The suspense is over.
The Reform movement’s first day camp, which several months ago announced it would open in June 2014 somewhere in the Philadelphia area, has chosen a home: the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in Bryn Mawr.
Harlam Day Camp, which is connected to the Union for Reform Judaism’s popular Harlam overnight camp, will be leasing the Jewish day school’s facilities, including its gymnasium, athletic fields, tennis courts, outdoor recreational space, classrooms and performance hall. Camp officials are still looking for an off-site swimming facility.
“The Barrack site is truly a beautiful and expansive asset that is a perfect environment for our program,” Harlam Day Camp Director Eytan Graubart said in a news release. “People will walk onto the property this summer to find a fun, safe and secure environment that will quickly become synonymous with what Camp Harlam has offered to its overnight campers for so many years.”
Graubart’s boss, Aaron Selkow, the director of Harlam’s overnight camp, said, “Being at Barrack gives us the chance to recreate the environment we’ve built for generations in the Poconos while taking advantage of the established facilities and assets already present.”
The news comes as day camps are increasingly being seen as more than just feeders for overnight camps, but as important entry points to Jewish life for young families.
There are currently about 1,300 children enrolled in eight Jewish day camps locally, according to the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. Reform officials and other local camp directors said there are many more potential campers in the community and they don’t expect the addition of Harlam Day Camp to greatly increase the competition among camps for participants.
The rental agreement, Selkow said, had been hashed out over the past few months among Harlam, Barrack and the Jewish Federation, which owns the Schwartz campus where Barrack is located.
“Throughout the negotiations, we have been impressed by their openness and enthusiasm for the project, and we expect to be very happy on the Schwartz campus starting this summer,” Selkow said of Barrack officials.
For Barrack, the agreement means added income but also, according to Sharon Levin, Barrack’s head of school, it provides “synergy” between her school, a pluralistic institution, and a Reform day camp.
“We look forward to having the kids running around,” she said. “I have tremendous faith that this will be wonderful.”
The two largest Jewish day camps in the Philadelphia suburbs are Ramah Day Camp in Melrose Park and Kaiserman JCC’s Camp Kef in Wynnewood, which is about five miles from the Barrack site. When they first announced plans for the day camp during the summer, Selkow and other Reform movement officials said the location of the other camps would be a consideration in their choice of venue.
Selkow said that because of the camp’s “commitment to target the engagement of Reform Jewish families,” officials were aware that “no location would be a perfect fit for everyone.”
“Being in Bryn Mawr,” he added “so close to Route 476, means that we can expect to serve families in many areas and not just in the nearby neighborhoods.”