From The Blog

On this July 4th: Love Freedom

Posted on July 3rd, 2020

 

Love is more than a feeling.
Love moves us. Love drives us.
Love changes us.

 

So what does it mean to LOVE FREEDOM?

 

To love freedom means that we “do not stand idly by“.
To love freedom means we “do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now.
To love freedom means we commit to doing the work outwardly AND inside ourselves.

 

We at URJ Camp Newman feel strongly about fighting for justice and mercy in this world. Tikkun olam (repairing the world), pikuach nefesh (the value of saving lives), and pursuing social justice are core to our Reform Jewish values and the values we work to instill in all our campers and staff. We believe that it is not only our call to educate our community and ourselves to the injustices of the world but to do all we can to change ourselves, our camp community, and ultimately, the world around us. 

 

We are proud of the thoughtful and intentional ways we create our camp community and realize in this turning point in our history that we have work to do in the realm of racial justice and inclusion at Camp Newman. We always strive to be candid with you, our camp community, and hope that you will join us (in some way) for the journey that we are embarking upon.  

 

Below you will find multiple components of our team’s plan to engage with our community to create a plan of action to do more, do better, and be better in this realm. 

 

JewV’Nation Fellowship and Federation California Camps Collective Work 

We currently have a group of professional team members, and staff and camper alumni engaging in the URJ JewV’Nation Fellowship. The fellowship’s mission is to deepen each individual’s understanding of the self and the needs of the community in regards to racial inclusion:

 

Our Jewish communities are incredibly diverse with regard to race, ethnicity,  gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, socioeconomic backgrounds,  marriage/relationship status, family composition, etc. In order for our  communities to be whole and for people of all backgrounds to experience a  sense of belonging in them, we must find equitable ways of incorporating all of  our diversity.  We must address oppression, including our own individual  biases. Only then will we be able to create inclusive, equitable communities. 

 

This group is at the beginning of their time together. Through text study, deep and personal conversation, community building, and leadership education, these fellows will help confront the needs of Camp Newman based on their lived experience and a shared vision for the future of camp. 

Additionally, our full-time team is engaging with our fellow camp directors of Bay Area Jewish camps around the topics of bettering our recruitment systems and practices to reflect the true portrait of the Bay Area Jewish community and sharing best practices around ensuring our in-person policies, standards, and programs are inherently inclusive. 

 

Self-assessment & Evaluation
Beginning in August, our professional team will begin a self-assessment and evaluation of camp’s policies, programs, procedures, and general systems to determine our areas of need and growth. We wish to look honestly and deeply at every facet of our system, including ourselves. We are proud and encouraged to know that there is currently a thoughtful and articulate letter and call to action signed by staff and camper alumni. Though we have not yet formally received this letter, we had a chance to read it and are eager to engage with those interested in this meaningful and important work. We’re grateful that our alumni recognize our areas of need and growth and feel pride in knowing that you are doing exactly what we hope to instill in our campers and staff: speaking up and out for the things you believe in and wish to see changed. 

 

 Advisory Board DEI Task Force 
One of the five foundational values resulting from our recent task force work in thinking about our Camp Newman rebuild states our commitment to inclusion of all of our community which is made up of people of all abilities, races, gender identities and expression, and Jewish engagement, background, and literacy. In an effort to bring this value to life in regards to racial justice and inclusion of our camp community, in the coming months we will engage with our advisory board members and full-time professional to dive deeply into educating ourselves, developing guiding principles and a plan of action, and systems for our team to utilize moving forward. We are proud of the work we have engaged in with our board, team, and community in regards to inclusion of all physical abilities and needs, gender identitiesgender expression, and mental health needs of our community members, and we recognize that we are at the beginning of our journey with racial justice and its interconnectedness with camp. Similar to these efforts of deep engagement, assessment, and action planning for other areas of inclusion, we look forward to coming out of this process with thoughtful plans of action for both the short and long-term growth of Camp Newman. 

 

Priority Setting Based on the Above Work
Based on the initiatives above, our professional team and advisory board will set priorities for camp that ensure our ability to translate our thoughts, ideas, values and systems to actionable items. This is the beginning of our journey and though we know we strongly believe in the need to be inclusive, confront biases present in our community, and teach anti-racism through our Jewish values, we know that we need more than vision to implement change in our community. 

We are eager to engage with you. If you are passionate about this work, please do not hesitate to reach out to us to become involved (campnewman@urj.org). If you’re interested to read more from the URJ and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, please see below. As we move through this process, we’ll continue to share our progress and initiatives. 

Pirke Avot 2 and favorite camp song, lo alecha ham’lecha ligmor, remind uswe are not required to complete the work, it is not our duty to finish it, but neither are we free to desist from it. We will not desist from this work, we will do all we can to change ourselves, to change our community, to change our camp, and to change the world. 

 

 In Partnership, 

 

Rabbi Allie Fischman, Camp Director
Ari Vared, Executive Director
Michelle Tandowsky, Advisory Board Chair
And the URJ Camp Newman Team 

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Some blog posts/videos/podcasts that have been published by the URJ/RAC, that provide both important perspectives and tools for moving forward: