Is it Summer Yet?
By Miriam Lottner
Growing up with a mom who was a teacher, summer meant endless hours of fun. There were no schedules, there were few rules, there were copious amounts of ice cream and there was CAMP.
It is only now that I’m a mom I find myself understanding how much of my identity was formed at sleepaway camp, and in those long, hot summer months. Some of my best memories, were humid air conditionless nights watching lightning storms, playing board games in front of the fan, writing letters and notes into the night, talking by flashlight, escaping counselors and sleeping in an Israeli army tent for a month (thank you Camp Ramah in Ojai).
It seems hard to believe that my own girls are now the age I was when I away for my first month of sleepaway camp. While they have been through two wars, a recent terror wave and lots of air raid sirens, they hardly seem ready enough to pack their stuff, remember to brush their teeth and be responsible for themselves for an entire month. But that is where the beauty lies-- camp is a collective where everyone is different and yet everyone is one.
I have often wondered where the very leftist, very socialist, very “collective” thinking of American Jews sometimes comes from. Thinking deeply about camp, and about my childhood and the generations of immigrant Jews before me, I think we all know. It comes from the sense of unity of the ghetto. Of being excluded, of always being the “other”.
Recently, I was talking to my dad about discrimination against Jews and “others” in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s (ok, even the 60’s and 70’s). Places like Palm Beach and Berverlywood and Newport were just a dream back then.
But when I was growing up, Jews and African Americans and Latino Americans were making inroads. We were becoming just like everyone else--accepted, free to go anywhere, do anything, become anything, get into colleges based on merit, hired by companies based on skills and abilities and purchase homes based on ability to afford and not based on last name or skin color.
The collective had become kind. It was safe. Everyone now belonged.
A few weeks ago I was speaking to a Jewish camp director about bringing Reveal Israel to their a Jewish camp as a Shabbat/Israel game, as part of their “Israel” programming. She sputtered “Israel programming? We don’t do that. Israel is too political. Israel is not a priority for us. Israel is not part of our Jewish identity here at camp.”
I’m sorry, my brain couldn’t even compute what I was hearing. Israel is the eternal homeland of the Jewish people. “Jewish” - comes from Judea...the LAND of the Jewish people. What are the Jewish people without a common homeland? What are Jews without a common heritage? You can’t take the Israel out of the Jewish people and still have a people. The entire Torah is based on the sojourns of the Jewish people in and out of Israel. It is our national purpose, the basis of our faith and our collective.
I had a moment, where I had to decide if I was going to fight with an American Jewish camp director from 8,000 miles away or whether I was going to just accept the fact that the collective had made this camp director decide that Jewish camp is about bringing Jewish kids together for the summer to share songs (about Israel), Shabbat, Bible stories and heroes and heroines, Israel as a concept, ideas of Jewish thought (stemming from Biblical and Talmudic narrative based on the same book that talks about Israel). But somehow, the modern State of Israel is no longer seen as an important concept or as an acceptable topic.
Many of us here in Israel used to laugh when we heard the blood libels and the ridiculous statements of BDS and media bias, thinking no one could really be fooled by the lies. No one could believe we would cut off the water to Palestinian villages in the height of a heatwave. And yet, Abbas accused Israel of just such atrocities and the UN gave him a standing ovation. No one could possibly believe the IDF hunts children, that there is genocide happening here. Hell, anyone who looks at the population numbers and has passed pre-K math can see there is no GENOCIDE. Anyone who reads the UN’s own reports realizes that civilian targets are the game in Gaza and that Hamas has killed more children who were forced to dig terror tunnels then died in the last war. And yet, Jews for Justice--JEWS for Justice--is claiming exactly that.
Jews for Justice. Just the name makes my skin crawl. Where are these same Jews when Jewish blood runs cheap in the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv? When Hamas receives billions of dollars of aid and yet the Gazans they are supposed to be governing, protecting, serving are left starving. Justice for Gaza--that is what they should be fighting for. Justice in the Palestinian Authority, where Christians are persecuted and gays are being hung, that’s where the injustices are.
Back to the camp director, I didn’t fight with her enough. I didn’t manage to change her stance before she ended the call. So I’m taking the opportunity to fight with her now.
Dear Jewish Camp Director:
You can’t erase Israel from your programming. You can’t deny the connection of Jews to Israel, or our nation from its homeland. You can’t wish us Israeli Jews away because you don’t feel that Israel is politically correct, or “accepted”. Left, right, centrist, it doesn’t matter. Jewish camp should strengthen the collective--a people coming together with shared common values and ideals and goals. Israel is a part of that, has to be a part of that. Otherwise, what makes Jews Jewish? Jews will just be chicken soup and shared traditions (most of which (like matzoh balls) focus on the Israel journey, by the way.
Be brave, take a stand and learn more about Israel and our collective history and experiences. Everyone can only benefit.
The REVEAL team would love to send Reveal Israel to your child at camp this summer. To share the Israel love, to strengthen their bond to our collective homeland and to help form lifetime memories and shared experiences. Click here to learn more.
Miriam Lottner is the proud mother of twin girls, and the creator and founder of Reveal Cards. After making Aliyah from Los Angeles, Miriam spent the next 20 years working in senior roles in Israel's hi-tech sector. She is now a frequent public speaker, mentor, business consultant and advocate for women in technology. An avid photographer, Miriam loves to explore and makes sure to schedule travel adventures somewhere in Israel at least once a week.
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