Dear NFTY in Israel Summer 2021 Families,

Please use this page to stay up to date on any and all updates for Summer 2021 trips. We will also continue to send direct email updates to all registered families as new information emerges.

If you have any questions or concerns, please email nftyisrael@urj.org or call 212-452-6517.

Shalom,

The NFTY in Israel Team

Payment and Refund Policy

It is our goal to bring as many teens as possible to Israel and to give your family the time and support you need to make decisions. To that end, we have made the following changes to our payment and refund policy:

Now through May 4 - Full Refund including Travel Insurance premium

- If your family no longer feels that this trip is the right option for you or your teen will not be eligible for the trip, we are offering a full refund through May 4, including your entire $500 deposit and any purchased Travel Insurance premiums.

- For teens who are NOT ELIGIBLE or unable to be fully vaccinated before their trip, please see your summer options outlined in the email you received. Please email nftyisrael@urj.org if you have any questions about alternative options being offered.

If you would like to cancel please be in touch with our Registrar, Matt Wolf.

After May 4 through 5 weeks prior to your departure date - Partial refund

$2,500 non-refundable fee

- This will give you the most time possible to have your teen vaccinated, while also understanding that trip expenses are incurred that are not refundable.

- Please consider purchasing Travel Insurance to cover you in case you need to cancel during this time period.

Policies must be purchased PRIOR to the final payment and are non-refundable after May 4, 2021.

May 14 - Final Balance Due Deadline

- Final balance due date has been extended to May 14.

- May 14 is also the final day to purchase Travel Insurance.

5 weeks prior to your departure through the full trip - No Refund

- Please consider purchasing Travel Insurance to cover you in case you need to cancel during this time period.

If we cancel the trip due to force majure - circumstances beyond our control

In the event that Israel closes borders or there are events beyond our control that force us to cancel a trip:

- Full refund minus the cost of flight​.

- You will receive a flight voucher for your teen’s flight from the respective airlines (unfortunately, we will be unable to cover any reticketing expenses if applied).

*Approx. $1,500

- Any remainder will be available for a refund.

Additional Information and Reminders

Travel Insurance

If you have not done so already, we strongly encourage you to purchase Cancel For Any Reason” Travel Insurance (or our General Protection Policy if “Cancel for Any Reason” is not available in your state). This purchase will give you additional protection, and will allow you the most time and flexibility in making personal decisions for your family while preparing for any unexpected events.  Policies must be purchased PRIOR to the final payment and are non-refundable after May 4, 2021.

Alternate Flight Arrangement Requests ("Deviations")

In order to give your family time to prepare and plan for this summer, we are pushing back the deadline to submit alternate flight Arrangement Requests (“Deviations”) from April 20th to Tuesday, April 27th.  As a reminder, all deviation requests must be submitted in writing to Ilana Schear, Assistant Director of Operations and Logistics.    

If you have already reached out to Ilana regarding a deviation request, she will be in touch with you directly over the next couple of weeks to start confirming your travel plans.  

If Your Teen Will NOT Be Fully Vaccinated In Time For Their Departure

We know how much your teen was looking forward to their Israel summer, and understand, truly, how difficult this moment is. We don’t need to tell you how challenging the pandemic has made our daily lives — you and your children have already been grappling with these challenges for more than a year.

While they will not be able to join us in Israel, we are excited to offer your teen choices for a meaningful, safe, and fun summer with a URJ program stateside. Please note that due to limited space we will prioritize teens who are NOT ELIGIBLE for the vaccine due to age or medical limitations for these opportunities.

Alternative Summer Options

Please join us for a webinar on Thursday, April 22nd at 5:30 PM PDT/8:30 PM EDT to hear from the directors of the programs listed below, and to learn more about these wonderful opportunities for your teen this summer.

URJ 6 Points Creative Arts Academy – 9-12 graders (2 and 4 week sessions)
URJ Creative Arts Academy provides high level learning in the arts including Creative Writing, Dance, Instrumental Music Ensemble, Photography, Theatre-Classical/Contemporary & Musical, Visual Arts, Vocal Music Ensemble.

