On Sunday evening, the leaders of Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles and the camps it runs, Hess Kramer in Malibu and Gindling Hilltop, said that although the full extent of the damages won’t be determined for some time, “we know that it is severe.”
The night before, the temple hosted a special camp-style Havdalah ceremony.
The message said that among the buildings and areas lost at Hess Kramer are two halls, the climbing wall, a library and the ark, along with several staff residences and all but two of the cabins. At Hilltop, all the structures were lost with the exception of two cinder-block staff housing units.
The staff and Torah scrolls had been evacuated from the camps before the fire spread.
“Saturday night’s Havdalah gathering poignantly reminded us that camp is really about the people and what we do together,” the message said. “The location will be a different and temporary one, but we will be together this summer. There will be camp. Then, we will rebuild. Hess Kramer and Hilltop will endure.”
The message used the hashtag #KramerNeverStops, which calls up a page of posts from campers past and present, who’ve shared sadness at the camp’s destruction as well as fond memories.
At the Havdalah ceremony, the rabbi of Camp Hess Kramer, David Eshel, said fire has played an important role in Jewish history. The service was live-streamed on Facebook.
Before he knew the extent of the damage to the camps owned by the temple, Eshel told the campers, current and going back many decades: “We remember God spoke to Moses through the burning bush to inspire our people to freedom. God led us through the wilderness with a pillar of fire. This flame will not destroy … rather this flame will light our way to a bright, bright future.”