FAQs

grassy mountainous field.

Where is Camp JCA Shalom located?

Since the summer of 2019, Camp JCA Shalom is beautifully tucked away at the foot of the magnificent mountains of the Angeles National Forest, near the San Fernando Valley, Simi Valley, Santa Clarita, Conejo Valley and West Los Angeles. The 270+ acres include a pool, ball fields, basketball courts (indoor and outdoor), air-conditioned indoor program spaces, and the activities and fun you are used to from camp in Malibu.

What makes Camp JCA Shalom Special? How is it different from other camps?

One of the main things that distinguishes us from other camps is our “Cabin-Centered Camping” approach as well as our commitment to “progressive camping.”

What this means is that with the exception of a couple hours of the day, the cabin group is doing all of their activities together.  This is important because we believe that one of the best parts of camp is building lifelong friendships.  Campers have one elective block each day and an unstructured time when they can try many of camps activities, see siblings, or do something relaxing like read a book.  Camps on the East Coast sometimes last 7 or 8 weeks. Maybe some of you went to those camps!  To others of you, it might sound crazy to say goodbye to your kids for 2 months.  Regardless, at those camps, even if the kids only do a few activities together as a cabin group each day, they can still form those friendships (they’re at camp for 2 months!).  At JCA, we are able to accomplish the same result in considerably less time because the campers in a cabin do almost everything together.  They’ve had successes and challenges as a cabin.  They’ve shared fun and hilarious moments.  They will have extremely meaningful and inspirational moments too!  By the end of their time here they will have been through a lot together.  It’s the reason so many of them will find it hard to leave at the end of the session.  It’s the power of camp at its best!

“Progressive camping” means that as kids get older their experience changes.  This is beneficial because a camper can come to camp for years and each year is new and different.  Camp never gets “old.”   Some examples of this are: 7th and 8th graders can go mountain biking, 9th graders hike to the beach, 10th and 11th graders have a project they work on at camp and have an extended trip out of camp, and 12th graders are counselors in training (CITs).

How is Judaism expressed at camp?

Judaism is interwoven into camp life. It is designed to be fun, interesting, child-friendly, and has multiple entry points for campers with little or no Jewish background. Our 10 Core Values allow staff to make any moment a “teachable moment” inside and outside of the cabin. Age-appropriate Jewish cultural programming allows campers to explore and connect with their Judaism in a way that has meaning for them through activities, games, songs, skits, and more. 

We recite short blessings before and after each meal, with word sheets in both Hebrew and English transliteration provided. Camp JCA Shalom is lucky to bring in many Israeli staff each summer who not only are the highlight of our Israeli culture program, but they also put on a Yom Israel (Israel Day) program each session for the entire camp. 

Shabbat is very special at camp and often described as “the best part of camp” by campers and staff alike. Camp-style services on Friday evening and Saturday morning are filled with music, singing, and spirit as the entire camp community comes together to celebrate. Saturdays include unstructured time when siblings and friends from different areas of camp traditionally visit with one another. Saturdays are more relaxed than the rest of the week but we do use electricity, swim, play ball, do crafts, and have fun!

What is the cancellation policy?

Cancel by March 31 – receive a full refund

Cancel between April 1-May 31 – receive a refund minus $250 cancellation fee ($100 for Mini Camp). This fee can be applied towards tuition the following summer. If not used for that purpose the money is forfeited.

Cancel June 1 or later – no refund, but may keep payments as credit towards next summer. If not used for that purpose the money is forfeited

All cancellation requests must be submitted in writing.

If we have to cancel or shorten a program before the first day of the session due to health and safety reasons, or fire/natural disaster, we will offer a complete refund.

If we have to cancel or shorten a program due to health and safety reasons or fire/natural disaster once it has begun, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to provide a refund or credit. We will do our best to provide a partial refund or credit if possible. By the time a session has started, most of the expenses to run that session have already been incurred.

Are there trips out of camp?

In a typical summer, everyone goes on trips out of camp. All campers go to one beach trip per session.  7-12 Graders have an overnight at an off-site campsite. As campers get older, the trips get more extensive and more plentiful. 10-12th graders go on a two day trip during our second session, one of the highlights of the camp experience.

