8 Ways to Bring Camp into Your Congregation

Inside Leadership

8 Ways to Bring Camp into Your Congregation

Campers siting on cabin steps holding a THINK CAMP sign

As a Jewish professional, you’ve seen the incredible impact Jewish camp can have. Whether you attended camp, your children attend camp, or you simply see the way your congregation’s campers come back from camp more confident, inspired, and Jewishly connected than before, you know how much the gift of camp can mean in someone’s life.

Our data shows that almost all of the first-time campers who will join us this summer will register for camp by the end of February. That means its camp season here at the URJ offices! With only a few weeks left in this critical window, we are asking for your help to connect your congregation’s families to camp.

This is a great time to remind your families about One Happy Camper grants, which provide $700 to $1,000 for first-time campers. These grants have made it easier for so many families to give their children the best summers of their lives.

Looking for some ideas on how to bring camp into your congregation?

  1. Reach out one last time: Have you been casually chatting with a family about summer camp over oneg or the religious school pick-up line? This is a great time to follow up and remind them about One Happy Camper grants. Offer to connect them to the camp leadership if they have questions or want to learn more about why camp is so important. Does your congregation also offer scholarships? Don’t forget to share that, too!
  2. Sing from the bimah: Invite campers to lead a favorite camp tune during services and share their favorite camp memories.
  3. Create a camp tree for Tu BiShvat: Using poster board and butcher paper, create a “camp tree” on the synagogue wall and put up leaves with the names of all of the children attending camp and the camp they are attending.
  4. Bring some summer into winter: Ask children during religious school or Hebrew school to do a camp-themed activity during class.
  5. Host a hot cocoa & s’mores and camp party: Invite families who are already sending kids to camp, and those who are considering it, to join together for hot cocoa and s’mores over conversations about camp.
  6. Share some data: Some parents want the hard facts. Share the URJ Alumni Impact Study with them to demonstrate the lifelong impact of attending a URJ summer camp.
  7. Reach out to your camp leadership: Do you have a family who is on the fence about camp? Let your camp leadership know so they can follow up.
  8. Spread the word: Share this post (or one like it) on your and your synagogue’s social media and newsletter: “Did you know that children attending one of our Reform Movement URJ Camps for the first time are gifted $700-$1000 special grants thanks to One Happy Camper? Learn more at urjyouth.org/camps.”

One Happy Camper is funded thanks to Foundation for Jewish Camp in partnership with organizations across North America. There is universal understanding and data reinforcing the investment & value of Jewish camp for children, teens, and young adults: It strengthens Jewish identity, connects young people to synagogue and broader Jewish life, and builds their life skills – especially for mental, emotional, social health.

Our camps also provide a vision we seek as a Jewish community and for humanity – a more inclusive, just, whole, loving and sustainable world. There is a reason why children, teens, young adults, and parents frequently leave camp with tears in their eyes, saying “I wish all of life were like camp."

Joining a URJ Camp is a beginning of that vision and transcends a young person’s summer months – the community, friendship, network of mentors, young adults, adult clergy, educators, scholars and artists provide a lifelong foundation for support and growth, with year-round life-enriching touch points to follow – NFTY, social justice work through the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and all that your congregation does all year long.

If you are already part of a URJ camp community, let us know what you love most about your camp! If you have not yet joined your URJ Camp community, here is your opportunity to support your child, grandchild and/or any child to receive this gift and these blessings.

Learn more about all of the URJ’s camps, and find your perfect match at URJYouth.org/Camps.

Have something to say about this post? Join the conversation in The Tent, the communications and collaboration platform for congregational leaders of the Reform Movement. You can also tweet us or tell us how you feel on Facebook.

Ruben Arquilevich is the Union for Reform Judaism's vice president of URJ camps, NFTY and immersive experiences, leading teams across North America to increase engagement and strengthen URJ’s year-round youth, camp and Israel programs for people of all ages. Formerly, Ruben was the executive director of California camping and youth programs, including URJ Camp Newman in Santa Rosa, CA (where he served as director for 25 years), URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy West, and 6 Points Sports Academy California, along with multiple NFTY regions. When not in the field visiting the Reform Movement's 17 camps, 19 NFTY regions, and many Israel programs, Ruben is out in nature with his wife Vivien and three children, who were all shaped by URJ immersive experiences.


Michelle Shapiro Abraham, MAJE, RJE, is the Union for Reform Judaism’s director of learning and innovation for youth and a consultant for the Foundation for Jewish Camp.  A longtime Jewish educator, author, and speaker, she holds a master’s degree in Jewish education from the Rhea Hirsch School of Education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.  Michelle is a recipient of the 2015 Covenant Award for Excellence in Jewish Education and an active member of Temple Sholom in Scotch Plains, NJ, where her husband, Joel Abraham, serves as the rabbi.

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