Resolution in Support of J-1 Camp Counselor and Summer Work Travel Visas

Posted on: Tuesday November 14, 2017

Whereas the Bible teaches us ki mitzion tetze Torah, from out of Zion emanate the teachings of our Torah (Isaiah 2:3), and

Whereas Jewish education around the world is enriched by citizens of the State of Israel and Jews from outside of the U.S. traveling to communities to create personal bonds with the State of Israel and World Jewry, and

Whereas Israeli counselors and Jewish counselors from outside of the U.S. are essential to Jewish summer camp programming because they are from Israel and other countries and are not comparable to seasonal workers who can be replaced by local labor, and

Whereas American Jewish summer programs house more than 200,000 campers and college-aged staff members, a substantial portion of whom have roots in our Conservative congregations, and

Whereas the US Department of State’s J-1 Camp Counselor and Summer Work Travel programs have enabled over 1,500 Israeli counselors every summer to staff American Jewish camps, including Conservative Judaism’s signature Ramah Camps and USY on Wheels [1], as well as thousands of other counselors and staff from countries around the world in essential roles such as maintenance, kitchen staff, swim staff, camping staff, and other key roles, and

Whereas the US Department of State’s J-1 Visa Programs have allowed numerous students and young adults from abroad to participate in work- and study-based exchange visitor programs throughout the US, and

Whereas recent consideration by the US Government to end the J-1 Visa program threatens the very existence of Jewish summer camps that would cause ripples throughout our faith community and hamper the development of future Jewish faith leaders and their connection to Israel and World Jewry, and

Whereas reduction of summer camp operations nationwide will result in the loss of thousands of American jobs as camps might be forced to downsize or even close, deeply hurting the local economies in which they are housed [2], and

Whereas J-1 Camp Counselors and SWT camp participants are key to cultural exchange efforts and to America’s diplomatic outreach with the rest of the world,

Now, therefore, Be It Resolved, that the Rabbinical Assembly urge the US Government to continue the J-1 Visa Camp Counselor and SWT programs to ensure enriching educational and cultural exchanges between Israelis, Jews from around the world, and American Jews that will shape the next generation of leaders of the Global Jewish community, and

Let it be further resolved that the United States strengthen all workplace protections for J-1 and SWT visitors that enable them to have a successful and meaningful experience in the United States.

Be It Further Resolved that these vital cultural exchange programs continue for the sake of building relationships with citizens of other countries and modeling pluralistic values that are the hallmark of America’s stature in the world.

[1] http://jewishcamp.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Advocacy-Letter-to-WH-2.pdf
[2] http://jewishcamp.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/J-1-Visa-Camp-Fact-Sheet.pdf