A caring friend who knows how much time and energy I spend thinking about Jewish summer camp sent an article this morning, about Chasidic kids in Brooklyn urging NY Governor Cuomo to open up sleep-away camps.   When I watched the video mentioned in the article, I was sympathetic to their pleas—then concerned.  I saw a bunch of kids on bikes and scooters– not a single rider was wearing a helmet.  The rabbis seemed unconcerned, or at least unaware of why this is important.

According to an article by the Cleveland Clinic, “All bike riders should wear bicycle helmets. Each year in the United States, about 800 bicyclists are killed and another 500,000 end up in hospital emergency rooms. About 2/3 of the deaths and 1/3 of the injuries involve the head and face. Wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of head injury to bicyclists by as much as 85 percent.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation points out that, over the course of the past few years, only 17 percent of fatally-injured bicyclists were actually wearing helmets. They go on to say that if a bicyclist wears a helmet, he reduces his chance of head injury by 50 percent and his chance of head, face and neck injury by 33 percent. 

A Live Healthy article adds, “While 21 states and the District of Columbia require minors to wear helmets when riding a bike, there are no state laws requiring adults to do so. Unfortunately, the latest traffic safety facts published by the U.S. Department of Transportation reveal an astounding 45,000 bicyclists were injured in traffic with 818 reported fatalities in just one year. One way to protect yourself from injury is to wear a helmet whenever you ride, whether the law requires you to do so or not.” 

They note five good reasons to wear a helmet:

1.      To Protect Your Head and Brain

2.      To Set an Example for Children

3.      To Show Off Your Style

4.      As Protection From the Weather

5.      To Make Yourself Seen

Protecting your brain and setting an example for your children are the most compelling reasons.  It seems that wearing a helmet while biking—regardless of age—should be a no brainer.

Yet, some argue that a helmet is not always necessary.

In an article –of all places—at, the author, Jen See, mentions riding without a helmet (literally for 10 minutes while riding to get a cup of coffee) and running in to “helmet scolds.”  “They’ll tell you at length why you should never ride without one, about the risks and dangers. Don’t you know cycling is perilous, even for seasoned riders? They’ll come armed with statistics and tell you about that one time they crashed unexpectedly while pedaling around the block.”  The author notes that, in contrast to the “no helmet” short ride for coffee, he later went for his road ride with his helmet.

See asks a somewhat provocative questions: “Should we always wear a helmet when we ride?” I almost stopped reading, but was curious.  I encourage you to read to the end.  In short, she points out various articles and studies.  Some point to other activities with risks (walking on icy sidewalks and cleaning gutters) where we don’t’ wear helmets.  Other articles point out that bike lanes are far more important than helmets for reducing injuries.   “A 2015 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 70 percent of cyclist deaths occurred in urban areas. Only 3 percent of those fatalities took place in a bike lane. If you really want to make your road rides safer, joining your local advocacy group, or organizing one to push your city and state for better bike networks, is a great place to start. Simply donning a helmet is no substitute for safer streets.”

See concludes by saying, “It’s up to you to consider the risks and make your own decisions about when to wear a helmet. Maybe that means every time you bike, maybe it doesn’t. I’m not here scold you for your choices. I just want to see you out there enjoying the ride.”

I think I will continue to be a “bike scold,” gently pointing out the importance of helmets.  Obviously, I don’t say a word to adults.  With kids, it is non-negotiable.  Helmut’s are a must!  I would welcome the opportunity to explain to the rabbis in Williamsburg—who their talmidim (students) revere—just why helmets are so important.  Quite simply, they save lives!

Read more

A friend said it best yesterday on Facebook: “I got a haircut appointment for next week! You’d think I won the lottery!”  I only had to wait 3 days.  That is after weeks of watching friends post photos of getting cuts and trims by spouses and kids (who learned the art by watching YouTube videos!). One friend described getting a haircut two weeks ago—when it was still permitted–by slipping in the back door (just after the owner was given a warning of a $5,000 fine if he let anyone else in!)

Today was my day.  Kelly arrived at 8:58 to open the place—for my 9 am appointment.  She had a busy day ahead. And many new safety procedures she and her fellow stylists now have to follow.  The customer has his or her temperature taken and is asked a series of questions about travel outside US within 14 days, exposure to Covid-19, etc.

The phone was ringing off the hook with customers begging to be “squeezed in.”  Kelly was busy putting on her mask and shield, cleaning chairs and door knobs, and preparing her first customer of the day.

Welcome to the new Super Cut!   Salons can only operate at half capacity, Kelly explains (3 chairs max out of the 6 chairs), tape on the floor indicates 6-foot distancing, no sitting in the waiting room (chairs are outside the store), door handles and chairs must be cleaned between customers, stylists must change masks—and work shirt—between customers.   And customer aprons are obviously fresh and clean for each customer.  Kelly is doing a LOT of additional laundry!   The place looks immaculate and I suspect it will remain this clean and spotless throughout the day.

I was impressed with Kelly’s good attitude.  Even with several stylists choosing not to come back to work, she is in a pleasant, chatty mood.  We discussed the challenges of her young kids learning at home, shopping for groceries during these challenging times, and extra precautions she takes, including changing out of her work clothes and shoes before going home.

