Building Community

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of welcoming faculty members of our Cornerstone Fellowship to the FJC office as they prepared for their annual faculty planning seminar.  We are fortunate to attract and retain the top experiential Jewish educators in their various fields and disciplines, and each one brings energy, passion, and wisdom to the annual task of raising the bar of excellence for Cornerstone.

I was particularly struck by their undeniable enthusiasm and joy in coming together with one another. One faculty member told me that convening with their fellow Cornerstone educators is such a highlight of her year that she plans her work vacations specifically around the Cornerstone calendar.  Others expressed that this annual gathering with colleagues energizes then for the entire year, and inspires and informs their own work – with impact far beyond their FJC engagement.

Observing their enthusiastic reunion made me reflect on the most essential and sacred duty of Jewish camp:  to build community. We create opportunities for people to come together, share and experience new perspectives, and emerge with new ideas, skills, and relationships that can motivate and sustain them for the rest of their lives. The meaningful sense of “togetherness” that characterizes the Jewish camp community is like a well that never runs dry; we can draw strength, energy, and inspiration from it time and time again.

This special sense of “togetherness” characterized so much of what made 2018 such a dynamic year for Jewish camp. FJC’s Leaders Assembly in March brought together close to 800 camp professionals, lay leaders, educators, philanthropists, and communal professionals to share success and challenges, explore trends, and seek opportunities for innovation and excellence. We launched six new specialty camps, all of which worked together as a cohort for the last two years to prepare for their inaugural summer.

Even one of the greatest challenges facing our field last year – the heartbreaking loss of Camps Hess Kramer, Gindling Hilltop, and JCA Shalom in the California wildfires – demonstrated the resilience, strength, and love that come from being part of a larger Jewish camp community.

As we enter 2019, we will work together as a field to build even more opportunities for even deeper connections. Our rapidly changing world demands that we accelerate innovation and build our adaptive capacity – ensuring we continue to attract and impact the lives of tens of thousands of campers and staff. Unifying to support three new strategic initiatives – reimagining the counselor experience, activating year-round engagement, and attracting families with young children – we will help the field continue to evolve and grow, building joyful Jewish communities for generations to come.

On behalf of the professional staff and lay leadership of FJC, I thank you for being part of our community. By coming together and combining our strength, dynamism, and enthusiasm for Jewish camp, we ensure that our shared Jewish future is bright.

Wishing you a happy 2019, overflowing with every blessing that life can offer. May you – and Jewish camp –  continue to thrive.

About the Author
Jeremy J. Fingerman has served as CEO of Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) since 2010. Prior to joining FJC, he had a highly-regarded 20+ year career in Consumer Packaged Goods, beginning at General Mills, Inc, then at Campbell Soup Company, where he served as president of its largest division, US Soup. In 2005, he was recruited to serve as CEO of Manischewitz.
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