My first year at camp as a kid was great: Sports, Arts and Crafts, Lake Front, Advanced Swimming and, of course, the coveted first dance with a girl. All of this was set against the bucolic setting of the NJ-YMHA-YWHA Jr. camp, Camp Nah-Jee-Wah. Two years later I would be off to California with my family but Camp Nah-Jee-Wah has always held a special place in my heart and so did that dance with Rachel Cohen-Stien-Berg-Steen (clearly it was much more important at the time).
All kidding aside, Jewish summer camp changed my life for the better. I learned more in five years as a camper at Camp Alonim than I did in more than a decade of religious school. I met my wife and a number of our lifelong friends at Greene Family Camp. I went into Jewish Community Work all because of the things that happened to me at camps.
The most important thing I learned at these camps besides being one of the best sports players at a Jewish summer camp really isn’t so impressive when you come back home, was that our traditions teach us to respect ourselves, our bunkmates and camp, to stick by our bunkmates when they sneak out at night and get caught and that if you kill it you fill it. Take these concepts to a more mature conclusion and you get respect for sanctity of life and environment and the importance of sticking to our values in the face of hardship (and really if you kill it you better fill it, I love the tater tots).
So when I read in the Forward this week that New Jersey’s YMHA-YWHA Camps have leased their land for hydraulic fracturing a little piece of my childhood became filled with carcinogenic waste, naturally occurring radioactive materials and devastated shale.
The reality of the situation is we don’t know everything about Fracking. But what we do know for sure is that it uses a lot of fresh water to extract a significant amount of natural gas from deep within rocks. We know that oil and gas companies really want to do this and that traditional environmental groups do not. We also know of horrific situations documented by ProPublica in Wyoming and Pennsylvania that make even a seasoned vet of the oil and gas industry think twice.
What I know for sure is that there were a grip of Jewish organizations on a preliminary planning call yesterday afternoon, including the Shalom Center, COJEL and Reform Jewish Voice of New York State (disclosure: I am a co-chair) and a number of others talking about what we need to do as Jews about this issue.
There are clearly a number of state-based and federal action items we can take but as a Jewish community connected to our camps, we should call up our camp directors and boards to say no to Fracking. It is really that simple. Fracking is dangers now and should not be utilized as an energy extraction method within watersheds of summer camps. Period.
You will be hearing more of this from me in the near future but now, read the Forward piece and call camp.