FJC Leaders Assembly 2016The Jewish camp world’s single largest gathering – Foundation for Jewish Camp’s (FJC) 2016 Leaders Assembly Conference – kicked off yesterday in East Brunswick, NJ, with more than 750 camp professionals, educators, funders, and others coming together to learn new outreach strategies and to create even more transformative Jewish summer experiences. This year’s Leaders Assembly – with its theme “Think Big and Act Bold” – celebrates FJC’s 18th year anniversary, honors donors to the field and long-term camp directors, and spotlights opportunities for continued innovation and growth in Jewish camp. FJC works closely with camps across the country, strengthening the professionals who make Jewish camp engaging and meaningful for tens of thousands of youth every year.

“Jewish camp offers one of the most unique, immersive environments to foster a love of Judaism and a sense of belonging to the Jewish people.” says Jeremy Fingerman, CEO of Foundation for Jewish Camp. “Every two years, FJC brings the camp family together to chart our collective path forward and to push everyone to welcome in more families to help build a strong Jewish future. Ultimately, campers, families, and the Jewish community benefit when camp professionals are resourced and trained with the best approaches in outreach and Jewish engagement.”

Conference participants heard yesterday from Ori Brafman, New York Times best-selling author of the books The Starfish and the Spider and Sway, who has consulted for the U.S. military and Fortune 500 companies on unique approaches to problem solving. Also speaking: Scott Brody, a renowned thought leader in developing 21st century skills through the camp experience and an expert at communicating the pivotal role camp can play in helping children develop their social and emotional intelligence.

Chip Edelsberg, executive director of the Jim Joseph Foundation, a funder of FJC, also spoke about the success of FJC’s Specialty Camp Incubators, which created nine different specialty camps over the last five years that blend Jewish values with a specialty like technology, the arts, sports, and more.

FJC structured Leaders Assembly will focus on three core areas: 1) field expansion; 2) day camps; and 3) inclusion of every kind of Jewish youth and every kind of Jewish community while breakout sessions cover a range of areas from use of new technology; the place of Hebrew language at camp; HR management and development; and communicating with parents; among many others.

Fingerman announced that with funding from the Gottesman Fund, FJC has hired a new Senior Consultant for Day Camp Initiatives who will begin working with JCC Manhattan on the launch of their new Camp Settoga, a day camp. Also as part of efforts to engage the Jewish day camp field, FJC, in partnership with Union for Reform Judaism and United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, is collecting data to understand the size, scope and needs of congregational day camps. Already, more than 100 reform and conservative congregations have responded to a survey that gathers information about number of campers and staff, retention rates and operations, as well as programmatic aspects of these day camps.

“We know that Jewish camp will deeply influence the future of Jewish life in North America,” Fingerman adds. “So we have a great responsibility to advance the field and to welcome more children each summer to experience the joy of summer camp.”