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What do you value most? URJ Camp Coleman Edition

As former URJ campers and staff, JTFN Staff Alana Hollander and Laura Schultze jump at any opportunity to return to Jewish camp. This summer, as a part of the Foundation for Jewish Camp and AVI CHAI Foundation Innovation Fund, our team has the opportunity to bring Jewish teen philanthropy to camps across the country.

First up: URJ Camp Coleman in Cleveland, GA.

Over the course of 4 days, Alana and Laura met with campers, counselors, staff, and Machon (counselors-in-training). Using Jewish values to guide decisions, each group had to work together to find an organization that aligned with their group values.  Once each group had chosen their communal values, they gave away real money, to real non-profit organizations, whose missions matched their values. Often with many opinions in the room, a lot of deep and interesting conversations were sparked among participants. Many campers and staff members related this program to experiences they had with their parents, families, college fraternities (we even heard about a “Puppies and Pizzas” Fundraiser!), synagogues, and other giving experiences. Laura and Alana had the opportunity to meet Jewish teen philanthropist, Brandon Gerardi, from No Small Change at the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Palm Beach. As a JTFN Youth Ambassador, he helped us to lead conversations, and shared his expertise to the group.

JTFN ran the program with 5 bunks, whose values ranged from cultivating community, supporting and healing, pursuing peace, not standing idly by, and continuing the chain of wisdom. 3 bunks felt that the current refugee crisis related directly to their values, and gave their checks to HIAS. 1 bunk felt bridging the gap between Israeli and Palestinian children fit their values, and they decided to give their check to Hand in Hand. 1 bunk felt that full LGBTQ+ equality belongs in Jewish life, and chose to give their check to Keshet. At the end of our staff program, they decided to give their check to HIAS, and the Machon decided to give their check to the American Jewish World Service.

After speaking with camp programmers, JTFN learned that putting Jewish values into a context of actual organizations that do good deeds, the campers had a new and different understanding of what Jewish values could be, and how they are applied in everyday life.

Stay tuned for more stop this summer!

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