Jewish camp defends not permitting non-Jewish boy to attend
Camp Solelim website homepage. (campsolelim.ca)
Organizers of a Jewish summer camp are defending their decision to bar a non-Jewish boy from returning for a second summer after campers’ parents said “it is important for the camp to remain Jewish” and focused on “Jewish identity” and “Jewish pride.”
Camp Solelim, a six-week camp for Jewish teens, has become the focus of debate and an online petition after camp officials denied the application of Tyler Weir, a 13-year-old from Richmond Hill. Last summer, Weir attended Camp Shalom, a junior camp for Jewish kids aged 7 to 13 that, like Camp Solelim, is run by the Canadian Young Judaea (CYJ), a national youth group with an aim to “strengthen its young members’ Jewish identity with an emphasis on the centrality of Israel.”
Camp Solelim spokesman Sindi Kachuck said Tuesday that Weir was accepted to Camp Shalom because of an “oversight,” explaining organizers sent Weir an acceptance letter before it was realized he wasn’t Jewish. According to news reports, Weir chose Camp Shalom because many of his friends are Jewish and attend CYJ camps. The Weir family was not available for comment on Tuesday.
Kachuck insisted Camp Solelim — as she noted is the case with all CYJ camps — is “a camp for Jewish children” with a “mission ... to develop future leadership in the Jewish community” through discussions around “Jewish identity and Israel, and ... nurturing that identity amongst Jewish people.”
“The reality is we’ve operated this way for 50 years, and this is what parents (of Jewish campers) have come to expect, that they are sending their kids to a Jewish camp with Jewish kids, and part of that is learning all about Judaism, identifying themselves as a Jew, talking about their Jewish identity, Jewish pride, and for many of our parents that is what they want, they want their child to be in a Jewish camp with Jewish kids,” Kachuck said, calling the camp “different and unique from other camps.”
When asked if parents took issue with Weir being at Camp Shalom last summer, Kachuck said she was not aware of any complaints, but did say parents are happy with the camp’s decision.
“I do know that there has been response from parents who had campers at Camp Shalom who felt that it was important for the camp to remain Jewish, and they sent us that type of message saying, ‘I’m glad that you’re taking this stand.’”
CYJ executive director Risa Epstein said in an e-mail they had received the same support from the families of Camp Solelim campers.