Entering 9-11 grade participants are invited to our Olim program where they will perform in a dynamic, challenging and FUN environment. Participants set personal goals, increase skills, and work toward portfolio/audition quality pieces. Entering 12 graders are invited to be a part of our 4 week Gesher program where the participants experience skill building within the arts discipline of their choosing, as well as professional development in key areas of camp: residential life, programming, and logistics.

URJ 6 Points Specialty West – 9-12 graders (2 week sessions)
URJ 6 Points Specialty West provides high level experiences in the arts and sci-tech. Entering 10 graders are invited to join our specialty tracks including visual arts, theater, robotics, and video game design.

Entering 11 & 12 graders are invited to join our CIT/Counselor-In-Training program where they will use their passion and skill in science & technology for social justice in our Engineering for Good workshop. They are responsible for planning and implementing an all-camp program such as our Shabbat afternoon Makers Challenge, and they will learn counseling and leadership skills to begin seeing themselves as future staff members. They are a cohort within camp, enjoying more freedom and more responsibility.

URJ Camp Newman Teen Camp – 9-12 graders (10 day session)
URJ Camp Newman brings campers together for fun, growth, learning, and immersive and joyful Jewish living amongst the backdrop of Sonoma County’s Santa Rosa mountains. Entering 9-12 graders are invited to join us for our Alufim 10-day program - a choice-based experience with options for social justice/advocacy, conversational Hebrew, arts, and sports intensives, as well as electives such as songleading, ukulele, more sports, more art, cooking, and others. Participants will also engage in meaningful conversations about Israel, which is Alufim’s educational theme, and will experience all the amazing things Camp Newman has to offer such as archery, our pool and waterslide, climbing the Alpine Tower and Sky Park (high ropes) course, and an overnight adventure. Teens will join together to make friends, build community, push themselves in new ways, and enjoy time together outdoors.

Limited space remains available for our other 2-week, 4-week, and 8-week long programs as well.

Email Updates

*Please note: We have an important correction to make in regards to the new paperwork needed for entry into Israel that we sent instructions on earlier today. It has come to our attention that you DO NOT and should not get a true copy of your teen's birth certificate notarized, ONLY the signed Affidavit. You will see a corrected version of the email and instructions below.*


What's in this email?

  • A Letter from the NFTY in Israel Team
  • NEW Paperwork for Entry into Israel
  • Testing Protocols
  • RootOne Education Programs
  • Forms Reminder

We imagine that by now, you have heard the good news about last week’s ceasefire in Israel. Life is returning to normal including the resumption of flights and travel to and from Israel.  Of course, we will continue to monitor the situation and will make any changes to our plans if necessary. Please click here to visit our Safety and Security webpage to learn about our approach to health and safety for our participants. At the same time, we are excited to be joining, with over a dozen other Jewish organizations, to bring almost 10,000 teens to Israel this summer.

Below you will find important information and updates as your teen gets ready for a fun and meaningful summer with us!


NEW Required Paperwork for Entry into Israel The State of Israel has informed us that they are now requiring an Affidavit for entry into the country this summer. This form MUST be signed by both the custodial parent(s)/guardian(s) and participant in front of a notary. Once the signed Affidavit is notarized, you will need to upload the completed Affidavit and a true copy of your teen's original birth certificate into your CampInTouch account.

You can find copies of the Affidavit both attached to this email and in your CampInTouch account.

The Affidavit must be signed by both custodial parents/guardians.

Please follow the below instructions when filling out the Affidavit:

  1. Do not sign anything on the bottom half of the form until you are in front of a notary.
  2. Print your teen’s last name.
  3. Print your teen’s first name.
  4. Print your teen’s YEAR of birth.
  5. Print your teen’s passport number.
  6. Print your teen’s country of citizenship.
  7. Print and sign custodial parent/guardian 1’s full name.
  8. Print and sign custodial parent/guardian 2’s full name (if applicable).
  9. Have your teen sign the affidavit.
  10. Make a true copy of your teen’s birth certificate to bring to your notary appointment. (A true copy is simply a photocopy made (without alterations) of an original document).
  11. Upload the completed Affidavit AND true copy of your teen’s birth certificate in the Forms & Documents section of your CampInTouch account
  12. Retain your hard copy of the Affidavit AND true copy of your teen’s birth certificate. Your teen will need copies of these two documents to present when they arrive at Ben Gurion Airport. 

