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Northern California Jewish summer camps team up for one-stop info website

Does your kid like scuba diving or raising chickens? Basketball or hiking? Whichever it is, there’s a camp for that, and now it can be found on the new Camp Collective web page — — a clearinghouse for families looking to learn about Jewish overnight camps in Northern California.

“We came up with the idea of creating a hub, a one-stop shop which would explain the value of a Jewish camp,” said Wendy Verba, a senior program officer at the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund, which, along with its counterparts in the East Bay and Silicon Valley, is backing the Bay Area Jewish Camp Collective.

Launched last month, showcases six Northern California overnight camps and gives information on financial aid and scholarships, including a $1,000 grant for first-time campers from the New York-based Foundation for Jewish Camp.

The listings run the gamut. For example, there’s Camp Be’chol Lashon, where young Jews of color can have a Jewish experience in which they don’t feel like outsiders. Also included is URJ Camp Newman, which in 2019 will again hold its summer sessions in Vallejo (its Santa Rosa site burned in the 2017 Tubbs Fire).

Other camps on the site so far are the JCC Maccabi Sports Camp in Atherton, the region’s first overnight Jewish sports camp; Camp Ramah Northern California, a Monterey-area camp that focuses on oceanography and adventures sports; Eden Village West in Healdsburg, which provides an organic, back-to-the-land vibe; and Camp Tawonga, the 94-year-old granddaddy of Western Jewish summer camps near Yosemite National Park.

Each camp listed on is different, and that’s the point, said Rabbi Sarah Shulman, director of 3-year-old Camp Ramah in Watsonville.

“The Jewish Camp Collective is a tremendous example of collaboration amongst different Jewish organizations towards a unified goal and vision of bringing more Jewish youth to experience the magic of overnight summer camp,” Shulman said in an email.

But do the camps really need more Jewish youth? Indeed. In the Bay Area, fewer than 5 percent of Jewish kids go to overnight camps, a figure derived from camp attendance numbers and a 2018 survey of Bay Area Jews, according to Kerry Philp, senior director of strategic marketing and communications for the S.F.-based Federation.

Although all of the six camps are different and promote Jewish values in their own way, they share a common goal of creating a positive summer experience for kids in order to help them strengthen their Jewish identity.

Moreover, the site is the first step in a larger marketing push, according to Verba, intended to make the region’s Jewish camp landscape more visible to the community.

“We want people to spread the word about this resource,” Verba said. “This is a gift.”