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A Snapshot of Camp Philanthropy

August 8, 2013
By: Andrew Paull, JTFN Program & Communications Assistant

Right now, across North America, over 1,200 Jewish summer campers are becoming philanthropists. At 43 camps, groups of teens are developing mission statements, examining Jewish texts and values, reviewing grant proposals, making site visits, and awarding $1,000 grants to nonprofit organizations. The program encourages campers to “learn by giving,” and will generate at least $40,000 in grants to nonprofits.

The Jewish Teen Funders Network (JTFN), a youth philanthropy project of the Jewish Funders Network, awarded grants to 38 Jewish summer camps across all denomination lines throughout North America as participants in the Camp Philanthropy Program, and continues to work with five camps from earlier pilot programs.

Generously supported by the Maimonides Fund, the Camp Philanthropy Program is part of JTFN’s broader work to build the field of Jewish teen philanthropy. JTFN supports 150 Jewish teen philanthropy programs across North America in day schools, religious schools, synagogues, social service agencies, local Jewish Federations and Jewish community foundations.

Updates and photos from Camp Philanthropy programs are featured daily on JTFN’s Facebook Page, and on the various camp blogs, written by teens as they learn about philanthropy As reflected in their words, the opportunity to give away real money helps teens understand their obligation, both as Jews and as the next generation, to engage in tikkun olam:

The G7 Girls of Camp Poyntelle Lewis Village in Poyntelle, PA started by understanding how Jewish values and tzedakah connect to philanthropy:

“One of the first programs we did was a fake auction.  We were broken up into four groups and given $5,000 to donate to a certain Jewish value. We also learned about mission statements and wrote one ourselves about what we want in the charity of our choice. Another program we participated in was making a quilt to explain what tzedakah meant to us.”

Teens at JCC Camp Chi in Lake Delton, WI developed their mission statement, which helped focus their review of grant proposals:

“The organization we choose will embody the values of saving and respecting the lives of any community, no matter how diverse. When we are successful, people will be living in a safe, harmonious, self-sufficient environment.”

Alexa S. from URJ Crane Lake Camp in West Stockbridge, MA, shares her experience of site visits and grantmaking:

“I feel so proud to be a part of this incredible group.  We are the next generation of givers.  The feeling of giving is so great and should be shared.  Find an organization that touches you.  We saw that anyone can give and that we all have an obligation to support our community and make a difference!”

Steven B. of URJ Camp Kalsman in Arlington, WA reflects at the end of their Machon (counselor-in-training) experience on their funding decision, and how philanthropy strengthened their unit’s transition from campers to counselors:

[This organization] represented who we were and complied with our Jewish values. As CITs, over the course of the summer we were learning how to be counselors, which involved taking on responsibility and learning what core values would help us become respectable and empowering role models to others.

Soon, campers will return home with new skills, new friendships, and new interests. At JTFN, we believe these campers will also bring an increased self-awareness about their values, knowledge of non-profits and grantmaking, and new leadership and group consensus skills. We trust that they will return to their communities, both Jewish and secular, with the ability and the passion to repair the world through philanthropy.

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