Jeremy J. Fingerman

Purim – Embracing Action

Courtesy: Foundation for Jewish Camp |

With Daylight Savings Time commencing this week, we can anticipate more light and warmth ahead, a welcome change after a difficult and long five months of darkness and anxiety.  For many, these longer days also bring the excitement of summer camp season, which begins in less than three months. May our 300+ Jewish camps across North America generate much-needed positive light, energy, and hope!

We find an interesting parallel as we enter the new Hebrew month of Adar and with the Purim holiday approaching a week from Sunday.   In the Purim story, we go from darkness to light, as the Megillah recounts Haman’s wicked yet failed attempt to destroy the Jewish people and Esther’s brave actions that saved us.  Our salvation hinges on Esther’s choices to mask her Judaism and then to reveal it.  Reluctant at first, Mordechai cajoles her into action, with his well-known words, “who knows, perhaps you attained your royal position for such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14)

Since October 7th, Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) has taken action, quickly mobilizing to help the field navigate – and thrive – through challenging times.  We have prioritized addressing wellness, security, staffing, and forging even stronger connections between camps and Israel.   I am proud of our progress and want to highlight three of our initiatives:

  • Campers2Gether: In partnership with the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), Mosaic United, and the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), we hope to bring 750+ displaced Israeli teens from evacuated communities to select US and Canadian camps.  Jewish camps provide supportive environments where teens can have a break from the intense stresses of daily life. They also create settings of meaningful and intentional interactions among peers which strengthen individual identities and deepen connections to Israel.   This initiative offers respite and fosters connections, but we still need funds to maximize participation.
  • Mishlachot Areyvut (Delegations of Responsibility): During the last two weeks of February, the FJC team led two missions to Israel hosting 44 camp directors, powered by The Jewish Education Project and made possible by the Jim Joseph Foundation.  I have been gratified by the response of these camp professionals, their deep appreciation of the benefit of traveling together, bearing witness, and sharing how to best convey the present situation in Israel to their camp communities. Many have already expressed powerful reflections; read this short part of one message sent:We choose to live with gratefulness. We choose to live for those who never had the chance, channeling our grief into action and striving to make a positive impact on the world around us…It is through our collective efforts that we can truly make this world a better place – a place where hope transcends even the darkest of days.
  • Meeting the Moment: This week, we launched a new five-part webinar series, Israel at Camp, designed to provide camp professionals with tools and resources to help facilitate complex and nuanced conversations around Israel this summer.  The first session received rave reviews from 100+ participants for a session titled, “Israel at Camp in a Post 10/7 World.”

The weekly Havdalah service, one of the most beloved times at camp, echoes the joy of Purim as the camp community comes together to bid farewell to Shabbat and to begin a new week.  One of the passages recited during Havdalah comes directly from the Megillah:

לַיְּהוּדִ֕ים הָֽיְתָ֥ה אוֹרָ֖ה וְשִׂמְחָ֑ה וְשָׂשֹׂ֖ן וִיקָֽר׃ 
The Jews enjoyed light and gladness, happiness and honor.
(Esther 8:16)

Each week, we remind ourselves that by taking action, we can overcome difficulties and darkness as we have in the past, and we remain hopeful that our prayers will be answered – for light, joy, and peace.

As we prepare for summer, Jewish camp remains vital for over 180,000 youth, teens, and young adults across North America. It is the enduring and irreplaceable connection and community that strengthens Jewish identity, fosters connection to Israel, and ensures a vibrant Jewish future.

May the noise of the grogger drown out hate, and may we all enjoy a Purim Sameach – a happy and festive Purim,

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. Jeremy, a former board Vice-Chair of JPRO (the network of Jewish communal professionals), received the 2023 Bernard Reisman Award for Professional Excellence from Brandeis University.
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