Three charitable organizations have joined forces to make attendance at Jewish overnight camps more affordable for Greater Philadelphia families. The Neubauer Family Foundation, the Foundation for Jewish Camping and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia hope that their Overnight Camp Incentive Program will inspire greater participation in an experience that creates life-long connections to Judaism.
This unique partnership -- designed to help strengthen Jewish families and the Jewish community -- will provide a grant of $1,250 to 150 first-time campers, ages 8 to 16. Eligible campers must live in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery or Philadelphia counties. The program is intended as a way to immerse kids who do not receive intensive daily exposure to Judaism through a day-school education in a Jewish setting where they can enjoy traditional camp experiences. To qualify, children may not have previously attended an overnight Jewish summer program of three consecutive weeks or more.
Campers must attend a Jewish overnight camp in the Mid-Atlantic region -- Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Maryland -- where Judaism or Zionism is a primary focus.
Participating camps include B'nai B'rith-Perlman, Camp Galil, Camp Harlam, Camp JRF, Pinemere Camp, Camp Ramah-Poconos, Young Judaea-Sprout Lake and Tel Yehudah. For a complete list of eligible camps, visit: www.jewishcamping.org .
Joseph Neubauer established the Neubauer Family Foundation with his wife, Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer.
The couple says they appreciate the value of Jewish camping as a Jewish-identity building tool.
"Jeanette and I are committed to Jewish continuity and Jewish education," said Neubauer. "There's little doubt that Jewish summer camping helps build strong Jewish identity, both for the campers themselves and for their families."
The Foundation for Jewish Camping, a public foundation, is the only national organization dedicated to nonprofit Jewish resident camps, advancing program and leadership excellence in camps, as well as access to vibrant Jewish experiences for campers. The foundation helps raise awareness and support for Jewish summer camps, highlighting their successful track record for building Jewish commitment in youngsters.
FJC works with more than 150 camps, 65,000 campers, and 12,000 counselors across North America to further its mission.
Rabbi Franklin A. DeWoskin, director of Camp Harlam, believes that the overnight-camp incentive program will make Jewish camping more accessible to area families.
"This is a wonderful opportunity to reach out to more campers who otherwise might not consider sending their child to a Jewish summer camp and give families greater access to an experience with powerful potential for laying the groundwork for the future of Judaism," he said.
Aaron Selkow, executive director of Pinemere Camp, is also excited by the implications of the incentive program.
"There is significant research -- both Jewish-specific and general -- that proves that camping is critical to youth development and identity-building," he said.
"The Camper Incentive Program will help families take that big step towards a first Jewish overnight-camp experience. We certainly support a program that may help families afford a meaningful and transformative experience for their children and perhaps 'spark' others' interest in Jewish camping," added Selkow.
Multiple first-time campers from one family are each eligible to receive separate grants. Children who participate in the summer 2008 program will be eligible for a $750 grant if they are enrolled in a Jewish overnight summer camp for a second year in summer 2009.
Grant applications and a full set of guidelines are available at: www.jewishphilly.org/camp  incentive.
To apply, complete the application form and have it co-signed by a synagogue's rabbi or a JCC executive director, who will then be responsible for submitting the completed grant application to the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
Applications will be considered on a rolling basis, typically within 30 to 60 days of receipt. Grants will be made on a priority basis established by the Overnight Camp Incentive Program, in its sole discretion, consistent with its mission. Grants are not based on financial need or whether the grantee has received other financial aid.
For more information, call 215-832-0509.