This August 30 email from If-Not-Now—a movement dedicated to terminating the American Jewish community’s support for the Jews’ right of return to post-1967 Israel—starts like any other post-summer camp newsletter: “Many in our community are buzzing with all of the stories of new adventures, friends, and learnings (is that a word? – JNi) from camp this summer. Counselors and staff are catching up on some well-deserved sleep after creating amazing programs for Jewish kids all over North America.”
Then it gets darker: “But this summer was different — this summer was the first time there was a coordinated effort to ensure that the Occupation was talked about at Jewish summer camps.”
And then it goes darker yet, with a war story from Sylvie, Rosh Eidah (Age Group Head) at Camp Ramah in the Rockies. We encourage Camp Ramah officials to follow up on this and many other, similar stories which If-Not-Now is now collecting and posting online.
In June, Ramah national director Rabbi Mitchell Cohen circulated an email to his outfit’s institutional partners, stating unequivocally that Ramah camps have not changed their pro-Zionist, pro-Israel policies, and that they have not and will not incorporate the IfNotNow program. “Ramah camps have not engaged—and will not engage—in any way with IfNotNow as an organization,” Cohen vowed.
Now – Sylvie from the Rockies:
“At camp this summer, I created spaces for campers to question what they have learned or not learned about Israel/Palestine. When we had a program where Israelis shared their experiences in the army, we brought people who told the campers that they don’t necessarily think they were fighting for anything they believe in. We had other people share how the army affected them psychologically. These perspectives were ones that the campers had never heard before.
“We encouraged them to confront the idea of Palestine as a real place, not one from history that doesn’t exist anymore, not one that might exist in the future, but an actual place where people live now.
“I did this all with the goal of deepening their connection to Israel/Palestine. I saw campers start the process I and many others went through after realizing that the story our Jewish educators told us about Israel/Palestine intentionally left a lot out. Showing them even a taste of the reality in Israel/Palestine was perhaps the most important thing I did as an educator this summer.”
The If-Not-Now email boasts: “We know that programs like Sylvie’s are a part of our community’s changing understanding of what it means to do ‘Israel programs’ for the next generation.”
Perhaps Rabbi Cohen will find the time and resources to not just eliminate If-Not-Now from his program as an organization, but also ban agent provocateurs such as Sylvie from joining his camp staff come the summer of 2019.