Camps Build Robots And Ruach

May 28, 2014

Source: The Jewish Week


JCC Maccabi Sports Camp, together with three others opening their doors this summer, is part of a growing Jewish specialty camp trend that is picking up steam around the country. Since the first set of specialty camps launched four years ago — an arts camp in Manhattan, an environmental-themed camp in the Poconos, two wilderness camps, one based out of Atlanta, the other in the Rockies, and a sports camp in North Carolina — nearly 3,000 Jewish tweens and teens have enrolled. For more than a third, according to one report, it was their first Jewish camping experience.


“Jewish camp is probably one of the most powerful educational experiences a young person can have” said Sandy Edwards, associate director of the Jim Joseph Foundation, which has put more than $17 million into the creation of Jewish specialty camps in the past six years through a camp incubator project run by the Foundation for Jewish Camp. The foundation is choosing to focus on specialty camps with the hope they will attract a new segment of teens and tweens. “We know a lot of Jewish kids are going to specialty camps but not Jewish ones,” she said.


As the new camps get set to open next month — besides Steinharter’s sports camp, there is one for young entrepreneurs in Boulder, Colo., one focusing on science and technology near Boston and a health and wellness camp in the Poconos — the boutique camping trend has picked up financial backers. Two years ago, the Avi Chai Foundation contributed $1.4 million to the effort.


The Specialty Camps Incubator provides each camp with $1.16 million to cover start-up and operating costs for the first three years, along with three years of intensive training and mentoring, which Edwards said was key to the program’s success.


“This model, of having a staff of people that are really experts support the start-up of a camp,” says Edwards, combined with “providing a community of practice … has become an attractive model in building the field of Jewish education.”

Read more at the Jewish Week.

Updated: Jun. 18, 2014