Around 20 young people held a rally on Tuesday outside the New York headquarters of Camp Ramah, the Conservative movement’s summer camp system, to protest what they saw as the camp’s inadequate discussions of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.
The protest and teach-in was organized by IfNotNow, a left-wing Jewish activist group that has started a campaign against Jewish camps, schools and youth groups for their alleged failure to fully discuss Israeli-Palestinian history and relations.
“When it comes to topics about Israel/Palestine and the occupation, as a camper myself I was essentially always fed either a one-sided argument or, arguably even worse, a no-sided argument, where the occupation was not even discussed,” one protester said.
One Ramah alum claimed on IfNotNow’s website that during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, staff members “were not allowed to discuss the issue with our campers, for fear our politics ‘would ruin’ their summer. Additionally, the word Occupation was never mentioned, and only Israeli deaths were remembered.”
But the director of the National Ramah Commission, Rabbi Mitch Cohen, told Haaretz that the camps do in fact discuss tricky questions related to Palestinians.
“We don’t differ [with IfNotNow] on the importance of teaching our teens and staff about the difficulties of the occupation,” he said. “We do differ on the amount of focus it should get.”
“We invite open dialogue and debate, and look forward to hearing more from them,” he added. “These are good, well-meaning alumni and we share the same values.”