With summer programs not operating as usual this year, Jewish leaders got some tips from Trybal Gatherings’ Day Camp Boot Camp to learn how to “camplify” online programming with proven techniques and virtual-engagement strategies.

More than 150 participants from Jewish Federations, Jewish Community Centers, day schools, preschools, synagogues, foundations, summer camps, startups and elsewhere participated in a recent Day Camp Boot Camp—an online camp-style gathering to hone their skills and keep summer programming strong remotely.

“The boot camp blew me away,” says Bryan Turkel, assistant director of leadership development at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. “Three months into sheltering in place, this was not just the most engaging remote programming experience I’ve had, it was by far the most impactful. Detailed planning, creative thinking, understanding how to build relationships among people in any platform—that’s what I’m now looking to bring back to my summer programming.”

Sandwiched between the Boot Camp’s opening ceremony, closing friendship circles and other camp-style surprises were electives on how to get the most out of remote programming and avoid Zoom fatigue.

“Campers” learned how to use ritual to cultivate a sense of community and culture among strangers coming together in a virtual program. They saw how games, music, video and more can be enriching mechanisms, along with how non-virtual activities, like paper-plate awards, giveaways and use of props can be incorporated into a virtual program.

And they learned the technical and camera-related tools everyone should know to lead a smooth and professional-looking program.

“Camp isn’t only a place, it’s a philosophy,” says Carine Warsawski, founder of Trybal Gatherings, which during non-pandemic times creates in-person, immersive four-day overnight Jewish camp experiences for young adults across the country. “To ‘camplify’ your programming means to bring the magic of connection, relationships and meaning to the user experience, whether that’s in-person or not. Just because someone makes a great challah doesn’t mean they know how to lead an engaging remote cooking program.”

Elective sessions were designed and led by experts from OneTable, Foundation for Jewish Camp and others committed to delivering engaging programs, in-person and online.

“There’s a certain sweet spot in how to create and run a fun virtual program,” adds Warsawski. “People can join from anywhere in the world, and that’s great. But program leaders need to know how to deliver an experience that is inclusive, accessible and offers the entertainment and connections to keep participants coming back. Good online experiences are bite-size programs that pack a punch.”

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