Please contact Matt Wolf at nftyisrael@urj.org with any questions or concerns about the Affidavit.


COVID PCR Testing The State of Israel requires a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours prior to departure to enter the country. We have contracted with NorthShore Clinical labs to administer these tests and to create a simple and easy process for your family.

  • Your teen will soon receive a COVID-PCR test in the mail from NorthShore Clinical Lab.
  • Please keep this test in a safe space until 72 hours prior to your teens leaving home (if they have a connecting flight, the test should be administered 72 hours before that flight departs).
  • 72 hours before your teen leaves home, use the directions in the kit to administer the test.
  • As soon as possible, take the test, in the provided box, to your closest FedEx store. The shipping will be pre-paid.
  • You will receive results within 48 hours of mailing the test.
  • Print the results and send them with your teen on their trip along with their passport and other paperwork.
  • The test will be submitted to your insurance company (we will be sharing your insurance information with NorthShore).

Please remember that your teen will NOT be permitted to board their flight to Israel without proof of their negative PCR test result.


COVID Antibody Testing The State of Israel requires that travelers have an antibody test upon arrival to Israel. Antibodies are present after having the COVID infection or completing the immunization process. The antibody test will either be administered at the airport or at our first hotel.

Please be aware that if a teen does not have a positive test for the COVID antibodies we will do everything in our power to work with the Israeli government to ensure that they can remain in the country. Ultimately, however, this decision lies solely with the Israeli government.

If you choose, antibody tests are available through your pediatrician and through private pharmacies such as CVS Pharmacies. If your teen does have an antibody test prior to leaving, please send the paperwork with them on their trip. While they will still be required to complete the antibody test upon arrival in Israel, the paperwork may be helpful.


NFTY in Israel Education Program We hope your teen is enjoying their learning in our virtual programs. Please remember that all teens must complete 6 hours of learning prior to departure. If you have any questions, please reach out to our education director, Shira, at sikleinman@urj.org.


Forms Reminder If you have not already done so, please be sure to complete all of your teen’s travel forms including uploading their vaccination card (due two weeks prior to your trip departure date). You can find your forms and upload portal in your CampInTouch account. The same holds true for all other forms. The more information you share with us up front, the better prepared we will be to help your teen have a successful trip.

We look forward to welcoming your teen to Israel in just a few short weeks!

As you hear about the events unfolding in Israel and Gaza, we imagine you may have questions and concerns about your teen’s summer trip. As we have shared with you in the past, the health and safety of our participants is always paramount. The URJ has been taking teens to Israel for over 60 years and has earned a well-deserved reputation for providing the highest standards of health, safety, and security in all our youth travel programs. We currently have 50 teens spending their spring semester in Israel at URJ Heller High, learning and exploring together even as we have had to adjust their plans to ensure their safety. You can learn more about our approach on the “Safety and Security” section of our website.

We are carefully watching the unfolding events and will make any necessary modifications and decisions closer to our departure dates. In the unlikely event that we are forced to cancel any trips, we will follow the same cancellation policies that have already been shared with you and can also be found on our Summer 2021 Updates page.

As we watch events unfold in Israel, we pray for an end to the current conflict, for physical and emotional healing for our Israeli family, and for peace for Israel, the region, and all the world.

Below are some general updates and reminders:

Rosters

You now have access to the Bus Roster found in the Forms & Documents section of your CampInTouch account. This roster includes the name, hometown, email address, and other contract information for each participant in your teen’s group. Please feel free to use this group roster to assist in contacting other families to coordinate domestic travel.

Final Payments

A reminder that final payments for all trips are due tomorrow, Friday, May 14th. Due to strict payment deadlines with airlines, tour providers, hotels, etc., we cannot push this deadline back any further.

All scholarships and grants that we have received notification about have been credited to your account. If you have made special arrangements because you are expecting funding from your temple or other outside sources, that arrangement will be honored.

