A few weeks ago I shared with you an urgent issue facing the American camp community: a pending Presidential order that may radically reduce or eliminate the U.S. State Department’s J-1 Camp Counselor and Summer Work Travel (SWT) programs. If implemented, this order would have an immediate impact on international staff at camp. I want to update you that, in partnership with the American Camp Association, and with the help of the Jewish Federations of North America and the URJ’s Religious Action Center, we have been hard at work making the case for the J-1 Camp Counselor Program to our public officials in Washington.
Last week, Peter Weidhorn, FJC Board Chair, and I sent a letter to President Trump, co-signed by professional and volunteer leadership of the Jewish camping movements, stating the crucial importance of the J-1 visa program to the mission of Jewish camp. Representatives in Congress and the White House have been inundated with emails from the camp community, urging their support in saving these cultural exchange programs. Our advocacy, online and in-person, is getting the attention of lawmakers. Please help us to keep the pressure on!
International staff is responsible for so much of the energy, learning, and culture of camp – sharing new music, traditions, stories, and experiences. Jewish camp brings close to 1,500 Israeli shlichim every summer who, along with other Jewish counselors from around the world, become an integral part of creating and transmitting joyous Judaism. Israeli counselors are able to instill in our campers a connection to and a love of Israel in a way that would be difficult to replicate, should the program be ended. Our voices are needed to keep the international cultural exchange a part of the summer educational experience.
Over the next few weeks, as we enjoy apples dipped in honey, hear the shofar, and gather together in Jewish spaces, take a minute to reflect on what it means to be a part of the global Jewish people, in your camp and in the world. We are all connected. The J-1 visa program is an important piece of what makes those meaningful connections come to life. Let’s use this time of gathering and reflection to raise our voices to save it.
Join the combined efforts of the American camp community. Take action on behalf of the J-1 Visa program and let the White House and your elected representatives know where you stand. Once you have done so, share with all of your social networks.
Let me conclude by offering our best wishes for shana tova u’metukah – a good and sweet new year – filled with good health and much happiness.