The Campfire

Gather round for news, perspectives, and tales of Jewish summer camp.

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Archive for February, 2010

You’ve got questions. Jeremy can answer.

We hear it in our conversations with you, and we see it in the press. Sometimes, it even comes up during dinner conversations with our friends and families: Now that the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s new CEO Jeremy J. Fingerman is at the helm, what’s in store for the field of Jewish summer camp?

Good question. And, we’re sure it’s not the only one that camp professionals and advocates everywhere are asking, especially as Leaders Assembly 2010 approaches, where many of you will meet Jeremy for the first time.

Over the next two weeks, we want you to share your most pressing questions about Jewish summer camp and FJC by posting them on our blog or sending them to us at We will select the most commonly asked questions and overarching themes, and Jeremy will address these critical issues directly at Leaders Assembly. We will also post his speech here so that all of our readers can continue to engage in this important conversation.

The deadline for submitting questions is March 3, 2010. We look forward to hearing what is on your mind and how together, we can present an honest, inspiring vision for the field of Jewish summer camp in the years to come.

If you haven’t yet registered for the Leaders Assembly, we’ve extended the early bird discount registration rate! Please visit to join us.

Jewish Camp in the News

- Do camp grants inspire strong Jewish connections?  The Baltimore Jewish Examiner says “yes.” [Baltimore Jewish Examiner, 1/4]

- The days of greasy, unhealthy food at camp are a thing of the past!  Pearl Salkin investigates for the Jewish Independent, how camp food is changing as is the emphasis on healthy eating. [Jewish Independent, 1/15]

- JTA interviews Jeremy J. Fingerman, new CEO of FJC, about his past experiences and hopes for the future. [JTA, 1/18]

- Jewish camp is an important part of a Jewish “survival package” according the Cleveland Jewish News. [Cleveland Jewish News, 1/22]

- NYMetroParents discusses Electronics at Camp: What Parents Need to Know. [NYMetroParents, February]

- Are you aware of the new trend for, and availability of, Jewish specialty camps?  The San Diego Jewish Journal profiles these exciting camps and delves into what is making them so popular. [San Diego Jewish Journal, February]

- details the options for Jewish camp scholarships and grants.  []

If your camp is in the news, please let us know!

Are Jewish summer camps a luxury?

Editor’s note: This entry by Shalom Berger is re-posted from Davar Acher: On the Other Hand the blog of the Jim Joseph Foundation Fellows-Leading Educators Online Program.

Since I began my career in Jewish education I have been identified as a “formal” Jewish educator. First in day schools in the United States, then in post-high school programs in Israel; most recently at the Lookstein Center where I have been moderating the Lookjed list for day school educators for 12 years and now play a role in directing the Jim Joseph Fellowship project, which is the inspiration for this blog.

But there comes a time when I proverbially “let my hair down,” when I trade my formal attire for a pair of jeans, cajole my kids into the old station wagon and head to summer camp. On-and-off for the past 20 years I have played the role of Rav Machane – camp Rabbi – at Camp Moshava in Indian Orchard, PA. To be honest, when I first began doing this as a newly married day school teacher, it was a “summer job.” As years went by, though, it became a central part of my educational being. It became clear to me that a Jewish summer camp experience is not merely a way to keep the kids occupied in the summer, it is a hothouse environment where kids can be nurtured and developed in a more holistic way than can be offered by most formal Jewish school settings.

Over the years, many of the campers who I met grew into positions in camp as counselors, into division heads, and from there into positions in Jewish education via the rabbinate, graduate studies or both. Some of the most creative, dedicated, thoughtful educators I know trace their roots not to the classroom but to the experiences that they had climbing mountains, fording streams and learning Torah under the stars and trees.

I share this in the context of a conversation that I recently had with a concerned parent who told me that he doubts that he will send his kids to camp this summer. On one level, his reasons are financial – the job market is slow and he has had to turn to the scholarship committee of his kids’ day school to ask for help with tuition. Same with camp. But the choice to forgo camp appears to be that of the day school’s scholarship committee. He was told that the committee would be looking very closely at “discretionary spending.” Included in that list were:
Luxury automobiles
Lavish Bar and Bat Mitzvahs
Family vacations
Summer camps.

He is nervous about losing his kids’ scholarship at the day school.

If I understood him correctly, the day school committee’s perspective about the educational experience offered by a Jewish summer camp was that it was a “discretionary activity” much like a lavish party or expensive vacation.

