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September 2, 2015 | 18th Elul 5775

URJ Founds New Specialty Jewish Summer Camp Dedicated to Science and Technology

URJ Camps to Build on Successful Engagement Techniques of URJ Sports Specialty Camp

Contact: Annette Powers

September 14, 2012, New York, NY -- The Reform Movement announced this week the founding of the first Jewish specialty camp for science and technology. The new Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) camp, called the URJ 6 Points Science and Technology Academy, will open in the summer of 2014 in Boston, MA, and serve upwards of 600 campers in grades 5-9 over three two-week sessions per summer.

The URJ 6 Points Science and Technology Academy will build on the growing interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) and serve as an on-ramp into Jewish camping for unaffiliated and currently unengaged Jewish families who have not been attracted to the classic Jewish summer camp model.

“The URJ has been operating summer camps for six decades and our current network of 13 extremely successful camps throughout North America uniquely qualifies us to provide meaningful, life-transforming Jewish experiences to a cadre of campers. We are excited about the opportunity to expand our geographic and programmatic reach to a new and different cohort of young people and their families, who, were it not for the science and technology components of the program, likely would not enroll in a Jewish camp,” said URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs.

Funding for the URJ 6 Points Science and Technology Academy is being made possible by a Foundation for Jewish Camps (FJC) Specialty Camps Incubator II grant. The purpose of the grant - funded by $8.6 million jointly funded by The Jim Joseph Foundation and the AVI CHAI Foundation - is to engage more children in the Jewish summer camp experience by funding the foundation of new specialty camps. The URJ 6 Points Sports Academy was a previous recipient of the FJC’s first Specialty Camps Incubator Grant in 2010.

“Our success at the URJ 6 Points Sports Academy indicates there is a great demand for Jewish specialty camping. Some Jewish children may be more interested in a Jewish camp geared toward their specific interests, than in traditional Jewish camps,” said Chair of the URJ North American Camp Committee Harry Levy.

URJ 6 Points Science and Technology Academy will not only engage campers’ curiosity about the world through superior hands-on scientific and technological exploration; it will immerse them in a vibrant community filled with Jewish experiences and connections to Israel. Jewish values, ethics and tradition will be woven together with the spirit and excitement of open scientific inquiry.

The new camp seeks to foster a kehillah kedoshah – a sacred and caring community – in which campers build pride in themselves, concern and commitment for one another, and confidence in their ability to influence their world; to create a stimulating environment that challenges campers to become talmidei hachamim, better thinkers about science and technology and to be passionate, ethical Jews; and to  encourage and strengthen campers’ connections and devotion to Judaism, the State of Israel, and Klal Yisrael.

In addition to the Jewish dimensions of the specialty programming, Judaism will infuse all aspects of the camp experience throughout the day in song sessions, blessings at meals, Shabbat celebration, and the presence of Israeli counselors and instructors on staff. 6 Points Science and Technology Academy will create an immersive environment in which campers learn from counselors, instructors, and high-profile special guests who are charismatic Jewish role models. The special guests may be working scientists, inventors, technology entrepreneurs, and master Jewish educators and storytellers drawn from the Jewish community in Boston and beyond. The campers will develop meaningful relationships and enduring Jewish friendships, and create shared Jewish rituals and memories that shape identity and practice. A developmentally appropriate curriculum will engage campers and keep them challenged so that they will want to come back, summer after summer.

“We are excited about this one-of-a-kind program because it bridges the love of science and technology with Judaism.  Where else can young people explore molecular gastronomy and the traditions of Jewish cuisine, or examine the ethical and philosophical implications of experimentation in chemistry and biology or recreate the possible scientific explanation of the ten plaques?” said URJ’s Director of Strategy, Operations and Finance of Youth, Camp and Israel Programs Miriam Chilton. “We are ready to make the intersection of Judaism and science and technology the most fun and interesting place for our children.  How cool is that?”

The URJ 6 Points Science and Technology Academy joins 13 other URJ camps throughout North America serving more than 8,000 campers.  Responding to demand, the overall URJ camping program has dramatically expanded in the past few years.

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