By Rachel Dubowe, Nefesh Director & Camp Newman Senior Assistant Director


At Camp Newman, inclusion isn’t a program, it’s a mindset. 


As the Nefesh (Camper Care) Director, I’m so proud of how far we’ve come and the great strides we continue to take in making camp a place of belonging. Since 2010, our Nefesh (hebrew for soul) or Camper Care Team has dedicated their time and energy to ensure that camp can be a place of happiness, accessibility and success for all of our campers and staff. Our team of mental health professionals, social workers, therapists, and school counselors, along with a few post-college aged staff interested in this area of work, works individually with families to learn about their campers, create plans for success and discuss accommodations. 

Nefesh at camp is not only important to me professionally, it’s deeply personal. 

Rabbi Ruti Regan says, “The Torah taught me that we are all created in the image of God. But it was disability communities that taught me how to mean it.” 

I learned from my own disability community: my family. I am hard of hearing myself, raised in a Jewish deaf family that taught me to advocate for myself, be kind to others and that patience is key. Growing up in this disability community also showed me that our Jewish spaces still have a long way to go towards full access. My work as the Nefesh Director is at the nexus of Judaism and inclusion; it is both incredibly fulfilling and fundamentally imperative.


Experiences Designed with You in Mind


Each summer our staff receives extensive “Nefesh” training that is grounded in the idea that, “To say, ‘Everyone is welcome’ is drastically different from saying ‘we built this with you in mind’.” When, after the fires, we were able to redesign and reimagine our physical space, accessibility was at the heart of each decision. Each experience we create – during the summer or our school-year retreats and events – starts with the questions: “What do you [participants] need to feel a sense of belonging at camp and how can we best make that a reality?” Using a universal design framework, we aim to meet each person who enters our gates where they are and to see all behaviors as communication. 

People don’t want to go where they are merely tolerated or an after-thought in planning; they want to go where they are included, where their needs are valued as an essential component of the experience. This is what it means to C.A.R.E. for each and every person b’tzelem elohim, in the image of God. This is what Nefesh stands for at Camp Newman: 365 days a year. 


Celebrating JDIAM


As we celebrate Jewish Disability Awareness Acceptance and Inclusion Month (JDAIM), I invite all of our Jewish organizations to ask these questions and approach our work using universal design. We are excited to take another step toward summer camp accessibility on March 10th from 12-4pm at our free, sensory-friendly Sunday Fun-Day for folks with disabilities and their families. Learn more and register.

If you’re interested in learning more about our Nefesh support team during the summer,  families with camp-aged children or teens are invited to join me for a Virtual Conversation on Zoom, Wednesday, 2/28 at 7:30pm. Sign up to get the Zoom link.  

We can’t wait to include you in our Camp Newman community!