Telling Our Stories at Summer Camp

More than 325 leaders from Jewish overnight camps came together earlier this week for the 9th Camp Conference, hosted by the Grinspoon Institute for Jewish Philanthropy. The focus was to engage Jewish camp leaders in the best practices for improving the long-term viability and success of Jewish camps across the nation.

Several years ago, the conference was little more than a few camp directors gathering inside the living room of Harold Grinspoon’s home. Today, the conference is a national Jewish camp event devoted to strengthening the fundraising and organizational capacity of more than 90 Jewish organizations across the nation, including overnight camps, day schools and other umbrella groups and special projects.

During the past five years, Grinspoon has committed $10.6 million in matching grants and more than $7 million in consulting services to help Jewish camps raise money, improve facilities and technology and grow attendance. As a result, the camps have raised another $50 million on their own to be used for capital improvements, expansion and endowments. Working in partnership with the Foundation for Jewish Camp, the Grinspoon Institute has helped Jewish camp attendance grow from 43,000 in 2004 to 70,000 campers across the nation today.

This year’s conference, the largest to date, carried the theme, “Telling Our Stories” – with the aim to tap into the Jewish tradition of storytelling as a learning tool that will help improve the Jewish overnight camping movement.

“The future leaders of Judaism and Jewish giving can be found in the bunks of Jewish camps today,” Grinspoon said. To this end, the Grinspoon Institute for Jewish Philanthropy provides consultation and challenge grants for nonprofit Jewish overnight camps and other Jewish nonprofit organizations. It is a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, which funds institutions and programs that directly transmit Jewish learning to children, adults, and families.