Dear Jacobs Camp Family,
This is the hardest letter I have ever had to write. It is with broken hearts that we share our plans to cancel all in-person activities held in Utica for summer 2020. If at any point new information emerges and conditions change that lead us to be able to provide some other form of in-person gatherings, we will do so as a top priority.
Please know that I write this not just as your camp Director who, from the time the final camper pulls away one summer, is already thinking how to make Jacobs more special the following year, but also as the scared 10-year-old girl from Dothan, Alabama who nervously walked through the front gates of Jacobs Camp and found myself, my closest friends, my husband and my profession inside. I know how much this place means to you and your children. The thought of a summer without song sessions or evening programs or Maccabiah is one that I can’t really comprehend—and honestly never thought to be a possibility.
At this point, every URJ camp is cancelling their on-site programs this summer. Given the seriousness of this movement-wide decision, I would like to share some background on how and why this decision was made.
While we have spent the last weeks and months continuing to plan, prepare, pray, and hope for another transformative summer at Jacobs Camp it has become clear that the risks posed by COVID-19 threaten our most sacred value – the health and well-being of our children, staff, and faculty that attend camp – along with their communities back home. These risks also compromise our ability to provide the excellence in programming and participant care that are hallmarks of Jacobs Camp.
You might be asking, “Why are you making this decision now and for the full summer?” Our ongoing conversations with, and learnings from local, regional, and federal medical authorities, The Centers for Disease Control, and many leaders in camping, along with deep exploration by our camp professional and lay leadership teams, have led the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) to the difficult conclusion that there are too many known and unknown risks for us to create an acceptable pathway forward for this summer. As soon as that became clear, we wanted to communicate to you, our community. We believe that you and your children deserve the clarity, that while painful, allows for grieving, healing, and moving forward toward hope, joy and better days ahead. This also enables our team to transition to serving you in new, creative, and different ways through this unique moment in time.
While this news about camp is devastating, we also acknowledge the global suffering caused by COVID-19 and are sending thoughts and prayers to you and your community. We acknowledge the many weeks that we have already been sheltering-in-place, and the related emotional challenges that all of us have faced in many ways. On top of all the other changes to “normal” life your children have experienced, we know how hard this will be to understand and accept. Please find resources below to support you and your children during this difficult time.
We hope you take a moment with your children to express sadness together; listen, and embrace the loss. We also hope that even in these hard times, that you will savor the gratitude for the blessings of camp, which will continue through the summer and will sustain into the future.
It hardly feels personal enough to make such a big announcement via email. Therefore, I invite all Jacobs Camp parents to connect with me tonight at 7:30 PM CST to gather as one Jacobs family, hear directly from me about the coming weeks and months and ask any questions you might have. Please register for this gathering here. We will also provide opportunities for your campers to do the same, as well as come together virtually for Shabbat and Havdallah on Friday at 4:30 pm CST and Saturday at 6:30 pm CST. Please see below for more information.
We know that camp is much more than a place – it’s a family. Together we will move through this difficult time and look forward to when we can be together again.
See you this evening and we will look forward to continuing our virtual time together throughout the months to come.
We know you may have questions. Please read on for additional detail about emotional support for your camper, staying connected with camp virtually, information regarding tuition, and more.
Let’s Come Together as a Jacobs Camp Family
It is more important now than ever that we come together as a community – even if we must do it virtually for now. We will continue to share the magic of Jacobs Camp Shabbat and Havdallah together via Facebook Live. Shabbat will begin on Friday at 4:30 PM Central Time and Havdallah will begin at 6:30 PM Central Time.
We also invite you to please join Anna for a chance to hear directly from her about the weeks and months ahead and ask any questions you might have:
- Thursday, April 30th
- 7:30 PM CST Parents Only – Register Here
- Friday, May 1
Emotional Support for Campers, Staff & Families
Not having camp in person this season will be heartbreaking, and we want you to know that we are here for you. Our professional staff and lay leaders are working together to provide support to you and your family. We understand how hard it is to break this kind of news to your children and want to support you through that process.
- We have curated some resources for sharing the news with your child. Read more
- How else can we support you and your family? Please let me know.
Virtual Camp Experiences – Bringing the Magic of Camp into Your Home
While we are sheltering-in-place physically, we see our virtual experiences as bringing us together socially and in-spirit. These experiences allow us to see the faces of our friends, hear their laughter, sing our songs, learn new skills, and grow in new ways. We will also continue to monitor health conditions and explore creative ways to gather in small groups and/or in different locations – this will be a priority for us. Our ongoing virtual community building, new friendships, reunions, growth, and learning together will make our in-person experiences that much sweeter in the future.
- Check out our robust set of virtual offerings that are already available. Explore >
- As we work on planning additional virtual camp programming for this summer, we would like to understand what your family would enjoy and find meaningful. Please complete the following survey to share your insight and feedback. Take Survey >
What is this Financial Impact of This Decision?
We made the decision to cancel in-person activities at camp this year based on our values, and with the health and safety of our campers and staff as our top priority. We know you have questions about the tuition you already have paid and about what this means for the future of camp. The financial ramifications of this decision are significant for all of us. Right now, we are focused on helping our campers and families process this news.
Next week you will receive more details about opportunities to support one another and camp through this unprecedented moment. This follow-up email will include several options on how to handle your tuition, including options to make a donation that will be generously matched by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, to credit fees paid for use on future URJ programs, and/or receive a refund.
What do I do now?
- Connect with the camp community. Join us for our upcoming virtual gatherings to hear from Anna and ask any questions you have.
- Join the Jacobs Camp Community on Facebook Live.
- Hug your children and listen to them
- Review our resources about talking to your children
- Look out for an email next week which will contain logistical next steps
You are in our hearts, and we are counting down the days until we can be together again.