By Ari Rosenblatt, URJ Camp Newman camper
Dear Camp Newman,
You were my home, my life, and now you are gone. Since July of 2012, my relationship with you started. I was immediately immersed with Hevenu Shalom and all of the campers screaming and running to greet their friends that they haven’t seen in a year. Being the first camper in my season to be there, I was scared to embark on this new adventure but excited for URJ Camp Newman to be my new home.
October 9, 2017, was probably the worst day of my life. Seeing my phone light up with more updates of what was happening made me even more scared about the unknown. I was at dance when my mom came in and said, “Ari, we have to leave.” I left the class and walked out to see my mom crying. Then she showed me on her phone that you had been affected and had officially burnt to the ground. I sobbed and cried for hours. I didn’t eat, study, or talk to my family. I was only on my phone calling all of my camp friends to remember you, our beautiful home that was no longer there.
Jews keep moving on, and we always have. After we lost you there were so many services and get-togethers to remember the impact you had on all of us. Two of my best friends who I made at camp went to San Francisco with me to go to one of these services. Ruben Arquilevich and Rabbi Erin Mason were there and explained the impact that you made, not only in California but all over the world. Old counselors and staff came together all over the country and even some mishlachat. Do you really know how much you were cared about and how you shaped all of us?
I have gone to camp for over seven years and I don’t what I would do if I didn’t. You helped me create friendships that are really going to last a lifetime and values that I will always remember and use. I have learned that it’s okay to be yourself; you don’t need to blend in to be you. I have also learned that if you are different, use that to your advantage. My best friends I made at camp are literally my favorite people in the whole world. You have taught me so much that I will use for the rest of my life.
I was so sad that I couldn’t see you this year, so I spent part of this summer at Cal Maritime in Vallejo. It wasn’t really the same, but I got through it. It felt like the same kehillah kedosha that I remember camp always being. The whole camp community didn’t know if we would ever spend another summer with you but hearing that we are getting money to help rebuild is so exciting. Hopefully I will be able to spend another summer with you and I’m so proud to call you my home and I’m so excited for you to be a part of my life forever.