Making Jewish camp a reality

Beth Koritz is the St. Louis Coordinator of One Happy Camper and the Director of B’nai Tzedek Youth Philanthropy Program through CAJE. Contact her at (314) 442-3776 or [email protected] 

BY BETH KORITZ

Camp. It’s how some kids spend their summers, enjoying activities like music, art, sports, swimming, horseback riding and archery. It’s where some meet their best friends. And it’s where some form deep and lasting connections to Judaism.

Having spent 14 summers at Camp Sabra, I can tell you about the meaningful experiences gained throughout my childhood summers. At camp, I learned things that I would have never been exposed to in a summer at home – like four ways to build a campfire, how to identify poison ivy and how to make sassafras tea. The most meaningful things I learned, however, were the Shabbat and Havdalah prayers, how to keep kosher, and the many Jewish songs that I still sing to this day. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Those who attend Jewish overnight camp show extraordinarily high levels of enthusiasm with and endorsement of the Jewish camp experience. So why is it that only 10 percent of Jewish camp-aged children attend one of the more than 150 nonprofit Jewish overnight camps?

Certainly cost is one consideration. To help reduce any financial barriers that may exist, an incentive program called One Happy Camper has been created, providing non-need based grants of $1,000 to first through twelfth graders who have never been to Jewish overnight camp. The program is sponsored locally by a partnership between the Central Agency for Jewish Education (CAJE), and Jewish Federation of St. Louis.

Research by the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) confirms that adults who attended Jewish overnight camp when they were younger are more likely to be involved in the Jewish community. Whether they are in the 37 percent who are more likely to light Shabbat candles regularly or in the 45 percent who are more likely to attend synagogue at least once a month, they deepen their connection to their Jewish identity. 

The connections that I formed through my summer camp experience have shaped both my personal and professional life. I now work professionally in the Jewish community at the CAJE, and previously served as an American Camp Association (ACA) accredited director of a Jewish day camp in St. Louis.  

A summer at camp builds friendships, skills, and memories that your children will carry for the rest of their lives. Let One Happy Camper provide a grant to help your child experience the magic of Jewish overnight camp. Learn more about available grants and the One Happy Camper program at OneHappyCamper.org.