By Aaron Selkow
Almost two weeks ago, the news of the tragic outbreak of senseless violence at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland, FL came to our attention. Before a news story had been written or confirmed details had made their way into the public sphere, the text message that alerted me to the events arrived and – like many of you – I was shocked. As the parent of a ninth-grade student, the prevalence of violence in our schools has become an overwhelming fact of life.
What has followed is a blur of activity and response. There is no lack of opinion or information, but a sea of narratives that many of us are trying to sift through. For our leadership at camp, the message that we want to convey is clear and resolute: we care so much about your kids and are here to support them.
At Harlam, we teach, model and reinforce the principles of Tikkun Middot (character building) that we frame as “The Path to Being Your Best Self” in service to our mission as a Reform Jewish institution. We see camp as an environment where our children – and their staff members – can truly explore and shape their identities as future professionals, citizens, leaders, and parents. At times like these, we want to remind our camp families and stakeholders that lessons about Acharayut (thinking about others,) Simchah (finding joy), and Nitzachon (pushing through a challenge) can be applied even when your children are far away from the confines of their summer home in Kunkletown, PA. With camp still 125 days away, it can still be a source of strength and resilience.
The text message I received on the day of the shootings came from a Harlam parent whose teenage child had shared the urgent concern that a participant in this summer’s Gesher (CIT) program at Harlam was a student in Parkland. I quickly confirmed that this was true, and thankfully, that child was not physically harmed.
Like this teen who survived, many young people across the country are seizing this opportunity to seek answers and advocate for change, and at Harlam, we honor their leadership. Our partners at the URJ and NFTY (North American Federation of Temple Youth) will be sharing more information about ways that our Movement, camp families, teens and staff can be involved (you can access more details here). No matter the views or interests that each person may hold in the Harlam family, we want to keep you apprised of these opportunities for engagement and hear from you about the means of support that we might be able to provide to you and your children.
For all those touched personally and deeply by these recent events, please know that we are poised to reach our arms around you to join in a prayer for healing. As we sing together when we gather each night in the summer under starlit skies (from the Hashkiveinu blessing):
Shelter us beneath thy wings, O Adonai,
Guard us from all harmful things, O, Adonai,
Keep us safe throughout the night,
‘Til we wake with morning’s light,
Teach us daily wrong from right, O Adonai.