Jewish overnight camp is about so much more than campfires and color war. At camp, kids get the chance to explore who they are—and who they want to become—in an active, inspiring, fun-filled environment. (Marshmallows included.) But paying for camp can be difficult. We get it—we are parents too.
We have some easy ways to make the dream of overnight summer camp a reality for your child. We can even help you find the perfect camp—no matter what your background, you will find a place your child will have fun, be comfortable, learn more about themselves, and explore their Jewish identity.
If your family lives in the northeast, check out BunkConnect, a new program that offers introductory rates at 40-60% off to first time campers. Finding out if you qualify is quick and confidential—answer six questions at BunkConnect.org. Then start browsing for the right summer experience for your child for this summer! The website will connect you right to the camp director to learn more about the experience.
One Happy Camper
BunkConnect doesn’t work for your family? One Happy Camper offers first time campers up to $1000 off. With over 155 Jewish camps on Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Find a Camp tool – search out the perfect one. You can narrow down your search by choosing preferred session length, specialty activities, denomination, and more. Once you choose a camp visit OneHappyCamper.org to see if you are eligible for a need-blind grant.
While you are on our website, visit our scholarship database. Don’t forget to talk to your synagogue, local federation, JCC or other Jewish organizations. Many have scholarships available to make summers at Jewish camp a reality
At Jewish camp, ruach (spirit) is part of every activity—from dancing to hitting a home run—allowing campers to explore their connection to Judaism in a meaningful way while having the summer of their lives. Clearly, we are a little passionate about this. You will see the difference in your child the minute they return home. The impact of overnight Jewish camp is immediate. At camp, kids hang out with amazing role models, who inspire confidence and independence, guiding your child to hone their skills, build self-esteem, and discover interests and talents they never knew they had.
We can’t wait for your child to have the summer of a lifetime. (And you get a bit of a break from the logistics of the daily grind, not bad…)
by Rabbi Jason Miller
New Brunswick, NJ – As Jewish camp leaders once again convened at Leaders Assembly, the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s biennial conference here in New Brunswick, there was a lot of networking taking place – both in person and via social media. The dozens of ad hoc camp reunions taking place in the hallways of the hotel also materialized into an exchange of best practices for these Jewish camp professionals. The hot topic this year was the use of technology, both in the back office of the camp operations and front and center for campers, their parents and alumni.
What role all of this new technology plays for the Jewish summer camp industry was hashed out in breakout sessions at the camp confab in what were termed “Hot Topics” and also discussed in the “Shuk” where the companies that provide this new technology were camped out. “Do you keep your camper registrations and medical forms in the cloud?”, “Who manages your alumni Facebook page?”, “Have you started Instagram or Pinterest accounts,” and “Which online service do you use for staff background checks” were just some of the questions overheard at the conference.
While many don’t typically associate high tech with the camp world, which for generations was thought of as a low tech industry, there’s no question that camps have come to depend on the latest support applications in the technology world to run their camps efficiently, effectively and safely in the 21st century. After all, while one of the core missions of the overnight summer camp experience may continue to be allowing our youth to unplug from their electronic gadgets for several weeks each summer, the camps charged with that mission must be run like businesses. And that means using the best technology to manage everything from security, registration, financials and medical information to social network engagement, summertime communication and alumni relations.
In one “Hot Topic” session, Sacha Litman, the founder of Measuring Success, demonstrated the importance of using “Big Data” to help camps with their year-round engagement efforts. Big corporations, he explained, have been using “Big Data” for many years and in 2014 summer camps need to utilize the same data tools to acquire new campers and maintain existing relationships with both current staff and the valuable alumni who are now positioned to donate and send their children or grandchildren to the camp. These data measuring tools have been available to camps for years, but most didn’t know how to put that data to good use for philanthropic or camper recruitment and retainment purposes. Litman’s plea that camps focus on engaging their campers twelve months a year rather than in the traditional camp recruitment season was a theme echoed throughout the 3-day conference, which ended Tuesday afternoon.
Read the rest of this article on eJewish Philanthropy.
