I have just returned from New Orleans where I had the great thrill and honor of accepting the prestigious Hedley S. Dimock Award from the American Camp Association (ACA) on behalf of Elisa Spungen Bildner and Rob Bildner, the visionary founders of Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC).
The Hedley S. Dimock Award has a rich history of recognizing trailblazers from various fields who have made a significant contribution to the camping world. In front of an audience of over 1,800 attendees, Elisa and Rob were duly honored for their extraordinary leadership, generous philanthropy, and profound impact on the entire camp field through the establishment of FJC.
Back in 1998, the couple embarked on a mission to unify and galvanize the field, aiming to transform Jewish summer experiences. Together, as co-founders and co-chairs of FJC’s Board of Trustees, their work these past 25 years has been pivotal in advancing camp on the Jewish community’s educational and philanthropic agendas.
Today, FJC supports over 300 nonprofit day and overnight camps across North America serving 180,000 youth, teens, and young adults during this past summer. Elisa and Rob recognized the powerful role camp plays in fostering a sense of belonging and community, and empowering young people in their own character development and growth. Importantly, they also understood the unparalleled potential Jewish camp has in cultivating Jewish identity, connection, and pride.
ACA’s keynote speaker, Alyssa Gallagher, inspired attendees to become “multipliers” – leaders who motivate teams to work collaboratively to achieve extraordinary things. This describes Elisa and Rob perfectly – exemplary role models and “talent magnets”, for attracting and mobilizing so many advocates, friends, and supporters to join them over the years. Their investment has been multiplied many times over – for the benefit of countless individuals!
Having the privilege of working closely with them for the past 14 years during my tenure at FJC, I feel blessed to have been inspired by their dedicated efforts. I am personally so grateful for all they continue to do to benefit our field and our Jewish future.
As we celebrate this well-deserved recognition of our collective achievements, let us remember that even in these dark days, a glimmer of light can make a world of difference. The Hedley S. Dimock award symbolizes that light, guiding FJC, its many supporters, and all camp professionals and volunteers towards a future where the transformative impact of Jewish camp continues to shine brightly for generations to come.