Summer 2020 Updates

It is with broken hearts that we share our plans to cancel all in-person activities held on our site for summer 2020. If at any point new information emerges and conditions change that lead us to be able to provide in-person gatherings, we will do so as a top priority.

While we have continued to plan, prepare, pray, and hope for another transformative summer at URJ Camp Coleman, 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 URJ Camp Coleman.

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, 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 towards 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.

Read More... 

A Heartfelt Message from Bobby Harris

Resources for Families

In this exceptionally difficult time, we hope that you will use the resources that we provide to help with emotional response of losing camp. 

Resources for Talking with Your Camper from the URJ

Judaism Under Quarantine: Resources from ReformJudaism.org

How to Talk to Kids about Bad Things Happening in the World

That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief

How to Help Children and Teens Manage their Stress

Expectation, Disappointment and Sadness

Trauma and Covid in EJewish Philanthropy

A Jewish Psychologist's Guidance for Talking About Coronavirus with Kids

Dear Coleman Campers –

The meme just about says it all when thinking about your summer…

I am writing simply to recognize how unfortunate and unwelcome the reality in which you now find yourselves.  We understand that the long-awaited summer at Camp Coleman sadly vanished before your eyes and with it, a long list of experiences I know you were looking forward to:

  • Evening programs, gatherings, and countless social experiences; 
  • Seeing old friends and making new ones; 
  • Living and hanging out with your bunk and cabin-mates; 
  • Maccabiah;
  • Participating in theater productions and other performances you were excited about; 
  • Unit-specific trips, and enjoying other highly-anticipated summer events;
  • Amazing camp-related activities, from art to nature to sports to…;
  • Shabbat. Shabbat! SHABBAT!
  • Most definitely, the chance to enjoy a month of separation and freedom from your parents!
  • And countless other experiences and events at Coleman to which you were looking forward.

I also want to share how especially sorry we are for our Chalutzim campers. I am sure all of you were looking forward to your last summer as a camper, and I can only imagine the tremendous sense of disappointment you must be feeling.  We are sending you a particular virtual hug of support at this time.

SO…what now?!  How are you going to fill all of the additional and unexpected free time you now have? There are, after all, only so many hours one can sit in front of video games or the TV without going crazy. And sitting in your room moping also does no good.  Well, we want you to know that the Coleman leadership team is busy at work planning a full calendar of virtual summer experiences and opportunities for you.  We, of course, know it won’t be the same as coming together in person, but it will provide you the chance to connect and engage with your Coleman community.  Stay tuned - more information will come soon.

 I think most would agree that this never-seen-before time in our lives unquestionably sucks. However, while it might not feel this way now, Jewish tradition reminds us that “Gam zeh ya’avor – this, too, will pass.”  In the meantime, please don’t forget that your rabbis, cantors, educators, Coleman staff and leadership, would all be happy to hear from you, so don’t hesitate to reach out!  

We are all bummed about the countless ways this pandemic has affected our world; it truly doesn’t seem fair. But one thing the coronavirus cannot impact – unless we let it – is our attitude. Having summer plans canceled is the pits! How will we all respond?  My hope is just like the following message! 

Sending you wishes for patience, good spirits, and a sense of humor – 

Rabbi Ron Segal,

Temple Sinai, Atlanta, GA

 

This is what we were hoping not to write. You’ve now gotten the news, the news that we all knew was coming, but hoping it wasn’t. 

Camp isn’t happening.

We are stunned, devastated, sad. We can talk about how it’s the right decision. The decision to keep everyone safe and not take additional risks. The loss is real. Whether you are a parent or a staff member, our campers are looking to you for dealing with this. 

Maybe it was going to be your child’s first summer away. You’ve worked with them all year to make sure they know how to brush their hair and teeth properly. They know that they should change their clothes every day. They are excited and you are happy for them, if not a little petrified. The goals of sending them to camp were to make friends, gain independence, and learn new skills on the lake.

Maybe this was the first summer your child was old enough to pick your own activities or go on the “other” white water rafting trip. They had had a feeling of who would be in their bunk and knowing that their favorite staff members are going to be their people again. 

Maybe this was the summer you were going to give camp “one more chance.” You weren’t sure if it was for your child before, but you were willing to try again and find the magic everyone talks about.

