This week, the first of four new Jewish specialty camps will open its doors for its inaugural summer as a result of the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) Specialty Camps Incubator II. Thanks to a grant of $8.6 million jointly funded by The Jim Joseph Foundation and The AVI CHAI Foundation, visionary camp directors have spent the previous 18 months creating distinctive new camps that blend a specific skill or area of interest with Jewish culture and values. The result: more campers who may otherwise have chosen non-Jewish summertime activities are attending Jewish summer camp.
The distinctive new camps welcoming their first campers in summer 2014 are:
- Camp Inc.: housed in the mountains near Boulder, CO, Camp Inc. is a Boulder JCC camp that will provide an environment for 7th-12th graders to explore what it means to be an entrepreneur, gaining skills to become innovators and leaders, and learning about Jewish values.
- Camp Zeke: focusing on health and wellness in the Poconos, Camp Zeke offers campers electives to enhance skills and create healthy lives. From Krav Maga to yoga and culinary arts, 7-17 year olds will work and live as a community based on Jewish principles in this pluralistic, egalitarian environment.
- JCC Maccabi Sports Camp: a Jewish sports camp for campers in grades 4th-10th, JCC Maccabi Sports Camp provides a unique environment that focuses on honing athletic skills while improving as teammates. Housed at Menlo College, 30 minutes south of San Francisco, campers at this JCC Association of North America camp learn about Jewish values, ritual, and community building while playing baseball, basketball, soccer, and tennis.
- URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy: campers in grades 5-9 will explore robotics, video game design, environmental science, and more at URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy on the campus of The Governor’s Academy near Boston. Exploring their Jewish identity and how it relates to their interests is a large focus of this Union for Reform Judaism camp.
The Specialty Camps Incubator II is based on the success of the first Specialty Camps Incubator that opened five camps in summer 2010 specializing in organic farming, outdoor adventure, creative arts, and sports and have been incredibly successful. As reported in an evaluation commissioned by the Jim Joseph Foundation, “New Jewish Specialty Camps – From Idea to Reality,” in their first four years of operation, over 2,700 unique campers attended these camps, 38% of whom had never attended a Jewish camp before. They also attracted campers who, if not for the specific specialty, reported that they were not likely to attend any camp, not just a Jewish camp. In fact, 76% of the campers from summer 2012 said that their camp’s specialty was the reason they attended. FJC expects the four new camps to have the same, or higher success rate, resulting in more young people with stronger Jewish identities and connections to their communities.