I read with great interest an article this week authored by Professors Jack Wertheimer and Steven M. Cohen, “The Pew Study Reanalyzed.” One year following the Pew Research Center release “A Portrait of American Jewry,” our community continues to grapple with the changes in which American Jews identify as being Jewish and engage with the Jewish community. Many are looking for meaningful and new ways to express their Jewish identity outside of mainstream institutions.
Wertheimer and Cohen confirm the “findings on the beneficial impact of Jewish summer camps, especially those that combine camping with a strong educational mission, thereby offering an organic experience of Jewish life that reinforces and complements formal Jewish education of any kind.” Simply stated, Jewish camp works; it continues to be an answer to solidifying a love for joyous Judaism which will last a lifetime. Jewish summer experiences are becoming the central Jewish community for many families, a reality that offers Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) and Jewish camps the opportunity to expand and grow our impact on the Jewish community.
Our FJC lay leadership and professional staff used the Pew Study as the catalyst to re-evaluate our five-year Strategic Plan published in 2011 at its mid-point, assessing our performance and reimaging our opportunities. Our board has now approved Our Path to 2020 to propel our efforts forward and to increase the number of campers engaged in Jewish summer experiences. While our ambitions are high, our focus is intentional:
Leadership Development – Successful camps require talented and passionate leaders – both lay and professional. Through innovative training programs and consistent support we will be able to sustain key talent, nurture the next generation of leaders, ensure the long-term success of our camps, and sustain the field of Jewish camp.
Jewish Impact – Quality Jewish summer experiences allow campers to explore what it means to be Jewish and become something meaningful that will follow them throughout their lives. Strengthening the quality and depth of Jewish content, including Israeli culture and Hebrew at camps, are significant components that drive camper retention and reinforce the role of camp as an experiential Jewish educational platform.
Field Expansion – More campers participating in Jewish summer experiences will lead to a vibrant Jewish community in the future. Developing new opportunities that attract untapped potential campers will expand the impact of Jewish camp to the broader community reflecting our diversity. We extend our attention to provide support and guidance to day camps and a wider range of immersive, experiential summer opportunities for Jewish youth and teens across North America.
FJC remains steadfast in its mission and vision – we aspire to ensure that every Jewish child has an immersive Jewish summer experience. As Wertheimer and Cohen confirm once again, Jewish camp plays a crucial role in building a stronger, more vibrant Jewish future. Now is the time to expand our impact and reach those who still remain untouched by the magic of camp. Our ideas may be large in scale, but to generate ambitious results, we must dream beyond the confines of our existing 155+ campgrounds and experiences.