As summer 2022 begins, Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey is proud to share that it has awarded more than 130 grants for children and teens to attend Jewish camp and participate in Israel travel programs this season.
Immersive Jewish experiences are shown to magnify the degree to which young people internalize and embrace their Jewish identity, values, and relationships. Put those experiences in a recreational or enjoyable context and their effects increase further, according to long-term studies.
Meaning: Kids who go to Jewish summer camp or youth travel programs in Israel tend to become and remain active, and assume leadership roles, in Jewish life, community, and causes well into adulthood.
Camp incentive grants encourage the families of kids who may not have considered Jewish camp (vs. secular) to try it. 65 percent return and returnees uniformly say camp helped shape them – as people and as Jews.
For families struggling to afford childcare and even meals in a safe and culturally supportive environment when school is out, camp is not a luxury; it’s a lifeline. Need-based camp grants help put that within reach.
Special needs camp grants make it possible for children with special needs to reap the benefits of Jewish summer camp, acquiring new skills and confidence, becoming part of a lively and supportive Jewish community, and engaging in joyful Jewish learning with their peers.
Regardless of the circumstances, Jewish camp invests not just in a strong Jewish future but in strong individuals: it is a nurturing environment for young people to develop greater self-confidence, independence, empathy, and problem-solving skills.
Peer trips to Israel during one’s formative teen years are further shown to intensify feelings of belonging and connection while enabling participants to formulate or deepen their understanding of narratives and realities concerning Israel – from such topics as security and geopolitics to human rights and more.
Summer grant recipients describe the impact of these programs best:
“A lot of the kids in my bunk were ‘first timers’ too, so I wasn’t alone. By the end of the summer, I felt like we were family.
I loved color war. They call it Maccabiah, and I hope someday I can really go to the places our teams were named after: Tel Aviv and Haifa.”
– Stacie, a past need-based camp scholarship recipient
“He’s so happy at camp, and when he gets back, he has more confidence. He even video chats with his counselors.”
– Aliza, mom of a past special needs camp scholarship recipient
“I started my Jewish journey with PJ Library as a kid and was inspired by that experience to go to Jewish summer camp and participate in J-SERVE. Now, I’ll be the first in my family to visit Israel because of Jewish Federation.”
– Matt, past Israel teen grant recipient
"Seeing Israel first-hand, I now know you can’t believe everything you see in the news or on social media. Being in Israel was one of the best experiences of my life and I'm passionate about sharing my love for Israel with others."
– Sarah, past Israel teen grant recipient
One young man, Sam L, received an incentive grant from Jewish Federation when he was eight years old. He loved his experience and returned for many years. He so appreciated the incentive grant, he turned his bar mitzvah project into a fundraiser so more kids like him could have a similar experience.
"Camp gave me good memories... more experience with the religion, and lots of strong, possibly lifelong connections with friends that understand me for me, and that is a special bond that you can only get from very few places."
– Sam, a past incentive grant recipient
“It’s a priority for the Jewish community to invest in our children and our community’s Jewish future – including helping families with a range of needs and abilities experience the benefits of an immersive summer program,” says Laura Safran, Federation’s Director of Community Impact. “We hope every family with a child who wants to experience Jewish camp and Israel travel will reach out to their local Jewish Federation and ask about grant opportunities.”
Jewish Federation is committed to helping young people embrace their Jewish identity and build a strong Jewish future. To learn more about grants for immersive summer programs, visit jewishheartnj.org/camp-grants.