Finding comfort in guilt

One could easily look at the at the overwhelming sadness caused by the cancellation of some Jewish summer camps and think that this is a reaction of the privileged. That these experiences are available to those who live in communities and have the means to be able to send their children away for all or part of the summer. That the tears being shed should be reserved for those who are mourning, who are ill, who are unemployed.

I must admit feeling guilt at my sadness. As sad as it is that parents and kids will have their summer upended, it really doesn’t compare to the tragedies unfolding around us.


Those of us who have indeed been privileged enough to attend Jewish summer camp know that the lessons learned and the friendships made, along with the spiritual and intellectual awakenings, the values received and the physical and emotional safety nets we experienced, have stayed with us our entire lives. We can take comfort knowing that these are precisely things helping us navigate today’s realities.

In the big picture, the cancellation of camp may simply seem like an inconvenience. Making the world healthy, safe and secure is far more important (and always has been). But those bonding moments –  on Shabbat, in a cabin, on the baseball field, in a discussion group, in the dining hall (over a cup of bug juice) – they all build character.

So let’s be sad for a camp summer lost (while hoping others may still open).  Let’s also look beyond our tears and realize what else is truly important. Let’s continue to pray for healing of body and spirit. Let’s honor those who are putting themselves in harm’s way. Let’s be kinder. Let’s work to make our country and this world better. The guilt is OK. So is the sadness, and so is the hope.

That’s what camp has taught me.

About the Author
Rich Moline is a Jewish educator, non-profit executive, and volunteer leader living in Chicago.
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