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I Shouldn't Have to Be Scared to Send My Kids to Religious Summer Camp

Photograph by Getty Images

At the top of my to-do list this month was to nail down our child care plan for the summer. Here in Chicago, the day camps fill up quickly, and last year we were scrambling, having started our process super late... in March. It turned out OK, because my kids, ages 5 and 7, had a great summer at our local Jewish Community Center (JCC,) where they swam, learned yoga, sang songs, and, best of all, came home exhausted. The easiest thing to do would be to simply call them up and sign up for this summer.

But I'm hitting the pause button, thanks to disturbing articles about numerous JCCs being targeted with bomb threats.

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Maybe if it had been an isolated incident in a far away state, I would have called by now. But according to ABC News, 20 JCC centers across the South and Northeast received bomb threats that were credible enough that hundreds of people were evacuated in Florida and Tennessee and outside D.C. In Florida, the picture accompanying the article shows a worried little boy who was recently evacuated standing on the street.

Could that be my kid this summer?

There are literally hundreds of options in Chicago for my kids this summer. But we love the JCC—we know the people, it's near our house, we are part of the community. My children spend half their winter break at the JCC every year, and we use it as our go-to childcare for school vacation days. While there have been no reports of threats in the my area, I’m hardly consoled when I hear reports of bomb threats across the country.

It's beyond my ability to stay calm when I think about my children being subject to a hate crime.

I don't want to be afraid. It feels downright unpatriotic to give into fear. I watched tearfully as First Lady Michelle Obama gave her final speech before ceding her role to Melania Trump. She urged young people “not to be afraid.” I long to take her words to heart and be courageous as I move forward, strong in my convictions and optimistic about the direction of this country.

And maybe I could do that if I wasn’t a mother.

How could I not feel fear when I picture my children spending one second of their summer evacuating camp because of a bomb threat? It's beyond my ability to stay calm when I think about my children being subject to a hate crime.

I’m willing to be brave by standing up to racism at work, by calling out misogyny and anti-Semitism on social media and by identifying myself as an ally, however imperfect, to people in jeopardy. But putting my kids lives on the line is too much of an ask.

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Maybe holding off on the JCC or forgoing it altogether allows fear to win. It's possible I’ll change my mind in a few weeks. Maybe my husband will convince me that danger is everywhere and any attempt to control it is illusory and a waste of time.

Maybe.

But for now, four days after 20 different bomb threats across the country, I’m looking into non-religious sports camp and programs run by the park district. I need to be able to turn my kids over to a program where I know they will be safe and cared for so I can have the mental and emotional space to work. These are scary times and we won’t know how to make the calls—when to let fear change our course and when to stare it down and proceed forward.

Right or wrong, I'm changing course.

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