVID within the past 90 days but is testing negative for COVID? Do they still need to be in the same testing protocol as non-vaccinated individuals?

Contact your camp in advance and bring the test results with you. After 90 days, if the camper is still in camp and if the camp is still in its testing week, the camper will pick up the same testing schedule as the rest of camp.

What happens if my camper tests positive for COVID during PCR surveillance testing during the first week of camp?
  • You will be notified by GFC by phone and asked to pick up your camper. We will forward the lab results of the test to you.
  • All positive test results are reported to your state of residence.
If a bunk needs to go into quarantine, what restrictions need to be placed on the vaccinated staff members working with that bunk?

The vaccinated staff member will need to wear a mask during the week of quarantine and surveillance testing.

Summer 2021 Registration

Will there be scholarships available for campers this summer?

Yes! We strive to make camp affordable for all families. Please be in touch with Ethan elane-miller@urj.org for more information about our camp scholarship program. We know the financial realities of COVID have changed the financial picture for many families and we have been actively fundraising to support our families, many of whom will apply for scholarship for the first time for the 2021 summer.

find out more about our campership process here

Will campers repeat their 2020 unit?

No. We know that missing out on a whole summer at camp was challenging. While much was missed, campers should register for the unit that they should be in based on their current grade for the 2020/2021 school year. Every camper will move up to their appropriate unit this summer regardless of missing out on last summer.

What are some of your major considerations as you plan to open camp in-person?

We are working to open camp safely and will be as transparent as possible as we further develop our summer plans. We anticipate that elements of camp will look different this year. Areas that are currently under examination include dining hall and health centre procedures, hygiene protocols, capacity and spacing, programming, supply and equipment needs, PPE availability, limiting individuals coming and going from camp, physical distancing requirements, housekeeping protocols, staffing, etc. 

We know that the best practices surrounding COVID-19 are continually changing. We will remain responsive to ever-evolving local standards and 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. We continue to closely monitor CDC guidelines. 

I noticed that the payment schedule on the website looks different than the payment plan. What’s the difference?

The website articulates payment deadlines, which may look different than payment plans. Your payment plan will meet the deadlines, but your payment schedule will reflect the option you choose during registration.

Why have rates increased since Summer 2020?

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

This year, we also anticipate additional expenses related to COVID-19 around staffing, equipment, testing, and more. 

What is the payment schedule for Summer 2021 tuition?

We have standardized payment deadlines across all URJ camps, to create more uniform policy.

-150 days prior to Camp’s first session start date (January 14), 25% of tuition payment is due

– 90 days prior to Camp’s first session start date (March 15), an additional 50% of tuition payment is due (75% of tuition paid)

– 60 days prior to Camp’s first session start date (April 14), final payment is due.

If your family registers after one or more of these deadlines have passed, you will be responsible for the tuition percentage that reflects the current date.

If you have any challenges with this schedule please be in touch with Linda Matthews lmatthews@urj.org

What are the 2021 Cancellation & Refund policies?

Cancellation by 90 days or more prior to the first session start date – 100% of tuition is refundable except for the administrative deposit.

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 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.
Why isn't Shorashim an option this summer?

We know that the best practices surrounding COVID-19 are continually changing. One thing that was consistent with camps who ran successfully last summer was that everyone arrived on the same day, there were not any embedded sessions like our 10-day programs used to be. In order to give our youngest campers a 10-day option, 3rd-4th graders will all attend summer 2021 for the same length of time. 

We are grateful for the trust and support you have offered us, especially during this turbulent time. While we could not have imagined a year ago what 2020 would look like, there is no doubt that our community proved its steady strength and resilience. You supported camp, you supported each other, and you took care of yourselves! We can’t wait to leverage our communal power as we come together for a summer like none other – see you in Bruceville for Summer 2021.

Stay tuned for updates throughout the year and please be in touch any time with any questions you may have.