Camp 2020:
The Summer That Won’t Be

Yesterday, the URJ made the courageous and correct decision to cancel all in-person activities this summer, including their summer camps and Israel/travel programs.


Like every other day, yesterday began at 5 am with the first of many cups of strong black coffee. By 10 am I had my first indication a fast moving tsunami would hit the American Jewish world by day’s end. By 11 am, Ohio’s Camp Wise had announced the cancellation of this summer’s camp programs and whispers were emerging in URJ’s very connected alumni world the plug was about to be pulled. By 1 pm several URJ camps were updating their summer faculties. By 3 pm notification to camp families was in full swing.

The decision was both difficult and necessary and tearfully accepted by all. There was / is no legitimate alternative.


As someone who grew up in Jewish summer camp and provided the same opportunity to my children at the earliest allowable age, I am sad.

I am sad for the campers, staff, and families that live “10 for 2,” year in and year out.

I am sad for the multitude of high school seniors who not only “lost” their senior year but may now “lose” their last summer of camp.

I am sad for the countless Jewish educators who out of love give their time to camp and who will in many cases take a painful financial hit.

And, I am sad that too many of our leaders (lay and professional) are not really leaders. The spin I’ve heard the past few days as to why they are not yet making decisions is disappointing, at best. Their excuse for waiting for Governor Wolf (Pa) and his colleagues to act is disheartening.

Yesterday, Israel’s Ministry of Health released preliminary results of an epidemiological study that found that children can carry and transmit the coronavirus.

Let me remind those hesitating to act that American Jewish summer camp has its roots in the tuberculosis era of a previous century. Are you willing to let this pandemic destroy all you’ve built?

A dear friend wrote yesterday,

“My heart breaks for the campers and staff who live ‘10 for 2’, but camp friendships and communities are resilient and built on a foundation of being there for each other and picking each other up. There will be time to cry together and feel sad about what is lost, time to get creative and create summer memories in different ways, and when this is over, the biggest hugs await.

In the wise words of Dan Nichols:

There is a power in this place and time,
it shapes the rest of our lives,
For when we return each year we find a truth we can’t deny.
Be strong, let us strengthen one another.
Be strong, let us celebrate our lives.
Be strong, let us strengthen one another.
Cha-zak, cha-zak, ve-nit cha-zeik.”


For those curious about the image, it seems North East food markets experienced an unexplained run on Friendly’s ice cream last night.


Dan Brown is the founder of eJewish Philanthropy.

The opinions expressed above should not be regarded as statements of the views of other eJewish Philanthropy contributors, its advisors or funders.