Jeremy J. Fingerman

Making Mensches for the 21st Century

I am certain that I am not the only parent who wrestles with the question of how to guide my children to become mensches and individuals who are relevant in the 21st century.

Educators and leaders of Fortune 500 corporations identified critical skills that are necessary to navigate in, compete in, and contribute to our complex and global society in the 21st century. They have found skills like creativity, innovation, critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, flexibility, adaptability, initiative, self-direction, leadership, and responsibility missing from young hires.

Research shows that these skills are not necessarily taught in schools. We know there is a significant gap between the knowledge and skills most students learn in school and the knowledge and skills that they need to be successful as adults. As parents work to ensure their children acquire all the skills to succeed, many have begun relying on summer experiences to compensate for this gap and view camp as a critical extension of their child’s education.

Camp is a great place where children are able to practice and perfect these 21st century skills. Through challenging activities with their bunkmates, campers practice teamwork, communication, and leadership skills. The fun games they play encourage humor, creativity, and collaboration. By overcoming obstacles, they build resilience and reinforce life lessons individually and as a community. The power of Jewish camp is that kids develop these skills all within a Jewish context, with Jewish values and joy-filled experiences.

Jewish camps hope to inspire young people today to be able to be decent, mature, and responsible contributing members of our Jewish community. Jewish camps have been in the business of “making mensches” for generations and they continue to do so by providing an environment for our children that models personal behavior, ethics, and responsibility for the future of our Jewish community.

Six months from now, our bunks, chapels, and lakes will be filled with mensches in the making. We must continue to provide our campers with Jewish literacy with the aim of creating visible Jewish pride and curiosity as well as equip them with critical 21st century skills.

Camp’s immersive environment delivers a powerful answer to why Jewish camp remains to this day such a vital tool for our community.

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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