As the academic year comes to a close, we’ve rounded up resources for your congregation to stay connected with your campers throughout the summer. The tips and resources here will assist your congregation in leveraging the learning, joy and relationships developed at camp during the summer. We hope you find a few of these recommendations helpful in deepening their love of Jewish living and learning when they return home. Before the summer...
- Recognize those who are headed off to camp: Invite kids to the bimah for a send-off blessing. Display photos and bios of campers who are going to camp on a bulletin board and include their names in bulletins and emails.
- Organize a send-off party: Help campers meet new friends from their home congregations and get excited about heading to camp.
- Help families get ready: Share the link to resources on ReformJudaism.org, especially with first-time camp families. Identify a family in your community who can be a resource for first-timers.
- Arrange a camp visit: This will help prospective campers and their families to get a taste of camp before leaving for the summer. Find a Reform Jewish summer camp near you.
During the summer...
- Send postcards to campers: Your congregational clergy, youth director, and temple board members can all send snail mail to camp to build relationships and help campers feel connected to larger synagogue community.
- Engage your congregants while the kids are away: Organize a gathering for parents who have kids going to camp, at the temple or elsewhere, to share stories, build relationships (just like their kids are doing at camp!) and enjoy each other's company.
- Share campers’ letters with the congregation: Encourage campers to write letters to the congregation, then include those letters home letters in your temple bulletin, email newsletter, and on your website.
- Go to camp! Many clergy members and youth professionals have the opportunity to serve as camp faculty during the summer. Take advantage of this time at camp to gather kids together for a photo, a sweet treat, and a feeling of home. Check with your local camp about opportunities to serve as faculty.
After the summer/in the fall...
- Welcome campers back and let them share their stories with the congregation: During a post-summer Shabbat service, invite returning campers to share about their summer from the bimah. Celebrate new friends, reunite with old, and reinforce lessons and friendships from the summer.
- Invite a camp representative to your congregation: Camp staff loves to visit congregations and talk with potential campers and families. Request a visit from your regional camp!
- Leverage local counselors: Ask your camp director to provide you with a list of camp staff in your area so you can tap into this powerful cohort of young adult leaders who are role models to campers to be religious school teachers or youth group advisors.
- Enlist campers in outreach: Existing campers are the greatest ambassadors for a summer at Jewish camp. Encourage them to develop a plan for reaching out to friends and potential new campers.
More resources on bringing camp into the congregation:
- "How We Brought Camp Into our Religious School" (from the Journal of Youth Engagement)
- “Bringing Camp Into The Synagogue,” from the staff of URJ Greene Family Camp
- “Hello, Muddah, Hello, Faddah: Camp Season is Here!” (by URJ Vice President of Youth Miriam Chilton)
- Join the Jewish Camping group in The Tent, the URJ’s online collaboration platform