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March 9, 2016 10:25 am

Largest-Ever Jewish Camp Event Focuses on Expansion, Inclusion

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Jeremy Fingerman, CEO of Foundation for Jewish Camp, speaks at the foundation's biennial conference in East Brunswick, N.J. Photo: Foundation for Jewish Camp.

Jeremy Fingerman, CEO of Foundation for Jewish Camp, speaks at the foundation’s biennial conference in East Brunswick, N.J. Photo: Foundation for Jewish Camp.

JNS.org – Summer isn’t exactly around the corner, but that hasn’t stopped more than 750 camp professionals, educators, funders, and others from gathering this week in New Jersey for the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s (FJC) 2016 Leaders Assembly Conference, which marks the largest-ever such gathering in the Jewish camp world.

FJC said it structured its biennial conference to focus on three core areas: expansion of the field of Jewish camps; day camps; and “inclusion of every kind of Jewish youth and every kind of Jewish community.” The conference’s breakout sessions, according to FJC, “cover a range of areas from use of new technology; the place of Hebrew language at camp; HR (human resources) management and development; and communicating with parents; among many others.”

“Jewish camp offers one of the most unique, immersive environments to foster a love of Judaism and a sense of belonging to the Jewish people,” Jeremy Fingerman, CEO of the FJC, said in a statement. “Every two years, FJC brings the camp family together to chart our collective path forward and to push everyone to welcome in more families to help build a strong Jewish future. Ultimately, campers, families, and the Jewish community benefit when camp professionals are resourced and trained with the best approaches in outreach and Jewish engagement.”

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The FJC also used its conference to launch the “I belong to Jewish Camp” initiative and grant opportunities. “I belong to Jewish Camp” is offering organizations such as day camps, overnight camps, Jewish federations, and others up to $25,000 in seed-funding for a new outreach and/or programmatic initiative that engages one or more of the following constituencies: interfaith/multi-ethnic; diverse perspectives on Israel; the LGBTQ community; people with disabilities; emerging Jewish leaders; teenagers (focused on attracting and retaining more Jewish teens in Jewish summer experiences); and families with young children. The grant opportunities total $100,000.

Chip Edelsberg, executive director of the Jim Joseph Foundation, noted the success of the FJC’s “Specialty Camps Incubator” program, which over the last five years has created nine different camps that blend Jewish values with a specialty such as technology, the arts, sports, and more. The Jim Joseph Foundation is a funder of the FJC.

“For 18 years, FJC has been leading the field and making the immersive camp environment stronger and more accessible for more families,” said Edelsberg. “The Jim Joseph Foundation is fortunate to work closely with FJC on the Specialty Camps Incubator and other initiatives — and we look forward to continued collaboration that benefits Jewish youth.”

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