With an $8.6 million grant, The Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) is launching Specialty Camps Incubator II. The funding is being provided by The Jim Joseph and AVI CHAI Foundations. The second cycle of this program will be used to open four new nonprofit Jewish overnight camps dedicated to a specific skill or area of interest while introducing and integrating Jewish culture.

“The five camps that opened in summer 2010 as a result of the first Specialty Camps Incubator are a notable success,” says Al Levitt, Board President, Jim Joseph Foundation. “They exceeded their enrollment benchmarks by 146% in the first two years. They provided a new path to Jewish camp for many children: 40% of campers who attended these specialty camps reported that they had never attended Jewish camp before and 66% said that they only went to Jewish camp because they were attracted to one of the specialties.” Additionally, 74% of campers’ parents reported that the experience positively impacted their Jewish identity and 65% testified to positive changes in campers’ Jewish knowledge further aligning the successes of this program with the missions of all three foundations.

The Incubator successfully established new business models for Jewish camps by not requiring burdensome capital investment since the camps are required to use existing properties. It also created a forum to pilot new educational models by integrating Jewish learning with activities that kids are passionate about – the environment, performing arts, sports and outdoor adventure. Over 1,000 children have attended the five new camps to date, with 1,200 projected to enroll for summer 2012.

The first Specialty Camps Incubator Model, funded solely by the Jim Joseph Foundation, was modeled on a business incubator, a plan formed to accelerate the launch of entrepreneurial ventures. FJC provided expertise and support to five individual camp directors as they implemented their vision for new models of nonprofit Jewish specialty camps.

“Specialty camps continue to gain in popularity,” says Levitt. “The goal of Incubator II is to continue the momentum, take what was learned from the first cohort, and launch four new specialty camps with innovative ideas in under-served areas that incorporate experiential Jewish learning along with excellence in programming.”

According to the Cohen Center at Brandeis University, 10% of Jewish children attend a Jewish summer camp. The Specialty Camps Incubator aims to attract children in sixth-twelfth grade from the 90% of Jewish youth who are not having memorable summer overnight camp experiences.

FJC is now accepting Letters of Intent for the new specialty camps.