Mesorah – Making Food Allergic Children Feel Included

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“As long as I can remember” says Rabbi Ari Katz when asked about how long Camp Mesorah has been providing a safe space for allergic Jewish children. Which may come as a surprise if you visit their website, since it doesn’t mention food allergies even once.

It completely makes sense in the context of their larger vision to allow every camper to “create your summer here.” The most important thing in this camp is that each individual is able to grow their confidence, explore their interests, and have fun. With or without a food allergy.

As Rabbi Katz put it, “our goal is that even a child with food allergies never feels different. They are on the inside, not an outsider. Everyone is on a level playing field and is welcome and accepted.”

The camp is completely peanut and tree nut free. Everything ordered through food service is nut free. While the camp does encourage parents to send care packages to their children at camp, every package is opened and inspected for any food items that may contain nuts before they are passed on to the children. For the high­ school age students who sometimes do activities outside of the camp they give reminders to them to not bring nuts back to camp, and do bunk searches to ensure that no one forgot.

As a parent who has (so far) sent 4 children to Camp Mesorah over the past several years, I can confirm Camp Mesorah’s commitment to growth, exploration, and fun. My kids must love it…they keep going back for more! My 3 food­ allergic children haven’t been campers there yet (too young), yet ironically I have still experienced Camp Mesorah’s dedication to providing a nut­ free environment. I’m a frequent care­ package sender and have become very familiar with their strict care package policies (in fact, I tweeted about it!).

According to Rabbi Katz, another way that they create a safe and fun space is their high staff to camper ratio. Every staff member knows every child individually. Parents have access to staff cell phone numbers. It is all about making everything all about the kids.

Campers from 3rd grade to 10th grade come from all over the United States and Israel. When assigning bunk space and activities, Camp Mesorah makes sure to mix it up so that campers can meet people from other places and expand their group of friends. Many campers look forward to seeing their friends from around the world during camp time.

Camp Mesorah is not light on activities either. Team sports, archery, water sports, mountain biking, and various workshops are only a few of the 50+ activities provided to campers. A wide range of experiences and skill building opportunities is how the camp helps children build confidence and find out more about who they are and what they enjoy most.

As my food­allergic 8 year old looks forward to being our 5th Camp Mesorah camper next summer, I can say with confidence that my wife and I are sure she will have a very fun­­ but more importantly, a very safe summer!

You can find out more about this Guilford, NY camp on their website. This is part of a series of posts featuring allergy friendly summer camp opportunities. If you have a camp we should know about, please share in the comments below!

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