Jewish Day Camps: The Choice For Families

May 28, 2013

Source: The Jewish Week


UJA-Federation of New York supports camps as they think creatively to increase their options and offerings for Jewish families. And we encourage families to choose Jewish day camps and guide their teens to work in these camps. Colleagues, community members, donors and lay leaders can all join the conversation to strengthen and expand Jewish day camping.


Early engagement matters. If our day camps become gateways for rich and compelling Jewish summer engagement, these positive experiences and associations are likely to continue throughout the calendar year. And yes, the likelihood that Jewish children and their families will continue to choose Jewish options for other summer and extra-curricular moments and offerings will increase.


Our task forces at UJA-Federation have begun to explore new ways to invest and enhance the Jewish content and experience at day camp. We know that overnight Jewish camping is among the most powerful experiences contributing to lifelong Jewish living and impact, but many more children attend day camp than residential camp. So imagine the impact if Jewish day camping was more rich and compelling, too.


Through our research, we have learned that camps can pursue more integrated Jewish programming based upon Jewish values, and that campers and families are enthusiastic about this approach. Day camps can spread Jewish content, values and language throughout the day and not isolate Judaism to occasional sessions about Shabbat or Israel. For example, camps have embraced Jewish environmentalism, teaching the Jewish value of “caring for the earth” while growing vegetables and donating the produce to a local food pantry. The experience is provided through a Jewish lens — the value is universal.


A secondary, though critically important audience for Jewish impact through day camp is teens who are many of the counselors at camps. One compelling model has been the creation of an overnight living and learning community for teen counselors, which supercharges Jewish learning and socializing.


Read the entire article at The Jewish Week.

Updated: Jun. 04, 2013