Overnight Camps Get Grants to Help Stay Afloat

Grant money comes “at a critical time” for URJ Camp Harlam, Director Lisa David said. Courtesy of URJ Camp Harlam

URJ Camp Harlam, Camp Ramah in the Poconos, Camp Havaya, Camp Galil, Pinemere Camp and Golden Slipper Camp will all receive substantial donations by way of several large organizations partnering with the Agawam, Massachusetts-based Harold Grinspoon Foundation.

The foundation will match grants from the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and The Neubauer Family Foundation, totaling over $500,000 in support for local camps.

“We’re very grateful for this,” said Isaac Saposnik, executive director of Camp Havaya.

In the spring, it quickly became clear that Jewish overnight camps would suffer from the loss of revenue caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Overnight camps, Saposnik said, need to pay insurance costs, mortgages and year-round staff members, regardless of whether campers show up.

“Summer camp, while folks focus on the ‘summer’ part of it, is a year-round business,” he said.

In came the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. The list of Jewish organizations across the country aided by the foundation is lengthy; it helped bring PJ Library to Philadelphia, for one.

On March 30, the foundation announced that as part of its commitment to helping overnight camps survive, it would set up a matching grant program: one dollar for every two contributed by other donors. It’s calling the program “All Together Now: A Matching Grant for Jewish Camp.” It will run until Dec. 31, and be capped per camp on a camp-size basis.

Meanwhile, the Jewish Federation other local organizations were trying to figure out how best to aid summer camps. The foundation’s offer, according to Jewish Federation Major Gifts Officer Sarah Bernstein Solomon, was an obvious vehicle for making a significant impact. She and the fundraising team at Jewish Federation got to work, raising $300,000 from private donors, including the Lasko Family Foundation.

Janice Block, who contributed to the fund, makes an annual gift to the Jewish Federation along with her husband, earmarked for the purpose of aiding families who want to send their children to Jewish summer camp. Typically, her goal is to provide a new generation with the experience of Jewish summer camp, a “life-changing experience,” for her. This year, her gift, like those of other donors, is being used to ensure the long-term viability of Jewish summer camps with significant Philadelphia-area constituencies.

“The Jewish Federation is delighted to work with families and foundations who understand these important values and choose to support camping through their philanthropy,” Solomon said. “This generous support enables us to leverage the match opportunity put forth by the Grinspoon Foundation and ensure camps have a strong return for the summer of 2021.”

The grant that Camp Havaya will receive, said Saposnik, will soften the blow of the summer’s lost revenue.

“It’s going to mean that we can plan for the future,” he said.

Lisa David, director of URJ Camp Harlam, said that the grant comes “at a critical time, that’s really at a significant level.”

“I know that we have a lot of advocates within (Jewish) Federation, and am just so grateful to both the staff and lay leaders who made this happen,” she said. l

jbernstein@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0740


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