Last week, another serious heartbreak was felt around the Jewish world as a result of the COVID-19 virus. This time the victim was our precious URJ Summer Camps and Israel trips that have now been cancelled due to the dangers posed by continuing to host these activities this summer. These powerful summer experiences provide, every year, some of the most inspiring and influential Jewish moments in our children’s lives. Moments that last a lifetime for thousands upon thousands of Jewish young people–campers and staff alike, not to mention the joy and vitality gained by rabbis, educators, cantors, nurses, doctors, and others; moments that shape lives, moments that impact careers and influence Jewish dreams. I know, because I have probably spent over 30 of the last 40 summers at a URJ summer camp or leading a teen trip to Israel. These have been experiences that have made me who I am today. The arc of my life was profoundly shaped by my experiences at our Jewish camps and our kids spent their entire youth attending Camp Newman.
The thought of not having our camps filled with the raucous cheers and laughter that came with Jewish learning and Jewish living is truly hard to imagine. But I know something else! We, especially at Camp Newman after the fire, know that camp is not determined or defined by a particular geography or set of buildings. Camp is a spirit, a feeling, a complex nexus of experiences and memories that bond us together no matter where we are. Camp is a community of people who love and care for each other, who love being Jewish together and inspire each other to grow Jewishly throughout the year. Even when we are not together.
While we are all incredibly saddened and greatly disappointed by this news, we also know in our hearts that this was the right and courageous decision to be made in order to ensure the safety and well-being of all our campers, staff and faculty. Life is filled with difficult choices and we should salute and recognize the brave decisions our leaders made based on our Jewish values. We all have lost something precious this summer, but we also have the power and creativity to transform this loss into something incredibly meaningful and joyous. Together we will discover new ways of interacting with our camp friends; together we will continue to learn and have fun; together we will build new relationships and inspire future Jewish leaders.
I am sending a particularly big hug to so many of our Bet Haverim youth who were so looking forward to this summer at camp or in Israel, many who have been attending camp for years and a special few who were anticipating the unique opportunity to be a CIT, Avodah-nik, first time counselor or go on a trip to Israel this summer. I want you all to know that I am here for you and share your deep sadness. Please reach out to me if you would like to talk or just share your feelings (firstname.lastname@example.org/530-758-0842
) We will be back at our camps again. This is a moment calling us to be creative, caring and courageous! I am excited to see how we will rise to meet this moment together.
If you would like to donate to help support Camp Newman during this difficult time you can click on this link
… With love end thanks to Ruben Arquilevich Rick Jacobs Jennifer Brodkey Kaufman Allie Fischman Ari Vared