Herzl Camp has closed for Summer 2020 to protect campers, staff, and their families from the coronavirus. Indeed, this is an unprecedented response to an unprecedented situation. After 75 years, the buses will not roll in, young voices will not fill the Chadar, and the Mercaz will welcome Shabbat in silence.
Herzl Camp is in uncharted waters. As an independent nonprofit, almost 90% of our revenue comes from camp tuition and donations tied to providing services to campers at camp (like scholarships). A full year without revenue will create a significant operating loss. In addition, preparing to welcome campers safely back in 2021 will require significant facility and program investments. Changes will include new handwashing facilities, food service structure, cabin ventilation, and recommended health screening/testing equipment.
For background, the variable cost of summer camp makes up 50% of our expenses. So, for a full year, we have lost 90% of our revenue and can only cut 50% of our cost. We are continuing to reduce expenses and adjust to the work needed in a year without camp. We are making salary reductions, temporary and permanent staff reductions, and other cost-cutting measures in an effort to reduce fixed costs as much as possible.
Fortunately, Herzl Camp enters this time of great uncertainty on stable footing, having run a balanced budget since 2010 and eliminated all debt in 2019. Our long history of prudent fiscal management puts us in a better position to weather this unexpected storm.
Lastly, we must increase the scholarship funds available for 2021. Families are experiencing financial uncertainty now that may last for some time. Affording Jewish camp will be an even bigger challenge for more people in 2021.
While the pandemic has caused great hardship around the globe, it has also brought the power of community, friendship, and human connections into focus. Now in this summer without camp, we truly understand the value and importance of camp. Our virtual candle lighting and song sessions are drawing hundreds of “campers” from around the globe. Over 3,000 campers, families and alumni participated in our “community care week” following our 2020 closure news. More virtual camp activities are planned for campers, families and staff in the coming weeks with infusions of Herzl History from past Rosh Shironim, 12 Gates writers and performers, and Ozo groups from past years.
To cover our 2020 operating loss and respond to the impact of the coronavirus on facility and scholarship needs for 2021, we will need to raise nearly $2.5 million. Fortunately, the Herzl Family is committed to reopening camp in 2021. In addition to over 500 donations from camper families, alumni, and friends, the Minneapolis Jewish Federation has committed nearly $2 million to ensure camp’s survival through their Kadima initiative.
Even with this outpouring of support, the road back to camp is long and uncertain. Your help is needed. Will you join with us in keeping the dream alive? Your donation will ensure that campers return to Herzl Camp in 2021.