More than 40 day camps, overnight camps and Israel youth tours will exhibit their programs Jan. 21 at Stephen S. Wise Temple. Sponsored by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, the second annual Jewish Summer Camp and Israel Program Expo is aimed at helping parents and kids find the right Jewish enrichment for summertime. Families will have a chance to meet the camp staffs, learn about the offerings and accommodations and find out about financial help from camps and Israel tours from around the country. A printed resource guide will be available to attendees, as well as to anyone who requests one (contact information below).
The expo is part of The Federation's renewed focus on the informal but invaluable education of a Jewish summertime experience, according to Lori Port, senior associate director of planning and allocations at The Federation. A new incentive program for summer camps is working its way through Federation committees, and the last few years has seen an increase in Federation money going toward camps.
For three years, The Federation has allocated $50,000 annually, funded jointly by them and an anonymous donor, to five local Jewish overnight camps for scholarships for first-time campers. A $10,000 grant from the Streisand Foundation enabled The Federation to disburse additional money toward scholarships for Jewish day and residential camps, and immigrant children are eligible to receive scholarships from a pool of $31,000 for day camps from The Federation's resettlement program.
Camp JCA Shalom, a Federation agency, also receives significant operational money from The Federation.
Jewish camping, particularly overnight camping, has been documented to be one of the most effective ways to build a lasting and active connection to Jewish living. In the 2000-01 National Jewish Population Survey, Jewish campers were almost twice as likely as those who attended up to six years of Hebrew school to be married to a Jew, have many Jewish friends, be a synagogue member and feel that being Jewish is very important.
For more information, call (323) 761-8320 or go to www.jewishla.org.
More Help Picking a Camp
The Foundation for Jewish camping is offering parents help in picking from 130 Jewish overnight camps with its find-a-camp search engine (www.Jewishcamping.org ). The feature on the Web site narrows down choices based on geography, Jewish affiliation and special interests and needs.
Among the offerings are a growing number of specialty programs, ranging from basketball to pottery to astronomy. Jewish camps are hoping those programs will pull kids in and expose them to the documented, long-term benefits to Jewish identity that come from spending a summer immersed in Jewish living.
The Foundation for Jewish Camping continues to offer professional assistance to camps across the country. Locally, Doug Lynn, director of Wilshire Boulevard Temple Camps, and Rabbi Daniel Greyber, director of Camp Ramah, are developing their skills as part of the first cohort of the foundation's Executive Leadership Institute. And counselors from three California camps -- Ramah, Tawonga and Newman Swig -- are learning leadership and educational skills at the foundation's Cornerstone Fellowship Program.
For more information and to access the find-a-camp" search engine, go to www.jewishcamping.org.
Israeli Flies to Zionist Camp in California
Itai Rotem, the son of the previous Israeli consul general in Los Angeles, missed his California camp so much after his family went back to Israel that the 13-year-old flew all the way from Israel -- alone -- last summer to go back to Habonim Dror's Camp Gilboa near San Bernardino.
"There is a sense of brotherhood and togetherness in Gilboa that Itai wanted to taste once again ... so we let him go," Consul General Yuval Rotem said. "He loved every moment of this experience."
Camp Gilboa, a Labor Zionist camp founded in 1936, offers a kibbutz-type atmosphere, where Jewish identity and a love for Israel are emphasized.
For information, call (323)653-6772, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.campgilboa.org.
Social Action Summer
Teens looking for meaning this summer can participate in a service learning program offered by Sulam -- the Center for Jewish Service Learning, part of the Bureau of Jewish Education. Teens age 13-18 can participate in two-week sessions in the areas of sports and mentorship, the environment (land or water) and homelessness/home building. Each day the teens will meet onsite for hands-on work, with time set aside for study, discussion and reflection with Jewish educators. The two-week program will take place twice -- at the beginning of July and in mid-August.
For information contact Daniel Gold at (323) 761-8607, email@example.com.
Surfing, rock music, filmmaking, science -- it doesn't get more California than this. The Youth Enrichment Summer (YES) at Stephen S. Wise Temple offers seventh- to ninth-graders an opportunity to delve deep into an area of interest, in the context of Jewish learning and the usual summer camp activities such as sports, swimming and field trips.
Campers enrolled in the three-week sessions will meet with professionals to learn their chosen craft. The Life Savers Surf Camp will teach kids to surf and train them as junior life guards, including CPR certification. Campers who choose Behind the Scenes will write, act in, direct and edit their own short films. The musically inclined can opt for the School of Rock, which will include music theory and history, as well as some serious jam time. And proud geeks can break, fix and explore things in the Excelsior Science experience, which includes physics, chemistry and astronomy. All of the specialties will include daily Jewish text study related to the field.
