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Jacks, Jump Shots, & Judaism

Ask any child what the best time of year is and they will say summertime. For many children, summer means spending time outdoors, playing sports, swimming, and hanging out with friends. Across North America hundreds of thousands of kids will do this at camp – and over 70,000 of them will attend a nonprofit Jewish camp. These children will develop their sense of Jewish self while having fun, experiencing independence, and making lifelong friends.

Choosing a Jewish camp can ease the often painstaking process of deciding what your child should do this summer. With options ranging from traditional sleepaway camps to specialty camps (including sports, arts, outdoor adventure, and more) to camps with special needs programs, there is one to fit every child and family’s requirements and spectrums of observance. Alumni cite Jewish camp as a place they matured, were free to be themselves, tried new things, and began to love and enjoy Judaism.

As a study recently released by the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) demonstrates, camp is an essential part of the formation of a child’s Jewish identity as well as an important component in building a strong Jewish community. This research on the long-term effect of camp analyzed areas of adult behavior and attitudes including synagogue membership, observance of holidays, donating to Jewish charities, and connection to Israel. FJC found that, as adults, Jewish camp alumni are:

  • 45% more likely to attend synagogue at least once a month
  • 30% more likely to donate to a Jewish Federation
  • 55% more likely to feel very emotionally attached to Israel
  • 25% more likely to donate to a Jewish charity

(as compared to adults who did not attend camp.)

More and more communities are realizing the power of Jewish camp and making it a priority by joining camps and camp movements and getting involved in FJC’s One Happy Camper program. One Happy Camper is an incentive program which encompasses several initiatives including the JWest Campership Program in the Western United States, sponsored by the Jim Joseph Foundation. JWest provides families with non-needs-based cash grants of up to $1,500 for sending middle-school-aged campers to one of 24 nonprofit Jewish summer camps for the first time. An additional $1,000 is available for subsequent summers. To get details and apply for yours today, visit OneHappyCamper.org.

This past summer almost 10,000 children attended one of 155 nonprofit Jewish overnight camps for the first time thanks to a One Happy Camper grant. Over 55% of these children would have opted for a non-Jewish summer experience (including staying home) if not for this pioneering recruitment initiative. Twenty percent of these campers also report camp to be their only Jewish activity and nearly 50% are not affiliated with their local Jewish Federation.

“Jewish camp gives children the opportunity to engage with the fun and joyous aspects of Judaism,” says Jeremy J. Fingerman, CEO, Foundation for Jewish Camp. “We are thrilled that Federations, synagogues, and other groups are seeing the power and importance of camp for the Jewish community in the long term.”

Of the 24 Jewish summer camps in the West, three are located here in Colorado! JCC Ranch Camp is located in Elbert, Shwayder Camp is outside of Idaho Springs and Ramah Outdoor Adventure is near Deckers. In addition to the JWest grant that is honored at all three Colorado camps, JCC Ranch Camp and Ramah Outdoor Adventure also offer a OneHappyCamper grant for first time campers outside of the middle school age range. Find out more about Jewish camp and browse the Find a Camp feature at JewishCamp.org.

About Wendy Aronson

Wendy Aronson
Current position: Assistant Executive Director at the Boulder JCC. Formerly was the JWest Program Director at the Foundation for Jewish Camp, worked for CAJE staffing the IST trip and B'nai Tzedek program, and was CU Boulder Hillel's first JCSC Fellow.

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