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Camp JRF: Open and Inclusive

June 27, 2016

A trio of Jewish news outlets have highlighted Camp JRF’s welcoming and inclusive approach to all campers, including those who may be LGTBQ or gender non-conforming.

In a recent New Jersey Jewish News piece that was also picked up by JTA, the camp is cited for its sensitivity to the needs of transgender campers.

Here is an excerpt: Bathrooms accessible for transgender children and staff are old news at Camp JRF, the Reconstructionist movement’s summer camp in South Sterling, Pennsylvania. Five years ago the camp posted signs on bathroom doors stating “This bathroom may be used by any person regardless of gender identity or expression.”

From its founding in 2002, Camp JRF set a similarly inclusive tone, according to director Isaac Saposnik. Among its accommodations, the overnight facility decided not to divide into a boys’ side and a girls’ side or to have boys’ activities and girls’ activities.

“Boys and girls are always together,” Saposnik said. “We don’t have a lot of gendered programming. All the campers play sports together all day.”

In an article published several days later, the Forward struck a similar note.

It reads in part: Affiliated with the Reconstructionist movement and located an hour’s drive from Philadelphia, JRF is pushing to make inclusivity a key part of its mission — in particular, toward kids who may be LGBTQ or gender-nonconforming.

“We want this to be a place where people can say ‘I feel comfortable being fully myself, which includes being Jewish and potentially being GLBT or potentially being from an interfaith family or potentially being of color’,” said Rabbi Isaac Saposnik, executive director of the camp.

The camp provides gender-neutral bathrooms, signs welcoming people of all gender identities and a rainbow flag by the camp’s entrance. The staff decided to put it up last week as a statement of solidarity with the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando.

“This is important,” said Saposnik. “It’s always been important and always will be important, but right now, in this moment, we’re responding also to what’s going on in the world.”


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