New Jewish Specialty Camps: From Idea to Reality


Source: Foundation for Jewish Camp


In 2008, the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) launched the Specialty Camps Incubator thanks to a generous grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation. This innovative new program, modeled after a business incubator, was established to create five new nonprofit Jewish overnight camps dedicated to a specific skill or area of interest while introducing and integrating Jewish culture. One of the goals for the new specialty camps was to attract Jewish teens who were not attending Jewish camp. The Jim Joseph Foundation engaged Informing Change (formerly called BTW informing change) to design and implement a multi-year evaluation of the program and camps. Their report presents key findings and recommendations from the evaluation.


At the conclusion of the evaluation, it is clear that the Incubator has met the goals of its funder and can offer some lessons learned that may be useful in supporting other new camps and designing new ventures.


Overall, the Incubator has achieved the five goals set by the Jim Joseph Foundation at the beginning of this investment. The Specialty Camps Incubator has:

  • Expanded camp opportunities for Jewish teens
  • Created camps that are generating positive changes in campers’ attitudes, knowledge and behaviors about Jewish life
  • Created camps that have broadened campers’ networks of Jewish peers
  • Created several camps with high likelihood of lasting sustainability
  • Modeled new approaches and captured learnings that are relevant to other camps and Jewish youth initiatives

Youth have had a total of 4,257 camper-summers at the new Incubator camps, which
tallies out to an investment of approximately $2,349 per camper-summer to date. The summer experiences have been tailor-made to achieve the investment’s goals, and each of the 4,257 camper-summers has exerted a positive and multi-faceted influence on the individual camper.


While the Incubator experience has yielded a number of lessons relevant to both new camps and other ventures, four camp-related lessons stand out as important overarching learnings:

  • Time spent developing the mission, vision and goals of a new camp sets the foundation for all that is to follow.
  • Camp directors need to be excellent sales people.
  • Specialty camps can effectively deliver high quality Jewish education.
  • A new camp needs to develop its board of directors simultaneously with developing the camp program and infrastructure, and not wait until after the camp is designed and operating.


The experiences of the Incubator and its five new camps have informed, and it appears inspired, the whole Jewish camp field, offering new information and insights about creating high quality Jewish camps to serve middle and high school-aged Jewish youth.

Updated: Sep. 22, 2014