by Deborah Fishman
With a theme of “Reach Beyond the Bunk,” this year’s Foundation for Jewish Camp Leaders Assembly took place from March 11-13th in New Brunswick, NJ. In true manifestation of the strength of the growing field of Jewish camping, over 650 were in attendance; in representation of beyond-the-bunk reach, only around 40% were camping professionals – the rest were comprised of lay leaders, Jewish Federation and foundation representatives, and others who care deeply about Jewish camp and its future.
The innovative conference structure took the traditional conference phenomenon of so many productive conversations taking place in the hallways outside sessions and made those hallway conversations the substance of the program. Participants crowd-sourced over 600 session ideas, culled down to 43 open-source sessions on the topics that the participants themselves wanted to talk about, from “Making the Case: Selling Jewish Camp to Parents” to “To Plug In or Not to Plug In: Thinking about Technology at Camp” and “Keeping Up With the Changing Face of the Jewish World.”
During those breaks and hallway time, I took the opportunity to ask camp directors and other stakeholders for their personal reflections on the overall conference theme of “Reach Beyond the Bunk.” Whether reaching constituencies besides campers, such as parents and alumni; extending camp programming beyond the summer months; or increasing and enhancing opportunities for Jewish education and identity-building, a multitude of ways to reach beyond the bunk were shared. Here are a few:
Employ Technology to Further Customer Service: Make an app that helps parents register, pack, and access information and updates – Stefan Teodosic, Camp Beber
Break Down Community Silos: Through “horizontal programming” during the course of the year – events tied to synagogues and other community institutions such as father/son and mother/daughter weekends – Jerry Kaye, URJ Camp OSRUI
Online classes: Connecting young adults around the country – Talia Spear and Kali Silverman, Habonim Dror
Provide Social Action Opportunities: Partner with Jewish organizations to do social action work during the summer – Alan Friedman, Camp Mountain Chai
Year-round Israel Education: Take successful Israeli leaders who have been at camp to live in the community as full-time shlichim at synagogues, youth groups, college campuses, leveraging relationships they already have through camp – Bobby Harris, URJ Camp Coleman
You can view more views from Leaders Assembly on AVI CHAI’s YouTube channel.