Summertime is upon us. For thousands of children and teens across Los Angeles, that means days filled with song circles, Maccabiah competitions, bonding with friends, Shabbat under the stars, nature exploration, and meaningful learning and identity building at Jewish summer camp.
“Camping is living Jewishly in the most exciting, relevant, and personal way for Jewish youth and teens. For them to have time away from the day-to-day stressors and to immerse themselves in a joyful and creative Jewish community with friends and counselors is phenomenal and life changing,” said Shira Rosenblatt, the Federation’s Senior Vice President for Jewish Education & Engagement.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles is committed to holistically supporting and enhancing local Jewish summer camps.
First, the Federation ensures that hundreds of children have access to camp every year. Through Tour de Summer Camps, our annual biking — and this year, hiking — event, the Federation raises significant funds to send hundreds of kids to camp.
Last year, these efforts provided need-based camp scholarships for almost 1,000 kids, and through the One Happy Camper Incentive Program, gave almost 600 first-time campers a priceless camp experience.
The Federation’s support of Jewish camps extends beyond raising funds for scholarships. Throughout the year, the Federation also convenes leaders from 12 summer camps across the region to network, exchange resources, and discuss and solve common challenges. This space for collaboration is an important way through which camp organizers can continually develop their programs.
Two of these camps were part of Los Angeles Jewish Teen Initiative’s (LAJTI) Teen Program Accelerator Cohort 1, meeting regularly for in-depth workshops and trainings to develop and launch winter programs.
Building off of the success of PJ Library family camps, our Federation has also deepened and expanded its commitment to year-round family camp weekends.
“We realized the power of short-term immersive experiences to encourage families to build peer communities that can launch into lifelong journeys of Jewish connection,” Shira Rosenblatt said.
In partnership with Jewish summer camps and Early Childhood Centers (ECCs), the Federation is implementing a new model of Family Camp for families raising young children. 18 Family Camps are being launched this year alone with diverse populations such as interfaith, LGBTQ, Russian, three generations, PJ Library, affiliated and unaffiliated, and more. The Federation is committed to ensuring excellence in programming, and to this end, provides necessary training and consultation to both camps and early childhood providers. It also ensures that adequate follow up is in place and that families are offered additional opportunities for Jewish engagement. Young children are being introduced to camp and, who knows, maybe someday they will return as campers when they get older!
The experience of Jewish camp, whether for a summer, winter, or weekend, is invaluable in terms of Jewish identity — whether for young people or a family as a whole. Through its well-rounded and wide-reaching collaborations with Jewish camps across Los Angeles, the Federation is committed to ensuring their accessibility, quality, and continued success.
To learn more about the Federation’s role with Jewish camping, please email Vicky at VLee@JewishLA.org.