The Jewish Funders Network has named the Foundation for Jewish Camp as the inaugural recipient of the Shapiro Prize for Excellence in Philanthropic Collaboration, for being the first funder collaboration to advocate for, promote, and strengthen Jewish camps on a wide scale.
The new prize recognizes alliances of forward-thinking Jewish funders who collaborate to achieve broader impact in their chosen fields of interest. It was presented Sunday at the annual JFN conference in Miami Beach.
Until FJC was founded in1998 by Elisa Spungen Bildner and her husband Robert Bildner, Jewish camps ran independently or within their religious movements. The Bildners envisioned collaborating with other funders, and received support from The Samuel Bronfman Foundation and The Wexner Foundation.
The creation of FJC expanded support for the field and brought long-term vitality to more camps and their programming.
Read the rest of this feature on eJewish Philanthropy.
Purim’s getting close, so we’re sharing some camp-themed costume ideas for you to enjoy!
One of the most delicious memories of camp is s’mores roasting over a fire, so why not dress as one? Your toddler will be so yummy in this S’more Costume!
Channel your inner counselor! Get dressed up as your favorite madrich or madricha with these colorful whistles. Bonus: You can use them in place of a grogger during the Megillah reading!
Continuing with the counselor theme, how about adding a backpack to round out the costume? This cool tye-dye Jansport backpack will also be perfect for carrying and delivering mishloach manot, or Purim food gifts.
Round out your counselor costume with this Columbia Bora Bora sun hat. It may not necessarily be sunny this Purim, but it sure will get you in the mood for summer (and of course, summer camp!)
Share your Purim fun with family and friends! Send this Purim gift basket full of kosher hamatashen, adorable masks and other fun activities.
We hope you enjoy our camp-themed Purim picks, and chag sameach!
Nostalgia about summer traditions notwithstanding, Jewish camps have changed dramatically from a generation ago.
Camp’s value for Jewish education and identity-building is now a major focus of communal attention. Major Jewish foundations, federations and organizations are investing heavily in the sector.
Many camps have become more intentional about incorporating Jewish learning, Shabbat and Israel into their programming. They’ve also evolved to meet families’ changing expectations and demands: offering a wider range of choices of all kinds (from food to activity to session length); providing more frequent updates and communications to parents; accommodating numerous medical requirements and allergies;and placing greater emphasis on safety and security.
At the same time, the Jewish camping field is becoming more professionalized. The job of camp director has been shifting from a seasonal gig to year-round career, and counselors are receiving more intensive training.
With all this change in the Jewish camp world, here are 10 specific trends we have noticed:
1) Shorter sessions: Once upon a time, summer camp meant the entire summer, with the majority of campers attending for seven, eight or even 10 weeks. Now it is the rare child or teen who spends the full summer at camp (or at one camp), and most programs offer multiple sessions, ranging in length from just six days to seven weeks. “Our three-week session has always sold out more quickly than the four-week, and our new two-week session has been a quick hit as well,” said Vivian Stadlin, co-director of Eden Village Camp in Putnam Valley, N.Y.
2) Specialized programs: Whether a child’s passion is sports, the environment, outdoor adventure or science and technology, there’s a Jewish camp for that. An incubator under the auspices of the Foundation for Jewish Camp spurred the creation of five specialty camps in 2010 (including Eden Village, which is focused on the environment) and another four that will open this summer. The idea is to attract kids who might not otherwise consider a Jewish camp and to show them they can combine their passion with Judaism. Increasingly, established general-interest Jewish camps are adding specialty tracks and electives. For example, the New Jersey Y camps offer a science program and various sports programs, while Ramah in the Poconos has run basketball clinics and a tennis academy.
3) Healthier food: Serving healthy, locally sourced food is a part of the mission of some specialty camps like the new health-and-wellness-focused Camp Zeke and was a component of Ramah Outdoor Adventure from its beginnings in 2010. In addition, many established Jewish camps have been redoing their menus to make them more nutritious and environmentally friendly: adding salad bars, replacing “bug juice” with water, offering more vegetarian fare and even planting their own organic vegetable gardens.
