Camp JRF, the Reconstructionist summer camp located in northeast Pennsylvania, has announced plans to open a film and arts-based specialty camp in Southern California. The Foundation for Jewish Camp, as part of its Specialty Camps Incubator, is awarding up to $1.4 million over four years to Camp JRF in order to open a Jewish specialty camp in the Los Angeles area.
The camp – geared for third to 10th graders – is slated to open in 2018, with the goal of providing high-level arts programming within the Jewish, values-based community for which Camp JRF is known.
“Camp JRF is the beating heart of the Reconstructionist movement. It is one of our crown jewels,” said Rabbi Deborah Waxman, president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College/ Jewish Reconstructionist Communities. “It is impossible to feel anything other than optimistic about the future of Judaism in general and the future of Reconstructionist Judaism in particular when you visit Camp JRF. We could not be more thrilled by or more grateful for the challenge of expanding it to the West Coast.”
Jewish summer camps have been increasingly recognized as the optimal environment for youth to grow and develop a love of Judaism and Jewish community. At the same time, many Jewish families are choosing to send their children to specialty camps – such as sports, drama, science or dance – rather than general camps with a Jewish focus. The Foundation for Jewish Camp Specialty Camps Incubator and the new site of Camp JRF represent an effort to offer kids seeking specialization the opportunity to do so in an immersive Jewish environment.
Funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation and the AVI CHAI Foundation, previous cohorts of the Specialty Camps Incubator have established new business and educational models for Jewish camps. Camp JRF was one of five camps to receive funding in the third cohort of the Specialty Camps Incubator. According to the Foundation for Jewish Camp, since 2010, the nine Specialty Camps incubated have served more than 6,000 campers – with nearly half reporting that they had never attended a Jewish camp before.
“The support and resources offered by the Foundation for Jewish Camp and the funders of the Specialty Camps Incubator will be invaluable as we embark on this innovative new endeavor,” said Rabbi Isaac Saposnik, executive director of Camp JRF. “Since its inception, the growth and success of Camp JRF have been remarkable. Now, with the energy and commitment of our lay and professional leadership, and with the guidance of the incubator, we’re excited to grow our reach and multiply our impact.”
Camp JRF opened 15 years ago in a rented space and now houses more than 400 campers every summer on its own Aaron and Marjorie Ziegelman Campus in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains. The camp has developed a unique culture and is known throughout the Jewish world as an incredibly diverse and accepting community where all kids – no matter their race, sexual orientation, gender identity, family structure, or Jewish background – are more than welcomed. They’re celebrated!
The Reconstructionist movement aims to serve families across North America, though nearly all Camp JRF campers come from east of the Mississippi River. By opening in southern California, the new camp will be within a few hours drive of three of the largest congregations affiliated with the Reconstructionist movement.
“The Foundation for Jewish Camp has repeatedly recognized the excellence of our camping program in the Poconos, most especially our unparalleled focus on diversity,” said Waxman. “With this transformative grant, we will be able to recreate, and expand upon, that excellence on the West Coast.”
“Camp JRF began as a dream just over 15 years ago,” said Saposnik. “With this new camp, we’re excited to build upon that dream as we create powerful and transformative Jewish experiences for more and more kids and families.”
Check out the coverage on ejewishphilanthopy.com.
Here’s the Jewish Exponent’s report.