Jewish Camps Shape Jewish Identity
Studies are now showing what we have known all along—overnight Jewish camps play an integral role in shaping the Jewish identity of adolescents. Over the last decade, researchers at the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) have studied involvement in 26 Jewish communities in America, and have interviewed 2.75 million Jewish adults to gauge their involvement and feelings regarding Judaism, the Jewish community, and Israel. In their landmark study, Camp Works, the FJC proves that as adults, Jewish camp alumni are:
- 21% more likely to feel that being Jewish is very important
- 45% more likely to attend synagogue monthly
- 25% more likely to donate to a Jewish charity
- 55% more likely to feel emotionally connected to Israel
- 37% more likely to light Shabbat candles
According to Jeremy Fingerman, CEO, FJC, “Camp Works clearly proves that Jewish overnight camp inspires a lifelong commitment to Jewish living. As the North American Jewish Community strives to find ways to evoke Jewish practice and passion in their children and families, Camp Works proves that camp should be high on the docket.” According to one Palm Beach County parent, “Because of the enjoyment they had at Shabbat services at camp, they now regularly request to attend Shabbat services at synagogue- something they never used to do.”
Last year, 70,000 Jewish adolescents and teenagers attended a non-profit Jewish residential camp, and there has never been a better time for your camper to get involved. In addition to the traditional camp practices of bonfires and s’mores, the Jewish community has specialty camps that cater to the unique interests of the campers—camps are as diverse and unique as the Jewish community itself. Some campers will choose to kayak the Pacific Northwest, some will hike the Blue Ridge Mountains, and some will attend theater camp on Broadway in New York City. We have camps for children with Autism and other special needs, and athletics camps with college coaches as counselors. The one thing consistent across all the camps though, is the feelings of the campers when they get home, according to one camper, “Camp is the best. Literally, the best. I have never loved being Jewish as much as I do when I’m at camp. It’s my second home.”
As a result of these staggering statistics, and a long standing belief that Jewish camp does make a difference, the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County has long offered families financial aid to help with the cost of overnight Jewish Summer camp. Families can receive up to $1,500 in need-based camp scholarships and may be eligible for an additional $1,000 incentive grant.
The United States and Canada have 155 non-profit residential Jewish camps, and with all of the scholarships and grants available, there is no better time for your child to discover his or her own Jewish identity at a Jewish summer camp. In the words of two brothers who are going to camp for the first time this summer, “We are very excited to be able to attend Camp Coleman. We look forward to learning more about our religion and having fun making new friends at the camp our mom went to when she was our age…We will be counting down the days until July 10th.”
Contact Melissa Arden, at 561.242.6654 or email melissa.arden@JewishPalmBeach.org for more information on Overnight Camp Scholarships.