Preserving camp for the next generation of Jewish leaders

May 6, 2020

Comprising a total of $95,000, the latest COVID-19 Community Response Fund grants will help support Colorado Jewish residential and day camps, with an additional $25,000 grant to Jewish Family Service of Colorado to support vulnerable Jewish families and individuals.

With the extension of stay-at-home orders in many states and the announcement of cancelations and postponements for summer activities, it is clear that the next challenge for the Jewish community will be Jewish summer camps.

The barriers to operating under current public health guidelines–including physical distancing, staff reductions, and stringent limits on group and bunk sizes–represent a significant challenge, particularly given the mission of Jewish summer camps to provide meaningful and enriching experiences for all of their campers. And because such seasonal programs are highly dependent on revenue from registration and tuition fees, their short- and long-term financial viability is at issue.

According to Daryl Messinger, immediate past chair of the Union for Reform Judaism, in an article on saving Jewish summer camps, “At this point in the year, most camps have already invested as much as 50% of anticipated camper fees into staff and camper recruitment, program planning and supplies. With greatly reduced tuition collections, camps will need to significantly cut expenses, which could derail efforts to rebuild camp once the pandemic risk has passed.”

JEWISHcolorado’s COVID-19 Community Response Fund grants to the Denver and Boulder JCCs for their summer programs, as well as to Ramah in the Rockies and Shwayder Camp, will help preserve the tradition of Jewish summer camp for future generations of Colorado children. Funding to Ramah in the Rockies and Shwayder Camp will be generously matched by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation through their JCamp180 grant program.

“Jewish summer camp is a key pillar for developing our community’s future leaders,” said JEWISHcolorado President & CEO Rabbi Jay Strear. “For me, camp was where my interest in and commitment to Israel began, and it was a source of inspiration in my choice to pursue a career as a Jewish communal professional. Camps around the country are now making the difficult but necessary decision to cancel this summer’s sessions. JEWISHcolorado is proud to provide support to our Colorado Jewish camps so that, next summer, they will be able to continue to be places of joy and inspiration for our children.”