Maybe this was your first summer on staff. That means you’ve missed the end of the school year, you’ve missed prom, and graduation. Luckily you still thought camp would be the saving grace. You’ve set up your college plans around being able to be summer staff. You were prepared to be just like that counselor you had growing up. You were going to be amazing as a counselor and learn so much about yourself. This is the opportunity to reach out to other staff members and leadership team members, they are all here to support you.

Maybe this was year 5+ on staff and you’re now in a leadership role. This was going to be the summer you supervise staff for the first time, you had great program ideas and plans to build a great rapport with your campers. They still need your leadership and you have the opportunity to help others find themselves in a very bumpy situation. 

All these dreams and plans seem to have gone up in smoke. We are all grieving the loss of what was supposed to be, who are supposed to become during the intense, life changing experience of camp. It is ok and necessary to grieve this loss. There are wonderful articles on speaking with children about death, use those articles to help direct conversation about the loss they may be feeling. This loss is palpable and real for them. Think about ways to validate their loss. Yes, there are many people who are in much worse situations than we are, but the current experience of you and your child is real and tangible, the horrible things in the outside world don’t negate the feelings of sadness that are being experienced right now. 

Delivering the news to your child may be difficult for you to share and difficult for them to hear. Best practice is to tell them the truth and be clear. They are going to take their cues from you. It’s ok to tell them that you’re sad that they won’t get to have this experience this summer. The good news is that we can plan for next year. Think about all the things they were most excited about and make a list. You can use this list as a time capsule to share with them when preparing for summer 2021. If you are a staff member, this is something you can be ready with too. 

Acknowledge the sadness and the redemption that we, as Jews, live with. You know the story, things are going great, things get really difficult, Jews find a way to cope with the situation. As adults, our first inclination may be to help children and “fix” their feelings. Let them sit in it. It's ok if you and they are sad. Sadness is a normal feeling that can be tolerated. Sit with it for a little while and normalize the feeling. Then find ways to channel the feeling productivity. Join in on the camp video calls, maybe today is the cooking demonstration, or tomorrow it is time to welcome Shabbat with your camp community. Participate, sing, laugh, cry, but be part of something. Encourage them to write letters to their friends--they can even use that awesome stationary that you were thinking about getting them to write to you. They can have a bunk video chat with their bunkmates and counselors from last summer and play their favorite songs and have a dance party. Give them time to be sad and opportunities to channel their sadness into something that they can control. 

At camp, we teach that we all thrive under clear structure, expectations, and boundaries (some need to know where the line is so they understand consequences when they cross the line).  Many of us feel like things are completely out of our control right now. We can’t just go out to dinner, we can’t go back to school and see our friends, we can’t sit in the Chadar Ochel cheering together. For some of us, having a clear daily schedule is helpful, for some of us, binge watching a show helps, do what is needed to find control in the world. Go for a walk, plant a garden, play with the dog, write a letter to the cleaning staff of the hospitals.

Grieve the loss, feel it, and then find ways to talk to others. Judaism requires us to mourn with the community, so reach out to the community. If you feel you or your child need more support than you can give, reach out to mental health professionals. This is a time that we all need one another. 

Here’s to Summer 2021, thank you for the potential of Summer 2020. Thank you for knowing that your camp community is here for you, and that the magic exists outside the gate. 

Join JumpSpark ATL on May 5th at 7:30pm for an Event: Supporting Families for a Social Distancing Summer

Rituals and Prayers

To frame the idea of praying at this time, it is important to recognize that everything you are feeling is OK. 

by Aaron Zeitlin 

Praise Me, says God, and I will know that you love Me.

Curse Me, says God, and I will know that you love Me.

Praise Me or curse Me

And I will know that you love Me.

Sing out My graces, says God

Raise your fist against Me and revile, says God.

Sing out graces or revile,

Reviling is also a kind of praise, says God.

But if you sit fenced off in your apathy, says God

If you sit entrenched in: "I don't care at all," says God,

If you look at the stars and yawn,

If you see suffering and don't cry out,

If you don't praise and you don't revile,

Then I created you in vain, says God. 

 by Carol Blackman

There are times when each of us is sick with the world 

And life weighs upon us like a heavy bolder 

We cannot imagine any good or happy thought 

We sink further and deeper into the pit of our despairs. 

There are times when each of us feels sorely hurt 

The very thing we love the most has been taken away 

We feel empty, we fell alone, we are afraid. 

There are moments all human beings share 

When their hearts sink and their minds entertain the worst 

Fear assails us all, we tremble and shake at problems facing us. 