If you have any questions, please email our Bursar, Paige, at teentravelbursar@urj.org.

COVID Testing

We will be sharing more information next week regarding COVID testing required by Israel for entry and how to procure the testing for your teen in a timely manner.

As a reminder, please upload your teen’s vaccination card (when completed) or a doctor’s note documenting immunity to your CampInTouch account.

Form Reminder

Please be sure to check your account and ensure that you have completed and signed all required forms including the new release form for the RootOne Voucher program. These forms can be found in the Forms & Documents section of your CampInTouch account.

Thank you for your trust and support and we look forward to a wonderful summer with your teens.

What’s in this email?

  • An Update from the NFTY in Israel Team
  • Trip Insurance Updates
  • Payment & Refund Policy Updates
  • Flight Information
  • Alternative Options for the Summer

Dear Families,

As we previously shared, the Israel Ministry of Tourism announced that they will be allowing a limited number of groups to enter Israel beginning May 23rd. While this is exciting news, we continue with our approach of cautious optimism and responsible pragmatism as we have not yet heard details regarding the group entries or specific testing requirements. Based on our conversations with our partners in Israel and this news, our confidence is growing that we will be able to take vaccinated teens to Israel this summer.

While this is welcomed news for our teens who are eligible for the vaccine, we understand that it also brings deep disappointment and creates potential anxiety for those teens not yet eligible to be vaccinated. In this letter, you will find alternative summer programs to help you understand your teen’s options.

The ultimate decision about these trips continues to be in Israel’s hands. There could be policy changes that impact who is able to go, how many teens NFTY in Israel is able to take, and if the trips themselves will run. We will keep you informed as we receive additional information, and are excited to be moving forward in our planning. It is our deepest hope that will be able to bring many of your teens to Israel this summer for an inspiring, safe, and fun experience.

If you have any additional questions, please contact our Registrar, Matt Wolf, at nftyisrael@urj.org.

L’Shalom,

Loren & The NFTY in Israel Team


Trip Insurance

If you have not done so already, we strongly encourage you to purchase “Cancel For Any Reason” Trip Insurance (or our General Protection Policy if a “Cancel for Any Reason” is not available in your state). This purchase will give you additional protection, and will allow you the most time and flexibility in making personal decisions for your family while preparing for any unexpected events. Policies must be purchased PRIOR to the final payment.


Updates to Payment and Refund Policy

It is our goal to bring as many teens as possible to Israel and to give your family the time and support you need to make decisions. To that end, please see the changes to our payment and refund policy in the table above.


Travel Information

In the next few days, you will receive an email from us with your teen’s Israel flight details, as well as directions for booking connecting flights and travel as needed.

In order to give your family time to prepare and plan for this summer, we are pushing back the deadline to submit alternate flight arrangement requests (“Deviations”) from April 20 to Tuesday, April 27. As a reminder, all deviation requests must be submitted in writing to Ilana Schear, Assistant Director of Operations and Logistics.

If you have already reached out to Ilana regarding a deviation request, she will be in touch with you directly over the next couple of weeks to start confirming your travel plans.


If Your Teen Will NOT Be Fully Vaccinated In Time For Their Departure

We know how much your teen was looking forward to their Israel summer, and understand, truly, how difficult this moment is. We don’t need to tell you how challenging the pandemic has made our daily lives — you and your children have already been grappling with these challenges for more than a year.

While they will not be able to join us in Israel, we are excited to offer your teen choices for a meaningful, safe, and fun summer with a URJ program stateside. Please note that due to limited space we will prioritize teens who are NOT ELIGIBLE for the vaccine due to age or medical limitations for these opportunities.


Summer Options

Please join us for a webinar on Thursday, April 22nd at 5:30 PM PDT/8:30 PM EDT to hear from the directors of the below programs, and to learn more about these wonderful opportunities for your teen this summer.

URJ 6 Points Creative Arts Academy – 9-12 graders (2 and 4 week sessions)
URJ Creative Arts Academy provides high level learning in the arts including Creative Writing, Dance, Instrumental Music Ensemble, Photography, Theatre-Classical/Contemporary & Musical, Visual Arts, Vocal Music Ensemble.

