I recently attended the Leaders Assembly Conference of the Foundation for Jewish Camp as part of CJP’s commitment to professional development opportunities for congregational personnel. Like all great conferences, this was a chance to learn from experts like Ori Brafman, Erica Javellana and Scott Brody. I got to network with colleagues, and escape the trenches for a few days to dream big about what is possible in the work we do.
The Foundation for Jewish Camp works to bring together camps, funders, and year-round professionals all in the spirit of making Jewish camp rich and meaningful with the goal of getting as many children to camp as possible. It was an honor to hear from Israel’s Consul General, Ambassador Ido Aharoni, and sit among hundreds of people who take so seriously the work of transforming Jewish lives. I returned both energized and inspired to make our congregations programs exceptional as well.
There was another element of the conference that struck a chord with me – not as a professional, but as a mom. During his opening remarks CEO Jeremy Fingerman shared that the Foundation for Jewish Camp will be launching a new effort to support Jewish day camps nation-wide. Having grown up in a small Midwestern town I did not have the opportunity to go to Jewish day camp as a young child. Instead I attended secular day camps which were certainly fun but my first introduction to Jewish camping had to wait until I was old enough to attend overnight camp. On June 11, 1984 I arrived at Goldman Union Camp, the URJ Reform movement camp in Indiana for the first time and the trajectory of my life and Jewish journey was changed forever.
I am now raising a family surrounded by a substantial Jewish community. I would love to expose my own young children, ages 6 and 3,to Jewish day camp in the summer. Unfortunately the options are limited and simply too expensive. If we, as a community, invest in growing more (and more affordable) Jewish day camps in the Boston area we will deepen the connection of young families to the Jewish community through year-round programming, strengthened social networks and the vibrant Jewish learning that happens in immersive environments. Additionally, as a youth professional I would jump at the chance to engage our congregation’s teens as Jewish day camp counselors during the summer months to augment what we do with them throughout the academic year. Jewish day camp jobs could provide them with work experience and skills training in Jewish-values based environment bolstering their own Jewish growth and identity formation.
I believe that if our community, in partnership with organizations like the Foundation for Jewish Camp and CJP can increase the availability of Jewish day camps it could profoundly impact the engagement of families of all ages in Jewish living. Our congregations would be stronger, our youth programs would be able to engage more teens and the youngest of our school children would be exposed to the magic of camp years earlier. This is a moment of great opportunity in the field of Jewish Camping and increasing the availability of day camp is the right next step.
-Ellie Goldman, Temple Shalom of Newton