Over the past few months, the news headlines have been filled with images of violence, hatred and catastrophic devastation. Israel continues to protect itself, our friends in Pittsburgh have returned to daily life, and first responders in California have been fighting an ongoing battle against wildfires.
Closer to home, we have begun to battle snow – a stark contrast of events, but in some way, and within a few degrees of separation, we all know friends or family that have been impacted. I have many friends in Israel, friends who live down the street from the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, and most recently, former Camp B’nai Brith of Ottawa (CBB) campers and staff who find themselves without a summer camp due to the California fires.
To date, three Jewish camps in the Los Angeles area have been burned to the ground. Yes, those affected will find alternatives while these institutions vow to rebuild. And yes, the residents of the area have more pressing concerns than the freedom that summer offers their children six months from now.
While structures impacted by fire are lost forever, I can guarantee that the memories will survive. Like our CBB – where generations have walked through our gates, dined in our mess hall, swam in either the Ottawa River or our pool, and maybe even experienced their first kiss – Jewish summer camp leaves an indelible mark in our minds and hearts. It facilitates our children’s independence and fosters their growth, all while creating and crystalizing memories.
While they plan to rebuild out west, we continue to rejuvenate our facility, striking the delicate balance between preservation and replacement. Thanks in part to a generous donation, we constructed a new infirmary that was completed and in use last summer. This year, our cabin renewal program continues and we inch slowly towards a new multi-purpose gymnasium.
As our landscape continues to evolve, who we are and what we do remains our priority. We provide children with a Jewish camping experience, in an environment where they learn new skills and develop lifelong friendships, all while enhancing Jewish affiliation, values, traditions and community. For these reasons, we will always stand with our friends in Israel, and we will continue our support of other communities like Pittsburgh and those in California.
All children should have the opportunity to attend summer camp, feel safe, learn the ability to make an impact, and form memories that will endure any level of violence, hatred or devastation. We understand the love of camp, and the need for Jewish children to go to Jewish summer camps. As a result, we wanted to help our friends out west, and have pledged $5,000 from our accumulated surplus to a fund to help rebuild those camps and build new memories. Our thanks to Andrea Freedman and the Jewish Federation of Ottawa for facilitating our pledge.
Visit www.cbbottawa.com for more information about Camp B’nai Brith of Ottawa.