Israel and Palestine at URJ Eisner Camp

URJ Eisner Camp

We, as longtime members of the URJ Eisner Camp community, want to open up a conversation about how Israel and Palestine are approached at camp.

Raised and nurtured by the magic of Eisner, we are all without a doubt indebted to camp for instilling in us the core of who we are. Because of Eisner, we have grown into people who use our power in the world to do right by the places and people we care about. Sadly, in our lives outside the Bubble, each of us have struggled with the realization that our time at Eisner did not prepare us to engage with Israel in a healthy and holistic way.

As such, this past winter, a small group of Eisner alumni began to grapple with how camp approaches the ongoing violence of Occupation in Israel and Palestine. In doing so, we aim to take a stake in the future of what authentic, engaging programming at camp could and should look like.

The need for this growth has become even more urgent given the most recent escalation of violence in Israel and Palestine. We are disturbed and refuse to stand idly by as the Israeli government and military commit state-sanctioned murder of Palestinian children, families, and communities, reject international humanitarian law in the pursuit of settler expansion, and destroy lives, homes, and essential resources in Gaza and the West Bank.

On social media, we witness campers, peers, and families struggle to make sense of these events and discuss them in meaningful ways that honor the lived experiences of Palestinians, but have been disappointed in the lack of engagement by our Jewish institutions.

Since sharing our individual reflections and experiences with each other, we are now opening up this dialogue to the larger Eisner community.

We have already reached out to Eisner leadership, as we sincerely want this to be a shared dialogue about our intentions, fears, and hopes as they relate to Israel at camp. We are confident that, starting this summer, camp can and should improve its Israel education, make room for new forms of engagement on the subject, and fully live out its mission of bringing about a more just world.

Our goal is to make Eisner’s Israel education align with camp’s mission of empowering campers to explore, challenge themselves, and grapple with complex social issues.

In our experiences at camp, we have consistently been called to seek justice and repair harm in our world. Eisner has always been at the forefront of social progress in the URJ, and has encouraged its community members to join in that work both over the summer and year-round. From camp's long term commitment to creating an inclusive home for the LGBTQ community to its comprehensive dedication to anti-bullying, Eisner has demonstrated a willingness to “Be The One” and grow for the betterment of the community.

However, in the many years of Eisner’s bold progressivism, recognition of Palestinians and their experiences has been left out of conversations and actions regarding this pursuit of justice.

The absence of spaces that engage with Israel and Palestine in a nuanced and intentional way has left us with a sense of unpreparedness for the world beyond The Bubble. While many of us have been encouraged to question and explore that which we love, just as we do with our own systems of power in the U.S., we were not given the opportunity to do so at camp as it relates to Israel. Given camp’s relationship with Israel, we believe that there is significant room for growth in how camp engages with Israel’s multitude of histories, peoples, and realities.

As people who are deeply invested in the past, present, and future of Eisner, we are grounded in and motivated by the lessons of Pirke Avot: “you are not required to complete the work, nor are you free to desist from it.” With the spirit of this value in our hearts, we therefore call URJ Eisner Camp leadership to commit to the following initiatives:

  1. Israel/Palestine’s history, geopolitics, and culture are complex topics that impact a wide range of identities and peoples, both Jewish and non-Jewish. For this reason, it is necessary to expand dialogue in Jewish education programming, such as Limud and Kesher, to include a full spectrum of voices that accurately represent and delve into the diversity of the region. We believe that such representation in educational programming will allow our community to humanize and elevate previously marginalized or unrecognized populations, specifically Palestinians.

  2. Eisner has long demonstrated a commitment to creating a healthy and safe space for both campers and staff. For this reason, it is necessary to avoid glorification of the Israeli Defense Force and state-sanctioned violence in Israel-centered programming and conversation. This includes both in formal settings, such as all-camp and unit-specific evening programs, as well as in informal settings, such as bunk activities. Just as certain conversations and activities have been deemed “Not Camp,” dialogue and programming which push campers and staff to celebrate Israel’s military prowess in the region are inappropriate for a camp setting.

Each of these initiatives will take intentional thought and action, and this petition is the beginning of a longer dialogue within the Eisner community. The work of actualizing more humanizing, honest Israel education at Eisner is ongoing, and will not end with this coming summer. Addressing camp's engagement with Israel will require a variety of actions and discussions, and we aim to work as a collective so that lasting changes are made.

We also understand that this summer will bring unprecedented challenges and that camp will look different than it has in previous years. We thank you for already putting in the work to ensure that this summer holds space for formative, meaningful experiences. If you would like to talk more about this, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at

With love,

Sarah Albert, URJ Eisner Camp camper and staff member ‘11-’19

Sam Friedman, URJ Eisner Camp camper and staff member ‘04-’16

Talia Jaffe, URJ Eisner Camp camper and staff member ‘04-’17

Emmy Leviss, URJ Eisner Camp camper and staff member ‘09-’19

Michaela Schwartz, URJ Eisner Camp camper and staff member ‘04-’15

Ari Seckler, URJ Eisner Camp camper and staff member ‘07-’17

Maj Seckler, URJ Eisner Camp camper and staff member ‘09-’18

Louis Stein, URJ Eisner Camp staff member ‘15-’18

Julia Tecotzky, URJ Eisner Camp camper and staff member ‘07-’17

Bunni Walshin, URJ Eisner Camp camper and staff member ‘07-’18

Petition by
Great Barrington, Massachusetts

To: URJ Eisner Camp
From: [Your Name]

We, as longtime members of the URJ Eisner Camp community, want to open up a conversation about how Israel and Palestine are approached at camp.