|FJC’s winter Board of Directors meeting just concluded, and it gave me an opportunity to review and reflect on all that FJC and the field of Jewish camp has accomplished this past year. It has me filled with immense gratitude, which I’m carrying with me as we shift our focus to 2021. I am thankful to:
- Our Board of Directors for their wise counsel and unwavering support that helped us make it through these past 10-months of disruption, uncertainty, and anxiety. In particular, we are blessed to be led by Julie Platt, who exhibits unparalleled passion and energy for our work.
- Of course, an organization is only as strong as its staff, and FJC has such an outstanding professional team. Together, we have navigated through these exhausting days with extraordinary learning, growth, resilience, and agility.
- Most of all, I want to express my deep appreciation to all of you – our broader community of donors, professionals, volunteers, educators, and communal leaders. Your support of FJC, especially this year, has allowed us to ensure that the field is equipped and prepared to embrace our rapidly changing world with flexibility and intention. Little did we know how rapidly things would change!
Our collective efforts have mitigated the negative financial impact of 2020, and we have embarked on a path toward recovery in 2021. I am confident, as we look ahead to 2021, that we will be able to overcome the challenges that await. With your help, FJC and the field will move forward together.
Camps continue to have confidence in their plans to be ready for in-person experiences this coming summer. We’re encouraged by early indications for camper enrollment, especially for returning campers and their families. FJC’s One Happy Camper® program remains a highly effective resource for attracting and enrolling new campers, so much so that some communities have already established waiting lists.
We know camps will need to make major shifts in how they operate in order to open this summer, which will stretch their resources during a time when there will also be a greater demand for scholarships from families in need. Many camps have planned limitations on bunk capacity, changes to dining room protocols and food service, as well as alterations to their medical facilities for greater potential isolation needs. FJC is actively working on providing capital expansion grants to address some of these needs and help increase camps’ ability to serve more campers. We’re also working closely as a field on joint procurement of PPE supplies to lower costs, and on advocacy efforts, in partnership with the American Camp Association, both nationally and locally to ensure the needs of camps are not overlooked when it comes to health and safety guidelines including vaccinations and the issuing of J-1 visas for international staff.
Mental, emotional, social, and spiritual health (MESSH) remains a significant concern for our entire community. Supporting campers, staff, and families has always been a necessity, and the isolation brought on by this pandemic has only exacerbated this crisis. While the community camp offers will be a relief for some, campers and staff continue to suffer a shared traumatic experience. FJC is hard at work to make sure campers and staff feel supported. We will be offering multiple mental-health trainings for counselors and camp leadership throughout the spring and, through our Yedid Nefesh program, we plan to support 31 camps with mental health professionals on-site at camp.
Even as we help the field overcome immediate challenges, FJC also has a strategic imperative to invest continued energy and resources in R&D for the future. Our innovation work throughout the pandemic has helped advance the field in new, adaptive, and powerful ways, and we must bolster this critical work post-pandemic. Camp is year-round and lifelong, and it is crucial that we continue to pilot, experiment, and develop new approaches to grow and support the field of Jewish camp. If you’re interested in getting involved with these R&D efforts or want to learn more, I would love to hear from you.
Thank you. None of this work would be possible without your support. I’ll continue to share updates as we advance our efforts in the months ahead.