Camp Works: The Foundation for Jewish Camp Unveils New Research on Camp’s Long-term Effect on Engagement

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The Foundation for Jewish Camp unveils the findings of CAMP WORKS, a landmark study revealing the long term effect of nonprofit Jewish camp on its alumni.

Foundation for Jewish Camp

“As the North American Jewish community strives to find ways to evoke Jewish practice and passion in children and their families, CAMP WORKS proves that camp should be high on the docket." Jeremy J. Fingerman, CEO, Foundation for Jewish Camp

The Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) unveils the findings of CAMP WORKS, a landmark study revealing the long term effect of Jewish camp on its alumni. Jewish summer camp has long been associated with the North American Jewish community, but the lasting effect of these priceless and memorable summers have been purely anecdotal…until now. CAMP WORKS reveals that the influence of nonprofit Jewish camp can be seen in the ways adults choose to engage with the community and to the degree to which they associate with other Jews, long after the last sunset of the summer.

Throughout the past decade, FJC has worked tirelessly to promote the value and importance of the nonprofit Jewish overnight camp experience to North American Jews. As a result, Jewish camp has steadily become accepted as an essential part of building strong Jewish identity in children and creating a robust and enduring Jewish community. CAMP WORKS takes the next step and proves the long-term impact of overnight Jewish camp on Jewish attitudes and engagement.

Professor Steven M. Cohen led an esteemed research team responsible for these new findings utilizing data collected by some of the premier Jewish social scientists of our time. The study compares the Jewish behaviors of adults who had attended Jewish camp as children with those of adults who did not, and controls for factors involving Jewish education and upbringing. Ultimately, the report reveals that the childhood camp experience significantly impacts adult Jewish practices and commitments, and instills a sense of belonging to a larger Jewish community.

As adults, Jewish camp alumni are:

  •     45% more likely to attend synagogue monthly or more, raising their voice in song and prayer as a community;
  •     30% more likely to contribute to their local Jewish federation, demonstrating their care and solidarity for their fellow Jew as well as their feeling of being a part of a larger Jewish community;
  •     55% more likely to feel very emotionally attached to Israel, continuing a centuries-old relationship to the Jewish Homeland and a contemporary kinship with Jews world-wide;
  •     37% more likely to light Shabbat candles, bringing Jewish tradition and ritual in their home and sharing it with friends and family.

(as compared to adults who did not attend camp)

“CAMP WORKS clearly proves that Jewish overnight camp inspires a life-long commitment to Jewish living,” explains Jeremy Fingerman, CEO, FJC, “As the North American Jewish community strives to find ways to evoke Jewish practice and passion in children and their families, CAMP WORKS proves that camp should be high on the docket. The Foundation takes this study as our calling card to continue to drive more kids to camp, enhance programming and emphasize professional development among camp leaders.”

FJC has made research such as CAMP WORKS a priority in fulfilling the Foundation’s mission: to unify and galvanize the field of Jewish overnight camp and to significantly increase the number of children participating in transformative summers at Jewish camp, resulting in a strong Jewish community. This report offers the fullest picture to date of the impact of Jewish summer camp.

"Having hard data that proves what we have always known - that camp ‘works’ to build a more vibrant Jewish future - is integral in helping us fulfill our mission of enabling more children the opportunity to experience Jewish camp," says Skip Vichness, Chair, Board of Directors, FJC. "As great as anecdotal evidence is, this new research pushes Jewish camp to new heights."

"The Foundation for Jewish Camp has worked successfully over the past 13 years to catapult Jewish camping onto the communal agenda. But FJC has never been comfortable assuming that camp ‘works’ based on studies that merely show a correlation between increased Jewish behavior and camp attendance. The Jewish community—as well as funders and parents with camp-age children--need proof that camp significantly impacts Jewish behavior and engagement well into campers’ adult years, and Professor Steven Cohen's regression analysis demonstrates exactly that. There is no reason for any skepticism anymore: Camp works, and Jewish camping should be strongly supported and funded." - Elisa Spungen Bildner, Co-chair, FJC Board of Trustees

About the Foundation for Jewish Camp:
The Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) is the only public organization dedicated solely to nonprofit Jewish overnight camps. FJC employs a variety of strategies toward a single goal: to increase the number of children in Jewish summer camps. To this end, the Foundation creates inspiring camp leaders, expands access to and intensifies demand for camp, and develops programs to strengthen camps across the Jewish spectrum in North America. Through strategic partnerships on local and national levels, FJC raises the profile of Jewish camp and serves as a central resource for parents and organizations alike. FJC works with more than 150 camps, 70,000 campers, and 10,000 counselors across North America each summer to further its mission. http://www.jewishcamp.org

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Alicia Zimbalist
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