Three charitable organizations -- the Neubauer Family Foundation, the Foundation for Jewish Camp and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia -- have joined forces to make attendance at Jewish overnight camps more affordable for families in the Greater Philadelphia area.
The 2010 Overnight Camp Incentive Program will provide a grant of up to $1,000 to 185 first-time campers, ages 8 to 16. Eligible children must live in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery or Philadelphia counties.
Now in its third year, the program is designed to immerse children who do not receive intensive daily exposure to Judaism through a day-school education in a Jewish setting where they can enjoy a traditional camp experience.
To qualify, children may not have previously attended an overnight Jewish summer program of three consecutive weeks or more.
Children who participated in the summer 2009 program will be eligible for up to a $750 grant if they are enrolled in a Jewish overnight summer camp for a second year in summer 2010.
Sharon Weinberg, director of Camp Galil, a kibbutz-style camp in Ottsville, Pa., expressed excitement that the Jewish community is investing in overnight camping -- an experience that "so dramatically and positively impacts Jewish identity," she said.
In her 10 years there, she has seen firsthand "the amazing transformation of young children learning about and connecting with the Jewish community, and developing a passionate commitment to Israel." Many Galil campers go on to become counselors, sharing their enthusiasm for the camp experience.
Weinberg described the incentive program as "an incredible opportunity for families to offer their children a '24/7' life-changing experience."
She said that the program "enables us to reach out to families who would not necessarily make overnight Jewish camping a personal funding priority, particularly during these economically challenging times."
Rabbi Frank DeWoskin, director of Camp Harlam said that his camp in Kunkletown, Pa., which is associated with the Reform movement of Judaism, realized a milestone during the 2009 season: It recorded the largest camp registration in five years.
DeWoskin said that the incentive program was a contributing factor to this increased enrollment, affording multiple families an opportunity "to make the dream of Jewish overnight camping a reality."
To be eligible for the grants, campers must be prepared to attend a Jewish overnight camp for 19 consecutive days in the Mid-Atlantic region -- Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Maryland -- where Judaism or Zionism is a primary focus.
In addition to Galil and Harlam, participating local camps include the B'nai B'rith Perlman Camp, Golden Slipper Summer Camp, Camp JRF, Pinemere Camp, Camp Ramah in the Poconos, Camp Young Judaea Sprout Lake and Tel Yehudah.