Camp Gilboa FAQs

Who are Gilboa’s counselors and how are they trained?

The vast majority of our counselors and technical staff grew up at Gilboa and are coming back to serve as counselors, in order to create the same magical experience for the next generation of kids. That means we’ve known them for years, know which positions and teams would work best for them, and how to best support them. Counselors who grew up at Gilboa went through our leadership programs in high school, a summer long counselors in training program in senior year, and every summer they all go through an intense 12-days long staff training program. During staff training counselors learn about and practice the need to take care of the whole child - their physical and emotional wellbeing, and their social and intellectual needs. Counselors go through, among others, sessions on:

  • CPR and First Aid course for each counselor
  • Special certification for archery instructors and lifeguards
  • Camper care and supervision
  • How to support homesick kids
  • Child development
  • Guiding positive behavior
  • Crafting age appropriate education
Before the summer, you will be asked to complete extensive questionnaires about your child’s health, hobbies, strengths, difficulties, etc. Information from these forms, as well as from follow up conversations, will be compiled and related to your child’s counselors so that they’re ready to take care of your child and craft their summer experience. During the camp session, there are five summer directors (Mazkirut) supporting and supervising counselors, following up to make sure needs of individual campers are being met, helping counselors resolve issues with group dynamics, and continuously adapting and perfecting the educational content.

How do you ensure campers’ health and safety?

Camp Gilboa is accredited by the American Camp Association, the leading authority in the promotion of camp safety and quality. That means that we follow hundreds of standards ranging from sanitation to camper/staff ratio, to quality of programming. On our last accreditation day-long visit and assessment, we passed with a 100% score on all standards. That’s because at Gilboa, the health and safety of campers is not only our #1 priority, it is also everyone’s responsibility; from the group counselors and camp directors, to our kitchen staff, to our on-site nurse. All staff are First Aid and CPR trained and certified. Staff with additional appropriate certification are present during activities such as kayaking, archery, and swimming. Our camp health center (mirpa’a) is staffed 24 hours a day with either a nurse or a paramedic. If a camper isn’t feeling well, they will be assessed by the nurse and may either rest and recover in one of our health center camper rooms, or if the nurse determines additional evaluation is needed, they might be sent to see a doctor in the town of Big Bear (20 minutes away). While in our health center, campers are treated and watched by the nurse, with additional care by the senior staff and frequent (nurse approved) visits by their counselors and friends. We’ve had a full assessment of our site security needs done by the Los Angeles Jewish Federation Community Security Initiative Directors, and have worked with them to review and improve our safety and security protocols, which all staff learn and practice during staff training. We are in touch with the local emergency services in town (the forest service, fire department, local hospital and sheriff) throughout the year, and meet with them before each camp season to make sure they’re aware of the details of our operations for that summer. For Covid-19 specific precautions and protocols, please refer to the 2021 Camper Handbook.

What are the sleeping arrangements at camp?

Campers sleep in cabins grouped by age and gender. There are typically 8-10 campers in a cabin and 2-3 counselors. In some instances, there are campers from two consecutive grades in one cabin (for example boys from 4th and 5th grades may reside together). The cabins and beds are clean and renovated, though the camp is designed to be rustic in nature (so there’s no power in the cabins). The cabins are lit with solar and battery powered lanterns. Cabins are situated in circles of six, and a powered showers and bathroom building is located in each such circle.

What sort of communications can I expect to get from camp?

The Gilboa blog is updated a few times a week, and it is the main window into camp activities’ descriptions and photos. It will give you good insight into what your child has been doing and what Gilboa and Habonim are all about. In addition, Gilboa staff is always available to talk with you when your child is at camp, and messages are answered within the same day. Here's when you can be sure to hear from us:

  • If you are a parent of a new camper, you should expect to hear from us within the first days of camp with an update on how your child is doing. Of course, you are welcome to contact us before.
  • If your child is very homesick, we will let you know. We'll call to consult and decide together what is the best course of action.
  • If your child is not feeling well, is running a fever or stays in the health center for more than just a few hours of rest, we will update you.
The most successful camp experiences occur when a child is fully immersed in camp. Therefore, most direct communication with campers will happen in writing, via old-fashioned snail mail. Parents can also send emails, which we print and deliver at the same time that mail is delivered.

What is the food like? Can you accommodate special diets?

