Blog  You Belong: Listening for Change

You Belong: Listening for Change

An important part of Camp George’s vision is our focus on creating a more whole, just, and compassionate world. Ensuring that our camp community is a space where all Jews belong and where all races, gender identities, sexual orientations, abilities, and cultures are celebrated, is an essential part of this.

Our Jewish community is very diverse – and we want to be representative of that diversity at Camp George.

How do we do this? An important step is to gather feedback from people in our community from a diversity of backgrounds and lived experiences. Over the past several months, Camp George’s leadership has been having conversations with staff members, alumni, and parents who identify as Jews of Colour, as LGBTQ+, as having a physical disability, and from interfaith and/or interracial families. We are so grateful to all these people for being so open and sharing their stories and this valuable feedback.

We asked: Did they feel welcomed? Did they experience any racism, transphobia, homophobia, sexism, ableism, or other forms of discrimination? Were their specific needs met (mental, physical, financial etc.)? Did they feel respected, supported, valued, and able to see their identity reflected at Camp George?

They shared about what we are doing well, what could be improved, and recommendations for how we can do better. We have looked at many areas of our camp, including our staff training, our website and social media, our hiring practices, our programming and camp culture, and the accessibility of our buildings. It is essential for us to listen to the ways that we can improve in order to take the important steps towards greater inclusion. We heard from one former staff member with a disability who pointed out the areas at camp that were difficult for them to get around. We heard from a parent with a biracial child on the importance of incorporating voices and images of Jews of Colour in our educational material and programming. We heard from a staff who is a member of the LGBTQ+ community on how to respectfully include queer voices in our Pride shabbat celebration. This list goes on and on.

The next step is to put all these suggestions into practice. The work to become a community rooted in diversity, equity, and inclusion is ongoing. Several years ago, we started this work with our You Belong initiative, focused on making camp more inclusive, and made changes we are proud of. We are committed as a camp to continuing this critical work, and we would love to hear from you if you have any suggestions or feedback for us as we continue to navigate this path. By incorporating a diversity of voices, we can be better prepared to engage our community now and into the future. Together, we can create the community we strive to be.

We are here to listen. Send an email to us at campgeorge@urj.org to set up a call or send your ideas to us.