Even with so many details to worry about at home and at work, Kelly and her colleagues remain sensitive to the needs of her customers.  She would have had no way of knowing of my deep professional and personal commitment to people with disabilities.  She spontaneously explained there is a special set up a procedure for cutting the hair of children with autism in these Covid-19 times. Kelly notes that they often don’t want to wear a mask.  So, there is a set up in a special room at the back of the store.  The stylist and parent wear masks; the child doesn’t.  The door and window are kept open, and everything is carefully cleaned after.

Thanks Kelly and Team Super Cuts! Keep up the good work.  See you next haircut!

Read more

The familiar voice of Stew Leonard comes on the radio on 880 AM in New York City.  Listeners expect the owner of the iconic Stew Leonard’s chain of seven supermarkets in Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey to say something clever about Thanksgiving turkeys or Fourth of July specials. Instead, he offers a very moving, chilling, very personal public service announcement about the death of his almost 2-year-old son in a drowning accident 31 years ago.  It goes something like this: “I thought my son was with her and she thought he was with me and by the time we connected and just minutes passed, we looked down the bottom of the pool and there he was.”

This tragedy sparked the Leonard parents to pledge that they would do everything in their power to prevent this tragedy from striking other families, since drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children under five. In 1990, Kim and Stew Leonard, founded the Stew Leonard III Water Safety Foundation in memory of their son. Since this time, the Foundation has raised more than $2 million dollars to go towards water safety awareness and education, including lifeguard training and providing 10,000 free or low-cost swimming lessons to children every year.

Yesterday, I posted “  I was commenting on the number of families scrambling to find and install pools so their children will have something to this summer.  Two friends, both educators (early childhood and special education) commented when I posted the article on Facebook:

“It worries me to see these. I fear that people are buying them without installing the proper fences and alarms to prevent a neighbor child falling in and drowning. With an in ground pool, you would always take the necessary precautions, but with these, people are just buying them on Amazon without the fence.”

“We just put one up, our town has specific codes about above ground pools and fences. If it’s over a certain height you don’t need a fence but the stairs need to be removable or able to lock. I was nervous about setting it up without the proper electrical hookup and grounding so we have an electrician come out but I have watched so many friends run extension cords and that scares me!”

To prepare for a safe summer, consult the 20-page booklet “Safety Barrier Guidelines for Residential Pools,” published by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC):

Also, “7 Rules for Having a Pool in Your Backyard:”  Rules, curtesy of ARAG (legal insurance), include:

1.  Install pool barriers

2.  Install anti-entrapment safety drain covers.

3.  Supervise children closely.

4.  Learn to swim.

5.  Prepare for emergencies by:

-Making sure everyone in your home takes water safety, first aid and CPR courses.

-Keeping rescue equipment by the pool, easily accessible and in good condition — such as life rings, floats or a reaching pole.

-Having a phone poolside with emergency numbers posted. Also post your address for the benefit of guests, babysitters or even your young children who might not have your address memorized.

-Sharing safety instructions and pool rules with family, friends, babysitters and neighbors.


6.  Institute pool rules

-Don’t go in or near the pool without an adult.

-No pushing.

-No running.

-No diving.

-If someone is in trouble, get help quick.

-Use the bathroom, not the pool!


7.  Know the legal risks of pool ownership


The authors report, “Every year, nearly 300 children under the age of five drown in swimming pools, making it the leading cause of accidental death for children in that age range. And 87 percent of those fatalities occur in backyard pools. In addition to drowning fatalities, more than 4,000 kids under five suffer non-fatal drowning injuries that require a visit to the E.R.” 

PLEASE take some time to carefully read these two articles.  And thank you to the Leonard Family for sharing your personal story of tragedy, to help prevent such tragedies for others.  Have a fun, safe summer!

Read more

I recently asked a camp colleague what she and her young children are doing this summer, now that the 8-week overnight camp program she directs is not happening.  “We bought a $400 above ground pool and are hoping for the best!” She is certainly not alone.   It seems the above ground pool has made a comeback.

A recent New York Times article was entitled, “Hoping to Buy an Above ground Pool to Salvage Summer? It May Be Too Late:  The hunt for pools is fierce as homeowners search for ways to stay cool in the safety of their backyards.”

A similar article was entitled, “Coronavirus: Sales of above-ground pools, RVs spike as people seek summer alternatives.”

Finally, “Backyard pool sales booming as coronavirus keeps us stuck at home this summer.”

A few things I learned from these articles:

-Sheri Neuberger, the office manager of Metro Pools in Kinnelon, said the requests for new in-ground pools have been pouring in. They usually do about 30 pools a season, but so far they’ve received about 1,000 requests for a price.

-Scott Clark, of Somertime Pool and Spa in Millville, said requests for above-ground pools have increased about 30% in recent weeks. He chalks that up to families receiving their stimulus checks, and the ease of selling a pool over the phone.

As I have written in previous posts, families with children of nearly every age are in a bind this summer.  Very few overnight (and day) camps are operating, few jobs or internships are available, and most people don’t have the time or inclination to drive an RV cross country.  And no parent wants their child indoors on a screen all summer. 

I suspect many of us who grew up in the suburbs “back in the day” spent a good part of the day in our above ground pools.   May be time to refresh your memory on how to chlorinate a pool, and how to play Marco Polo.  Here is a useful article entitled, “Pool Chlorine:  What It IS, How It Works, And How To Use It Effectively.”

Here are “24  Fun Swimming Pool Games” to keep you and your kids occupied: 

But first, good luck finding a pool!

Read more