New $15 Million Scholarship Fund for URJ Camps and NFTY Israel Experience Programs to give a taste of Reform Jewish Camping to Thousands of Children Seeded with a $1 Million Gift from Peter and Joan Weidhorn
September 11, 2006 NEW YORK With a $1 million gift, the Union for Reform Judaism has begun a $15 million endowment campaign so that every Reform Jewish child will be able to attend summer camp and travel to Israel.
Peter and Joan Weidhorn of Manalapan, NJ, provided $1 million to establish the URJ Camp Scholarship Endowment. Peter served as chairman of the Unions North American Camping Committee for several years and oversaw the expansion of the system with two additional camps.
The future of Reform Judaism cannot wait for tomorrow, said Weidhorn. Joan and I believe that Reform Jewish camping will shape the growth of the Movement in the next 50 years, and we want to help the Jewish leaders of tomorrow experience Reform camping.
In nearly three generations the Reform Movements summer camps have fostered Jewish learning and living while producing many of the Movements finest leaders. Four out of five of the Reform Movements current rabbis, cantors and educators are graduates of the Unions camping system, which now includes 12 camps in the United States and Canada. The newest camp, Camp Kalsman in Washington State, will open in the summer of 2007.
The scholarship program will also provide funding to expand the number of Jewish teens who travel to Israel each summer. The Rabbi Alexander Schindler NFTY Experience in Israel program, the largest youth Israel travel program, provide Jewish teens with a life changing experience in the heart of Jewish history, culture and religion.
The Camp Scholarship Endowment Committee, co-chaired by Peter Shapiro and Jane Rips, is composed of lay leaders, Union staff and representatives of each of the 12 camp boards. The Committee plans to approach foundations and individuals who have interests in Jewish camping, youth and education.
Peter Shapiro and I are honored to be co-chairing this exciting new project for the URJ, said Rips. Our lives and our children's lives have been enriched by our experiences at URJ Camps. This endowment fund will enable many more children to have those same transformative and joyous experiences.
Although our goals are ambitious, establishing this endowment will be one more way to help our children and their children find the joy of Reform Jewish living and help to secure all of our futures, said Rips.
The Union for Reform Judaism (formerly the Union of American Hebrew Congregations) is the central body of Reform Judaism in North America, uniting 1.5 million Reform Jews in more than 900 synagogues. Union services include camps, music and book publishing, outreach to unaffiliated and intermarried Jews, educational programs, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C.