Jewish Camping Numbers to Make You Cry and Smile at the Same Time

Readers of this blog may have noticed a theme—my great interest in Jewish camping.  The Jewish Education Project shares this interest. 

In today’s “Adapting the Future of Jewish Education” webinar, host David Bryfman spoke with Julie Finkelstein, Director of Leadership Development at Foundation for Jewish Camp.  She shared important ideas about why camp is magical, about what virtual camp programs might look like, and thoughts about why it is so important to include people with disabilities in Jewish camping.  But the part that made me smile and cry at the same time were the numbers she shared.   These numbers help us understand both the tremendous impact Jewish camping has on children, college age staff members and parents, and also the extent of the loss experienced by the closing this summer of so many camps.


Have a look at these numbers:

160:     overnight (nonprofit) Jewish camps in North America

150:     day camps

94:       overnight camps who have suspended or canceled camp this summer (as of May 26, 2020)

300,000:          number of Jewish children who attend Jewish camp each summer

18,000:            number of college age staff who work in Jewish camps each summer


I am crying because there will be so many people of all ages who will miss out on Jewish camping this summer.  I am smiling because Jewish camping is truly magical.  Julie quoted the phrase so often used by lovers of camp: “10 for 2” –camp people somehow manage to get through the other 10 months—as long as they will get their “2.”  (Julie has heard some speaking these days about “22 for 2”—waiting 22 months—due to Covid-19—before returning for those beloved “2.”).

Julie spoke about just what is so magical about camp.  She eloquently noted that camp is a bubble, it is parent free and technology free, it is an environment for learning independence (from bed making or problem solving), one learns to be resilient and creative, build friendships and relationships, and to find one’s voice on critical issues.   Finally, it is a pipeline to the Jewish community and the Jewish world.

Hopefully, the summer off from in-person camping will not really be a year off.  Camps are working on virtual engagement opportunities—for campers, families, and staff.   We need all of you in our pipeline!

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