This post is a follow-up from our July 4 post in which we shared our plans for furthering Camp Newman’s work in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
In January 2020, our full-time professional team identified that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) needed to become a more central focus to our current internal efforts for growth and change. We began to look at examples of other Jewish camps which had gone through thoughtful and transformative experiences in this realm and began the conversation of “Where do we begin?” Prior to the pandemic and shelter-in-place, we began a URJ initiated working group with this past cycle of JewV’Nation fellows.
Since then, this JewV’Nation working group has done the vital work of an internal audit of our systems and processes. The audit was guided by an assessment created by URJ’s Audacious Hospitality Team and vetted by DEI experts. This group is comprised of former and current full-time staff, camper and staff alumni, and current camper parents including Emma Silver, Christine Wedner, Sierra Meszaros, Rachel Dubowe, Josh Burg, Daniella Forney, and our facilitators. The main learnings of this group so far have been that it is not that Camp Newman has policies prohibiting us from furthering this work but that there are a number of policies and considerations we have yet to articulate. Specifically, our staff is not yet fully equipped to meaningfully serve campers and families of all backgrounds, including People of Color, people with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and other marginalized identities. We look forward to posting a more in-depth summary of the deep learnings of our JewV’Nation cohort in the coming weeks and months.
Subsequently, our board gathered a task force together to consider how we educate our advisory board around the concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion and it became further apparent that our community is prepared and invested in joining us in a long-term, serious, and deep conversation about the need for systemic change in our organization.
Our immediate next steps include securing additional outside funding to hire outside experts who can lead us in the necessary skill-building and education. We recognize the importance of experts in the field to ensure that the changes we make are sustainable, inclusive, comprehensive, and mitigate the risk of further harm to our community. In being transparent, we want to label that DEI work takes an incredible amount of time and we not only thank you for your patience, but also ask for your patience as we delve deeper into this necessary and holy work. To begin this work, members of our DEI Task Force, intentional focus groups of alumni, and our JewV’Nation working group developed a comprehensive outline of considerations for engaging such an expert or experts to help guide us through this process. You can explore that document here.
In the coming months, we are excited for the moment in which we will be able to invite more community members to join us in this work, with thoughtfulness and care.
Our hearts are aching amidst the turmoil of our current reality in America. We believe that Black lives matter. We condemn the killings of Black people by police officers. We condemn violence against trans folks. We recognize that the land that our campsite sits upon is Wappo land that was unjustly stolen.
This DEI work is both a reaction to the current atrocities happening around us as well as an expansion of our Jewish values around inclusion and b’tzelem Elohim, seeing each person as created in the image of God. We as a community are prepared to make the necessary changes to build a more just and equitable world, and that includes Camp Newman.
We reaffirm our commitment to continue growing, learning, and serving our entire community and creating a space together that people of all backgrounds feel comfortable, safe, and at home. As always, we encourage you to reach out to us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org to continue the conversation.
From strength to strength, may we move together with compassion, wholeheartedness, and empathy.
Rabbi Allie Fischman, Director
Michelle Tandowsky, Chair, Advisory Board
Ari Vared, Executive Director
Rachel Slaton, Associate Director
Christine Wedner, Senior Assistant Director
Tracey Klapow, Development Director
Sierra Meszaros, DEI Task Force Member
Rabbi Doug Kahn, DEI Task Force Member
Professor Marc Dollinger, DEI Task Force Member