Camping president says local efforts are paying off

Jewish camping in Northern California is in good shape, according to Jerry Silverman, president of the Foundation for Jewish Camping, with about 2,400 campers currently involved and tremendous potential for growth.

In an interview with j., Silverman had nothing but praise for the leadership of both Deborah Newbrun at Camp Tawonga and Reuben Arquilevich at Camp Newman and said they run two of the finest Jewish camps in the country.

Camp Tawonga serves all segments of the Jewish community, from the Orthodox (about 20 percent of the campers) to the unaffiliated. Camp Newman is affiliated with the Reform movement.

The foundation is dedicated to strengthening and expanding the Jewish camping movement in North America and Silverman has been its president for about two years, after a highly successful career in corporate marketing.

Although based in New York, he is particularly well acquainted with the Jewish camping movement in Northern California. And he will be in the Bay Area next week to discuss progress made at the foundation’s Leaders Assembly For Jewish Camping, which was held in New Jersey on March 5 and 6.

Silverman lived in Walnut Creek for many years and first became acquainted with Jewish camping through his five children — all of whom are currently involved in Jewish camping either as staff members or campers.

He stressed the importance of the Jewish camping movement, noting that 65 percent of professionals involved in the Jewish community — rabbis, cantors, administrators of communal organizations, etc. — come from the Jewish camping movement.

This is why the Jewish Camping foundation organized the Leaders Assembly for Jewish Camping. It was the first conference bringing together professionals in the Jewish community, lay people and vendors, and it was designed to provide training for leaders of Jewish camps around the country, expose them to the latest marketing and outreach techniques, raise the importance of Jewish camping, prepare a critical agenda for the Jewish camping movement and increase the number of children going to Jewish camps.

Silverman said the Jewish Camping Federation needs the support of the Jewish community in order to have a convention every other year in Jersey City, N.J., as well as an Executive Leadership Institute, which will hold 22 days of meetings around the country over an eight-month period.

Twenty-eight camps in North America, including Camp Tawonga and Camp Newman, will get to apply for the program and nominate their best bunk counselors with two years experience. Those counselors will then be trained as mentors and role models for the campers as well as future leaders of the Jewish camping movement.

Silverman said there is a tremendous opportunity to build on the existing success of the two fine overnight camps in Northern California and get a much greater segment of the Jewish community involved in Jewish camping. He said this could mean expanding Newman and Tawonga and/or creating a third Jewish camp in Northern California in the near future.

Either way, Silverman said he looks forward to visiting Northern California on a regular basis and working with local Jewish community leaders to keep the Jewish camping movement here in Northern California strong and vibrant and growing.