4) More affordable options: The Foundation for Jewish Camp recently introduced a new program called BunkConnect that enables first-time campers from middle- and lower-income families to search for a variety of discounted Jewish summer camp options. While BunkConnect is currently only available in the Northeast, New England and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States, the foundation hopes to expand it in future years. In addition, most Jewish overnight camps offer financial aid and the One Happy Camper Program, initiated in 2006, offers grants for all first-time campers regardless of need. So far 50,000 children have received One Happy Camper grants.
5) Broadening definition of camp: While rural settings and rustic accommodations are still the norm, two specialty camps — the Union for Reform Judaism’s Six Points Sports Academy and Six Points Science & Technology — are located on boarding school campuses, and another, the 92nd Street Y’s Passport NYC, is in the middle of Manhattan. Passport NYC, in which participants do internships and live in air-conditioned dorms, and Six Points Science blur the boundary between “camp” and “summer program,” while programs like USY on Wheels and Adamah Adventures, which operate under the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s umbrella, blur the boundary between “camp” and “teen travel.”
Read the rest of this feature on JTA.
By Rabbi Jason Miller
Ask any Jewish family that sends their children to both a private Jewish day school and a Jewish summer camp about the affordability of such endeavors and they’ll use words such as “sacrifice,” “hardship” and “priorities.” With the cost of Jewish day school tuition for one child varying from $10,000 all the way up to $40,000 per year, more Jewish families who desire a day-school Jewish education for their children are finding it cost prohibitive even with financial aid.
Add to those rising costs, the additional expense of a month or two at a Jewish summer camp and families are having to just say “no” to their kids. In the new economy, the Jewish middle class has virtually vanished. Many families who once would be considered upper middle class are forking over their tax returns hoping for subsidies to make day school and camp tuition affordable. New organizations like the Affordable Jewish Education Project (AJEP) are sprouting up seeking to imagine alternative solutions to the economic crisis. Plain and simple it’s becoming cost prohibitive to raise a Jewish family according to the values of day school and summer camp.
While Jewish day schools continue to solicit large endowment gifts to offset the tuition costs, the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) has announced a new affordability initiative. In an effort to put a Jewish summer camp experience in financial reach for most families, FJC has launched BunkConnect, a new program that matches eligible families with high-quality nonprofit Jewish summer camps at a more affordable price. This philanthropic business venture has been developed in collaboration with forward-thinking business executives and leading philanthropists.
Read the rest of this article on HuffPost Religion
February is Jewish Disability Awareness Month (JDAM), which brings a topic that is very important to us at the Foundation for Jewish Camp to the forefront of conversations all over the Jewish community. JDAM is “a unified initiative to raise awareness and support efforts to foster inclusion of people with disabilities and their families in Jewish communities worldwide.” To further the effort, we are running a series dedicated to discussing disabilities at Jewish camp this month.
Kicking off the series is a round-up of some of the most powerful posts by Joel Yanofsky, one of our resident bloggers and father to Jonah, a great teenager and camper on the autism spectrum.
Stay tuned for posts by camp directors, experts in the field, former campers, and more.
SHIRA & NOAH MENCOW HICHENBERG
When/how/where at camp did you meet? I arrived at staff training at Camp Ramah in New England my junior counselor summer two days late, having just come back home from a trip to Israel. Shira had recently returned home from a year spent studying in Israel. After a training session, I was showing my Israel pictures to a friend and Shira asked to see. We initially bonded over our recent Israel experiences. Though we had been at camp at the same time as campers, we are a year apart so never got to know each other. Luckily that summer we did! Shira was a counselor for the edah (age group) that my younger brother was in, and my parents were in camp that summer, which made for some interesting social situations. Shira likes to point out that she knew my family members before she even knew me!
What happened between you when camp ended that summer? Sadness. I was leaving for Israel for the year on Nativ and Shira was headed to her freshman year at U Maryland. We split up briefly facing the daunting distance, only to stay in close touch over the phone and shortly decided that we wanted to continue our relationship despite the distance. After that I went to college in NYC, so we visited each other a couple times a month. Each summer we got to spend time together as we went “home” to camp. We wound up spending the same semester abroad together in Israel finally. After Shira graduated college she moved to NYC and we were finally living in the same city. Shortly afterwards, we were married.
