For the last 17 summers, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, in partnership with Yad LaBanim Organization and the IDF, has offered the children and siblings of fallen Israeli soldiers a summer camp experience away from home, to provide support as they deal with loss and work to rebuild their lives.
This summer was the sixth year that the FIDF Mid-Atlantic Region hosted Legacy Camp.
Three chapters of FIDF — Maryland; Washington, D.C.; and Virginia — hosted this year’s Legacy Camp, held from July 11-July 25, according to an FIDF press release. After a two-year break due to COVID-19, the children met at Capital Camps in Waynesboro, Pa., enjoyed a tour of Washington D.C. and spent Shabbat with host families in Baltimore. The children also spent a day in New York City and attended a pool party hosted by an FIDF donor in Westchester, N.Y., before returning to Israel.
The children are accompanied throughout the camp by officers from the IDF’s casualty unit.
Several of the staff members, per the press release, are soldiers who have also lost loved ones and attended the program when they were b’nai mitzvah age.
“Long after the initial communal bereavement has subsided, families are often isolated in mourning and faced with a void that will last a lifetime,” Legacy Camp Co-Chair Avigail Rosemore said. “Siblings of the fallen are often unintentionally overlooked and for this
reason, FIDF created Legacy Camp, a chance for bereaved kids to feel normalcy amongst other kids who have experienced similar loss, even if just for a short while.”
Reut Friedman, director of the FIDF Eastern Region-Maryland Chapter, said that there are many people who came together to make this experience special for the b’nai mitzvah-aged Israeli children who participate. In Maryland, these individuals included FIDF Maryland President Marty Taylor and Legacy Camp Co-Chairs Rosemore and Jenn Goldmeier.
“It is thanks to wonderful lay leaders in our community that we are able to have such an impact on the lives of these very deserving kids,” said Friedman, a Baltimore County resident.
Taylor, who has been president of FIDF Maryland for two-and-a-half years and has served on the board for more than eight years, said that the Legacy Camp experience, of “spending time with these kids and their dedicated counselors,” has been the highlight of his time with FIDF.
“Hearing their stories, holding their hands to comfort them and seeing the bonds that they are forming with other kids who are the only ones who can connect to their sorrow was something I’ll never forget,” Taylor said.
This year’s Legacy Camp participants includes children of diverse backgrounds, all of whom have lost a loved one serving in the IDF. These include Arab and Druze campers.
“It is an absolute privilege for those of us in Baltimore to participate in the Legacy Camp program and show all of the campers and accompanying soldiers how important they are,” said Goldmeier, whose family served as a host family. “We want the group to return to Israel knowing and sharing the message that the FIDF loves and supports them.”