Six months after fire swept across the North Bay, green shoots have begun to sprout and wildflowers are blooming. Winter rains have brought healing to the scorched earth of Sonoma and Napa counties.
Would that it were so simple for the human ecosystem.
The wildfires of last October killed 44 and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses. Entire neighborhoods in Santa Rosa disappeared in the flames, displacing hundreds of residents, including more than 50 Jewish families. Many are still living in temporary housing, while others have moved away for good.
Yet, as J. reported in the aftermath of the fires, and in our updates this week, we remain justifiably proud of the all-hands-on-deck response from the Bay Area Jewish community. Synagogues, social service agencies, JCCs and Federations answered the call, raising thousands of dollars and delivering goods and services to victims even as the fires raged.
They are all still on the case, as those affected struggle to regain their footing. It’s one thing to talk about honoring community; it’s quite another thing to step up when you are truly needed.
If the fires proved one thing, it is that this community means it when it says kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh: “All of Israel is responsible for each other.”
And it’s also worth noting that Jewish institutions and social service agencies extended a hand to everyone affected by the fires, not just Jews.
Though we wish it were otherwise, as our stories convey all too clearly, the trauma of the wildfires has not yet faded. There is still much work to be done, both physical reconstruction and psychic repair. And the work goes on.
But as a prime example of the resilience of the human spirit, we point to Camp Newman, the URJ overnight camp nestled in the hills east of Santa Rosa. The fires essentially gutted the camp, leaving little more than a few smoldering structures, an untouched cabinet full of siddurim and tallitot, and a Magen David overlooking the site.
While renovation of the physical plant has yet to begin, Camp Newman is very much alive. With summer beckoning, camp will take place offsite this year at the Maritime Academy in Vallejo.
Mere buildings do not a camp make. What makes a camp are campers, counselors and a spirit that cannot burn.
We suspect the same is true for every North Bay community affected by the fires. We wish them Godspeed.