Will you send your kids to your camp? Yes! Shira’s parents, and aunt and uncle both met at different Ramah camps also so we know it is in the blood.
Shira & Noah Mencow Hichenberg were married in November 2009. They currently live in Manhattan and are expecting their first child next month! Shira is a Clinical Research Coordinator at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Noah is the Director of the Nursery School at the JCC in Manhattan.
ALYIA & MAX CUTLER
When/how/where at camp did you meet?
Max and I met for the first time at Camp Edward Isaacs in 2000; I was a camper and he was a CIT. My girlfriends and I would give him a hard time about hanging out with our counselor. In 2006, on the first day of staff week I walked into the canteen during a showing of “The Matrix” to say hi to a friend. Max was sitting next to him and immediately stood up and yelled out my name with big open arms. I must have looked very confused because for the past 6 years since we met we had hardly exchanged two words! Max gave me a huge hug and told me he was so glad to see me.
Was it love right away?
Max says he knew that night in the canteen… I took a little longer to warm up. Everyone seemed to know he had a crush on me and when they told me I would just roll my eyes and say we were just friends and it would stay that way! Then one night when I sat OD in my tie-dye pajamas and oversized sweatshirt, he came by and kissed me. At that moment everything changed and I knew he was the last person I ever wanted to have a first kiss with.
What happened between you when camp ended that summer?
Heartbreak! Straight out of a sad movie. We both decided that since we didn’t go to the same school and we were in “different places in our lives” that we would end the summer romance and just be friends after camp. After a long, drawn out goodbye I remember driving away down the dirt road sobbing by myself until I got home…and then for days after that.
That first winter we talked on the phone every so often, checking in to say hi and happy birthday. When we were home from school we would see each other. The next summer I went back to camp but Max didn’t. He would come visit though and we fell right back into the days of summer love. I spent my days off with him and we began to talk and see each other more and more as the months went on. For the next few years as I finished college and he began his post college “adult life” we dated on and off, taking breaks to study abroad and “find ourselves.” In 2010, during my last semester in college, we became serious and last year he proposed during a bike-ride on a pier in Riverside Park.
Will you send your kids to your camp?
Sadly, Camp Edwards Isaacs closed in 2008 but if it were open we would say, “Absolutely, we’ll send our kids to Eddie I!” There is no question though, that we will send our kids to Jewish sleepaway camp to have transforming summer experiences, and maybe meet the love of their life too.
Alyia and Max were married in September 2013 with their camp friends and former camp directors in attendance. They currently live in Brooklyn, NY with their Sphynx cat, Abby. Alyia is an Assistant Program Manager at Foundation for Jewish Camp and Max is a therapist at the Jewish Child Care Association in Brooklyn.
AMANDA SAGARIN & ADAM THOMASHOW
When/how/where at camp did you meet?
Adam and I knew each other in high school, as we were both participants in URJ’s NFTY-NE (North American Federation of Temple Youth). I grew up outside of Boston and Adam in Central Massachusetts. However, we were not friends – we had never even had a conversation. The summer after we graduated high school, in 2002, we both worked at URJ Kutz Camp in Warwick, NY (where we had attended as campers in high school students at different times).
Was it love right away?
The very first day we arrived we were waiting for orientation to start and decided to take a walk. By the end of the walk we knew that would become friends. Time at camp unravels differently than in “real life” and after a few weeks our friendship had grown and started taking the direction towards couplehood.
What happened between you when camp ended that summer?
Adam was headed to college in Connecticut and I was taking a semester off, having deferred from a school in Massachusetts. Over a milkshake we decided we would try to have a long-distance relationship. This worked until the spring of our first year in college when we went our separate ways. Several years later, after not seeing or speaking with each other, we reconnected and last summer we were married.
Amanda Sagarin and Adam Thomashow were married in summer 2012. They currently live in Washington, DC where she is a social worker interested in systems-level change around breaking cycles of poverty and the empowerment of girls and women. He is completing his education while deciding between several different types of technology to work within.