Surprise Transgender Bunk Assignment at Herzl Camp Stirs Conflict with Alumni

Transgender Policy Causes conflict with Herzl Camp Alumni
Transgender Policy Causes conflict with Herzl Camp Alumni

Herzl Camp, a Jewish Summer Camp in Webster, Wisconsin, assigned a biological male to a girls’ cabin without notifying the other campers or parents. The girls in the cabin did not immediately discover that one of their campers who appeared to be a girl was actually a biological male. The girls, in their words, “gathered around him and looked at his penis.”

On June 27, 2024, parents and alumni of the camp wrote an open letter to Herzl Camp leadership to express that they were “appalled” that the situation was allowed to occur. Herzl has not yet responded to the parents.

The letter explains that “we have heard from our children and friends that during this past week, young females in the bunk were exposed to this camper’s penis while he was changing, and they were forced to undress and change in front of him without parental consent.” This situation has understandably caused “significant anxiety and pain among the children involved.”

Of course, the parents want Herzl to be an “inclusive and welcoming environment to all, and no child should ever be excluded because of his or her own orientation or identity.” But “this admirable cause, however, is not absolute, and Herzl Camp must answer for this lack of transparency and regrettable choice not to inform nor engage with the parents of other campers.”

The parents demanded that Herzl “reinstate its traditional policy of maintaining separate accommodations, restrooms, and showers, for boys and girls, and we demand that any proposed changes to these policies be communicated clearly and involve consultation with all stakeholders.”

The parents expressed that their support for Herzl is not unlimited. “This is a step too far, and it sets a dangerous precedent that threatens the physical and emotional wellbeing of our children. Additionally, this experience severely undermines our confidence in Herzl’s priorities and agenda, which should always and forever be rooted in Torah, Gd, and Israel. Herzl Camp has long been a key pillar of our Jewish community, but how it moves forward in this regard will determine whether we will enroll our children at Herzl or look elsewhere.”

Despite the parents’ concern, Herzl’s policies on transgender identity and the use of facilities based on gender identity appear to be consistent with policies across a broad range of other reforms at Jewish camps. For instance, Camp Solomon Schechter, a Jewish summer camp in Washington state, announced last year that it will comply with children’s requests to be treated as another identity, to the point they will be willing to hide it from their parents.

Assigning bunks by gender identity also appears to be the policy of the Jewish Federation. Jewish Federation @JewishBayArea tweeted on July 3: Our friends @KeshetGLBTJews, a Federation grantee, created these guides to help make synagogues, day schools, summer camps, Hillels, and Jewish youth groups a more inclusive, welcoming, and safe environment for LGBTQ individuals.

A statement published in 2019 by Keshet appears to support Herzl’s policy of separating campers based on gender identity rather than biological sex, saying that “Some transgender youth may feel more comfortable housing with the gender that correlates with their full time presentation and identity, others with their sex assigned at birth.”

A request for comment to Herzl Camp went unanswered. On Friday, July 5, 2024, JLN wrote to Herzl asking for comment:

According to a letter obtained by JLN, dozens of camp alumni have demanded Herzl revert to its previous policy of separating camp bathroom and shower facilities based on biological sex rather than gender identity. We are writing to request your response to the letter prior to finalizing our article. Your response is appreciated by the end of the day on Monday, or please let us know if you need more time.

Herzl Camp is a Jewish summer camp in Webster, Wisconsin founded in 1946.

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  1. I find it odd that they would hide this from everyone. They didn’t think people would find out? Seriously?

    Simple solution: Why not have separate cabins for the trans people, or people who identify differently?

    Cabins for those identifying as male, cabins for those identifying as female, and cabins for the trans attendees.

    This way no one is forced to be in an uncomfortable situation.

    Seems too easy to not do. And it would resolve so many issues.

    Don’t the “normal” people have rights to their personal privacy, too?

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