Entering 9-11 grade participants are invited to our Olim program where they will perform in a dynamic, challenging and FUN environment. Participants set personal goals, increase skills, and work toward portfolio/audition quality pieces. Entering 12 graders are invited to be a part of our 4 week Gesher program where the participants experience skill building within the arts discipline of their choosing, as well as professional development in key areas of camp: residential life, programming, and logistics.

URJ 6 Points Specialty West – 9-12 graders (2 week sessions)
URJ 6 Points Specialty West provides high level experiences in the arts and sci-tech. Entering 10 graders are invited to join our specialty tracks including visual arts, theater, robotics, and video game design.

Entering 11 & 12 graders are invited to join our CIT/Counselor-In-Training program where they will use their passion and skill in science & technology for social justice in our Engineering for Good workshop. They are responsible for planning and implementing an all-camp program such as our Shabbat afternoon Makers Challenge, and they will learn counseling and leadership skills to begin seeing themselves as future staff members. They are a cohort within camp, enjoying more freedom and more responsibility.

URJ Camp Newman Teen Camp – 9-12 graders (10 day session)
URJ Camp Newman brings campers together for fun, growth, learning, and immersive and joyful Jewish living amongst the backdrop of Sonoma County’s Santa Rosa mountains. Entering 9-12 graders are invited to join us for our Alufim 10-day program - a choice-based experience with options for social justice/advocacy, conversational Hebrew, arts, and sports intensives, as well as electives such as songleading, ukulele, more sports, more art, cooking, and others. Participants will also engage in meaningful conversations about Israel, which is Alufim’s educational theme, and will experience all the amazing things Camp Newman has to offer such as archery, our pool and waterslide, climbing the Alpine Tower and Sky Park (high ropes) course, and an overnight adventure. Teens will join together to make friends, build community, push themselves in new ways, and enjoy time together outdoors.

Limited space remains available for our other 2-week, 4-week, and 8-week long programs as well.

Dear Families,

We hope you are well, and like us, counting down the days to summer.

As you may have seen in the news this morning, Israel’s Ministry of Tourism and the Israeli government just announced that summer travel will be allowed for organized groups of fully vaccinated participants.

Although we are excited about this news, we are still in the process of confirming this announcement and anxiously await the publication of details pertaining to testing, potential quarantine, and other protocols. We look forward to being in touch with you as soon as more detailed information is available. With Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut beginning this evening, we do not expect to hear from Israeli officials until next week.

We know that for some of you this news is quite disappointing, especially if your teen is not eligible or has yet to be able to access the vaccine. We will be sharing options for your teen in the coming days that will include possibly returning to their home URJ camp or attending another program with our community if they are unable to go to Israel.

Thank you for your patience and we look forward to being in touch soon.

What’s in this email?

  • An Update from Rabbi Loren Sykes
  • Financial Updates
  • Upcoming Form Deadlines
  • Final Thoughts

An Update from Rabbi Loren Sykes

It was nice to once again have family and friends around the Seder table. My daughters and I were even able to host some of the students spending a gap year in Israel. At the same time, I know that the opportunity to come together has not yet arrived for far too many members of our community.

While the reality of this pandemic is still with us, some COVID-19 restrictions have started to be relaxed in Israel. As we prepare for this summer, we remain optimistic about welcoming NFTY teens to Israel in a way that prioritizes the health of our participants and staff.

At the same time, our ability to do so continues to rest in the hands of the Israeli government. As of now, neither the relevant ministries nor the government have yet to provide any guidance related to tourism this coming summer. Until they do so, we must plan for multiple possibilities and be prepared to adapt our programs based on health and tourism requirements.

According to our current understanding, there are three possible scenarios:

  1. The Israeli government may only allow vaccinated visitors or require a lengthy quarantine period for those who are not vaccinated. If this is the case, and we are confident that we can run a safe and meaningful trip, we will explore inviting only vaccinated teens to join us in Israel.
  2. Depending on the amount of quarantine days required for non-vaccinated teens, we might offer earlier arrival dates and a supervised quarantine period prior to our scheduled trip.
  3. Unfortunately, it is possible that we will not receive the needed information from the Israeli government to plan appropriately, or that the trip parameters they set will make it impossible to offer the trip in a meaningful and safe way. If this is the case, we are exploring options for inviting our teens to the URJ stateside camps.