At these times a little voice from within us rouses us 

Often waiting until we reach the very brink of despair 

At first nothing more than a whisper, It tells us that we can indeed prevail. 

This little voice abiding in each of us is - hope. 

It is not logical or even reasonable. 

It is our heart telling our head that we cannot surrender 

For to give in to the trials of life is to let them win over us. 

From a whisper hope grows slowly 

First in a moderate tone and finally to a roar 

It supersedes fear, sorrow, and even despair. 

It gives us the courage to try again. 

Hope abides in each of us giving us the energy to survive. 

It gives us the strength to turn to God and offer praise.

 by Gilda Radner

I wanted a perfect ending, so I sat down to write the book

with the ending in place before there even was an ending.

Now I’ve learned the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme,

and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end.

Like my life, this book has ambiguity.

Like my life, this book is about not knowing, having to change,

taking the moment and making the best of it,

without knowing what’s going to happen next.

 

From her book: It’s Always Something

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the factors that informed the decision to cancel in-person programming for the summer?

We have been in deep conversation with local, regional, and federal medical authorities, The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and many leaders in camping. While we have continued to plan, prepare, pray, and hope for another transformative summer at camp, the risks posed by COVID-19 threaten our most sacred value – the health and well-being of our community. Ultimately, there are too many known and unknown risks for us to create an acceptable pathway forward for this summer. These risks also compromise our ability to provide the excellence in programming and participant care that are hallmarks of our camp.

 

Is it possible that camp could open later than expected? Could we still have camp for part of the summer?

If new information emerges at any point and we can re-evaluate the potential for in-person gatherings, we will do so as a top priority.

 

When will summer 2021 registration open? Should we expect the summer to be different?

Decisions about when 2021 registration is opening will be made in the coming months after we have managed the 2020 logistics with our camp families. We want to stay true to the program you have come to know and love – and that ensures maintaining our commitment to health, safety, and program excellence. We don’t know yet what the new realities created by COVID-19 could mean for the fall and beyond, but we are doing everything we can to be ready to open registration as usual.

How can I help camp at this time?

Thank you for asking this question – we are moved by your support! 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. It is important for us to share, too, that the financial ramifications of this decision today and looking forward are significant.

We know that might cause questions about what this news means for camp and what it means for you in terms of tuition that you’ve already paid. Right now, we are focusing on supporting our campers and families in processing this news. We will follow-up with more details along with opportunities to support one another and camp through this unprecedented moment. You’ll be able to choose from several options on how to handle your tuition, including the options to make a donation that will be generously matched by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, credit fees paid for use on future URJ programs, or receive a refund.

From the first meeting of our camp founders to our first summer in 1962, Camp Coleman has been sustained by donations from our vast network of alumni, supporters and friends. We are proud that, thanks to the generosity of donors like you, our program continues to broaden, our site remains one of the finest camping facilities in the country, and no child has ever been denied the Camp Coleman experience.

DONATE NOW!

How can I support my camper at this time?

Camp’s closure this summer is devastating for campers, families, and our whole community. We encourage you to talk to your kids about this and to let them express their feelings. We have some resources that can help inform your approach. Here are a few guiding principles to consider:

  • Be empathetic and understanding
  • Encourage them to connect with their camp friends daily, and participate in virtual experiences with them this summer
  • It might take your child a few days to process the news – they might not want to talk right away, but let them know you’re there if and when they’re ready
  • Let us know if we can be of assistance helping your camper adjust to this new reality.

Check out this link for our current virtual programming schedule! 

Is there anything you are offering this summer with camp not able to run in-person?

We have been running virtual programming for several weeks now. I hope your family has participated in and enjoyed these opportunities. We are going to be sharing new opportunities to connect virtually this summer. Stay tuned for updates in the coming weeks.

As we work on planning additional virtual camp programming for this summer, let us know your family would enjoy and find meaningful.

What about my camp fees that I’ve paid for the summer?

Families have a choice for how to handle fees they’ve already paid for this summer:

  1. Turn your tuition into a charitable donation that will be generously matched by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation
  2. Credit fees paid for use on a future URJ program
  3. Receive a refund

Next week, a member of your family will receive a form to complete with your preferred choice.

How do we transfer our enrollment to next year? Will we pay 2020 rates?

Families have a choice to forward 2020 program registration fees paid for future use. Decisions about when 2021 registration is officially opening will be made in the coming months after we have managed the 2020 logistics with all of our camp families.

