Dear GFC Community,

Next week, I will travel to Israel as part of a Camp Director mission with the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC). Over the course of four very full days, we will focus on our approach to Israel education this summer and how we support our Israeli community at camp. As Israel enters its fifth month of war with Hamas, our hearts are with all those who are impacted by the war.

Here at home, security is top of mind for many of our families in light of the conflict. A number of you have reached out about safety and security at camp this summer. I want to share with you what is already in place at GFC and what we are doing for this upcoming camp season.

What has been the security plan at GFC? 

Since 2021, we have worked with the McClennan County Sheriff’s Office to employ off-duty officers on-site around the clock throughout the entirety of our summer season. Safety and security is included in the portfolio of one of our full-time team members, Marissa Meador, and she works with our contact at the sheriff’s office year-round. Additionally, Marissa coordinates the safety and security training for our full-time and summer seasonal staff.

Our full-time and summer seasonal staff participate in hours of safety and security training each season, in both classroom learning and drills. We spend time learning about both “horses” (things that are most likely to occur) – for example, weather-related incidents, medical emergencies, absent camper – and “zebras” (things that are less likely to occur at camp) – for example, exiting a burning building, active shooter on site. We even learn how to run through fire! Our training is run by David Berkman , of Berkman and Brown, LLC. David is a former camp director (who grew up at GFC and was an assistant camp director here!), who now owns a risk and crisis management consulting firm.

Our gate remains closed, and visitors must be checked in at the front gate and register at the office before proceeding onto camp. All visitors must wear a visitor badge identifying them as such. All camp staff and faculty must wear a camp nametag that identifies them as a staff member or faculty member.

What’s new? 

The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) is working directly with Secure Communities Network (SCN) to provide and enhance training for leadership at all URJ camps. There is an SCN representative in each of our major metropolitan areas in Texas – Houston, Dallas, and Austin. We are in close contact with our SCN representative, Andy Dooher, located in Austin. We happen to fall in the catchment area of the Austin office and have been in contact with the SCN representatives in both Houston and Dallas at different times. Andy visited GFC twice in January to do an on-site assessment of our property. Utilizing information we gave to SCN in the fall and what he learned on our property, Andy is putting together a thorough assessment to help us map out our next steps in enhancing security at GFC. When we receive the report, we will review it with our team, with the URJ, and with our lay leaders to determine our strategy for enhancing our security protocols.

Andrew Johnson, camper parent, camp committee member, and former GFC staff member has agreed to lead our new Safety and Security Committee. Andrew has been working with us throughout this process, helping us plan forward.

This summer, we will hire a Summer Security Coordinator who will work with Marissa to ensure that we have the right support in place throughout the summer. Focusing solely on Safety and Security for our entire summer season, this person will be responsible for orienting our on-duty officers, tracking our safety and security log, supporting ongoing training, and more.

In addition, and at the recommendation of David Berkman and our medical directors, we are also purchasing multiple STOP THE BLEED kits to accompany our AED machines around camp. Our full summer leadership team will be trained in this life-saving technique. Finally, we are adding a safety and security training session in spring for our full-time team and lay leadership to work with David Berkman to expand the scope of our training and enhance our preparedness for this summer.

Now what? 

Each summer and year-round event, when you entrust your family to our care, you share your most precious gifts with us. We do not take this responsibility lightly. We will continue to keep you updated and informed on any changes and additions we make to our security protocols this summer and beyond. Please note that we are advised not to share detailed plans in light of safety concerns. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out directly.

Have a peaceful and joyous Shabbat!

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Erin Mason