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Jeremy J. Fingerman

Cornerstone: Shema…Listen to Hear

Courtesy: Foundation for Jewish Camp, Cornerstone 2024 | jewishcamp.org

“I realized how valuable it is to just listen.
I don’t do it enough, but I’m going to make a change.”
–FJC Cornerstone Participant 2024

Now in its 22nd year, Foundation for Jewish Camp’s annual Cornerstone Fellowship is our longest running and largest training program for returning Jewish camp madrichim (counselors). This year, FJC brought together over 400 camp staff and professionals representing more than 70 camps in FJC’s network across a broad spectrum of denominations and affiliations.

The theme of this year’s incredible gathering was Shema: Listen & Pay Attention. FJC’s talented program professionals and Cornerstone faculty opened the seminar by sharing this powerful message:

“So often in life we listen to respond. While someone is speaking to us, we are already gearing up for our response. Here at Cornerstone, we are committed to listening to understand. We strive to give everyone we speak to the respect of our full attention and our pause before replying — regardless of whether or not their viewpoint aligns with ours.

90% of participants shared in their evaluation that this theme resonated with them personally.

I find this theme and message (and the Cornerstone theme song) so compelling and so needed for all of us navigating through these troubled times. I am proud that it will become a bedrock of Jewish camps’ Israel educational plans and programs this summer.

Our camps have worked hard and are prepared to welcome a broad diversity of thoughts, opinions, and perspectives on Israel this summer from their campers and counselors. They have been utilizing resources shared out by FJC, attended Israel education webinars we have hosted, and many are receiving funds from FJC to hire additional, top-level Israel educators to come visit their camps this summer.

All of our research confirms that madrichim (counselors) serve as the keystone of the Jewish camp experience. The Cornerstone experience provides these counselors with skills, tools, and knowledge to be confident Jewish educators and role models for their chanichim (campers) and respected influencers for their peers. But what we saw two weeks ago highlights another critical component of Cornerstone and of Jewish camp itself.

Cornerstone created a warm, nurturing, and joyful Jewish community – so important for the counselors’ own development and growth in any year, but even more needed coming off these very difficult months on college campuses. Many participants expressed how this year’s seminar brought them much healing and comfort, a positive sign of what 180,000+ young people will experience at our camps this summer.

We hope that the power of being in community together – with an ability to listen more to actually hear each other – will help to restore and recharge all participants with a sense of normalcy and of strong, Jewish pride.

Praying for a safe, healthy summer filled with healing, listening, and growth.

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. Jeremy, a former board Vice-Chair of JPRO (the network of Jewish communal professionals), received the 2023 Bernard Reisman Award for Professional Excellence from Brandeis University.
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