For more information, call (310) 889-2345, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.WiseLA.org.
Running Springs Really Running
Organizers are hoping to significantly increase last year's inaugural summer of 180 kids at Camp Gan Israel in Running Springs.
The camp, a 70-acre site near Big Bear that Chabad purchased for $4.3 million two years ago, recently broke ground on a 10,000-square-foot multipurpose building and has invested another $1.5 million in other improvements, including a newly remodeled synagogue, enlarged dining hall, kitchen improvements, a game room and upgraded air conditioning, bathrooms and carpets.
The camp is also initiating an optional bar and bat mitzvah program aimed at campers who come from secular schools. And last year's pilot program for special-needs kids, in conjunction with the Friendship Circle of Los Angeles, is being expanded to a two-week session.
For information, visit www.cgirunningsprings.com.
Calling All Teens
Camp JCA Shalom is taking summer year round, with a new initiative aimed at keeping teens involved in the September-June off season. With a grant from The Jewish Federation, JCA Shalom, part of the Shalom Institute, has expanded the hours of its teen director and has begun hosting Shabbatons, Sunday events and social action every few weeks. A Shabbaton during the Sukkot holiday attracted 120 kids -- half of whom were boys.
That fact is significant, according to Shalom Institute director Bill Kaplan, since the grant is specifically aimed at bringing in more teenage boys, who typically gravitate away from Jewish youth activities.
Shalom hopes to pull in more teens by offering an Israel trip for 11th- and 12th-graders through the national Jewish Centers Association (the Shalom Institute became independent of the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles last year). With about a dozen JCC camps from around the country participating, teens will spend four weeks in Israel, traveling and studying.
The trip is being run in conjunction with Pinat Shorashim, an Israeli educational nature institute, which also sends Shalom a full-time shaliach (emissary) during the year.
For more information, call (818) 889-5500 or visit www.campjcashalom.com.
Happy Campers at Simcha
Mitzvahs, drama, sports and weekly field trips are all part of Camp Simcha, a six-week day camp for first- through fifth-graders at Temple Israel of Hollywood. Campers spend each morning in enrichment classes, such as painting, creative movement or sports, and each afternoon in a drama program that culminates in an end-of-summer performance. Each week, campers pick a project connected to a mitzvah they have been studying at camp.
For more information, contact Glenda Saul, email@example.com, (323) 876-8330, ext. 312; or visit www.tioh.org/education/camp.php.
Free Money for First-Time Campers
The Foundation for Jewish Education is once again offering first-time campers to Camp Alonim scholarships, hoping to bring new children into the world of Jewish camping -- one of the most effective ways of insuring lifelong Jewish connections.
Camp Alonim is a pluralistic camp at the Brandeis Bardin Institute in Simi Valley. This year, the camp is adding a new batting cage with a pitching machine. The focus on teens continues as local rabbis come in to study with the teen staff and counselors in training (CIT), who are entering 11th grade. CITs this year will also have a chance to choose a specialty area -- such as ropes course, life-guarding or song-leading -- to benefit both the camp and the teens in the future. For information on the Foundation for Jewish Education, visit www.tfjeinc.org; for information on Alonim visit www.thebbi.org.
Financial Incentives for Campers
Camp Ramah has teamed up with area synagogues and private foundations to offer first-time campers financial incentives to attend the Conservative camp in Ojai.
"We are trying to lower the barriers to coming and being part of Ramah," said Rabbi Daniel Greyber, director of Ramah California. "The goal is to increase the number of kids going to Jewish summer camps and to Ramah, because we know that camp is something that works."
The Lowy 4-Week Campership Program will provide 125 first-time campers $1,000 scholarships off the $3,400 tuition for a four-week session. Rabbis from area Conservative synagogues have been asked to nominate up to four kids per synagogue.
An anonymously funded program for kids from the San Diego area will provide 25 $1,250 scholarships for first-time campers.
The programs were established after a recent study of the California Jewish camping market, conducted by the Foundation for Jewish Camping, revealed that parents were not willing to spend as much on Jewish camps as they were on non-Jewish camps.
Greyber is hoping that with these incentives, kids and their parents will fall in love with the experience, motivating them to either stretch their finances to pay for camp or to apply for scholarships that often are underutilized by middle-class families embarrassed to ask for help.
Pointing to a recent report on the impact of Ramah, Greyber says making the stretch for camp is worth it.
"All of the research has borne out that Jewish children who go to Jewish summer camp have a much stronger Jewish identity, and kids who go to Ramah have even stronger measures of Jewish commitment than kids from other Jewish summer camps," Greyber said.
For information visit www.ramah.org or call (310) 476-8571.
Briefs written and compiled by Education Editor Julie Gruenbaum Fax.