Updates to Payment and Refund Due Dates

With payment due dates almost here, I want to clarify changes that we have made to the payment schedule. Although the May 1 final payment deadline remains the same, we have decided to push back the full nonrefundable deadline from May 1 to May 15.

Therefore:

  • From now until April 30, the $250 administrative fee is the ONLY part of your tuition payment that is nonrefundable. This is the case if you either choose to withdraw entirely or if you choose to switch to another URJ camp or program.
  • After April 30, the full $500 administrative fee and $2,000 interim payment ($2,500 total) are nonrefundable.
  • After May 15, no refunds will be issued for withdrawal from the program.

However, we would like to reiterate that if NFTY in Israel is unable or elects not to run at our discretion or because of government regulations, orders, or guidelines, there will be several options available related to the tuition you've already paid (exclusive of the RootOne vouchers), including crediting it toward future URJ Camp tuition or NFTY program fees; requesting a refund; or donating some or all of the funds to support the future work of NFTY in Israel.


Reminder: Form Deadlines We are extending the deadline for all forms from April 15 to May 1. However, we still strongly encourage you to submit ALL forms as soon as possible.


Final Thoughts

We will keep you informed as soon as the decisions of the Israeli government are shared with us, and appreciate your patience and understanding.

All of us at NFTY in Israel hope you enjoy the interim days of Passover (Chol HaMoed Pesach) and have a great week.

What’s in this email?

  • NFTY in Israel's Strategy
  • Cautious Optimism
  • Sensible Pragmatism
  • Final Thoughts

Almost immediately after our Purim in Jerusalem ended, newspaper and online advertisements for Passover products replaced the ads for Purim costumes and Hamantaschen.  Sometimes, it feels like there isn’t enough time to savor one holiday before we start preparing for and stressing out about the next one! I am already thinking about what Seder might be like this year and how it might be different than last year.  Simultaneously, I am looking beyond Passover, Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day), Yom HaZikaron (Israel’s Memorial Day), Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Independence Day), and Shavuot to departure day for NFTY in Israel Summer 2021 trips.


Our Strategy In previous updates, I shared with you the operating principles that inform our decision making about this summer. Now, I want to share our two-pronged planning strategy as we move closer to the start of the summer:

  1. Cautious Optimism
  2. Sensible Pragmatism

Approaching Summer 2021 in this way will help us be well prepared for whatever may come our way.


Cautious Optimism Our central operating principle is that...

We are fully committed to running NFTY in Israel trips this summer.

We are so excited to meet your teen in Israel this summer! Preparations for the summer continue as we complete the hiring of madrichim (counselors), the assigning of flight chaperones, and the finalizing of itineraries. This past weekend, our educators toured Masada and Kfar HaNokdim, and spent Shabbat together at Kibbutz Tzuba.

One reason for cautious optimism is the pace at which people are getting vaccinated in Israel. This weekend, we crossed the 5,000,000 mark, or over half of the population, of citizens having received at least one of the two Pfizer vaccine shots. Moreover, most quarantine restrictions under which we were living for weeks were relaxed or completely removed starting on Sunday.

As part of our strategy of cautious optimism, we recognize that we must address a series of questions that take into account COVID-19, including:

  • How many participants and staff members can we safely have on a bus?
  • How will we ensure that our buses are clean and safe? How many times per day do we need to disinfect them?
  • How many participants can we put in one room at any given time, be it a hotel room or a meeting room? 
  • What frequency of COVID-19 testing will be required this summer?

These are just a few of the hundreds of questions we are addressing in preparation for Summer 2021.


Sensible Pragmatism The Israeli government has just formed a commission charged with setting out Israel’s protocols and policies for the entry of tourists (non-citizens) for the rest of the year. The committee is made up of representatives of the Ministries of Health, Transportation, and Tourism. While we are fully committed to running NFTY in Israel trips this summer, the ability to do so continues to rest in the hands of the Israeli government.

