Last week, when I met with colleagues from the American Camp Association and the YMCA camping network, we discussed the powerful outcomes of a summer camp experience: building confidence, compassion, and character in our campers and staff by spending time in a community of peers and role models.

Of course, when I think about how Jewish camp differs from other summer options, my answer is often, “WE MAKE MENSCHES.” While often greeted with a laugh or a smile, mostly I see a light bulb go off above peoples’ heads as I put into words the ultimate goal of the Jewish camp experience.

Jewish camps are uniquely positioned to deliver reflective moments, bringing intentionality to each experience that is so hard to replicate with the pressures of everyday life. To support our camps as they create magical moments summer after summer, Foundation for Jewish Camp works to amplify meaningful and relevant Jewish experiences at camp.

Today, we have launched an expanded, interactive website dedicated to our popular Making Mensches: A Periodic Table, which builds upon on the success of the Making Mensches poster and incorporates the multitude of creative programs that it has already inspired at camps and classrooms across the Jewish community. This periodic table is now a free, living program bank to inspire camp professionals and educators throughout the Jewish world to create innovative ways to help our children become the best version of themselves.  Envisioned by Rabbi Avi Orlow, our VP of Program and Innovation, this project of the Hiddur Initiative was made possible with generous grants from The AVI CHAI Foundation, the Jim Joseph Foundation, and the Maimonides Fund.

In an effort to reach younger campers, we have also released a brand new set of educational resources to help provide a Jewish context for camp staff, campers, and their families to identify, understand, and express emotions and feelings while creating wonderful memories. Based on the animated Disney Pixar film Inside Out, and made possible by Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah, this project provides experiential lesson plans and resources. FJC is also offering onsite Inside Out training this summer to help camp staff use the materials.

The goal of these new resources is to inspire meaningful conversations at camp about values, emotions, character, and how we experience and interact with the world around us. We welcome you to join this conversation and add to these dynamic resources. If you would like to contribute a program, text, or media resource please email teri@jewishcamp.org.

Our excitement is building; the first camps open in 23 days. We look forward to yet another successful summer of “making mensches”!