By Helene Drobenare Horwitz
On April 30th, after a difficult and thoughtful process, the URJ Camps, and a few other Jewish overnight camps announced their decisions not to open this summer. In total, as of April 30th, almost 20 Jewish overnight camps will not be opening for 2020. It is unprecedented and painful for everyone involved. There are an additional 144 Jewish overnight camps, sharing their pain and sorrow over this decision.
These same 144 camps are still in the process of making those very difficult decisions. These decisions are not only about opening or closing in 2020, but also about the long-term fate of their camps. This will affect thousands of Jewish children and their families. The 144 other Jewish camps are not judging their colleagues’ choices, but rather as a Jewish camping movement, standing by them as we all navigate our own difficult choices.
It was disappointing to see the coverage of the announcements come with praising some camps’ decisions, while judging others. As a Camp Director in the field for over 21 years, I can tell you with full certainty that this is not how Jewish camps interact with one another, and these are not the Jewish values for which we stand. This is a time for unity and unconditional support. Jewish camps understood a long time ago that we are stronger together, and through organizations such as the Foundation for Jewish Camp, JCamp180 and our local federations, we remain a strongly connected field. We are a field who helps and shares with each other, and we will not disparage each other in our darkest times.
Yesterday, I sent out an email to the Young Judaea Sprout Camp families to share that we had not made a decision. We continue to include them in our process in a transparent manner, “understand every camp or national organization will need to take their own decisions based on their own geography, state regulations, financial stability and community needs. It doesn’t imply one decision is better than the other.” It continues by emphasizing that, “we support our colleagues in Jewish camping through this unprecedented and painful time.”
At this time, when the world needs healing, I hope that the community joins the field of Jewish Camp in following the models of the Jewish values we teach thousands of children. We are one Jewish community and through kindness, support, and commitment, we will see each other through this time and come out stronger on the other side.
Helene Drobenare Horwitz is Executive Director, Young Judaea Sprout Camps.