Today is August 19, 2018 -
Federation’s strategic plan identified Jewish continuity as a high priority. Specifically, the plan states, “Foster multiple options for initiating and sustaining connection with the Jewish community.”
What is Jewish continuity? I like writer Letty Cottin Pogrebin’s definition in Moment Magazine, where he piggybacked off of Adin Steinsaltz’ definition of a Jew as not someone whose grandparents are Jewish, but someone who wants his or her grandchildren to be Jewish.
There are many touchpoints that foster Jewish continuity, including positive experiences with Jewish day schools, Jewish day camps, Jewish choirs, synagogue participation, Hebrew schools, youth-group activities, Israel trips, nursery schools, Jewish home-life, and others. Statistically speaking, however, none of these compares with the impact of Jewish overnight camps.
Studies abound explaining the impact of immersion into Jewish life with peers with the informal (and sometimes formal) Jewish education that camps provide. We are so fortunate in our area to have a plethora of camps within a few hours’ drive, each offering something a little different from the others. Our local children end up at camps sponsored by all of the major denominations and movements, trans-denominational camps, religious camps, Zionist camps, etc.
Unfortunately, a significant obstacle preventing more kids from attending Jewish overnight camps continues to be the cost. On the one hand, how can most families afford this great expense; yet on the other hand, knowing what we know, how can the Jewish community afford not to send all kids to camp? Many great Jewish thinkers and philanthropists are working on the problem, including our friends at the Harold Grinspoon Foundation (funders/founders of the PJ Library program).
While clearly not enough, our Federation supports Jewish overnight-camping opportunities. This summer we offered $24,700 in need-based scholarships to help get 42 kids to 20 different camps. Parents should also learn about other available grants, including from the camps themselves.
If you would like any help in picking out a camp that might be right for your child, please let me know.