Kids are active all the time at camp and they get hungry! That’s why we have three meals and three snacks a day. We know how important food is for the wellbeing of campers and we make sure that it feels home-like - comforting and accessible. Food is always kid-friendly, there is always a salad or fruit bar so that campers can build their own salad to add to any meal, and there are always vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. Here’s what one day’s menu at camp looked like this summer: Breakfast: hash browns, scrambled eggs, grapefruit (with the options of yogurt, cottage cheese, bread, cereal and fruit available at every breakfast.) Morning Snack: Granola bar Lunch: chicken nuggets/vegan nuggets, potatoes, salad bar Afternoon Snack: Pretzels and fruit Dinner: Tofu veggie stir fry, vegetarian spring rolls and rice, plus salad bar Bedtime Snack: celery, mini carrots and sun-nut butter If your child is a picky eater (and many kids are), there are always multiple options to replace or supplement the meal, and counselors and kitchen staff will assist them in choosing, and prepare their meal. Options include pasta, rice, almond or other non-peanut butter & J sandwich, eggs, and more. If you’re worried that your child is especially picky, let us know. We will work with you before the summer to make sure that we are aware of their needs and that our pantry is stocked with the food they will eat. Our kitchen staff is certified and trained to handle food sensitivities and special diets, and we work with parents to make sure that special diets menus are varied and contain the dishes and food items that the camper is used to from home. We have experience with and can accommodated gluten free diets, peanut and other nut-allergy diets, diets for campers with diabetes, etc.

What is the cell phone and screens policy?

No Cell Phones at Camp! We do our best to create an environment where social interactions, uninterrupted by electronics, thrive. The only exception is listening to music, which we recognize as a valuable downtime for some, and even a necessity at bedtime for others. Campers will not be allowed to have cell phones at camp. It is best if your child leaves their cell phones at home, but we do understand, especially for campers travelling from NorCal, if you would like your child to have their phone for travel day. We will collect all phones on the day of arrival and distribute them back on the last day of camp. For music: It’s time to look in storage for those old MP3 players! It’s a good opportunity for some family music curation! Campers are able to use these devices during free time (chofesh) and at bedtime. We know that campers are used to taking photos on their phones, and recommend sending a simple digital or disposable camera instead. All other electronics (iPads, tablets, laptops, electronic games) should not be brought to camp.

When can I visit camp?

We are planning to hold Visitors Day on Sunday July 17th, 11am-3:30pm. The ability to allow visitors at camp depends on the level of risk for Covid-19 being introduced into camp, so we will be making a final determination closer to the summer about whether Visitors Day will happen. During the summer we normally have one visitors day. All current and prospective families are invited to spend the day, participate in family programming, tour the site, and enjoy the serene lake and forest. We work to make sure that all campers adjust to camp as quickly as possible, and visits can disrupt the daily routine, as well as be difficult for your child’s friends. Therefore, there are no other visits during the summer. Parents are always welcome to email and ask to be called with an update about their child.

What does Covid safety look like at Gilboa?

In summer 2021, we implemented Covid safety protocols and guidelines and successfully kept Covid out of camp! This included pre-camp quarantine for unvaccinated campers, tests before camp, upon arrival, and 4 days into camp, and keeping campers in pods. Interactions between campers from different pods used the 2/3 rule. We will be working with our medical committee throughout the winter and spring to develop policies for summer 2022. Expect policies regarding vaccines, testing, and at-camp precautions like masks and pods. In the meantime, we strongly encourage all eligible campers to get the Covid-19 vaccine!

What is the refund policy for Summer 2022?

All payments (including deposit) will be refunded if requested before May 1, 2022. 50% of fees and tuition will be refunded if requested before June 1, 2022. After June 1st, payments are non-refundable.

Do you provide transportation to & from camp?

Yes! Check out the transportation page for details.

How are you making decisions about health and safety policies?

Gilboa is fortunate to have a dedicated Medical Committee comprised of physicians, nurses, and other medical personnel who are also Gilboa parents, alumni, and past and present camp healthcare staff. Among our committee members are an infectious disease specialist, a family physician specializing in residential setting care, an emergency medicine physician, and physicians and nurses with camp and Gilboa-specific experience. The committee is preparing all policies and practices following CDC and ACA guidelines.

How can I communicate with my child?

The most successful camp experiences occur when a child is fully immersed in camp. Therefore, most direct communication with campers will happen in writing.
Parents are always welcome to email us and ask to be called with an update about their child and we encourage new camper families to review the communications section of the camper handbook to see how we work with parents to help children overcome homesickness. Please send your letters to: Your Camper's Name (Grade) Camp Gilboa P.O. Box 1532 Big Bear Lake, CA 92315-1532 Parents can also send emails to, which we print and deliver at the same time that mail is delivered. Please write your child's name & grade in the subject line. If there is anything that needs to be communicated urgently, please contact camp staff via email or WhatsApp (details in the Camper Handbook.)

Other questions?

Consult the Camper Handbook or contact us!