Dear Young Judaea Parents,
We write to you today as your camp directors, educators, Jewish leaders, and parents. We share in the grief and pain of the devastating shooting in Pittsburgh.
As Young Judaea camps, in times of crisis our instincts guide us back to the place we feel safe: camp. Camp is that one place in the world where good always wins over evil, where love conquers hate, where values are celebrated, and where diversity is appreciated. These are troubling times for all of us, but children especially are challenged by these tragedies that simply don’t make sense. We wish we could bring all our campers back to camp to celebrate this Shabbat together and close the gates to the outside world. Since we cannot, we hope this email will help you bring camp to your Shabbat table as you tackle this difficult conversation.
Whether you celebrate Shabbat every week, once in a while, or never, we encourage you to take the time to sit down together as a family for Shabbat dinner this week. The Shabbat table, filled with tasty food, warm challah, and Shabbat candles sets the stage for any conversation. Just asking your kids to share their thoughts will open an honest dialogue. Children might not understand the complexities of the environment in which we live, but they can understand hate and they know the difference between evil and good. We have found that even our youngest campers can grasp that when bad things happen, a strong sense of community is needed. At camp we have all witnessed the enormous power of the camp community gathering together to support one another through conversation, prayer, song, and simply being together when someone has experienced loss or pain.
Sometimes children feel the need to react – to try to right the wrong or fix the problem. Perhaps suggest writing a letter to families in Pittsburgh, making a commitment to stop hate, or lighting a candle for the victims. Giving your children an outlet to express themselves will empower them to understand that even though they are young, they are not powerless. They can affect change whether it’s through daily acts of kindness, speaking out for those who can’t, or simply by giving a hug to a friend in need.
Shabbat, the day of rest, is the ideal backdrop to talk about peace. At camp we use this time for reflection and to check in with our campers. Through a simple game of Roses and Thorns, your children can discuss their “highs” (roses) and “lows” (thorns) of their week. These conversations can lead to the question, “What is one thing I can do to make the world a better place?” and help to develop a culture of open conversations. In turn our children will feel that they have a voice and are being heard. We have included some links below to help navigate these sometimes difficult conversations.
This week when we light our Shabbat candles, our thoughts will be with the Pittsburgh community and with all of you. We pray for the world to heal and for love to conquer hate. We pray our children will never have to live through another week like this, and that together we build a better world.
Robin Anderson, Director, CYJ Midwest
Helene Drobenare Horwitz, Executive Director, Sprout Camps
Frank Silberlicht, Director, CYJ Texas
Walter Synalovski, Executive Director, Camp Judaea
David Weinstein, Director, Tel Yehudah