Dear fellow JRF board members:
While it may be hard to believe, Camp JRF’s summer is already coming to a close and it has been quite a success.
Including our Hadraha campers (counselors-in-training entering their senior year of high school), we surpassed 340 camper sessions this summer, 10 more than our target. Our 300+ campers (some came for both sessions) in addition to another 70 or so staff represent about half of our affiliated communities. The 33 teens on the Noar Hadash Israel trip also stayed at camp before and after their travel abroad. Next week we will be hosting another 30 or so families participating in the Family Camp and Tikkun Olam teen-parent week of service programs. Our hope is that all of these individuals will become our marketers and recruiters.
Lest you think that is all who we touched, we also had 18 visiting faculty (13 rabbis, 4 education directors, and 1 cantor), and dozens of other lay, rabbinic, and other professional leaders visit through the summer. Additionally, a number of the staff are Israeli and many of them are returnees, having found a spiritual home for themselves.
The camp’s impact on the movement is broad and deep. From a national perspective, it is how many JRF members experience the benefit of our presence and pulls in children and families who are not members of affiliated communities. From a local perspective, each of our campers returns home with new excitement, insight, and commitment to their Jewish identity. They become assets to their communities’ efforts to build a meaningful Jewish presence.
On an individual basis, camp transforms lives. This summer, campers have been designing, constructing, and authoring their own mezuzot, reliving the creation of the State of Israel and connecting with the earth during their overnight campouts. They have played gaga (an Israeli form of dodgeball) on a new platform designed and built by perennial volunteer Clifford Goldsmith, enjoyed concerts with American Jewish rock musicians Rick Recht and Noam Katz, and enjoyed the fun of a day-long outing to a water park. They have built supportive communities and friendships as they cheered each other on when climbing Jacob’s Ladder on the ropes course. They have built confidence while experiencing the thrill of zipping across the lake on the zip line.
Their memories will last a lifetime. And through the miracle of modern communications (not just telephone and e-mail, but MySpace, Facebook, and Skype), their intensive friendships will continue well into the future.
We hit a few snags this summer, including transportation woes on the closing day of first and opening day of second sessions and a nasty 24-hour stomach virus that swept through one-third of the camp body during second session. But the staff were extremely professional, attentive, composed, and communicative through it all. Rabbi Isaac Saposnik has been extremely effective in his camp director role and we owe a debt of gratitude to him and the rest of the year-round management team, Operations Manager Ben Davis, Assistant Director Julia Tauber, and Facilities Manager Mark Peet, in making this summer such a success.
Our success is not going unnoticed by the broader Jewish world. This summer, we are benefiting from the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s (FJC’s) Cornerstone Fellowship Program, funded by the Avi Chai Foundation. Five of our returning counselors received extra training and compensation and are serving in more prominent programmatic roles this summer, benefiting the entire camp. Rabbi Isaac will be starting the FJC’s Executive Leadership Institute this fall. And we are being visited tomorrow and Thursday by researchers from Brandeis University doing a study of Jewish camps. (It is the second in a series, the first of which was conducted in 2000, before we started.)
In an effort to continue to enhance our camp program, on line surveys are being conducted of our camper families, to be followed up by a second survey being conducted by the FJC. Additionally, in an attempt to leverage the positive energy from camp, fliers promoting the November JRF convention are being distributed to parents of campers.
If you have not been able to see camp in action yet, I hope that you will be able to see it next summer. For now, I hope you are able to hear about it from campers you know.
Feel free to be in touch with me if you have any questions. I look forward to our conference call today/tomorrow (depending on when you’re reading this) and to seeing you all in Boston in November!!
E-mail address: Nerenberg_David@wheatonma.edu
Work Phone: 508-286-3432
Home Phone: 508-226-5589