(photo from jewishcamp.org)
Today’s world requires camp to adapt to an unprecedented
pace of change. Through innovation and building “adaptive capacity,” the
Foundation for Jewish Camp, which works with more than 180 Jewish summer camps,
will be better suited to help Jewish camps evolve and ensure long-term,
Adaptive capacity, as defined by Ronald Heifetz
– co-founder of Cambridge Leadership Associates and author of numerous books –
is “the practice of mobilizing people to tackle tough challenges and thrive.”
It requires the ability to be reflective; to be open and curious to changes in
the environment; to use data and evaluation to determine the best path forward;
to innovate where new approaches are required; to work collaboratively and
leverage diverse experiences and perspectives; and to successfully lead
FJC is challenging what it means to be a Jewish
camp. This evolution has resulted in significant shifts in how FJC thinks about
the field and its work. “Camp” is now framed as a year-round continuum of
immersive, meaningful experiences beginning at the earliest ages and continuing
through the teen years, college, and into adulthood and family life, delivered
through day camps, overnight camps, family camps and year-round offerings.
Looking ahead, FJC has identified three
strategic priorities for the field that include investments in new initiatives
and in existing areas of proven impact: develop adaptive talent, deepen
immersive learning and drive field growth. These priorities are designed to
amplify one another, and the success in any one area is co-dependent on success
in the others.
1. Adaptive talent
Talent development is critical to grow and
enhance the field of Jewish camp. FJC has long invested in field professionals.
As Jewish camp evolves, FJC must now take an adaptive approach to leadership
development, both professional and lay, that meets the needs of current and
future Jewish leaders.
Counselors are the linchpin of the Jewish camp
experience. These Jewish role models inspire campers to return year after year.
Additionally, when a camper returns as a counselor, the impact of the camping
experience is amplified, as staff internalize the lessons of their own
experience to create similar (or better) ones for their campers. At the same
time, it has become more challenging to recruit and retain counselors due to
competition from internships and parental pressures.
FJC will uncover and create new staffing and
supervision structures that create a learning framework for these future
leaders as well as recognition of the purpose-driven nature of their work. The
new models will seek flexibility in camp schedules and create new modalities of
training staff to enhance college, career and life-readiness skills.
Jewish camps are experiencing ever-increasing
turnover of executive leadership, which is expected to continue over the next
five years. FJC seeks to increase investment in the leadership and talent
pipeline of camps, cultivating new and refreshed opportunities to engage with
and propel Jewish camp and lay leaders at every stage of their development.
These initiatives represent opportunities to retain and accelerate the careers
of outstanding young talent, build crucial networks among the field and provide
high-level, skill-building professional development opportunities. Rather than
focus on one single cohort program or development workshop, FJC will ensure
attention to the entire talent pipeline.
• Increase retention rates by 25% or more over
current benchmark; easier recruitment of seasonal staff.
• Improve quality of leadership that will drive
retention rates and satisfaction scores for campers and staff.
2. Immersive learning
Jewish camps must adapt, expand and evolve in
response to societal changes and the manner in which families belong and engage
Jewishly. FJC is prioritizing initiatives that will bring the “magic” of camp
further into the community by helping camps articulate their Jewish missions,
develop programs and ensure the entire camp community is safe and secure for
both campers and staff.
As participation in traditional Jewish
activities has declined, camp has become a primary immersive and educational
experience for many children. Camp is often the preferred Jewish brand for
these families, where their children feel a profound sense of belonging. With
summer participation in experiential, immersive learning as the anchor, Jewish
camps can and should play a greater role in the community, supplementing the
summer with year-round experiences that ensure campers have opportunities to
connect with peers through Jewish activities and educational experiences. FJC
will invest in year-round programs to maximize the impact of the camp
From FJC’s inception, ensuring that summers at
Jewish camp translate into a robust Jewish future has been central to the
mission. To do so effectively, FJC takes a holistic approach – working closely
with camps and their various stakeholders, giving them a framework to help them
enrich and refresh how they articulate and realize their unique Jewish vision.
Investing in the enrichment of senior camp professionals, as well as attracting
and recruiting talented Jewish educators, will bring this vision to life, and
are critical to a strong Jewish educational program.
• 30% of camps have increased their year-round
• Higher-quality Jewish and Israel learning
opportunities for campers and staff have been put into action.
3. Field growth
Over the past 10 years, camp enrolment has
grown 22% in an era of overall declining participation in the traditional
Jewish institutions. To accelerate this growth, FJC is prioritizing initiatives
that will both increase the pipeline of Jewish campers and ensure accessibility
for campers from all backgrounds. To this end, FJC’s initiatives will focus on
how to attract families with young children by engaging them at an earlier and
highly formative time; continue the work of increasing competitiveness of Jewish
camps through the development of specialty programs; expand access through
financial incentives; and promote full physical, social, educational and
spiritual access for all campers and staff, irrespective of their abilities.
Families are seeking meaningful connection and
community in new ways. Building an earlier entry point to the Jewish camp
experience will increase the number of campers and families making Jewish
summer choices. The focus will include incubating, expanding and strengthening
intentional Jewish day camps and family camps in order to engage children at
the earliest ages along with their families.
FJC’s core growth programs, including One Happy
Camper and new specialty camps and tracks, have driven growth in the field.
Diversity and inclusion, as well as community care, must endure and evolve so
that the Jewish camp field continues to increase enrolment and improve both
retention and camper satisfaction. Continual investment in physical facilities
will also increase overall enrolment and ensure that camp is a welcoming and
safe environment for all.
• Grow the field by 20%, reaching 215,000
annual camp participants.
• Year-over-year increases in family
participation in camp experiences.
• Increase training, application and family
visibility for diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
• Increase diversity at camp.
For more on FJC and its strategic plan, visit jewishcamp.org.