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November 26, 2013 By:


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A new initiative is aiming to attract more first-time campers from middle- and lower-income households.

Three charitable organizations — The Neu­bauer Family Foundation, the Foundation for Jewish Camping and the Jewish Federation of Greater Phil­adelphia — have once again joined forces to make Jewish overnight camps more affordable.

The 2014 Overnight Camp Incentive Program will provide grants of $1,000 to first-time campers, ages 8 to 16. Eligible campers must live in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery or Philadelphia counties.

Now in its seventh year, the program is designed for those children who do not currently receive intensive daily exposure to Judaism through a day school education. It immerses them in a Jewish setting where they can enjoy a traditional camp experience.

To qualify for the first-year grant, children may not have previously attended an over­night Jewish summer program for three consecutive weeks or more.

Children who participated in the summer 2013 program will be eligible for a second-year grant of $750 if they are enrolled in a Jewish overnight sum­mer camp for a second summer 2014.

Rabbi Joel Seltzer, director

of Camp Ramah, has personally experienced the transformative power of Jewish overnight camp­ing. “When I look back on all the important formative life experiences that have helped to shape me: my synagogue, community, high school, college, rab­binical school and my professional life, without a doubt the one that has done the most in shaping me, and countless others, as an individual is Jewish camp, and in my case, Camp Ramah,” he said, emphasizing the important values and ethics children learn through this immersive summer experience.

“Jewish camp not only teach­es our children to love and appreciate their Jewish tradition, it simultaneously teaches them lessons of interpersonal skills, the power of living within a com­munity, and the importance of personal accountability and leadership,” he said.

Aaron Selkow, director of Camp Harlam, touts the bene-fits of overnight Jewish camps from the perspectives of a Jewish ­professional and a proud parent of daughter, Lily, a camp­er at both Pinemere and Camp Ramah.

“After 32 summers at Jewish camp (including 18 years as a camp director), I’ve become an advocate for the unique and special assets of what we offer. The stories that campers, parents, staff and alumni of our programs have told for generations have made the case for why an experience in a Jewish camp could be foundational and transformational.

“The narrative has been reinforced by data and research that suggests that Jewish camp might be one of the — if not the — greatest potential influencers on Jewish identity development and connection,” he said.

This anecdotal and statistical evidence of the life-long impact of Jewish overnight camping has been amplified by his daughter’s personal camp stories. “As the father of a child attending Jewish camp, I can now say that my professional view pales in comparison to what I now know as a parent: Jewish camping really works!” he said.

To qualify for the grants, campers must attend a Jewish overnight camp in North America listed by the Foundation for Jewish Camp on the One Happy Camper website — www.onehappycamper.org — for 19 consecutive days.

In addition to Ramah and Harlam, participating camps ­include B’nai B’rith Perlman Camp, Habonim Dror Camp Galil, Golden Slipper Summer Camp, Camp JRF, Pinemere Camp, Young Judaea Camp Sprout Lake and Camp Tel Yehudah. Apply online at: www.onehappycamper.org.

For more information, call Drew Martin at 215-832-0530 or email: [email protected].

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