Author Archives: Foundation for Jewish Camp

Foundation for Jewish Camp

About Foundation for Jewish Camp

Climbing a rock wall, getting up on water skis, singing around a campfire – camp is bliss. Jewish camp is all of this…with a soul. What does that mean? While campers are having a blast, they are gaining independence, learning new skills, and making best friends plus they are living Jewish values like tikkun olam (repairing the world) and experiencing the importance of community. Judaism is weaved into everyday activities providing a connection that stays with campers long after they eat their last s’more. The Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) works with over 150 nonprofit Jewish overnight camps of all denominations across North America to increase the number of campers, inspire camp leaders, and develop programs to strengthen camps. Read more about Jewish camp, FJC, & our research on the power of Jewish camp at

Counselor and Camper Costumes & More Purim Fun

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!

Posted on March 7, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Jewish Camp Trendspotting: 10 Ways a Summer Ritual is Changing

By Julie Wiener

URJ Six Points Sports Academy is one of five specialty camps that opened in 2010. (URJ Six Points Sports Academy)

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.

Posted on February 20, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Using a Business Model to Make Jewish Summer Camp Affordable

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

Posted on February 11, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Jewish Disability Awareness Month

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.

The Plain Old Normal

Saying Yes

It Takes a Village, Like it or Not

Camp Turned My Son Into a Teenager

October Blues

The Truth About Pink

Stay tuned for posts by camp directors, experts in the field, former campers, and more.

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Posted on February 6, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Summer Lovin’ – Shira & Noah


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!

Was it love right away? Yes! Within the week we started dating. Some of our favorite memories are still from that first summer. IMG_0665

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.

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Posted on January 10, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Summer Lovin’ – Alyia & Max


photo (3)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 Wedding Photo for Aliciaroad 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.

Posted on October 11, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Summer Lovin’ – Amanda & Adam


adam and amanda 2002When/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.

968927_10152855630675394_1947759621_nWill you send your kids to your camp?
Absolutely! We want our future kids to have both a Jewish camp and Jewish youth group experience – we can’t imagine our lives without that foundation.

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.

Posted on September 13, 2013

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Summer Lovin’ – Alexandra & Eric


Eric_Alex1993When/how/where at camp did you meet?
We attended Camp JCA Shalom in Malibu, CA as kids and met in the Summer of 1993 when Eric was 13 and I was 12. We were camp crushes for two summers in a row.

Was it love right away?
Absolutely!  We adored each other even at that young age. We even have a “Shabbat-O-Gram” that Eric had written Alex the first summer we met signed, “I love you, Eric Spitz”

What happened between you when camp ended that summer?
We lived about an hour away from each other but at that age it may as well have been across the country! Needless to say, we lost touch after that last summer of 1994. Fast forward to 2006 when I finally gave in and signed up for a MySpace account. I had always remembered Eric and his infectious smile and fun-loving attitude so I decided to look him up.  I was still living in Los Angeles and I discovered that he was living in Miami. We were both in other relationships at the time but it was so nice to catch up over email. A year later, in June of 2007, he emailed me to say he would be in LA for his brother’s wedding the following month.  We made a plan to meet for a drink (to be safe!) on Tuesday when he arrived in town. Drinks turned into dinner which turned into many more hours of laughing and catching up. We had both recently broken off the relationships we had been in so the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.  We spent as much time as possible together over the next five days while he was still in town and by Sunday he had decided that he was going to move back to LA so we could be together.  He went back to Miami, organized the move and on Spitz_007September 6th got in his car and drove cross country. We hadn’t seen each other since he had visited in July so we were both taking a huge leap, though it felt completely normal and as if we had been together for many years. We had a connection at 12 and the feelings came back instantly when we saw each other again. We were engaged about 10 months later and got married in May of 2009 at the only venue we could possibly imagine: CAMP!!! We had our close friends and family stay for the weekend and we enjoyed all of the activities camp had to offer.  We transformed the camp grounds into a gorgeous, rustic wedding setting and could not be happier with how it turned out!

Will you send your kids to your camp?
There is no question and we cannot wait to!  Many of our friends and family members also went to camp…it is a huge part of our lives. We attended our first family camp weekend when our son was 16 months and we can’t wait to do it every year until he is old enough to go on his own.

Eric and Alexandra Spitz currently reside in Orange County, CA with their 2 year old son, Jack and dog Lucy.  Eric is an Account Manager for Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. serving the entire Orange County region. Alexandra is a Certified Parent Educator and Certified Newborn Care Specialist and is currently taking care of their son while running her new business, OC Mommy and Me, a program for new moms in Orange County with babies 0-12 months. 

