URJ Aims to Fill Summer Void with Arts Camp


The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) hopes to fill a summer camp gap with the debut of the 6 Points Creative Arts Academy in suburban Philadelphia, according to Director Jo-Ellen Unger.

The camp, which opens June 26 and draws inspiration from URJ’s sports camp in North Carolina and the science and technology camp in Massachusetts, will focus on creativity, curiosity, grit and craftsmanship.

Open to students in grades three through 10, the camp is designed to attract young people who may not have originally chosen a Jewish camp because they did not want to give up their love for the creative arts, Unger said. The camp aims to fill that void by providing a place where campers can sharpen their art skills, work collaboratively and have fun while exploring how Reform Jewish values connect to their love of art.

The idea of the camp is to connect art and Judaism through the disciplines of culinary arts, dance, theater, music and visual arts. Unger explained that by talking to campers, the academy has come up with a way for them to hone in on their fields of choice.

Campers in grades three through six, who are more likely to still be deciding on their field, will have the ability to choose two workshop otions per session, Unger said. On the other hand, “the older campers know who they are — ‘I’m a theater kid,’ I’m a culinary kid.’ They already have that focus.”

Because of that, campers in grades 7-10 select one major studio. The older campers are also able to select a session-long or week-long minor in areas such as piano, guitar, cooking, pottery and drawing.

Performances and showcases of both the campers’ work and work from visiting artists will be a prominent part of the schedule. In addition, all campers are contacted by their mentors prior to camp to set personal growth goals.

While auditions are not required, campers in grades three to six are expected to have experience in dance if they plan on choosing that workshop, and those in grades seven through 10 should have prior experience if they want to choose dance, music, theater or visual art.

Although the camp focuses on creative arts, time is provided each day for the campers to clear their heads. All campers participate in “kinesthetic arts” or, as Unger called it, non-competitive sports, which include swimming, Frisbee and soccer.

“If you want to play tennis badly, come find me,” she joked.

In the evenings, the programming includes luaus, bonfires and other classic camp activities.

Campers are given a break from their usual routines on Shabbat, and are offered electives named “Shabbat Shalectives” such as canoeing and tie-dyeing. They also are able to choose how they want to get involved in the community’s weekly Shabbat. Some may choose to bake challah one week and participate in the camp’s a cappella group the next.

The 6 Points Creative Arts Academy will be held on the campus of the Westtown School in West Chester, which features air-conditioned housing, a lake, a pool, a ropes course, nature trails and a working farm.

The farm is organic and the source for the produce eaten at camp. The school is a certified green center, which means the camp will be incorporating nutritional education into its meals so the campers grow to appreciate the food they eat, Unger said. That initiative includes sourcing food locally, with 37 percent of food coming from the community.  

The camp’s price varies by the number of 12-night sessions attended, with one session costing $3,200.

There are scholarships to subsidize camp costs, such as the One Happy Camper grant from the Foundation for Jewish

Camp, which offers up to $1,000 in scholarship for a first-time Jewish summer camp experience. In addition, the Foundation for Jewish Camp provides assistance through its specialty camp incubator grant, which is funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation and the AVI CHAI Foundation.


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