How often do siblings see one another?

If they are in the same unit (age group), siblings will see each other several times every day. If they are in different units, they will see each other a couple times a day and during mealtimes.

Can we see the camp?

We regularly have virtual open houses and in person tours.  Click here to see the dates and RSVP. If those dates don’t work for you we are happy to schedule a tour for you at a more convenient time. Please contact info@shalominstitute.com to schedule a tour.

How big are the cabin groups?

Most cabins have between 6-14 campers and at least two full-time counselors dedicated to that cabin.  Most cabins will have 1-2 specialists (lifeguards, sports, etc) in the cabin as well.  Please feel free to call the registrar and find out how many campers are in the cabin with your child.

Can you tell me about your counselors?

For the first two sessions, the youngest counselors must be both 17 and a high school graduate. Most are college students. All are personally interviewed, references are checked, and there is a one week orientation prior to camp. Supervisors are mature adults with supervisory experience and special training.  After second session, the CITs (Counselors in Training) graduate their program, and we select the very best to join our staff team.  This means that for session 3, there may be 12th graders who are counselors and specialists. For each staff person we verify references and run a background check.

How is the food and what food options will there be?

Our food is great!  We take great pride in serving healthy and delicious food.  Many of our kitchen staff have been with the camp for over a decade.   Our carefully prepared menus are “kid-friendly” and varied. There is always something healthy and delicious to eat.

For summer 2024, we have contracted with a catering company to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner. The meals will be kosher-style and will accommodate all dietary restrictions. We will provide kosher meals to anyone who needs them, please contact the office before camp to request kosher meals or discuss your dietary needs.

Breakfast always includes cold cereal and a hot entrée such as pancakes, eggs, or French toast. There is also a breakfast bar that includes an assortment of fresh fruit and yogurt. Lunch and dinner entrees include various chicken and beef dishes, and dairy meals like grilled cheese and pizza. At lunch and dinner, there is a salad bar that provides a choice for campers who are looking for something in addition to the meal’s main course. Every meal has a vegetarian meal option available. At breakfast, soymilk is part of our milk alternative options.  Camp JCA Shalom is a nut free camp.  We have gluten-free and dairy-free options.   Special dietary needs or restrictions can be accommodated and should be communicated to the Director prior to camp. Campers are served a snack in the mid-afternoon. Additionally, fresh fruit is available throughout the day.

What activities does camp offer?

Click here for a list of activities.

For the record, we don’t have computers, motorbikes, riflery, go-carts, motorboats, or paint-balling.  This is probably the biggest difference between Camp JCA Shalom and private camps.  They spend more money on expensive programs; our emphasis is on spirit and creative programs instead.

Can I request to be bunked with someone?

Yes. No guarantees, but almost always honored. Because we realize that camp is all about lifelong friendships, we will “move mountains” to make sure friends are together in a cabin.  Please register earlier than later to avoid the issue of full cabins.

Will my child be with all new campers?

Almost every group has a mix of new and returning campers .  Groups are balanced to include both new and returning campers.  Groups and counselor assignments are completely rearranged at the beginning of each session to avoid any disadvantage to newly arriving campers.

How do you handle homesickness?

Homesickness is natural and does occur in many new campers. We are experts at handling it. Staff is trained during orientation, and Unit Heads, who are essentially camp guidance counselors, provide professional care if needed.  We work with campers to help them get past their homesickness and are successful almost every time.  Part of our technique is to NOT put them in touch with their parents.  We’ve found that this can greatly increase their anxiety, and typically results in the camper going home.   Please read the parent handbook which has some suggestions on how to prevent homesickness before camp starts.  We will also address this topic and many more at a new family orientation.

My child has an ongoing prescription during camp. How is that handled?

If your child requires medicine to be administered during the camp, please bring the medicine to camp in the original labeled prescription container along with specific directions. Both the prescription bottle and the note must contain your child’s full name, the prescribing doctor’s name and phone number, and directions for daily usage. In order to ensure the medication is delivered to the camp office, please give it to one of the directors. Do not give the medication to your camper or a counselor. If you send medication to camp, please take responsibility for refilling the prescription yourself. Camp will not be responsible for notifying you if your prescription runs out or expires.

