Resilience of Jewish Camp


This question has been on my mind constantly these past five weeks, as hurricanes and earthquakes, floods and fires devastate homes, histories, and hopes. Millions of people have been left homeless from Texas, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Florida, and most recently, California. It is hard to imagine how individuals, families, and communities find the strength to come back from such tragedies.

Hitting close to home for all of us in the Jewish camp community, URJ Camp Newman in Santa Rosa, California, lost much of their beloved camp to the wildfires last week. Our collective hearts are with the Camp Newman family.

In this week’s Torah portion, we read the story of Noah and The Flood. The whole world was destroyed. Everything was lost. Following the devastation, Noah and his family emerge from the ark, inspired to begin anew by the appearance of the rainbow.


“My rainbow I have placed in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Myself and the earth.” (Genesis 9:13)
I see this rainbow in the hope, resilience and faith of our Jewish camp community.

The Jewish camp community comes together in times of need. Our covenant is strong and the skills nurtured and nourished at camp prepare us to be brave in the face of great hardship. For many, Jewish camp is the safe space where we take chances, fail, learn and grow. At Jewish camp, we model perseverance and grit. Truly, we foster the spirit of faith and resilience that will sustain our Jewish community.

Take a moment to be inspired by the immediate and broad outpouring of support for URJ Camp Newman: Alumni reminisced on Facebook, and shared photos, California campers from different camps reached out to support their URJ friends and URJ Camp Newman’s year-round programming found local synagogues to host them.

Ruben Arquilevich, URJ Camp Newman Executive Director, models calm, hope and patience after the storm with his leadership. As the URJ Camp Newman professionals and lay leadership toured the damage and remains, they discovered those small miracles – prayer books, tallitot, even the Jewish star on the hill overlooking the camp – untouched by the fire which will provide inspiration and strength to move forward. Ruben said, “They’re a reminder of our resilience as a Jewish people, and they point toward hope and our future, and the promise to create Jewish life through Jewish camping.”

Newman will rise again, of that I am sure. FJC will continue to provide support and expertise to assist throughout the long road ahead.

Rabbi Jeff Salkin captured these sentiments so well in his beautiful piece, writing, “We have lived through “great and mighty winds” — hurricanes. We have lived through an earthquake in Mexico. Our friends in California have been living through the fire. God was not to be found in any of those experiences. No. God was to be found in kol d’mamah dakah — translated… as “a still, small voice.” An inner voice. Jewish summer camps teach kids how to hear that voice.“

We cannot undo the damage of natural disasters but our camp community continues serve as a sanctuary of hope, faith and resilience during these difficult times.

Jeremy J. Fingerman
CEO, Foundation for Jewish Camp

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.