Jeremy J. Fingerman

The comeback begins

I can’t believe we have finally arrived at this special time — the reopening of camps and the rebuilding of communities. We’ve held on to the promise that “the comeback is always stronger than the setback.” Truly, the power of camp will be an antidote for the collective trauma that we have experienced and endured these past 15 months.

And now, the comeback begins.

We are overwhelmed with simcha, joy, knowing so many Jewish camps — both day and overnight — will reopen their gates for the first time in two years. Even more so this summer, opening day brings tears of joy and relief as campers arrive to the sweet smells of sunscreen, bug spray, and pine needles and the cheers of their awaiting counselors.

Thanks to our collective efforts — and the resilience and dedication of our camp professionals — tens of thousands of campers and staff are returning to their second home, their holy place. Thank you for helping us reach this singular moment.

Two weeks ago, our Cornerstone Fellowship, FJC’s longest-running, premiere Jewish educational and leadership development program for veteran counselors, wrapped up its 19th annual seminar, with close to 400 virtual participants. Its theme — Mah Norah Hamakom Hazeh, How Awesome is This Place! – fits this moment so well. Taken from Parashat Vayetzei (which begins in Genesis 28:10), Jacob stops his journey to sleep for the night and dreams of a ladder with angels on it going up and down between heaven and earth. In the dream God blesses Jacob and brings him into the Covenant. When Jacob wakes up, he declares: “’Achein yeish Adonai bamakom hazeh v’anochi lo yadati,’ va’yirah v’omer, ‘mah norah hamakom hazeh’” “’Surely God is in this place, and I did not know,’ Shaken, he says, ‘How awesome is this place!’” (28:16-17).

As campers and counselors return to their summer homes, they will soon experience how truly awesome, “norah”, it is to be together, not just in a physical sense, but like Jacob, a special space and community created anew by the people and magical experiences that happens there.

I invite you to watch the above music video of the theme song created especially for Cornerstone 2021 by talented educator, Chana Rothman, and featuring some of our Cornerstone Fellows and Faculty.

Thank you for being a part of this amazing and important journey from the setback of COVID-19 to the comeback of Summer 2021, captured by the poignant lyrics from this song:

Here we are. We’ve come so far.
Mah Norah Hamakom Hazeh.
I’ll meet you there!

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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