I’ve been thinking a lot about new beginnings, especially as we have now completed the intense and meaningful season of Jewish holidays which kicked-off the new Jewish year, 5782.
We’ve restarted our weekly cycle of Torah readings by returning to Bereishit (Genesis), the creation story last week, and the story of Noah and his ark this week. Yesterday and today, we observe the new moon and the beginning of the new Hebrew month of Cheshvan. And for many camps, October begins a new fiscal year, a time to reflect on and capture the learnings from summer 2021, a new recruitment cycle, and the start of preparations and planning for summer 2022.
You may recall that while God calls each individual day of creation “tov – good”, upon reflecting on the entire week of creation, God deems it, “tov meod – very good”. As humans, individually, we can all make our mark and bring goodness into the world. However, when we work collectively, our positive impact is even greater.
I am inspired by what each camp achieved during summer 2021, overcoming many unanticipated disruptions and challenges beyond the planned COVID-related mitigations. We must continue to express our admiration and appreciation to the camp professionals and lay leaders for their heroic efforts making this past summer so successful.
Even more, I am humbled by what our entire field achieved by working collaboratively together. We’ve been capturing the lessons learned, new approaches identified, and adjustments needed as we look forward to summer 2022. The sharing between 300+ Jewish day and overnight camps, the camping movements, and many Jewish Federations continues to be one of the bright lights of the pandemic.
To further build on this success, I am thrilled to announce the establishment of our new FJC Southeast Regional Center based in Atlanta. Modeled after our West Coast and Midwest regional efforts, we hope this new Center will enable FJC to strengthen valued and collaborative relationships with regional day and overnight camps and Jewish Federations, leverage and accelerate innovative growth opportunities specific to Southeast camps, and help create more meaningful immersive Jewish experiences for the local Jewish communities year-round. We will build on FJC’s partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and its longstanding commitment to Jewish camping. We express our tremendous gratitude to Helen and David Zalik and the Zalik Foundation Fund for their generous three-year commitment to make this possible.
We feel particularly blessed that Bobby Harris has joined our full-time team as FJC’s Director, Southeast Region and Israel Initiatives. Bobby brings over 35 years of experience as a veteran camp director, first at Camp Young Judaea Sprout Lake, then at Philadelphia’s JCC Camp Arthur Reeta, and most recently as the long-time Director at URJ Camp Coleman. Each of the camps he directed saw significant growth in campers served during his tenure, and he has been widely recognized as an innovative leader in the field.
In our traditional morning prayers, we praise God who ‘continually renews the act of creation for good each day’. We have the opportunity every day to begin anew, and when we work in partnership together, we know we can achieve great things.