Blog  URJ Camp Coleman and Racial Justice

URJ Camp Coleman and Racial Justice

Shalom Camp Coleman family,

Last week our nation watched another video of a Black man, George Floyd, being killed by police.  We could list many more names of Black men and women killed by police in the last several years. I shudder to think how many more names we would have learned if a mobile camera had been invented and used throughout my lifetime, throughout the last century. Tragically, we will never know the true answer. But we will remember that each of these individuals were created b’tzelem Elohim (in the image of God) and were someone’s child, mother, father, brother, sister, brother, friend.

 The road to “justice for all”, particularly for Black Americans, has its roots deeply implanted on our soil prior to our nation’s founding and, after weeks like this past one, we are reminded once again that we still have a long way to go.  No clear road has been paved for us to get there, yet our Jewish tradition teaches  that each one of us needs to continue this journey because  “we cannot stand idly by when our neighbor’s blood is shed”(Leviticus 19:16) and we are commanded to pursue justice ( “tzedek tzedek tirdof” Deut 16:18-20).

If we were at Coleman this summer, we would be discussing the ways each of us could do our part to bring more tzedek (justice) and rachmanut (compassion) into our world. We would see signs all over camp, in Hebrew and English, bearing the words of Coleman’s 4 core values Shalom, Chesed, Kehillah, and Kavod—meaning peace, kindness, community, and respect in that order. We hope that our campers and staff not only hear these words but also live by them- both during their time at camp and when they leave either for the following summer or continue their journey beyond Coleman.

This past week, Abby Brafman, longtime Coleman camper and staff member was hearing from her campers and camp friends who wanted to express their feelings about what they saw happening in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd.  She created the graphic that you see here and hoped it would enable members of our Coleman community to convey their own personal desire to do what they could to help create a more just and compassionate world.  Thank you, Abby, for creating and sharing this with our community. We hope it will stimulate members of our Coleman community to have ongoing discussions about racism and learn how we as Jews can be genuine allies with the Black community.

During this challenging time of the Covid-19 virus, when many of us are spending more time with our families, we are hopeful that you will take the time to discuss “racism” with your children and family (you may want to look through resources listed below which also include guidance on talking with children about violence). By building partnership with our camp families and the congregations throughout our catchment area, let us continue to work together to strengthen our relationships, communities, and to create a country filled with compassion and justice for all.

L’shalom (to peace),
Bobby Harris

In addition to operating Coleman and 14 other summer camps throughout North America, the URJ (Union for Reform Judaism) also manages the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Below you will find links that will connect you to racial justice work that they are doing.