Fostering Ruach All Year Long

This week, we changed our clocks and entered the shorter, colder days of winter. Those sunny summer days feel like a distant memory.

Summer camp season may only last eight weeks at most, but one of the powerful aspects of Jewish camp is how it stays with campers, staff, and families all year long. While often focused on magical Jewish summers, we are encouraged to see camps stretch the reach of their joy and warmth beyond campers, to the larger community. A growing number of our camps are expanding their offerings to include immersive and impactful Jewish programming throughout the year.

Jewish camps are successfully leveraging the meaningful connections built during the summer to foster Jewish identity in the 10 months between camp seasons. We are inspired by the vision of life-long, year-round Jewish programming that is anchored in the core summer camp experience.

Several years ago, FJC provided seed funding for Ramah Service Corps,which helps bring the Ramah ruach to Conservative congregations throughout the year. We were thrilled when new and increased funding enabled its expansion and the creation of the URJ Service Corps, serving Reform congregations as well.

More recently, FJC provided Innovative Engagement Grants to eight camps to help them reach and engage more diverse communities – including fostering year-round programming.  For example, Camp Tawonga has been leading the way, as its “Down the Mountain” program serves thousands in the San Francisco Bay Area. BB Camp in Otis, Oregon, hosts a range of creatively branded community events during the year, not only as weekend retreats but also as well-attended programs by the Portland community.

Supporting our camps in extending camp reach beyond the summer will be a major focus at FJC’s upcoming seventh biennial Leaders Assembly, March 18-20, 2018, in Baltimore. We will convene more than 700 camp professionals, lay leaders, educators, and philanthropists for three days to consider the accelerating pace of change within our Jewish communal ecosystem and beyond, and how FJC can help camps adapt and excel in the marketplace.
In our opening plenary, Harvard Divinity School’s Casper ter Kuile and Angie Thurston, co-authors of How We Gather, will reflect on findings from their research into a host of growing organizations and how they build community and transform lives in unexpected ways. Workshops will share best and next practices for extending the camp brand beyond the summer session, and much more.  We encourage you to join us and register for Leaders Assembly today.

In the off-season, camps work hard preparing for the summer ahead. These months also hold great potential for delivering even more intentional Jewish experiences, and bringing light to the long days of winter as we eagerly anticipate the summer.

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.