The Lasting Impressions of Jewish Summer Camp

Although summer is still months away, I cannot help but think about the warmer days ahead. These thoughts of future plans quickly shift into memories of summers as a teen, a time in my life that is intimately and forever linked to Jewish summer camp, and an experience that continues to impact who I am today.

For me, Jewish summer camp was a transformative experience helping me grow as a person, a friend, a Jew, and a human being. This is the story that we consistently hear from those who went or sent their children to Jewish summer camp. The impact lasts long after the summer into the rest of the year and the decades to follow.

Camp helps form life-long friendships, creates a sense of community and belonging, and aids in forging a sense of self and Jewish identity. Every summer, it forms a joyous community where youth and teens can grow and mature in a safe environment at an intersection of interests (sports, environment, etc.) within a supportive community. Moreover, it integrates Judaism into intentional yet spontaneous experiences, helping to foster a love for and deep connection to Jewish life. As a result, few offerings are as impactful of an entry point for people’s life-long Jewish journeys as camp.

Me at Camp Tel Yehudah, 1985

That is why one of Federation’s priorities is to help more families send their children to Jewish overnight camps, in addition to providing support for our local JCCs’ day camps. Through One Happy Camper incentive vouchers for first-time campers and support for the camps own scholarship funds, we are committed to ensuring this life-changing experience is accessible and affordable for every community member who seeks it.

One Happy Camper applications are open for 2024, and I encourage you to apply and to share this opportunity with your networks throughout Jewish Greater Washington. If you or your child(ren) do not qualify for the One Happy Camper grant, please contact your camp to see if you qualify for other support.

Federation will continue to invest in programs, organizations, and initiatives that strengthen Jewish identity as well as the ties to each other all year long. Jewish summer camp is one of those critical opportunities that are more important now than ever so that every youth and teen feels strongly connected to their Judaism, the Jewish people, and their community. I can tell you from personal experience – the gift of summer camp lasts a lifetime.

Shabbat Shalom,

Gil Preuss
CEO, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington