Ramah Summer 2020 Announcement
This letter was sent out to the Ramah community today, from our CEO Rabbi Ed Gelb:
Shalom Ramah Families,
With deep sadness we write to inform you that last night our Board of Directors voted to make the difficult decision to close both our Palmer overnight and DC Day camps for all sessions for kayitz 2020. We share your grief and disappointment as we have worked tirelessly over the last several months to find a safe and responsible way to open.
In making this decision now, the Board relied on the unanimous guidance of the National Ramah and our local medical committees, as well as the advice of our professional staff. None of the recent announcements from Maryland or Massachusetts have provided us with a path forward. While we do not expect to run any significant in-person programs at our camps this summer, if there are opportunities to bring small groups to either camp later this summer or in the fall we will pursue them.
In Judaism, the concepts of Pikuach Nefesh (preserving life) and Sakanat Nefeshot (endangering life) are powerful principles that require us to follow the advice of medical professionals and take great care in the risks we take. Vayikra 18:5 states, “You shall keep My laws and My rules, by the pursuit of which humanity shall live: I am the Lord.” It is our collective assessment that our overnight camp cannot operate safely should, despite our best efforts, an outbreak of COVID-19 occur while 850 campers and staff are living, eating, and sleeping in the confined spaces of camp. We also believe that we cannot keep our day camp families safe given the fluid and dynamic nature of this environment. Our medical team believes the risks are too great and the unknowns of this disease too many for us to open our camps.
We hope you know this decision is as devastating to us as it is to our Ramah families. We have been trying to find a way to open since the crisis began. We know how incredibly difficult it will be to discuss this with your children and how families need help finding good things for their children to do this summer. We want to help with both.
We feel especially deeply for our Nivonim campers who are missing out on their culmination experience. We will work hard to offer opportunities to fulfill some of the goals of Nivonim including virtual leadership and community building. We will look to bring Nivonim to Palmer when it is safe to do so.
We would love for you, both campers and parents, to join us as we convene our community and address questions and concerns during two town hall meetings via Zoom this evening. We want to be together as a community, explain our decision and brief you on our financial situation and refund process. (We ask parents to please attend so you will understand our online refund request system.)
- The first town hall is geared to our overnight camp community and will be at 7:00 p.m.
- The second town hall is geared to our day camp community and will be at 8:30 p.m.
- Both town halls will be recorded and posted if you cannot attend.
If you have questions you would like answered, please click here to submit them in advance and we will do our best to answer them in our presentation.
We will be offering a series of events over the next two weeks for our campers and parents. There will be edah meetings for overnight campers as well as a camper meeting for day camp campers. Our camp psychologist, Dr. Alan Jacobson, will host Zoom meetings to address how to deal with the psychological impacts on our children of the cancellation of camp. Resources are posted on our website.
Early next week, we will survey our families to hear which at home camp opportunities they would like for this summer and then we will offer options to help serve your needs and to keep the Ramah community together. We are also looking into creating a platform for matching summer counselors with families who want to hire personal counselors/childcare helpers in their homes.
We know there are many stages of grief and each person will react differently to this news. We want to support you and each other through this difficult time. Some of our children might not react much at all and transition to other summer plans. Others might feel sadness, be in denial, try to negotiate and even feel anger. These are all valid reactions.
Through the last couple of months, I have received many emails and spoken to many of you and I am grateful for the outpouring of love for camp. For each person that has advocated having camp at all costs there is another person who has encouraged me to close camp. People have been supportive of the hard work of the entire staff.
I respect those who are uncomfortable with our decision. Please know we made a careful and difficult decision based on our values and the collected wisdom of our medical committees, our board of directors and our professional staff. The whole team has been working non-stop for the last few months to find a way forward. This decision will hit our professional year-round staff hard as now many face layoffs and the remainder will have pay cuts. Despite knowing this, each staff member has poured their heart and soul into their work for Ramah. We are all grateful.
All of us send our love, support and virtual hugs to your families. We are so sorry we have had to make this decision. We hope to see you tonight.
Rabbi Ed Gelb
CEO, Ramah New England