If your child has any special need, please notify camp as early as possible. Early notification opens up the lines of communication and allows our staff to prepare for situations or modifications, if necessary.

My child’s birthday occurs during camp. What does the camp do for birthdays?

Birthdays at camp are fantastic.  Imagine celebrating your birthday with 200-300 friends.  That’s what it feels like at camp.  We call a camper up after dinner and sing “Happy birthday” to them. Then we give them a birthday cake and have them make three wishes.  One wish for yourself, one wish for camp and one wish for the WHOLE world.  (This is actually a Jewish teachable moment as Rabbi Hillel once said, “Wish for yourself but also for the whole world too.”)  Afterwards, we have them skip around the dining hall with their counselors, and eventually we put them up in a chair.  Most campers wouldn’t want to be anywhere else on their birthday!

What do we do with laundry?

For one and two week sessions, there is no laundry service.  Please pack accordingly.  We have a commercial laundry service once during a three-week session that washes, dries and folds. It is usually returned in two to three days. This service is not recommended for delicates, colors that have never been washed and may bleed, or anything of value (monetary or sentimental).

Can I call or visit my child?

Camp is a “parent-free zone.”  We feel that calls and visits can be disruptive to our program and the spirit of camp as an experience away from home. Many camps have the same policy.  We feel that the best parts of camp are that we can focus on our deep relationships that are built free from distraction from the “outside world.”  We encourage parents to write frequent letters or emails (which we print and give to the campers), and to send packages.  Also, parents can always call and speak to the Camper Care Team. The office will usually take a message and have them return the call as soon as possible.

When the campers want to communicate with you they can do so the old fashioned way… using pen, paper and a stamp!

Are care packages allowed?

PLEASE DO NOT SEND FOOD IN CARE PACKAGES. Food in the bunk attracts insects and animals. Non-food packages are always welcome.

How much spending money will my child need in camp?

None.  Camp provides everything your camper will need, including snacks.  Part of our goal is to treat all kids equally.  A decent portion of the camp population comes on scholarship, and a “camp store or canteen” can allow some kids to spend money where others cannot.  This is one of the reasons there is no place for campers to spend money while at camp.  There is a camp “shuk” that is open on the last day of camp so parents can buy camp gear when they come to pick up their campers.

Who will take care of my child if she gets sick or is injured?

Camp JCA Shalom’s medical team consists of nurses and physicians that cover our health center 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Prior to camp, the health care staff reviews each of our camper’s medical history and medications. Campers who are ill are escorted to the health center by their counselor at any time. Children receive routine medications at mealtime and bedtime according to the documentation on their health history.

Parents are always notified when a child stays overnight in the health center, needs to see a specialist or needs to be started on prescription medication. The parents or emergency contact is called immediately in the event of severe injury.

That being said, we won’t call you every time your child visits the health center.

For Covid-19 specific questions, please check out the top of this page which will be updated as Covid protocols progress.

Do you offer financial assistance?

Yes. Financial assistance is available. At the end of the online application, you will find a request for financial assistance application. Once your completed camper application and deposit are received, we will send you the necessary financial assistance forms. All financial assistance applications are treated confidentially and reviewed thoroughly by our scholarship committee. Financial assistance is determined by the “full picture.” Camp JCA Shalom partners with congregations in giving fee assistance and recommends talking with the Jewish Federation in your area. For more information, please call the camp office. Click here for more scholarship and financial assistance info.

Is tipping allowed?

Camp JCA Shalom has a no-tipping policy. This is because many of our children come on a scholarship and have limited financial means. We do not want one child to be given preferential treatment because of their ability to tip more than another. Instead, we encourage parents to recognize staff members by making a contribution to our scholarship fund in honor of those individuals. A letter will be sent to the staff member advising them of your thoughtfulness, and your contribution is tax deductible!

teens sitting in folding chairs outside watching a performance on a basketball court.

Questions?

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