For the past few months, Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) has focused on the significant challenges facing the field during the COVID-19 pandemic, but today we feel compelled to turn our attention to the unacceptable murders of Black Americans.
The recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and the social and economic disparities highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic have put on display the deep-rooted systemic racism that continues to wreak havoc. The values we impart at Jewish camp – acceptance, empathy, compassion, respect, appreciation for each unique soul – are woefully absent from the lived reality of far too many people in the United States.
We support our campers, camp staff, families, friends, and neighbors in the Black community in their protests for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.
The challenges of our current moment give us yet another reason to lament the closure of camp this summer. If camps were open, we know that camp professionals and staff would be educating the next generation about racism, helping them process these events in age-appropriate ways, and inspiring the understanding that tikkun olam (repairing the world) is a central part of their Jewish identity.
Just as camp is year-round and lifelong, our fight against racism and bigotry can’t be limited to a specific location or season. We must find new ways to connect, engage, and educate our community, and continue to live our shared values and model the moral imperative to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Lev 19:18)
We know we still have much work to do to ensure that our own Jewish community recognizes and includes Jews of color in every aspect of Jewish communal life – including camp. We can’t ignore this moment and we must begin by listening and learning before modeling and sharing. We are currently exploring several avenues for moving our anti-bias and anti-racism education forward, and we look forward to sharing our plans with you as soon as they are solidified.
We encourage you to visit Be’Chol Lashon’s webpage, where they’ve curated thoughts and resources from the Black Jewish community.
In these trying times – in which multiple challenges amplify one another – may our Jewish camp values galvanize us to come together and build a world of integrity, dignity, compassion, and justice for all.