Each summer, as I visit Jewish camps across North America, I am inspired by the joyous Judaism that is being transmitted to the next generation. Each visit reinforces my confidence in the importance of our work and in the future of the Jewish communities we are helping to build.

Day camps play an important role in that process. Day camps generally engage a younger age group than overnight camps, starting their Jewish immersive experience sooner. There is also a great opportunity to involve teens as day camp staff tends to be high school students rather than the college-aged counselors in overnight camps.  Day camps are also able to engage the entire family throughout the summer. The nature of the day camp experiences allows for more touch points with parents through daily camp pick-ups, family programs, and parent-focused evening activities.

In the past two years, Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) has significantly increased its work with day camps. We are proud of our partnership with the UJA-Federation of New York to help open four new specialty day camps this summer.  Modeled after our Specialty Camps Incubator Program, which opened nine new overnight camps in the last five years, we have worked to create unique offerings to attract new kids to Jewish day camps.  The new specialty day camps are Project Dacha, Camp Young Judaea Sprout Brooklyn Day Camp, New Country Day Camp of the 14th Street Y, and Kings Bay Y PACK.

As I have traveled around over the past few weeks, I have also been able to witness the progress on our Hebrew Immersion Program taking place in five Jewish day camps this summer, including the Marcus JCC of Atlanta, the Mandel JCC in Cleveland, the JCC of Metro Detroit, the Prosserman JCC in Toronto, as well as Ramah Nyack.  In partnership with the Areivim Philanthropic Group, and with support from the William Davidson Foundation and Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life, FJC hopes to expand this effort to attract new day campers to immersive Hebrew summer experiences.

In addition, as part of our overall effort to enhance the Jewish learning and growth at camp, with generous support form UJA-Federation of New York, we are coaching staff to enhance the Jewish programming at four other NY area day camps; the Rosenthal JCC, the Manhattan JCC, the Friedberg JCC, and the 14th St. Y’s New Country Day Camp. Each camp has been working to refine their ideal Jewish vision in order to enhance the Jewish learning opportunities they provide to their campers, staff, and families. We are looking to expand this model in future years in other communities.

Foundation for Jewish Camp’s CEO, Jeremy J. Fingerman with Josh Donner, Executive Director of The Shapira Family Foundation; Brian Schreiber, President & CEO of The Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh; Rachel Marcus, Associate Executive Director of the JCC of Greater Pittsburgh; & Lewis Sohinki, Division Director of the Children, Teen & Family Division and J&R

The field of day camps continues to expand with several overnight camps extending their brands to provide day camp programs as well.  In addition to the Young Judaea Sprout Lake day camp in Brooklyn, Ramah has opened its fourth day camp, Ramah Day Camp of Greater Washington, this summer in Germantown, Maryland.  The URJ Harlam Day Camp is in its second summer on the Main Line in Philadelphia and The Nageela Camp Network has opened another day camp in Boca Raton, Florida.  And even more options are in development.

The increasing number of Jewish day camps tremendously increases the options families have when choosing what works best for their family.  Jewish day camps provide a wonderful opportunity for thousands more Jewish children to experience the magic of Jewish camp.

Want to be inspired?  Go visit a camp this summer!