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Foundation for Jewish Camp Receives $8.6 Million Grant

NEW YORK – The Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) has announced the Specialty Camps Incubator II, made possible by a grant of $8.6 million jointly funded by The Jim Joseph Foundation and AVI CHAI Foundation.  The second cycle of this innovative program, revealed to the field today at FJC’s Leaders Assembly, will open four new nonprofit Jewish overnight camps dedicated to a specific skill or area of interest while introducing and integrating Jewish culture.

“The five camps that opened in summer 2010 as a result of the first Specialty Camps Incubator are a notable success,” says Al Levitt, Board President, Jim Joseph Foundation.  “They exceeded their enrollment benchmarks by 146 percent in the first two years. They provided a new path to Jewish camp for many children: 40 percent of campers who attended these specialty camps reported that they had never attended Jewish camp before and 66 percent said that they only went to Jewish camp because they were attracted to one of the specialties.”  Additionally, 74 percent of campers’ parents reported that the experience positively impacted their Jewish identity and 65% testified to positive changes in campers’ Jewish knowledge further aligning the successes of this program with the missions of all three foundations.

The Incubator successfully established new business models for Jewish camps by not requiring burdensome capital investment since the camps are required to use existing properties. It also created a forum to pilot new educational models by integrating Jewish learning with activities that kids are passionate about – the environment, performing arts, sports, and outdoor adventure. More than 1,000 children have attended the five new camps to date, with 1,200 projected to enroll for summer 2012.

The first Specialty Camps Incubator Model, funded solely by the Jim Joseph Foundation, was modeled on a business incubator, a plan formed to accelerate the launch of entrepreneurial ventures. FJC provided expertise and support to five individual camp directors as they implemented their vision for new models of nonprofit Jewish specialty camps.

“Specialty camps continue to gain in popularity,” says Levitt.  “The goal of Incubator II is to continue the momentum, take what was learned from the first cohort, and launch four new specialty camps with innovative ideas in underserved areas that incorporate experiential Jewish learning along with excellence in programming.”

After seeing the achievements and long term potential of the Incubator program, the AVI CHAI Foundation determined that it would be a strategic investment for their Foundation to invest in the Specialty Camps Incubator II.  “We wanted to be a part of producing more camps that will provide exciting Jewish immersive experiences for campers who may not otherwise have attended Jewish camp,” says Yossi Prager, Executive Director, North America, AVI CHAI Foundation.  “The Specialty Camps Incubator has proved to be a successful method for launching new Jewish camps. We are thrilled to be a part of this next phase of the program.”

According to the Cohen Center at Brandeis University, 10 percent of Jewish children attend a Jewish summer camp.  The Specialty Camps Incubator aims to attract children in sixth-twelfth grade from the 90 percent  of Jewish youth who are not having memorable summer overnight camp experiences.  The Specialty Camps Incubator II satisfies the mission of all three organizations which aim to increase Jewish experiential learning, strengthen Jewish continuity, and foster strong Jewish social networks among Jewish children and youth.

“Many camp-aged children were missing out on the transformative summers at Jewish camp because they wanted to spend their vacation honing a skill or developing a hobby,” explains Jeremy J. Fingerman, CEO, FJC.  “The Specialty Camps Incubator allows for these kids to have both experiences in one setting.”

FJC is now accepting Letters of Intent for four new specialty camps (www.JewishCamp.org/incubator).


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