URJ's Camp Harlam Launches First Reform Day Camp in Philadelphia in 2014

Philadelphia, PA, May 23, 2013 – The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), representing North America’s largest Jewish congregational Movement, and Camp Harlam, the URJ’s Philadelphia-based regional overnight camp, announced that they will open the first URJ-affiliated day camp in the summer of 2014.

The URJ’s foray into Jewish day camping is a strategic initiative meant to complement the Reform Movement’s focus on Youth Engagement and the URJ’s North American Camp Committee’s strategic plan. With 14 URJ overnight camps across North America serving more than 8,000 children and young adults, this entry into day camping is expected to create exciting new opportunities for outreach to young Jewish families and act as a gateway experience into Jewish camp for hundreds of young children.

The URJ’s selection of Camp Harlam to launch this pilot program was based on the camp’s exceptional reputation and brand, the strength of the Reform congregations and communities in the Philadelphia region, and the ability of the camp’s professional and lay leadership to articulate a compelling vision for “Harlam Day Camp.” The expectation is for the day camp to be the first of its kind and a model, and other day camp initiatives will be considered for various target communities throughout North America in the coming years.

“The URJ has been a leader in Jewish camping for over 60 years, keeping it as a high strategic priority for decades and making the case for camp as a true cornerstone in the development of Jewish identity,” said URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs.  “Camp Harlam, like all of our URJ camps, has developed its own joyful and engaging brand of Reform Jewish living and learning in a truly beautiful, fully immersive, well-supervised, fun setting. The day camp initiative is a way to expand what Camp Harlam already does so well and offer more entry points for Jewish families to engage with the Reform Movement.”  

The URJ’s Director of Camp and Israel Programs, Paul Reichenbach, said, “URJ camp and Israel experiences give kids Jewish cultural roots and inspire them to seek more and more connections. A day camp model will enhance our ability to reach more kids and encourage them to embark on their own Jewish journeys.”

Drawing on Camp Harlam’s years of experience will be critical to assure that a summer at Harlam Day Camp will have a lasting impact on its participants. The day camp will offer a robust program that builds skills and introduces children to new things; a community that produces real and meaningful relationships; excellent role models and leaders; and a sense of connection that will continue after the summer ends. Camp Harlam has secured funding to allow for the build-out of this vibrant program and financial assistance for families in need.

In the Greater Philadelphia area, Camp Harlam will be joining an established market of Jewish day camps. Camp Harlam’s director, Aaron Selkow, has worked in the Jewish camping field for nearly 20 years and believes that “our willingness to bring the first URJ day camp to this area is a tribute to the others who have shown the potential and real value to such programs.” The Philadelphia area is the offseason headquarters to a number of Jewish overnight camps and a vibrant Jewish community, and Selkow believes that “this endeavor is an opportunity for Camp Harlam to be a leader within the Reform Movement and to partner with others to push the envelope for excellence in youth development, family engagement and Jewish communal service.” A critical asset for Camp Harlam will be the large Reform Jewish population in the region and Harlam’s established partnership with 13 URJ-affiliated congregations in the Greater Philadelphia area. As with its overnight camp, synagogue support will be a key to promoting and supporting the educational elements and enrollment of the day camp. Rabbi Gregory Marx of Congregation Beth Or in Ambler, PA stated, “Jewish camping has proven, time and time again, to be a wonderful tool for enhancing Jewish identity, belonging and meaningful Jewish experiences.  I welcome Camp Harlam’s decision to move forward in this worthwhile effort.”  

Leadership of the new camp will be locally-based, under the helm of a new year-round director, Eytan Graubart. Graubart, who has been a director in the Jewish camping field for the last six years and comes with a wealth of knowledge and experience, will work closely with Harlam Camp Director Selkow to develop a top notch Jewish day camp program that will also be coordinated and tightly integrated with Harlam’s overnight program. Dan Pliskin, the lead Harlam board member on this project, said, “On top of all the potential we see for things we can do, with the relatively close proximity of Philadelphia to Harlam’s overnight location, we see some programming options for kids and staff at Harlam Day Camp to be able to join with their ‘big brothers and big sisters’ at Camp Harlam for special programs, overnight experiences and much more. Operationally, there will be a great advantage to the shared infrastructure and resources of the two programs.” Pliskin, who is a Camp Harlam parent, also noted the importance of finding the ideal site with a “critical mass of young Jewish families in close proximity, while also being accessible for families slightly further away.” The location of the day camp is still being determined and will be announced in the coming months.  

For more information on Camp Harlam and Harlam Day Camp, visit www.URJCampHarlam.org. For more information on the URJ, visit www.URJ.org.