Summer 2022 was full of opportunities and growth. We celebrated the joy and beauty of camp and Israel experiences, infused intention and meaning in our planning and programming, and enabled campers, summer immersive participants, and staff to create communities of respect and belonging.
Our camps and summer immersives are spaces where we help develop healthy and resilient young people who love being Jewish. It is in these holy spaces they expand their horizons, look away from their screens and into the eyes of their peers and counselors, and develop important relational and life skills. This is where we can restore so much of what the pandemic has taken away from our children. I am inspired by recent stories I have heard from our camps and summer immersive programs:
- The returning camper whose camp had a complete waterfront makeover, enhancing its accessibility and excitement for young campers who are just learning to swim – because, like so many children, this child didn’t have access to swimming lessons during the pandemic.
- The camp that fostered a safe space for teens to grapple with complex themes ranging from human rights to public health to racial equity, because we can have these important conversations in our programs and frame them through the lens of our Jewish values.
- The NFTY in Israel leader who spoke at the RootOne event, which brought together thousands of teens from across the Jewish world for a day of learning and celebration. She spoke passionately about how people of all faiths call Israel home, and about the impactful conversations she was having on the NFTY program.
COVID presented an unprecedented set of challenges and priorities this summer, with no one right path forward. We strove for excellence and intention and navigated the rapidly changing pandemic landscape with empathy for each other, our campers, and our communities. While facing these challenges, our URJ camp and summer immersives leadership exemplified resilience, adaptability, agility, and creativity. Our teams developed a set of universal guidelines to be implemented by each camp, and in some cases, adjusted them based on what our leaders learned on the ground during the summer. They remained responsive to the evolving reality of COVID and led their communities through an imperfect yet beautiful, challenging, and successful summer. I am so proud of their determination and drive to give campers and immersives participants a meaningful and joyful experience at camp, especially knowing that in 2022, our children need these programs and this connection to Judaism more than ever.
Together, in partnership with participants, families, faculty, staff, and stakeholders, our teams focused on chesed rachamim – compassion – along with empathy, kindness, and perseverance as we made decisions in the best interests of our communities through uncharted territory. We hope that your child’s experiences were meaningful – we are grateful and honored that you trusted us to play a role in their growth. Thank you for being a valued partner in this important work.
We are hopeful for the future and are already planning for our year-round programs and summer 2023. At the same time, we cannot know what challenges we may encounter next, and we will remain agile in how we respond to ever-changing trends. Most importantly, we know that camp, our Israel immersive programs, and our year-round short-term programs are more important now than ever.