Remembering Elie Wiesel
This was one of the most impactful days of my life (“The day words failed Elie Wiesel”).
I was there, a 15-year-old full of everything 15-year-olds are full of, with some of my best friends, in the presence of giants and ghosts. Thank you Eli Rubenstein for putting words to paper so we could remember and share this experience. And thank you also for helping us cope with the enormity of emotions we’d never felt in places no one should ever have to understand. Twenty-six years later, this memory still makes me weep.
The cost of a Jewish life
There is one thing that I think we can all agree upon: living a Jewish life and passing on Jewish ethics and customs to our children is a question of priorities, not economics. As for the rest of what Jonathan Usher writes (Letters: “Being Jewish is not expensive”), it’s certainly not the middle-class reality lived by so many Jewish parents of school-aged children in Canada.
I’m a middle-class married parent of three children. Two are in high school, and the third will enter elementary next year. My wife and I have paid out 16 tuition years so far, of the 36 years we can expect to pay given the current size of our family. I hold two degrees and a well-paying, white-collar job in aerospace. My wife works part time and runs a business part time.
There is no eating out at expensive restaurants. There is precious little money left over for inexpensive day camp, let alone expensive day camp. There is no summer cottage, no opulent vacations. “Expensive” sporting equipment this year consisted of one baseball mitt and a pair of cleats for our son, who decided to take up baseball.
The letter writer is certainly right that not eating milk and meat together costs nothing, but eating kosher meat in general costs, and prices for kosher meat have skyrocketed in the past three years here in Montreal.
Schools will not give us tuition assistance. We most definitely earn too much for it. For several years, the community has had the benefit of a CAPS program, for which we are eternally grateful, but it only defrays so much of the cost.
I’m not writing to complain about my lot, nor to suggest that day school tuition is exorbitant or overpriced. I do not for a second regret the choice of sending my children to Jewish school and would never trade away the value of a Jewish education for our children in exchange for an easier lifestyle or more material wealth. I simply find the letter writer’s characterization of the lifestyle of the Canadian Jewish middle class to be naive and utterly false.
Cote St.-Luc, Quebec
Transgender at summer camp
Our bunks are open to transgender Jews right here in Canada, too (“U.S. camps open their bunks to transgender Jews”).
At URJ Camp George, Canada’s only Reform Jewish residential camp, we, too, have gender-neutral bathrooms and signage to support them. We have trained our staff on how to ask where and how those in their cabins are comfortable changing and showering; we have reviewed the language in our communications and in daily camp life to look for language that makes assumptions; and we are reviewing gender norms in our programming.
This summer, after determining from various communities that we already meet other inclusion needs in the camp’s space, we will do a gendered-spaces audit to ensure that all spaces feel safe and accessible to the LGBTQ community at camp. As well, staff and campers will offer their input throughout the summer on the draft vision statement, bathroom signage and safe-spaces signage, which will be finalized for next summer.
Together, we are investigating how spaces, language and systems exclude, rather than celebrate, the many differences people bring to camp; and the effect of that exclusion on young people just as they are developing their identities in all areas of their life (including gender, sexuality, ability, religious identification, food restrictions, family makeup and more).
Our tent is open, and all are welcome to celebrate their identity with us at Camp George, in Canada.
Sandi Smith, Len Bates, Susie Berg, URJ Camp George Steering Committee