Jeremy J. Fingerman

Science & Surfing & Shabbat, Oh My!

This week, I had the privilege to participate in the seventh training workshop for directors and assistant directors of our six new specialty camps, the third cohort of FJC’s Specialty Camp Incubator. I have witnessed these new camps take shape over the last 16 months in development and could not be more excited for them as they prepare for their 2018 inaugural summer. Offering a wide-range of contemporary, skill-building specialties – from creative arts to surfing – all of these camps are trained in infusing Jewish wisdom, tradition and joy, into daily life.

The work is all-consuming for these Jewish social entrepreneurs, but their energy, passion, and dedication motivates us to help ensure their successful launch and long-term sustainability.

At the intensive workshop this week, FJC’s field experts guided our newest colleagues in camp leadership development, health and safety practices, security and emergency protocols, and ritual design. I am inspired and invigorated by these leaders and their courage to engineer a new path. Traditional Jewish camps enjoy generations of tradition and folklore, but new specialty camps have to create everything from scratch, while holding the highest level of expertise in their special field. With all new staff and infrastructure, these camps remind me how important it is to plan each day with great intentionality, as FJC helps camps maintain a long arc of mission and vision.

With the opening of these six new camps – three on the East Coast and three on the West Coast – FJC counts 17 specialty camps launched since 2010 through our incubator process. The data shows more than 6,000 campers have attended the first 11 new camps, attracting middle and high school youth who would not have otherwise attended Jewish camp. With the generous support of the Jim Joseph and AVI CHAI Foundations, together we are truly “incubating a new Jewish future.”

The learnings from creating these camps from scratch inform and motivate the entire field in forward-thinking adaptation and innovation. Not only do these new camps offer expertise and elite personnel in fresh, new areas of interest, but they also and equally innovative, lease existing spaces at universities and boarding schools with the high-quality infrastructure their programs need. This efficient approach to creating sacred communal spaces opens up opportunities across the field and beyond.

Maybe you know some potential campers for whom these new

experiences might be just the right fit:

Eden Village West is located at Rio Lindo Academy in Northern California. The new camp will empower campers to explore spirituality and foster an environmentally sustainable world, through organic farming, homesteading, wilderness skills, and farm to table culinary arts.

Havaya Arts is a high quality arts experience, creating a community through overnight camp at University of Redlands campus in Southern California. At Havaya, Jewish communal life informs art and, in turn, identity.

Ramah Sports Academy at Fairfield University in Connecticut, will offer elite coaches and counselors to build physical skill, teamwork and sportsmanship to create a caring Jewish community.

Sababa Beachaway is a Jewish sleepaway camp at Old Dominion University, Virginia Beach, committed to help young people grow their best sense of self, build meaningful relationships, immerse themselves in passionate pursuits, including Surfing, Sailing, Scuba, & Seaside Media.

URJ 6 Points Creative Arts Academy is based at Westtown School in Westchester, PA. Their art laboratory will mentor young Jewish artists in meaningful creation of culinary arts, dance, music, theater and visual arts.

URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy West will bring together campers with a passion for STEM to strengthen their Jewish identity and express themselves through sci-tech innovation. The camp will be based at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks.

Camp people know that even in the off-season, the field of camp never slows down. We are always innovating, adapting, creating, and preparing powerfully transformative experience for youth, teens, and young adults.  I hope you share my excitement in watching these new camps grow from incubation to success and look forward to launching more specialty innovations throughout the entire field in the years to come.

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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