Last week Camp Hikon achieved international notoriety through being smeared by NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo for “discriminating against vaccinated individuals”. This was very gratifying for us, since it highlighted the national hypocrisy whereby it’s OK for colleges across the country to discriminate against unvaccinated students in the fall, but it’s not OK for camps to cautiously “discriminate” and keep vaccinated counselors and campers away from vulnerable unvaccinated campers. Gratifying, yes, but also terrifying. How to reconcile a non-negotiable opening day coming up in 6 weeks with the abrupt political exile of Camp Hikon from NYS?
If you think it might be a good idea to just call the whole thing off and try again next year, consider that not opening this season would send precisely the wrong message. It would tell the world that there’s not a whole lot you can do when things go badly. If we allow ourselves the luxury of becoming victims of our own circumstances, we lose all credibility to set ourselves up as teachers of the youth in navigating future crises. Let’s face it, if we can’t get through this one, we may as well just close our doors for good.
So, yes, we will be opening this summer. But how to make it work? If no more than a few dozen campers were expected, we might be able to rent a farm with a large farmhouse. But the reality is that we’ll be hosting perhaps 100 boys and 100 girls plus ample support staff. It’s improbable any campsite with sufficient housing could be found.
Obviously, we’re going to have to build a campsite from scratch. First, we’ll need a roomy parcel of partially forested land in a town with weak zoning regulations. Then we’ll have to install one or two pools. A fleet of RVs or temporary bungalows or tiny houses can serve as bunkhouses. Public buildings like a shul, dining hall, and gymnasium are a little more complicated but still manageable. What about plumbing? We’ll have washing water piped into bunkhouses, but we’ll sidestep the complexity and expense, and delay of a full septic system by adopting composting toilets. (Incidentally, if you’ve never seen a Kibbutz Lotan composting toilet, you’ve never seen a composting toilet at all.) What about heat and hot water? Wood-burning stoves. Electricity? In the summer months, we won’t be using a whole lot, so a little solar or wind should be sufficient.
Setting up a campsite from scratch certainly seems overwhelming, but when you break it up into manageable parts, it doesn’t seem nearly so daunting. We have to believe that Hashem challenges us because He loves us. R. Avigdor Miller used to say that although we’re obligated to cry out to Hashem in need, this is not enough. We must also think our problems through and make an effort to arrive at reasonable solutions. And then we’ll truly receive Hashem’s blessing.