The wildfires ravaging through California’s wine country have touched the whole Bay Area. For senior Ellie Feder and other Burlingame kids, the fires destroyed their beloved summer camp, Camp Newman, in Santa Rosa on Oct. 9.
Feder spent her last six summers at the popular summer camp, which served around 1,400 kids. The camp, operated by the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), attracted kids to partake in a traditional summer camp experience and to participate in a variety of activities ranging from sports to arts and crafts to smore making.
“Newman is a bright light,” said Feder, who was a counselor-in-training this past summer. “Everybody ideally has their place where they feel comfortable and where they feel safe and I think Newman was that place for a lot of teens.”
The camp brings together staff and campers from all over the country and world, drawing many kids from local synagogues Peninsula Temple Sholom in Burlingame and Peninsula Temple Beth El in San Mateo. Additionally, events for families and campers are hosted at the site throughout the year.
All the people living at the camp evacuated in time and the Torah scrolls were saved, according to the URJ Camp Newman Facebook page.
“I think it’s a big loss for a lot of young people,” Feder said. “But I think we really have to focus on the people that made camp what it was. It wasn’t the place. It was the community and the community will go anywhere and everywhere together.”
The camp incorporates many Jewish principles, such as Tikkun Olam (bettering our world) and and Tikkun Middot (bettering ourselves), into its programs to teach campers important values that they can then bring home after the summer, according the camp website.
There has been an outpouring of support for URJ Camp Newman and a #NewmanStrong campaign to raise funds for reconstruction is already underway. The community is confident that they will come together to ensure the camp is rebuilt and continues to inspire children for generations to come.
“I feel like this will make the Newman community have a new appreciation for how special it is and what a unique place it was,” sophomore and third-year camper Sophie Saddik said.
Congregations all over the Bay Area have been holding events to support Newman campers in mourning.
A photo of a Star of David, an iconic Jewish symbol, completely still standing at URJ Camp Newman following the almost total destruction of the camp has been circulating the Internet and serving as a symbol of hope for both Newman campers and wildfire victims.
The camp will release details about its future plans in the coming weeks. URJ Camp Newman executive director Ruben Arquilevich is very hopeful camp will be held in 2018, even if it will be in a temporary location, according to an article that appeared in The Jewish News of Northern California.
“We will be at Newman sooner than we think and it will all be all right,” Saddik said.