This morning, a plaintiff group led by the Association of Jewish Camp Operators, AJCO, as well as parents of potential campers, presented oral arguments in their case against New York State Governor, Andrew Cuomo. AJCO, founded by Agudath Israel of America to represent the interests of the Orthodox Jewish summer camp community, and parents, are requesting a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction allowing overnight camps to open this summer.
Camps were barred from opening this summer due to Governor Cuomo’s March Executive Order put in place to stop the impending spread of COVID-19.
The attorney for AJCO – Avi Schick of the Troutman Sanders law firm – stressed that the limitations imposed on Orthodox Jewish parents by New York State are a clear violation of the religious liberties guaranteed under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The religious camps represented by AJCO were created to provide Jewish children an immersive religious environment and activities designed to enhance their religious development in a unique 24/7 setting.
Mr. Schick also highlighted the Governor’s exemption made to the protesters who have filled the streets of New York in recent weeks. He focused on the clear double standard the Governor displayed, by encouraging the mass protests that were blatant violations of his Executive Order while insisting that religious overnight camps be shut down.
There was also great emphasis placed on the fact that the Governor allowed day camps and dormitories to operate in the coming months, stressing that if these institutions are permitted to open, camps should be granted clearance to open as well.
AJCO also made it clear that safety is a top priority for these religious camps. Mr. Schick described the many measures the camps will take to ensure a safe and COVID-free environment for the campers in question.
Chief U.S. District Judge Glenn Suddaby gave the parties until close of business tomorrow (Wednesday, July 1) to submit additional legal briefs. It is anticipated that a ruling will be handed down before the week’s end.
Agudath Israel of America hopes the judge will be responsive to the arguments made in this case. Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Vice President of Agudath Israel of America, explained, “overnight summer camping has always played an important role in the religious development of our youth. All the more so in a time like this, when so many children have been away from yeshiva for so many months. We believe our attorneys have made a powerful legal case for the camps to be opened, B’siyata diShmaya, we look forward to a successful result.”