Heilicher Students Show Compassion for California Camp Destroyed by Fire

(כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל עֲרֵבִים זֶה בָּזֶה (שבועות לט

“All Jews are responsible for one another.” (Shavu'ot 39A)

-Heilicher core value

When I asked my sixth graders “what does camp mean to you?” I received an incredible variety of answers, from “something to do over the summer,” to “a second home for me to feel comfortable in.” Everyone, though, had a reaction that was immediate, emotional, and overwhelmingly positive.  

Then I shared about URJ Camp Newman, a Jewish camp established in 1947 whose campus burned to the ground last week in the fires in Santa Rosa, California. Students were visibly moved as they saw pictures of the devastation of someone’s beloved “second home.” The empathy displayed by this group of children surpassed my hopes and expectations, as did their desire to do something - anything - concrete and immediate to help.

So we reached out. Students did not question the idea that it was their responsibility to comfort people who they did not know. They did so not in the hopes that they would feel better about themselves, but that they would make someone else feel better.  

We know that Heilicher’s Core Values have been taught to our students over the years, but we do not always have the chance to see how they have been internalized, or how our children will apply these values in their lives.

In Shavu’ot 39A, our sages tell us “All Jews are responsible for one another.” This week our sixth graders brought that statement to life. In the words of one sixth grader, “We made cards for the staff and campers of Camp Newman because we are a community and we want to support them. Even something as little as sending cards to them could make their day and make them feel like they are not alone.”

If you are moved to donate to support URJ Camp Newman relief, please consider visiting this website, established by the Camp Newman community.


Photos: Cards created by Heilicher sixth grades to be sent to the leaders and families of URJ Camp Newman in Santa Rosa, California.

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