Jewish overnight camp is a significant rite of passage for so many kids, and CJP helps to facilitate it. It’s a mission that’s even more important in the wake of Oct. 7, against a backdrop of rising antisemitism and fear.

“As the summer 2024 season opens, CJP is proud of the many ways that we’re supporting our local Jewish overnight camps as they navigate this challenging moment. CJP provided more than $750,000 in campership and needs-based scholarship support to help more happy campers experience Jewish camp,” says Brett Lubarsky, director of the Jewish Teen Initiative at CJP.

“While navigating the past nine months, supporting Jewish overnight camps has become more crucial than ever for the resilience of the Jewish community. Jewish camps provide a sanctuary—many refer to it as the camp ‘bubble’—where campers and staff can foster meaningful connections, embrace and strengthen their Jewish identities and cultivate a deep sense of belonging and community,” he adds.

Mental health and wellness continues to be a particular focus this year: In partnership with local and national leaders, including BaMidbar and Gateways, and with CJP support, year-round and seasonal camp staffers attended masterclasses and cohort-based learning experiences focused on mental health and wellness, combating antisemitism and Israel education and engagement. In partnership with BaMidbar and BeWell, CJP is also offering teen mental health first aid certification courses for junior counselors and counselors-in-training.

CJP is proud to partner with the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) to provide One Happy Camper grants to families in CJP’s catchment area and in conjunction with partner camps, making camp more affordable for first-timers.

FJC is a hub and support system for over 300 Jewish day and overnight camps across North America, serving over 180,000 campers and counselors each summer. The foundation works with camps on everything from recruiting campers to training counselors to funding programming, distributing more than $40 million in grants over the past five years.

“One thing that’s really important to us is ensuring as many young people as possible can access the transformative experience of Jewish camp. FJC’s One Happy Camper program, in partnership with local federation and foundation partners, awards incentive grants that help make camp more affordable for first-time campers. To date, more than 125,000 grants have been awarded, and we’re thrilled that over 80% of those campers return for a second summer,” says FJC CEO Jeremy Fingerman.

This is especially important this summer, he says, as Jewish campers crave a place of sanctuary and togetherness.

“All of our camp communities—professionals, campers, counselors, alumni—have deep connections to Israel. All of us are heartbroken at the horrific attacks of Oct. 7, even as we process our grief and trauma in different ways. I’ve been grappling with the dual truths that this summer will see more processing and dialogue and conversations about Israel at camp, yet many of our campers and counselors desperately need time to unplug and simply experience joy with their friends after this painful year,” he says.

As such, FJC funded a trip of camp directors to Israel and offered training on how to facilitate and engage in difficult conversations and manage opposing viewpoints. For campers and staff, FJC is investing in mental health support through its Yedid Nefesh Initiative: supporting camps in hiring qualified mental health professionals, enhancing counselor training and integrating wellness programming into activity areas.

“We’ve been preparing for this summer all year so that camps enter the next few months with the resources they need to create unforgettable experiences and respond to camper needs. Our goal, more than ever, is to ensure camp remains a place of rest, healing and Jewish joy,” Fingerman says, noting record-high enrollment for this summer.

“Camp nurtures personal growth, resiliency, emotional intelligence and leadership skills, providing a much-needed reprieve from the stress and uncertainty of the outside world. By supporting our camps, we’re investing in our Jewish community as our campers and staff members are equipped with the strength, pride, knowledge and skills to help connect these values and experiences back home and on campus,” Lubarsky says.