Strictly halachically speaking, how much are men and women required to refrain from intermingling? Are mixed social gatherings permitted? What if its extended family? What if it’s communal?
More specifically, is it permitted to work as a counselor in a mixed camp for developmentally disabled children where socializing between genders is common?
Thank you for your time.
The general principle is that it is better to avoid intermingling of men and women.
Strictly speaking, the main problem that Poskim relate to is intermingling that can lead to frivolity etc. The Gemara and the Rambam refer for instance to festival times (when guards would be posted to ensure that intermingling does not take place).
The question is therefore the nature of the social gathering, and its purpose. The Shulchan Aruch writes severely about the obligation to distance oneself from the other sex (see Even Ha-Ezer 21), but the issue depends very much on the particular circumstances of each case.
Where the gathering is of family members, common practice is to be lenient (such as in Chanukah parties etc.), though avoiding the practice is generally commendable (again, depending on circumstances).
Working as a councellor in a camp for disabled children is of course highly commendable, in having the opportunity to help the needy and bring joy to the life of children. However, social mingling for young boys and girls is certainly problematic, and we know from long experience — as well as from Chazal — that one thing leads to another.
Therefore, you should consider well if you’ll be able to avoid the social mingling of genders before taking the position.