I hope that I am wrong. In any case it is time that the world of formal Jewish education accepts Howard Gardner’s “Multiple Intelligences” and recognizes that for many of our students who don’t shine in the classroom, summer camp is an opportunity for learning and fulfillment, and for virtually all kids it can be an essential part of their educational experience.

Forget the snow, think summer!

It may be cold and snowing outside your window, but it’s time to think about summer!  The first camp sessions start in 125 days – How is your child going to spend their summer months?  How can you get involved in shaping a transformative summer for children and teens?

If you’re interested in sending your child to camp this summer, check out the FJC Find a Camp search engine which lets you search by location, denomination, specialty activities, and more.

Also, visit to fill out an application for a needs-blind cash grant of up to $1500 for first-time campers.  Need a scholarship?  Check out FJC’s scholarship listings by clicking here.

If you want to work at a camp this summer, check out the Job Board on for year-round and summer positions.

Think warm, happy, camp thoughts!

Torah 2.0 and Sharing Tribal Knowledge

The main event of this week’s Torah portion, Yitro – arguably the climax of the book of Exodus, if not the entire Torah – is the Revelation at Sinai. This event is directly preceded by Moses’s reunion with his family. Amidst this reunion, Yitro, Moses’s father-in-law, sees Moses at work. While Moses was sitting from morning until night listening to the people who had come to seek God (Exodus 18:13-15), Yitro said, “The thing that you do is not good. You will surely become worn out. You, as well as this people that is with you, for this matter is too hard for you, you will not be able to do it alone” (Exodus 18:17-18). Moses outlived his entire generation, it was not as if he was going to become weak in his strength to govern or adjudicate law. It seems more likely that Yitro was concerned that the people would grow tired, or worse not get timely access. I am sure we can all relate.

I know I’m not alone when I say that my patience for a dial-up internet connection–let alone snail mail!—is almost non-existent since the advent of high speed web access. In a time of instant connection and searchable information, we are simply unwilling to wait in line.

In his book, Six Pixels of Separation, Mitch Joel (our keynote speaker at Leaders Assembly) asked his readers to meditate on two concepts:

1. How do you make your business’s tribal knowledge accessible to all (the people) on your team?

2. How do you extend that shared wisdom to your customers and evangelists? (p. 232)

His suggestion echoes Yitro’s advice for Moses. Many of us recognize that our current information-sharing system is inefficient. Much of our knowledge floats around our industry and our offices, but is never documented or discussed. For the sake of the Jewish people, we need to rethink how we share our “tribal” knowledge—our camp knowledge. We need to rethink how we communicate with our camp families, campers, staff, and alumni.

Come join in this conversation at Leaders Assembly 2010, March 14-15, where Mitch Joel will share his insights on how the Jewish camp field might utilize innovate digital marketing strategies. Just as Yitro radically changed how Moses thought about sharing Torah, Mitch Joel will guide our exploration of connecting our networks and knowledge online—call it Jewish Camp 2.0.

–Rabbi Avi Orlow, Jewish Education Specialist at the Foundation for Jewish Camp

Mitch Joel Prepares Jewish Camps for the Future

We are pleased to announce that Mitch Joel will be the keynote speaker at Leaders Assembly 2010!

Mitch Joel is a digital marketer, author, entrepreneur, blogger, visionary, and branding guru.  Described as a “Rock Star of Digital Marketing” and “one of North America’s leading digital visionaries” by Marketing Magazine, Joel is one of North America’s leading digital marketers and President of Twist Image – an award-winning Digital Marketing and Communications agency.  His first book, Six Pixels of Separation, is a business and marketing best-seller.

Joel is also an alumnus of Camp Kinneret in Quebec where he spent many summers in his youth.

Joel was also…

- Recognized by Canada’s highly-prestigious Top 40 Under 40 (recognizing individuals who have achieved a significant amount of success but have not yet reached the age of 40).

- Chosen as one of the most influential authorities on Blog Marketing in the world.

- Included in a list of the top 100 online marketers in the world.

- Named Canada’s Most Influential Male in Social Media.

Joel is a sought-after speaker, often appearing to diverse groups like Google, Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Microsoft, Procter and Gamble, Hewlett Packard, and more!  He will be addressing attendees at the Leaders Assembly opening plenary on March 14th about the power and future of digital marketing and communications as it applies to Jewish summer camp.

Don’t miss Mitch Joel!  If you haven’t already, sign up for Leaders Assembly 2010 (March 14-15) by clicking here!