Posted on August 9, 2013

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Summer Lovin’ – Mollie & Jon


campWhen/how/where at camp did you meet?
We knew each other since we were Oles, the youngest age group at Camp Tevya.  It wasn’t until the year before my Kinneret summer when I was 13 and Jon’s Tel Chai summer when he was 15 that we actually started talking.  We spent hours on end instant messaging and writing emails and then that summer, Jon asked me to be his girlfriend.  On the second night of camp, we were walking back from evening activity in the Girls Rec Hall and right before we passed the girl’s porch, Jon asked me if I wanted to “make it official.”

Was it love right away?
I think it was.  We were inseparable that first summer and for every summer after that.

What happened between you when camp ended that summer?
Like all “serious” couples, during the last week of camp, we had a talk about what would happen over the year.  I remember sitting on the stone wall outside of the El Bess building right before the Ole play.  I was so nervous.  Jon said that he wanted to try and make it work and that we would call each other and visit one another over the year.  Living in two different states (Jon lived in Canton, MA and I grew up in Ambler, PA) was hard but we saw each other a handful of times during that year and talked on the phone constantly.  Needless to say, our parents were both not happy about the cost of our long distance phone calls.

Each summer from 1998 to 2003 we went back to camp together and during the school years we saw each other frequently.  In 2001, Jon graduated high school and went to school in Manchester, NH.  The following year, I went to school in Waltham, MA.  My parents always joked around that my only requirement for a college was that it was within an hour of Jon.  They were right!

nowOn New Year’s Eve in 2006, Jon proposed along Rose Warf in Boston.  The next year he moved to Philadelphia and then in 2008, we were married with many Camp Tevya alumni present to celebrate our big day.

A lot has happen since that first summer.  It is hard to believe that fifteen years have passed but what an incredible fifteen years it has been!  All thanks to our favorite place in the world-Camp Tevya!

Will you send your kids to your camp?
There is no doubt in our minds!  We will be signing Hailey up for double Dalia as soon as she is old enough.  As soon as she understands, we will start telling her stories about camp and she will know that there is no where better to spend her summers than at Camp Tevya!

Mollie and Jon Becker have been together for 15 years – ever since that first summer at Camp Tevya.  They currently live in Ambler, PA with their dog Pebbles, daughter Hailey, and are expecting another child in the fall of 2013.  Mollie works as a Project Manager at Einstein Healthcare Network in Philadelphia and Jon is a SAP consultant who travels all over for IBM.  In March of this year, they celebrated their five year wedding anniversary.

Posted on July 12, 2013

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Summer Lovin’ – Samantha & Brian


Scan.BMPWhen/how/where at camp did you meet?
We met in the picnic grove during lunch, on the second day of staff training in the summer of 2002.  Sam was an SIT (staff in training) that summer and came up early during staff training week (with her mom who was a nurse) to hang out with her friends who were already counselors. Brian happened to be friends with her friends.  We also happened to both still be wearing a concert bracelet from the week before, so that broke the ice for us.

Was it love right away?
No, it wasn’t.  Sam wasn’t that interested in Brian, so we remained friends that summer.

What happened between you when camp ended that summer?
We stayed friends, and luckily Sam was at the University of Illinois and Brian was at University of Wisconsin so it wasn’t too far to visit.  After a couple of visits up to UW and spending time together on breaks, we were official in February 2003 and have been together ever since.  While Sam was staffing Camp Chi’s Pacific Northwest trip, Brian flew out to South Dakota and proposed in front of all her campers at Mt. Rushmore.

Michael Lee PhotographyWill you send your kids to your camp?
We’d love to send our future kids to Camp Chi, we could only hope that they would make the best friends that we’ve both made and maybe even be a 2nd generation of Camp Chi spouses.

Samantha (Sam) and Brian Isenstein were married in 2011 at JCC’s Camp Chi.  Sam is the Youth Community Director at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park, IL.  She went to the University of Illinois and majored in International Studies and the Jewish Theological Seminary’s Davidson School of Jewish Education where she received her Masters in Jewish Education. Sam spent 12 fantastic summers at Camp Chi in Lake Delton, WI as a camper, SIT, counselor supervisor and trip leader.  Brian is an IT dude for a mid-sized accounting firm in Chicago.  He went to the University of Wisconsin and Depaul University in Chicago where he received his Masters of Science in Business Information Technology.  Brian spent 13 summers at Camp Chi as a camper, SIT and counselor.  

Posted on June 14, 2013

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