Grants boost camp staff training, Israel education summer programs

The National Ramah Commission and The Union for Reform Judaism’s Camping Movement announced a joint program to develop training for specialty staff before the 2012 summer camp season.

A grant of $144,000 from the Avi Chai Foundation, to be shared equally by the two camping movements, will fund training programs including professional development, sharing of best practices, and building a network of camp specialty staff.

The program is designed to enhance the skills of staff in their specialty areas, and also in the integration of Jewish content and knowledge in their work with campers. It is also expected to improve staff retention by deepening the commitment of specialty staff to camping and to informal Jewish education.

Also recently announced: The Larry and Lillian Goodman Foundations awarded a four-year, $2.3 million matching grant to the iCenter and the Foundation for Jewish Camp to establish a joint project, the Goodman Camping Initiative for Modern Jewish History. The goal is to enhance the modern Israeli historical and cultural teachings at nonprofit independent Jewish overnight camps and forge a greater connection between campers and the Jewish state.

A matching component of the grant has been fulfilled by the Marcus Foundation and the Avi Chai Foundation, which are jointly contributing $1.3 million to the program.

The initiative targets independent Jewish camps, and builds on other Israel education initiatives in the camping world. According to the FJC’s recent study, Camp Works, Jewish camp alumni are 55 percent more likely to feel emotionally attached to Israel.

“As young Jews are our future leaders, Jewish camps provide an ideal environment for them to learn about Israeli history and culture so that they will be knowledgeable when standing up against anti-Israel sentiment on college campuses,” says Larry Goodman, chairman of the Chicago-based Goodman Foundations.