A bunkhouse went up in flames early Friday morning in Camp Na’aleh, Bobov-45’s camp in Livingston Manor, New York, but b’chasdei Hashem the dozens of girls who had been sleeping inside escaped without injury.
Around 7:30 a.m., one camper in the tenth-grade bunk awoke to see smoke and sparks coming from an electrical appliance. She quickly awoke her bunkmates. “They got out just in time,” assistant director Benzion Fuhrer told Hamodia. “By the time they got out, the bed closest to the appliance was already burning.”
By the time firefighters arrived, the building was engulfed in flames. One 20-bed room in the building was destroyed; the other was damaged.
There were no injuries, and no girls were hospitalized.
“It was groise nissim,” Fuhrer said.
The girls were evacuated to the camp’s large field area, because fire trucks were operating near the building; they ate breakfast in the field. When it was again safe to go to the dining room, they went there “singing and dancing with all kinds of niggunim of shevach v’hodaah to Hashem,” said Fuhrer.
The girls from the bunkhouse that the fire destroyed — Bunks 12A and 12B — were housed in a staff bunk; a trailer was later brought in for the displaced staff members.
Once everyone was safe, attention focused on the practical realities: The campers of Bunks 12A and 12B had lost all their possessions in the fire. And the community quickly pitched in.
“We called up a bunch of stores Friday in Boro Park,” Fuhrer said. “Per Se, Green’s Bed and Bath, The Lingerie Shop — they sent, for free, all sorts of clothing for the girls: Shabbos robes, shoes, sneakers, skirts, shirts and towels, so everyone would have what they needed for Shabbos.”
Meanwhile, families from nearby bungalow colonies brought linens and boxes of nosh for the girls. One person coming from the city for Shabbos brought items that the girls’ parents had prepared.
(On Monday, the division head took the campers shopping in Monsey, an endeavor sponsored by the camp and by several benefactors. Some stores donated clothing or gave steep discounts.)
Shabbos Nachamu was a joyous time in Camp Na’aleh.
“The whole atmosphere on Shabbos was very happy and festive,” said Fuhrer. “There was much more joy than trauma. Everyone was very supportive; the leaders showed the way.”
Camp director Rabbi Yaakov Fuhrer (father of Benzion Fuhrer) spoke at the Kiddush Friday night and on Shabbos morning. A married staff member who spoke to Hamodia but declined to give her name, recounted his remarks.
“Rabbi Fuhrer told the girls how fortunate we all are to have had such a nes, and that the nes happened b’zechus Rabboseinu hakedoshim. He said that at Shacharis, they should concentrate particularly on the brachah ‘hagomel chassadim tovim le’amo Yisrael,’” the staff member said.
“He also thanked the staff for handling the situation professionally, with warmth and with a lot of care. They were very supportive, taking care of the gashmiyus of the children. We were all so impressed by how the staff immediately mobilized to make sure the girls had whatever they needed. And Rabbi Fuhrer also thanked the girls of 12A and 12B for handling the situation so well.
“Rabbi Fuhrer spoke about the passuk: ‘Lehagid baboker chasdecha ve’emunasechah balailos’ — even though it looks bad by night, everything Hashem does is for the good.
“All of Shabbos was filled with a very high ruach of gratitude. Hodu laHashem ki tov, ki l’olam chasdo.”
On Sunday, the Rav of the kehillah, Harav Yehoshua Rubin, shlita, whose wife is also the camp’s Rebbetzin, gave a chizuk shmuess. Benzion Fuhrer described the speech:
“The Rav said that although the nes happened to some girls, it didn’t only happen to them; it really happened to everybody, and everybody is together in the nes. He went on to say that we should realize how big the nes is, and give shevach to Hashem for everything that happened.
“He also said that when something like this happens, Hashem is talking to us. So even though, baruch Hashem, everyone is good and tzniusdig and ehrlich, everyone can find one small thing to improve on, and he gave some examples. He said: We just finished the Nine Days. The Beis HaMikdash was destroyed because of sinas chinam, so we should improve in ahavas chinam. You are in camp 24 hours a day with friends, the Rav said, and it is a good opportunity to improve ahavas chinam.
“Another example was Krias Shema al haMittah. You go to sleep very late, after a long camp day. Make sure to say Krias Shema al haMittah, which is a shemirah for the whole night.
“And tznius: Even though we have a big emphasis on tznius, there is always room for improvement. The Rav noted that the fire occurred the day before Tu B’Av, when the Gemara says that the bnos Yisrael would go out with borrowed white dresses so that nobody would know who was rich and who was not. And now, after the fire, the girls were borrowing dresses from one another!”
Fuhrer said that despite the frightening experience, it was heartening to see how people selflessly and enthusiastically made sure that the girls of Bunks 12A and 12B would lack nothing.
“All the nearby camps called to see if they could help us or provide anything — food, linens, places for the girls to stay,” Fuhrer said. “Mi k’amcha Yisrael. The outpouring, the chizuk, it was heartwarming. And it made such a big difference.”