Even though it's cold and blustery now, it's time to start thinking about the warmth of Jewish summer camp.
With the first signs this week of what is expected to be a blustery, cold winter, what better time to begin thinking about the warmth of Jewish summer camp for your children and grandchildren?
Ask former campers — young or old — to recall their memories and you are likely to hear moving and funny tales of friendships forged, fears overcome, escapades unraveled and independence launched. Overlay that with the Jewish piece — and for many, that piece might not be realized until years later — and you’ve got a key foundation for imbuing Jewish life with fun and meaning.
Camp Ramah in the Poconos asked the following question in its recent Facebook challenge, which was also a fundraising quest: “What object represents your Ramah experience?” More than 100 alumni, camper parents and staff members responded, posting videos and pictures — and tagging three friends to do the same. The posts revealed lasting smiles, future spouses and much more.
We are fortunate to have a wealth of Jewish day camp options in the Philadelphia region, as well as many overnight opportunities within a few hours’ drive and beyond. Whatever your level of religious observance or affiliation, there are camps to fit nearly every child’s needs. In addition, the Foundation for Jewish Camp is spawning new specialty camps, creating niche communities for sports enthusiasts, budding scientists or young environmentalists, to name just a few.
With growing recognition of the link between Jewish camping and Jewish identity, the organized community continues to create incentives to help make camp more affordable. BunkConnect (bunkconnect.org), a national program that piloted last summer and launched nationally in November, matches eligible families with nonprofit Jewish summer camps at a discounted price.
It is a project of the Foundation for Jewish Camp (jewishcamp.org), as is the One Happy Camper initiative, in which the foundation partners with local federations and other foundations to provide up to $1,000 grants to first-time campers at nonprofit Jewish camps, regardless of financial need. In addition to participating in the One Happy Camper program, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia provides needs-based scholarships, as do some of the camps themselves.
So if your family is not already connected to a camp or you are looking for new options, start doing your research. Check out the Exponent’s annual camp guide in next week’s issue or visit a camp fair at a local synagogue. As counselors can often be heard saying at camp: Let’s get going!