As a result, it is only prudent for NFTY in Israel and the URJ to exercise sensible pragmatism and prepare alternative options for as many of our teens as possible if summer Israel trips do not happen because either:

  1. The Israeli government decides not to permit teen travel to Israel this summer
  2. The policies and procedures required by the Israeli government make it logistically or financially impossible to run our trips in 2021.

We will keep you informed as soon as the decisions of the Israeli government are shared with us, and we appreciate your patience and understanding.


Final Thoughts We are working hard to prepare for and are cautiously optimistic that your teen will get to spend time in Jerusalem THIS summer.  We look forward to updating you again when we have more information to share.

What’s in this email?

  • What's the Current Situation?
  • Our Operating Principles and Program Priorities
  • Financial Updates
  • Questions and Future Updates

With Purim just around the corner and Passover coming soon after, it will not be long before your teens arrive here on their 2021 NFTY in Israel summer trip. It will be a huge blessing to welcome your participant to Ben Gurion International Airport this summer as we fully expect to run and are in full planning mode for our NFTY in Israel 2021 trips. To that end, we are hiring our unit heads, educators, and counselors. We are doing the scenario planning necessary to run our trips in the COVID-19 era and are reviewing and adjusting itineraries to make sure that this is an incredible summer! This email is the first of many updates we will be sending in the coming months.

Tevye and our Current Situation

Tevye the Milkman, while reflecting on the fragile state of life in Anatevka, made one of the greatest observations ever turned into a line in a Broadway musical:

Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as… as… as a fiddler on the roof!

We are living through a period where our “traditions,” those things that ground and provide us with the comfort of routine, are noticeably absent as we cope with the impact of the global pandemic on daily life. It is important for us – the leadership and staff of NFTY in Israel – to acknowledge this reality and let you know that not only do we understand it; we feel it as well.


Our Operating Principles

The operating principles below inform our decision making as we plan for our Israel summer trips. Later in this update I will address what we know and do not know right now; and what we are and will be doing as we move forward toward the summer.

  • Clarity. Not Certainty –Right now, we cannot provide certainty. However, we will always provide clarity about how and why we make our decisions prior to and during the summer.
  • Transparency – We will share Israel travel relevant information as it becomes available to us. We will only do so after making every reasonable effort to confirm the accuracy of the information to avoid sharing rumors or misinformation.
  • Health, Safety, and Security – As always, our top priority is the health, safety, and security of our teens and staff. Compromising in any of these areas make it impossible to achieve any of our other goals.
  • In IsraelWe are fully committed to running NFTY in Israel trips this summer. At the same time, we must acknowledge that our ability to follow through on this commitment is dependent on several external sources including, but not limited to, airlines, insurers, legal advisors, and most significantly, decisions of the Israeli government.

 

Right Now…

  • The focus of the Israeli government is on getting the country up and running in time for Passover as we emerge from a very long third national lockdown. Summer feels far away.
  • Nearly 40% of the total population has received the first shot of vaccine and the goal is to have the entire eligible population vaccinated by March 22.
  • Israel’s COVID-19 policies are frequently changing.

 

We Do Not Yet Know…

  • What conditions, policies, and procedures the Israeli government will require for tourists to enter Israel this summer.
  • When the government will publish these conditions, policies, and procedures.
  • The specific ways NFTY in Israel will implement, enhance, and monitor governmental policies.

While it is reasonable to presume that our protocols will include wearing masks, frequent handwashing, use of hand sanitizer, no sharing of water bottles or utensils, etc., we expect to have clarity and a lot more certainty when we are closer to the summer. We will share our official COVID-19 related policies and procedures for this summer with you in mid-May.

