The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) has a huge variety of summer camps for all ages and interests. With 14 camps throughout North America, all are very committed to the health and safety of every child. The programs strive to immerse the kids in learning all about their Jewish identity, teaching Jewish knowledge, instilling Jewish values and cultivating lifelong friendships within a fun community of living Reform Judaism. All the camps are accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA) and the Ontario Camping Association (OCA) in Canada.
While each camp is tailored to the various interests of the individual children’s wishes and needs, URJ has a variety of sports, dancing, art, sciences and traditional camping activities to choose from every day. The URJ camps have been developed with the foremost thought of being able to accommodate all children with all kinds of disabilities.
Lisa David, associate director of camping for the URJ, said, “We are committed to having all the children with special needs being able to take part in any of our camps. Each of our facilities has an inclusion coordinator to help make any necessary accommodations possible for all participants, and it’s our hope to successfully mainstream everyone.”
She added, “We do, however, have two camps devoted to those who need more care, and they are located in New York. One is in Warwick, the Kutz Camp, and is run by the mitzvah corps program. It’s a camp within a camp for kids who are on any level of the autism spectrum. They are given a peer mentor.”
According to David, “The other camp is Camp Chazak in the Berkshires. It’s hosted by Eisner and Crane Lake camp and works with those who have communications and social challenges. It’s a weeklong camp.”
The goal of the special needs camp is the same as the others — to give the kids a joyful experience and immerse them in their religious heritage. For those who would like more information on the special needs camp, David suggests logging on to www.urjcamp.org/programs/specialneeds.
The URJ also has a program for those who are interested in science and technology. It will open in July 2014. The 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy is for those seeking high-level experiential and fun learning over their summer. Those enrolled will work alongside experienced instructors to design projects in such areas as robotics, video game design, environmental science and even digital media design.
Greg Kellner, who has been with the URJ camps for more than 20 years, will serve as the director of the program. He wants everyone to know that what makes this camp unique is “the combination of outstanding science and tech with the immersion of Jewish learning.” It will be held at the Governor’s Academy near Boston. For those interested, Kellner suggests logging onto www.urj6points.org/scitech to obtain more information.
For those who would like the camping experience closer to home, there is a location in Northern California run by Ruben Arquilevich. As he explained, “The URJ Camp Newman is located in Sonoma County and serves children, teens and adults, throughout not only California but the surrounding Western States. We have 1,500 youth attending during summer months and another 5,000 during year-round retreats. Hundreds of families and adults also attend retreats throughout the year. Sessions range from 11 days to 7 weeks during the summer. Our mission is to inspire a love of Judaism, through Jewish community living, friendship, celebration of best selves and life skills. Campers and staff are immersed 24/7 in Jewish values, ritual, celebration, Shabbat, Hebrew and Israel. Some of our themes include social justice, arts, sports/general recreation and nature.”
Arquilevich added that “some of the sports offered are hockey, skateboarding, scootering, softball, baseball, soccer, swimming, Frisbee and football. The kids can also take sessions in archery, gymnastics, martial arts as well as Israeli dancing and music. These are just some of the areas that are popular amongst the junior and senior high school attendees. Leadership programs do tend to fill up the fastest.”
For those wanting to “rough it,” the camp does offer overnight hiking options.
The URJ says that its fondest hope is that all the children, teens and even the adult campers come away with a deep understanding and strength from living the Jewish life and values .
Lisa David wants everyone to know that the URJ is distinct because of the Reform Judaism ideology. “We have 50 years of experience,” she said. “We have excellent programs and facilities. Our goal is to immerse all of our campers’ senses in all forms of Jewish life.”
Ruben Arquilevich agrees. He added, “In recent years, many foundations (most notably the Foundation for Jewish Camps), universities and the Jewish philanthropic community have confirmed what we’ve known for decades – that Jewish residential camp is the best investment for securing adult participation in the Jewish community.”
For those interested in learning more about the URJ and individual camp information and cost, please go to: urj.org/about/program.
Jewish Camp News
Registration Opens for
Leaders Assembly 2014
The Foundation for Jewish Camp announced that registration opened for Leaders Assembly 2014: ONE FIELD. MOVING FORWARD. The conference is a springboard to heighten the impact of Jewish camp on the Jewish future. The only gathering of its kind, Leaders Assembly will join together over 500 of the brightest, most creative minds devoted to Jewish camp including lay leaders, communal professionals, educators, researchers, philanthropists, overnight camp professionals and for the first time this year, day camp professionals, according to the foundation.
Leaders Assembly 2014, the fifth biennial conference of the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC), will offer attendees the opportunity to learn from both experts and peers in creative, relevant and interactive sessions sharing best practices, exploring communal trends and presenting opportunities for growth. Some notable speakers and presenters include, among others, Tiffany Shlain, one of Newsweek’s “Women Shaping the 21st Century,” filmmaker, public speaker, writer, founder of The Webby Awards, and co-founder of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences; and Alexis Kashar, civil rights and special education attorney and activist. An evening spotlighting Israel’s social action culture with a special performance by Israeli musician David Broza, creative plenaries and the Shuk: The Program Marketplace will round out the experience.
“FJC will deliver content at Leaders Assembly 2014 that promises to be relevant and innovative,” said Jeremy J. Fingerman, CEO, FJC. “We look forward to gathering together with colleagues and supporters of Jewish camp to further strengthen the field and advance our common agenda: creating a more vibrant Jewish future.”
Leaders Assembly 2014: ONE FIELD. MOVING FORWARD. will be held at the Hyatt Regency in New Brunswick, New Jersey, from March 23 to 25, 2014. Early bird rates are available until December 16, 2013, at www.jewishcamp.org/leaders.
Summers at overnight camps are packed with a wide range of fun activities — aquatics, arts and crafts, basketball and soccer, dance, music, cooking, archery, drama, outdoor adventure and hiking, and much more! Campers are encouraged to discover new skills and interests they never knew they had.
Jewish camp weaves Jewish values, culture, and traditions into the fabric of camp, helping campers to connect to their own identity and the larger Jewish community. Spirited and dynamic staff members use experiential learning to reveal what makes Jewish religion and culture so unique in today’s world. At camp, Jewish and Israeli culture is celebrated through song, food, art, and dance.
Each camp designs its own program to be accessible and enjoyable for all campers. Whether they’re telling stories in their bunks, learning about the environment, or playing tennis, campers explore what Judaism means to them in a safe, nurturing, and fun environment.
The impact of Jewish camp is immediate — campers return home connected to a community and friends that will last them a lifetime. And it doesn’t stop there. Children with pivotal Jewish camp experiences are more likely to become adults who value their Jewish heritage, support Jewish causes, and take on leadership roles in their communities.
There are a variety of traditional and specialty overnight camps that span different denominations of Judaism, accommodate special needs and interests, and offer unique programming, catering to each family’s needs. Use our Find a Camp tool to begin your search for the perfect summer experience and then visit each camp’s website for more detailed information.
If your child has never been to Jewish camp, FJC’s One Happy Camper program offers need-blind grants of $1000 to first-time campers.
For more information, go to www.jewishcamp.org/why-camp.