We want to stay true to the program you have come to know and love – and that ensures maintaining our commitment to health, safety, and program excellence. We don’t know yet what the new realities created by COVID-19 could mean for the fall and beyond, but we are doing everything we can to be ready to open registration as usual.

 

This is my child's Avodah/CIT/Israel summer. Will there be an option for them to complete this program next year?

We understand the importance of these experiences for our campers. The Union for Reform Judaism will be looking at all available program options for summer 2021. Our ability to allow people to enroll in special programs like Avodah and the NFTY in Israel program will depend on a number of considerations including, but not limited to, program requirements or qualifications and program capacity. Please watch for summer 2021 program information and enrollment dates.

What’s happening with camp’s NFTY in Israel trip?

All URJ summer programs have made the same unfortunate decision to cancel summer programs. We have been in deep conversation with local, regional, and federal medical authorities, the CDC, the Israeli Government’s Ministries of Health and Tourism, and more. The facts have led the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) to the difficult conclusion that we do not see an acceptable pathway forward for this summer. We encourage teens and families to join us for our community gathering(s).

The URJ will be looking at all available program options for summer 2021. In the next few weeks, we will send out an email survey so we can measure potential interest in a possible winter break or shorter summer trip to Israel. Please be on the lookout for this email and let us know your thoughts.

 

Options for How You Want to Handle Your 2020 Tuition

Your family can choose from the following options for how you’d like us to handle your 2020 tuition:

  1. Make a tax-deductible donation to URJ Camp Coleman
  2. Credit your tuition to a future program
  3. Receive a partial or full refund

 

How do I indicate my preference for how I want you to handle my tuition?

Your family will receive an email from URJ Camp Coleman with a form to submit. We ask all families to complete the online form by June 1, 2020. If you have any questions, please contact us at campcoleman@urj.org.

What’s most helpful for camp right now?

Thank you for asking! Donations (Option 1) are the most helpful to us, followed closely by crediting fees towards a future program (Option 2). We hope you’ll consider one of these two options as they will ensure we are able to serve you, your children, their friends, and our Jewish community into 2021 and beyond.

How will my donation work?

If you are able, we hope you will consider converting at least 50% or more of your tuition into a tax-deductible donation. Every dollar will be generously matched by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. Your gifts will directly support Camp Coleman’s professional team, and the creation of virtual programming so that our community can stay connected. It will also help provide assistance to those families who experience financial hardship as a result of the pandemic and might have a hard time affording camp when we’re up and running again.

How will you use my gift to support camp?

Our priority for all gifts at this moment is to support URJ Camp Coleman’s core operations to ensure that we can weather the current financial storm and continue to serve your family and the community. Core operations includes things like providing our campers with virtual programming this summer; training, retaining, and supporting our counselors and senior unit staff throughout the year so we’re ready for 2021; continued maintenance of our camp, and more.

Can I give more than I have already paid?

Yes! We would be so deeply appreciative if you would consider making a gift beyond that with which you have already paid. Select this option in your refund allocation form and we will contact you to discuss payment options.

Can I make a donation over time? Can I give monthly if I can’t give all right now?

Absolutely. Every dollar counts and we are so deeply appreciative of whatever you can give. We have options for making a monthly or recurring donation on our website.

How does credit for a future program work?

You can apply some or all of the funds you’ve already paid for 2020 towards future URJ youth programs, including next summer at Camp Coleman academic year retreats, NFTY, travel programs, and more.

How long does my forwarded future credit last?

Funds credited for future use will be available for use through December 31, 2022. Requests for refunds on unused credits will be accepted after June 1, 2021. These refunds will be processed within 60 days of the request, less a service fee. As of January 1, 2023, any unused funds will be automatically refunded, less a service fee, by March 31, 2023.

Can my future credit be transferred?

Future credits can be used by anyone on your family account; however, they cannot be transferred to other families. Credits can be converted to a contribution to the Camp Coleman scholarship fund at any time. Funds credited for future use will be available for use through December 31, 2022.

How does a refund work?

Families can request a full or partial refund of summer 2020 tuition paid to date. Choose this option in the tuition allocation form.

What is the timeframe for receiving my refund?

Due to our current financial and operational realities, refunds may take 12 weeks or more and may come in several installments. Families experiencing financial hardship can email Camp Coleman so we can expedite your refund to the best of our ability.

My family is experiencing financial hardship, can I get my refund sooner?

We will expedite your refund to the best of our ability. Please submit your request in writing to us at campcoleman@urj.org.