Jeremy J. Fingerman

Expanding Our Communal Table

In a few days we will be sitting around our Seder tables saying “Let all those who are hungry come and eat.”  I believe we need to take this invitation seriously all year long and open up the tables of our communal institutions to “all those who are hungry” and invite them to join us.

Last month, the growing field of Jewish camp came together to do just that at Leaders Assembly, the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s fifth biennial. This year’s theme, ONE FIELD. MOVING FORWARD., spoke to the diversity of attendees as well as the innovation and collaboration taking place, and our aspirations for the field of Jewish camping. With more than 65 workshops, Hot Topic discussions, and plenaries dealing with the most important issues facing Jewish camps in their mission of growing strong Jewish identities in our children, attendees “feasted” on enriching and empowering programming.

ONE FIELD:  a record number of 710 attendees included Jewish overnight and day camps professionals and lay leaders as well as educators, synagogue and communal professionals, and philanthropists. All are committed to growing the impact of Jewish camp and the number of Jewish campers, inspiring them in the summer and engaging them in Jewish life year-round. ONE FIELD:  all who attended are a part of a broader ecosystem of Jewish engagement. While we share the same vision for future generations, each of us touches the lives of these children at different times and in different ways. Taking a holistic approach to our campers creates opportunities for inspiring new partnerships.

MOVING FORWARD:  in the short span of 15 years since our founding, Foundation for Jewish Camp has created a field where none existed before; raised professional standards and practice in the field of camping; and enhanced and deepened Jewish and Israel program content and culture.  As we look back on how far we’ve come, we are challenging the Jewish community to move forward together with us to extend the invitation to many in our community who remain untouched by the magic of camp and the experience of joyous Judaism. Now is the time to move forward together to bring more children to Jewish camp, securing a more compelling and vibrant Jewish future.

Leaders Assembly offered several ways to begin accomplishing this as we discussed the affordability of Jewish life, inclusion of under-served members of our community (such as interfaith families, Russian-speaking Jewish families, and those with disabilities), deepening Jewish and Israel content at camp, and the importance of customer service.  You can watch some of the recorded plenary presentations here.

I was inspired watching the constructive conversations and the level of engagement at Leaders Assembly.  I hope that by all of us coming together, we will be able to continue strengthening and supporting each other.

The result of our work, over these three days and every day, will be the continuation of building new creative partnerships to collectively advance our Jewish camps, our community, and our Jewish future to ensure that every member of the next generation has and chooses to take a seat at our Seder table.

Best wishes for a Zissen Pesach.

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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