32 Jewish Camps Selected as First-Ever “Yedid Nefesh” Grant Recipients

32 Jewish camps from across North America have been awarded over $1 million to address mental health at day and overnight camps. This is the first round of a groundbreaking $3.2 million Yedid Nefesh grant, an initiative of Foundation for Jewish Camp, made possible by the generosity of The Marcus Foundation, designed to help camps address the mental, emotional, and social health (MESH) needs of both campers and staff.

The 32 Yedid Nefesh grant recipients were selected from more than 90 applicants and represent a diverse range of day and overnight camps, Jewish denominations, regions, and camp movements. The overwhelmingly high response to FJC’s call for applications highlights the pressing need for this initiative and indicates a shift in the field of Jewish camping. Research by the National Council of Behavioral Health shows that 50% of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14 and 75% by age 24 – the age range of overnight and day camp staff.

Named Yedid Nefesh, (Hebrew forBeloved Soul”), this initiative addresses the increasing challenges campers and staff face as it relates to MESH with a multi-faceted, whole-person approach. Funds will be distributed to help camps hire qualified mental health professionals, and will be directed to counselor training and wellness programming, such as meditation, yoga, and journaling. In addition, a select number of camps will pilot a comprehensive assessment module to assist FJC in developing best practices around policies, procedures, and staffing models. The program will span three years, and a second cohort of 30 camps will join the original grantees in 2020.

“Our field has an enormous responsibility to teach children and young adults how to take care of one another and to proactively cultivate resilience and wellness as we address the rising mental health crises,” reflects Jill Goldstein Smith, Program Manager at FJC. “This gives FJC a unique opportunity to learn from and with its many camps. The program is designed to facilitate sharing and growth across pluralistic Jewish identity and diverse communal needs and practices using a multi-pronged approach.”

As part of the Yedid Nefesh initiative, new hires will participate in a “Community of Practice” for learning and professional development. They will gather at FJC’s upcoming biennial convening, Leaders Assembly, March 15-17 in Baltimore, where they will have the chance to meet, learn more about the program and participate in tailored sessions on MESH and inclusion.

First-round recipients of Yedid Nefesh funding include:

  • JCamp Westside-Los Angeles, CA
  • Camp Alonim, CA
  • Mountain Chai, CA
  • JCC Maccabi Sports Camp, CA
  • Camp Ramah in California
  • Camp Ramah in Canada
  • Camp Bnai Brith of Montreal, Canada
  • Camp Shai, CO
  • Camp Ramah in the Rockies, CO
  • Camp Barney Medintz, GA
  • URJ Camp Coleman, GA
  • JCC Camps at Medford, NJ
  • URJ Eisner Camp, MA
  • URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy – MA
  • Camp Shoresh, MD
  • Camp Louise, MD
  • JCC Camp Kingswood, ME
  • Habonim Dror Camp Tavor, MI
  • Moshava Ba’ir, NJ
  • Camp Livingston, IN
  • Young Judaea Sprout Brooklyn, NY
  • Camp Kaylie, NY
  • Camp Ramah in Nyack, NY
  • Camp Young Judaea Sprout Lake, NY
  • Eden Village Camp, NY
  • Camp Havaya, PA
  • Pinemere Camp, PA
  • URJ Camp Harlam, PA
  • Camp Interlaken JCC, WI
  • Camp Chi, WI
  • Camp Young Judaea Midwest, WI
  • Emma Kaufmann Camp, WV