Watching the Jewish Future Bloom

I have just returned from a profoundly moving three days in the Berkshires with the Foundation for Jewish Camp Board of Directors. During this time, our annual summer board meeting, we had the privilege of visiting four Jewish camps and experiencing the powerful impact these camps are having on the lives of Jewish youth.

I wish each one of you could witness first-hand how the work we do all year – all of the leadership development opportunities, incentive and engagement grants, and educational initiatives – is put into meaningful practice by dedicated and inspiring camp professionals. You would see the culmination of our collective efforts reflected in the joy on campers’ faces on Shabbat, the ruach during song sessions, and the sacred wonder of experiencing Jewish community in nature.

Foundation for Jewish Camp Board in Palmer, MA visiting Camp Ramah in New England

We believe passionately that Jewish camp represents the most effective vehicle for engaging the growing population of diverse and under-served Jews and remains the best investment to ensure a strong Jewish future.

While watching campers enjoy the natural splendor of the lakes and trees, I realized the significant symbolism of the Foundation for Jewish Camp logo, featuring a flowering tree that grows from the center of the word “Jewish.” A Jewish camper is the seed from which the Jewish future will continue to blossom and thrive – and camp is the fertile ground.  By furnishing the field with ideas and resources to provide transformative Jewish summers, we nourish the soil, helping Jewish campers develop strong roots that are deeply, irrevocably intertwined with a love of Judaism.

To be immersed in Jewish camp is to be immersed in an undeniable sense of belonging to a joyous Jewish community.

This week, we had a very special impromptu moment at URJ Crane Lake Camp in Stockbridge, MA with Rabbi Noam Katz, a member of our Cornerstone Fellowship faculty. Noam took a few moments to share his thoughts about Cornerstone with us.  He explained that each year a new song is composed and taught at Cornerstone, corresponding to the theme. Noam taught us the chorus and hand motions of “Zeh Bazeh”, the theme song he composed last year, to express our interconnectedness and shared responsibility for one another.

At the chorus, we reach out to one another and high-five in rhythm. It is a physical manifestation of the words of the song – we are reaching out to our community with our open palms, and feeling that meaningful sense of partnership when our hands meet.

May the work of our hands
and the work of our souls
Make us stronger, make us whole.
Kol Yisroel Averim Zeh lazeh (All of Israel is responsible for one another)
– from Zeh Bazeh by Rabbi Noam Katz

Get inspired and invigorated by going to visit a Jewish camp with FJC this summer. Consider sharing your love of camp and its powerful results with others. With your advocacy and support, we will join hands in partnership and watch the Jewish future bloom.

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.
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