Overnight Camps: Key to The Jewish Future

Harold Grinspoon Foundation Leverages $50 million for Jewish Camping

The Grinspoon Institute for Jewish Philanthropy, a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, has invested more than $8.5 million in matching grants to 54 nonprofit Jewish overnight camps throughout North America. These funds have leveraged nearly $41.5 million in gifts and pledges for a total infusion of $50,108,239 into the sector – a five-fold increase in support since June 2007.

Since 2004, the Harold Grinspoon Foundation (HGF) has provided more than $20 million in services and matching grants to help put camping on center stage in Jewish life. One of the Foundation’s signature programs, the Grinspoon Institute for Jewish Philanthropy, is working directly with 75 Jewish nonprofit overnight camps – approximately 50% of all camps in North America – to strengthen their long-term effectiveness and economic vitality. Institute consultants help lay and professional leaders develop high-performing boards, plan strategically, implement new technology and increase their fundraising capacity.

To date six matching grant programs have been completed, garnering more than 1,500 distinct gifts from individuals, foundations and corporations. The funds raised have been used for capital improvements, scholarships and operational improvements. Four additional grant programs are in progress with more than $3.5 million in matching funds reserved through 2010. It is estimated camps will use these funds to leverage an additional $6 million in contributions by December 2010.

Harold Grinspoon, an award winning Jewish social entrepreneur, believes Jewish overnight camping to be a core resource for Jewish continuity – and one that has been sorely overlooked and under-resourced. “I love the feeling of well-being around a campfire at a Jewish camp, knowing that along with swimming and hiking, these campers are learning about Jewish values, rituals and traditions,” remarked Grinspoon. “These positive Jewish experiences can have a transformational impact.”

Research backs him up: How Goodly Are Thy Tents, a book on Jewish camping published in 2003 by Amy L. Sales and Leonard Saxe, concluded that Jewish overnight camp provides an exceptional environment for successful Jewish socialization of children.

Approximately 74,000 campers attend 130 nonprofit overnight Jewish camps in the United States and Canada, reflecting less than 13% of the potential population. Something needed to be done about this, decided Grinspoon and the other trustees of the foundation. The HGF, in partnership with the Foundation for Jewish Camp, continues to be committed to increasing the number of young people attending Jewish camps.