July 23, 2024
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Four New Jewish Specialty Camps Open Their Doors

New York—Science & technology, health & wellness, sports, and entrepreneurship – these are the fresh themes that attracted almost 500 young people from over 31 states, Canada, and Israel this summer for a unique Jewish experi­ence of a lifetime.

This week, the first of four new Jewish spe­cialty camps will open its doors for its inaugu­ral summer as a result of the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) Specialty Camps Incuba­tor II. Thanks to a grant of $8.6 million jointly funded by The Jim Joseph Foundation and The AVI CHAI Foundation, visionary camp direc­tors have spent the previous 18 months creat­ing distinctive new camps that blend a specific skill or area of interest with Jewish culture and values. The result: more campers who may oth­erwise have chosen non-Jewish summertime activities are attending Jewish summer camp.

The distinctive new camps welcoming their first campers in summer 2014 are:

· Camp Inc.: housed in the mountains near Boulder, CO, Camp Inc. is a Boulder JCC camp that will provide an environ­ment for 7th-12th graders to explore what it means to be an entrepreneur, gaining skills to become innovators and leaders, and learning about Jewish values.

· Camp Zeke: focusing on health and wellness in the Poconos, Camp Zeke offers campers electives to enhance skills and cre­ate healthy lives. From Krav Maga to yoga and culinary arts, 7-17 year olds will work and live as a community based on Jewish principles in this pluralistic, egalitarian en­vironment.

· JCC Maccabi Sports Camp: a Jewish sports camp for campers in grades 4th- 10th, JCC Maccabi Sports Camp provides a unique environment that focuses on hon­ing athletic skills while improving as team­mates. Housed at Menlo College, 30 min­utes south of San Francisco, campers at this JCC Association of North America camp learn about Jewish values, ritual, and com­munity building while playing baseball, basketball, soccer, and tennis.

· URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy: camp­ers in grades 5-9 will explore robotics, vid­eo game design, environmental science, and more at URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy on the campus of The Governor’s Academy near Boston. Exploring their Jewish identi­ty and how it relates to their interests is a large focus of this Union for Reform Juda­ism camp.

“We wanted to send our son to a Jewish camp with Jewish values,” explains Leslie Gur­land, parent of Ariel, age 11. “We looked at two other camps, but something about them just wasn’t the right fit. Then we read about Camp Zeke and its focus on healthy living and fitness with electives that we didn’t find elsewhere, we met Isaac the director, and it felt like home for us – the perfect choice.”

The Specialty Camps Incubator II is based on the success of the first Specialty Camps In­cubator that opened five camps in summer 2010 specializing in organic farming, outdoor adventure, creative arts, and sports and have been incredibly successful. As reported in an evaluation commissioned by the Jim Joseph Foundation, “New Jewish Specialty Camps: From Idea to Reality,” in their first four years of operation, over 2,700 unique campers at­tended these camps, 38% of whom had nev­er attended a Jewish camp before. They also attracted campers who, if not for the specif­ic specialty, reported that they were not like­ly to attend any camp, not just a Jewish camp. In fact, 76% of the campers from summer 2012 said that their camp’s specialty was the reason they attended. FJC expects the four new camps to have the same, or higher success rate, result­ing in more young people with stronger Jew­ish identities and connections to their commu­nities.

“Before camp I didn’t really care about being Jewish,” says a camper from one of the first specialty camps. “After camp all I ever wanted to be was Jewish.”

“During summer vacation many young people want to hone a skill instead of, or in addition to, attending a traditional style camp,” says Jeremy J. Fingerman, CEO, FJC. “The Spe­cialty Camps Incubator camps allow them to pursue an interest while benefiting from trans­formative summers at Jewish camp. We are excited to welcome many more campers this summer, and in summers to come, to experi­ence joyous Judaism as a result of these excep­tional new camps.”

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