Blog  Update for Summer 2020

Update for Summer 2020

Dear NFTY in Israel Family,

It is with broken hearts that we share our plans to cancel all 2020 NFTY in Israel Trips.

While we have continued to plan, prepare, pray, and hope to run exciting and meaningful NFTY in Israel trips this summer, the risks posed by COVID-19 threaten our most sacred value – the health and well-being of our participants and staff. These risks also compromise our ability to provide the excellence in programming and participant care that are the hallmarks of NFTY in Israel trips.

You might be asking, “Why are you making this decision now?” Our ongoing conversations with and learnings from Israel’s Ministry of Health, medical experts in Israel and North America, as well as The Centers for Disease Control, and others, have led the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) to the difficult conclusion that there are too many known and unknown risks for us to create an acceptable pathway forward for our Israel trips this summer. As soon as that became clear, we wanted to communicate to you, our community. We believe that you and your children deserve the clarity, that while painful, allows for grieving, healing, and moving forward towards hope, joy, and better days ahead.

While this news is devastating, we also acknowledge the global suffering caused by COVID-19 and are sending thoughts and prayers to you and your community. We acknowledge the many weeks that we have already been sheltering-in-place and the related emotional challenges that all of us have faced in many ways. Please find resources below, as well as on our website, to support you and your children during this difficult time.

While your teen will not be in Israel this summer, we hope they will come and see the beauty, history, and spirit that permeates this incredible country either during the year with URJ Heller High, next summer with NFTY in Israel 2021, or some other way in the not too distant future.

In the meantime, we hope you take a moment with your children to express sadness together; listen, embrace the loss, and savor the gratitude for the blessings of our community, which will continue through the summer , and sustain into the future. URJ camp communities will be gathering tonight to comfort one another and share in an important camp moment. We encourage you to visit your camp’s website for details on how to join .


Ruben Arquilevich Rabbi Rich Kirschen Rabbi Loren Sykes
Vice-President, URJ Camps, NFTY, & URJ/Youth Director, NFTY Summer in Israel Director of Israel Immersives

We know you may have questions. Please read on for additional detail about emotional support for your camper, staying connected with camp virtually, information regarding tuition, and more.

What upcoming Israel experiences are available for my teen?
While being in Israel this summer is not a possibility, there are several new options under consideration as well as current offerings for you and your child to think about:

Winter Break 2020 - One option under consideration is a NFTY in Israel winter break trip. Right now, it is too early to tell if this will be possible from health and governmental regulation perspectives, but we want you to know that this is something we are already looking into.

NFTY in Israel 2021 - Another option we are thinking about is a summer trip in 2021 that dovetails with some of our URJ Camp Avodah/CIT programs, allowing for participation in both. As with the winter break option, it is too early to know whether this type of option will be feasible from either calendar or financial perspectives.

URJ Heller High: The Isaac z”l and Helaine Heller High School in Israel runs fall and spring academic semesters in Israel. This is a fully accredited US high school in Israel and offers participants a deep dive into Modern Israel and Jewish History.

In the next few weeks, we will send out an email survey so we can measure interest in a winter break or shorter summer trip to Israel. Please be on the lookout for this email and let us know your thoughts.

Emotional Support for Teens, Staff & Families 
Having to postpone this trip will be heartbreaking for your teen and your family , and we want you to know that we are here for you. Our professional staff and lay leaders are working together to provide support to you and your family. We understand how hard it is to break this kind of news to your children and want to support you through that process.

  • We have curated some resources for sharing the news with your child. Read more >
  • How else can we support you and your family? Let us know > 

What is the Financial Impact of This Decision? 
We made the decision to cancel this year’s NFTY in Israel trips based on our values, and with the health and safety of our campers and staff as our top priority. We know you have questions about the tuition you already have paid and about what this means for the future of NFTY in Israel. The financial ramifications of this decision are significant for all of us. Right now, we are focused on helping our participants and families process this news.

Next week you will receive more details about opportunities to support one another and NFTY in Israel through this unprecedented moment. This follow-up email will include several options on how to handle your tuition, including options to make a donation to support NFTY in Israel, to credit fees paid for use on future URJ programs, and/or receive a refund on funds paid including the deposit .

Will there be opportunities for virtual Israel experiences this summer?
We wish there was a virtual Israel experience online that would come close to the real thing. Unfortunately, there is no substitute for the magic of visiting and experiencing Israel in person. There are, however, ways we can continue to help your teen connect to this special place, and learn about ancient and modern Israel. We are working on different virtual options that will be shared through our URJ camps once they are more fully developed. We will let you know more about these options in the coming weeks.

What do I do now?

  1. Join your local URJ camp for a virtual gathering tonight
  2. Hug, listen, and comfort your teen
  3. Look out for the email containing some logistical next steps, coming next week

You are in our hearts, and we are counting down the days until we can have the incredible Israel experience we were looking forward to this summer.