Now and Moving Forward, We Are…

  • Constantly monitoring COVID-19 policies and the information provided by Israel’s Ministries of Health, Interior, Tourism, and Diaspora Relations, as well as the Home Front Command of the IDF.
  • In close contact with the head of the URJ’s Summer Camp COVID-19 Committee as we plan for the summer.
  • Learning from our pre-semester planning and setting of policies and procedures for URJ Heller High. The experience we gain during the in-person part of the spring semester will be invaluable and will directly inform our preparations for the summer.
  • Actively engaged in a multifaceted process of scenario planning for the coming summer, which includes considering a multitude of possibilities and options.
  • Working with URJ Camp directors on the possible impact of, and approaches to, all the scenarios we are exploring.
  • Participating in a scenario planning program sponsored by the Israel Travel Alliance and Jewish Federations of North America. We are learning and sharing best practices with other youth service organizations, working together to develop and enhance policies and procedures for the coming summer.

 

Next Steps

There is nothing you need to do right now other than continue the regular process of filling out and returning forms as we send them out. This will help us stay on schedule for the start of the summer in Israel.  It is particularly important that you fill out and return the family health history form as soon as possible. You can find this and your other forms in the Forms & Documents section of your CampInTouch account.

The NFTY in Israel team continues to move forward with summer preparations. We are deep in the staff hiring season, with almost all our unit heads and educators hired, as well as many of our madrichim (counselors). Our educator preparation course has already started. The first of many unit head conference calls will take place in the coming weeks. We will send COVID-19 updates as necessary and will continue sending our usual pre-trip communications according to our normal schedule.


Withdrawals and Vouchers

We know that some families will choose to withdraw their teen’s participation in their NFTY in Israel summer trip. This happens every summer.  We understand and will honor any requests to withdraw. At the same time, we need to be fair to the 70 plus teens who have enrolled for a trip and are on a waiting list for a $3,000 RootOne Voucher. If a family chooses to withdraw from the trip, their RootOne Voucher will be reallocated to a teen on the waitlist.

Cancellation Policy Adjustments and Tuition Payment Schedule

Although the March 1 payment date remains the same, considering the current situation, we have changed the initial withdrawal deadline from March 1 to April 30.

  • From now until April 30, the $250 administrative fee is the ONLY part of your payment that is nonrefundable. This is the case if either you choose to withdraw entirely or to switch to another URJ camp or program.
  • After April 30, the full $500 administrative fee and $2,000 interim payment ($2,500 total) are nonrefundable.
  • After May 1, no refunds will be issued for withdrawal from the program.

However, if one of the following two situations do arise:

  1. NFTY in Israel is unable or elects not to run our trips because of government regulations, orders, or guidelines.
  2. NFTY in Israel is unable or chooses not to run our trips at our own discretion.

There will be several options available to you for handling any tuition you paid (exclusive of the RootOne Vouchers) including crediting it toward future URJ Camp tuition or NFTY program fees; requesting a refund; or donating some or all the funds to support the future work of NFTY in Israel.

Questions

We know that that you may have additional questions about the summer. Please direct all questions to our Registrar, Matt Wolf, at nftyisrael@urj.org. He will either answer your question or direct it to another member of the NFTY in Israel staff who will reach out and respond by email or ask to set up a time for a phone conversation.

Next Update

It has always been our practice to send several emails in advance of the summer dealing with a wide range of subjects. You can expect to receive our next COVID-19 update on March 1.


Final Thoughts

Like any typical winter in Jerusalem, the weather has changed at least three times today. It was overcast, windy, and about fifty-five degrees in the morning. The sun came out and warmed everything up for about an hour, after which storm clouds rolled in and thunder roared across the neighborhood. The rain came down in torrents being blown sideways by the wind. At the end of the day, however, I knew that the rain would end and either the sun would shine, or there would be stars in the Jerusalem sky.

In so many ways, today’s Jerusalem weather changes mirror the current situation as we plan for the summer. There is constant and unpredictable change. At some point the situation will stabilize, we will have clarity and action plans in all areas, and we will be prepared to welcome over 800 NFTY in Israel Summer 2021 teens to this incredible country.

We will be always transparent about the situation and will provide COVID-19 planning updates. We will always provide clarity and, where possible, certainty. We will make every decision about the summer with the health, safety, and security of our teens and staff as the primary factor in our choices.

We look forward with optimism and anticipation to running our Israel trips this summer and to welcoming your teens to this fantastic, complex, and beautiful country.