Shabbat Greetings from Meredith Dragon 7.17.20


As we continue to live through unprecedented times, I try to seek silver linings amid the craziness. Some days are harder than others to find bright spots. The challenges we are facing, locally and around the globe, may seem immense and overwhelming. When I think about the enormity of what we continue to face, I am reminded of a children’s not so funny joke. How do you eat an elephant? Answer: One bite at a time. Maybe there is a little wisdom in this joke that reminds us that if we focus on one good thing at a time, we will be reminded of the many good things in our lives. Perhaps this makes the challenges more manageable?
From a communal perspective, there is a big, bold, beautiful, innovative bright spot taking place right now, for which we can all be immensely proud. That is the Camp Outside the Box Program. Early spring we recognized that summer camps were going to be closed and that our children and families would have a large void this summer. Through our Jewish Education and Engagement Department, under the professional leadership of Rachel Kest and chaired by Emily Krohn and Daphne Futerman, we convened local agencies and synagogues to think about meeting the needs of our children, teens and families throughout the summer. 
The discussions about camp grew out of the successful response we had to our community virtual Sunday educational program. That program set the stage to be able to launch Camp Outside the Box successfully. Camp Outside the Box currently has over 400 children participating with 55 madrichim (counselors). Every two weeks, four times over the summer, families pick up a box full of camp supplies while maintaining appropriate social distancing. There is a daily schedule of Zoom calls (bunk time) in which campers get together for a variety of activities, led by their counselor. A sample of the madrichim videos and projects can be accessed on the Camp Outside the Box Youtube Channel. And, click here for the Camp Outside the Box playbook, which gives a sense of the thoughtful planning and programming that went into this innovative initiative. It is interesting to note that 45% of those families participating in Camp Outside the Box are not engaged in traditional ways with the Jewish community. We have clearly hit an important chord and found a vital niche!
The Camp Outside the Box program is truly fantastic, but what makes it so special is the collaboration that went into creating this program. All of the participating organizations agree that individually, not one institution could have made this program happen. It is so robust because we are stronger together. When we share and pool our resources, we are able to accomplish so much more together than we can independently. The important reminder of the strength of our community, when we work together, is another significant bright spot.  We are incredibly grateful to the Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation, which has helped fund Camp Outside the Box in partnership with our Federation.
This week, Camp Outside the Box focused on A Week of Community. Led by Jewish Family Service, in partnership with a variety of local institutions, A Week of Community also highlights the beauty, joy and success of working together for the greater good. A significant amount of food was donated this week to the Brighton Food Cupboard, to help those who are hungry and struggle with food insecurity.  Tonight, at 8:00 PM, we will be wrapping up this important week with a community candle lighting on Zoom. It is not too late to register, if you have not already click here
In the coming weeks, we will be rolling out more opportunities to work together to make our community stronger. In utilizing the findings from the Every Voice Counts Community Study, we will be launching a series of programs with the Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership (CLAL), to help plan for the future of our Jewish community. We have the power and ability to shape and create our Jewish destiny in Rochester. We have never been stronger together than we are right now and I hope many community members will choose to be involved in this process. Stay tuned for information.
We are very grateful for the William & Sheila Konar Foundation, which has funded our work with CLAL and the Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation for funding the Every Voice Counts study. Once again, these important partnerships are making all of us stronger. 
There is so much more to all of these programs, much more than I can convey in one Shabbat message, and I am happy to speak with anyone further about these initiatives. As we enter Shabbat, at a time when we are all concerned with the state of our world, it brings enormous comfort to know we have caring community members, families engaged in amazing summer programs, and the intense cooperation between our agencies and synagogues to make us all stronger. This is community. This is worth celebrating. Let us take our successes of today and make our tomorrows even brighter. 
Shabbat Shalom -
Meredith Dragon, CEO


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