Jeremy J. Fingerman
Jeremy J. Fingerman

Marking Time

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about all that we’ve experienced this past year. Especially so today, as we reach the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization’s pandemic declaration.

For each of us individually, and for our organizations, how do we best capture our reflections? How do we choose to mark time?

I find myself reliving a roller coaster of emotions.

We mourn the more than half a million people lost to COVID-19 in the US and over 2.5 million worldwide over the past year. May their memories be a blessing to their families and communities.

We celebrate the many acts of selflessness and kindness of front-line workers, healthcare providers, social service agencies, and communal organizations.

I recall the strange feeling of celebrating Purim last year via zoom and have so missed attending my synagogue to worship as part of a kehillah kedosha – a holy congregation.

And, I have been inspired by the determination, creativity, and resilience of my colleagues as we have all navigated through this uncertain, disruptive time.

One year ago this week, Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) cancelled our in-person Leaders Assembly 2020, the biennial convening of the field scheduled to begin on March 15th, with close to 900 camp professionals and advocates. Instead, we became the first Jewish organization to pivot to a virtual experience, bringing the field together on March 16th. We lifted each other up, connected over our shared mission, and prepared to face the uncertainties ahead.

We often say that camp people always have a “rainy day plan” ready. They always seem to be able to adjust and course-correct no matter what comes their way. But no play book – no rainy day plan – could have prepared any of us for what began a year ago.

I remain in awe of the dedicated camp professionals, who led their camp communities with compassion and strength. In addition, I am overwhelmed with pride thinking back to how our FJC team adapted so seamlessly under such pressure to continue to serve the field.

The roller coaster ride has been made easier for FJC and our entire field due to the generous support from Foundations large and small, the Jewish Federation system, individual donors, camp families – and even the US and Canadian governments. Our collective efforts mitigated the financial challenges of 2020 and paved the way for a safe, successful summer 2021.

When I think about marking time, especially at this first-year anniversary, two images come to mind. Often, when we enter a synagogue – an activity I have sadly missed this year – we see the lights of the Yahrzeit wall, memorializing those deceased members of our families and communities. On each anniversary of their passing, the light calls attention to the life lived and lost, in a space that mattered to them and their family.

In a similar way, when one enters a bunk at camp – something I hope to do again sometime soon – we are often greeted by bunk plaques. These are permanent signs containing the names – sometimes nicknames – of those who shared time together in that space. While there are no lights, the colorful signs shine through; they represent a celebration of belonging, joy, growth, and connection and a physical symbol that here, in this space, they mattered.

As we mark this anniversary, we pray that this coming year will bring less yahrzeit plaques and more bunk plaques. And may we spend our days shining a light on what’s really important – each other.

About the Author
Jeremy J. Fingerman has served as CEO of Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) since 2010. Prior to joining FJC, he had a highly-regarded 20+ year career in Consumer Packaged Goods, beginning at General Mills, Inc, then at Campbell Soup Company, where he served as president of its largest division, US Soup. In 2005, he was recruited to serve as CEO of Manischewitz.
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