We’re beyond sad to say that we won’t be gathering in-person this summer for any of our Havaya Summer Programs (Camp Havaya, Havaya Arts, or Havaya Israel).

Even if this doesn’t come as a complete surprise, we know many of you will be as devastated to read this as we are to write it.

A lot played into this gut-wrenching decision. When we first sat down to write a note to families, we thought about outlining all the values we considered and all the reasons why we know this is the right path forward for us. But, ultimately, we realized it all boils down to Hippocrates’ famous phrase: “first, do no harm.” Running camp this summer could put our campers, staff, families, and communities in harm’s way – both physically and emotionally – and that’s simply not in keeping with our values. While there are lots of compromises we’re willing to make, our kids’ safety isn’t one of them.

There are those who will ask why we can’t wait longer – until June, or even July – to see if anything changes. The answer is simple: It’s not fair to our kids. Stringing them and their families along just isn’t “how we be.”

So … what’s next?

We’ve pulled together some resources to support parents as they talk this all through with their kids.

This weekend, we’ll gather together to sing, cry, share stories, schmooze, and virtually throw our arms around each other. On Friday, May 8, we’ll have a Havaya Community Kabbalat Shabbat at 7 pm ET. (We hope you’ll join us!) On Saturday night, we’ll have Havdalah and opportunities for campers and parents to chat with our camp directors.

And in early June, we’ll share some of what we’re planning for this summer to keep kids connected to camp … and to each other. (Of course, we’ll keep up our Havaya@Home offerings in the meantime.) While we expect this all to be virtual, we’re still holding out hope that there might be some way to gather together in person – even if only in small groups in your neighborhood.

One more thought:

There’s a Jewish tradition that teaches about yeridah letzorekh aliyah – going down for the sake of coming back up. This is definitely one of those moments. In the midst of our grief, we know that it won’t always be this way. Our loss now will only make future summers sweeter. This is the yeridah, the low moment – and we can’t wait for the aliyah, for the countless ways we will rise together in the days, weeks, and years to come.

Camp JRF is now Camp Havaya.

Worry not! We have a new name but, deep down, we’re still the same incredibly diverse and welcoming community where kids explore Judaism in their own ways and become the best versions of themselves.

Learn more about why we chose this name or click through to visit our website. Either way, we can’t wait to welcome you to Camp Havaya this summer!