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Our Local Day Camp Is Closing, But This Isn’t the End for Our Jewish Community

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We live in a very Jewish area in New Jersey. It’s a place full of all the institutions of Jewish life, from kosher butchers and bakeries to mikvehs and, of course, synagogues of all stripes. We live in a strong Jewish community that supports many different streams and outlets for that Judaism, from Tot Shabbats with instruments and microphones to shomer Shabbat (observant) communities. The pre-Passover crush at the Livingston Shop-Rite puts Black Friday to shame.

Sadly, a key component of our Jewish community died an untimely death this fall. Gesher Summer Camp, which operated for 15 years on the grounds of the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy/Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School, closed abruptly in October. Gesher had operated on a land parcel of Kushner’s campus which was under consideration for sale for years. When it was sold, the camp effectively ended.

READ: Why I Decided to Homeschool My Son’s Jewish Education

The loss of Gesher left hundreds of families in the lurch, looking for a new place to send their kids to camp—among them, my own. But as I have learned, there is no place in our area quite like Gesher.

Gesher held a rare place in our community: It was a truly pluralistic, interdenominational Jewish camp. Its location on Kushner’s campus meant that its standards of kashrut were inclusive. Its proximity to Short Hills and Livingston was a plus, especially in comparison to other comparable day camps that require kids to travel on a bus for up to 45 minutes each way. It gave our local kids a nonpareil venue in which they could mix and meet other Jewish kids whose take on Judaism was different from their own, while sharing a common joyful Jewish experience.

The concerns which necessitated selling the land are understandable. I am, however, sad. I had already signed my 4-year-old daughter up for Gesher and had planned on eventually sending her three younger siblings there as well.

READ: Where are All The Jewish Homeschoolers?

My children have Camp Ramah in the Berkshires in their likely futures, and one day they’ll have the good fortune of sitting around a table with Jewish peers, rattling off the Birkat Hamazon by heart. I’d wanted to see that vision realized sooner, however, in a local day camp that reflected the diversity and simultaneously the integrity of our strong MetroWest Jewish community. Sadly, we will not have that opportunity.

As a long-time contributing editor, I’m thrilled that the wonderful Kveller parenting community has made its way to the Greater MetroWest community. I was born and raised in Greater MetroWest, sampling various area Jewish institutions and schools along the way, and I’m now living here with my husband and six children.

READ: I’m Happily Homeschooling My Son, But I Wish There Were More Jews Around

While the loss of Gesher is a blow to our community, I hope that we can forge a new one online that will translate from the virtual world to the real one. Please reach out, say hello, and help us to build, nourish, and nurture this wonderfully diverse Jewish community in which we are fortunate to live. Let’s let Hanukkah be an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to pluralism in our world.

For more information about Jewish day and overnight camps serving the Greater Metrowest New Jersey area visit One Happy Camper NJ.

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