S’more JCC Camp News

Welcome to first edition of S’more JCC Camp News, JCC Association’s new newsletter for overnight and day camp directors. This is where we will be sharing news and opportunities for you, your camps, your staff and your camp families. We are excited to be sharing our first edition as the 2014 season is starting!


JCC Camps Staff Birthright trips are back this winter! This is an incredible opportunity to send your staff to Israel on a trip that combines a “classic” Birthright trip while adding a special camp and leadership lens. Your staff will join staff from other JCC camps and they’ll learn how to bring Israel back to camp.

Here is what you need to do next:
1. Print out the attached sign-up sheet.
2. At a staff meeting or during training tell them about how cool it would be to do a Birthright trip with camp friends and staff from other camps.
3. Pass around the sign up sheet following the instructions on the sheet.
4. Scan it and sent it to Nicole Bernard at nbernard@jcca.org.
5. Ido Ben David, JCC Maccabi Israel Director, will follow up with the staff directly with registration details and next steps.


Who is eligible for this trip?

Camp staff (summer or full-time) between the ages of 18-26, who are Jewish and have never been on a Birthright trip in the past.

Who will be the staff?

The camps with the most participants will be offered the staff spots on the bus.

When will the trip be?

The winter Birthright trips generally happen over winter break, meaning mid-December to the beginning of January. We will get the actual dates from Birthright after registration closes in September.

What makes this program different from any other Birthright trip?

First, it’s an opportunity for your staff to go to Israel with their friends from camp.  The content and conversations will be geared toward relevance to camp.  There will be a focus on how we bring Israel to camp and how to increase connections to Israel for campers and staff. There will also be opportunities for camper to share with each other.

How much does this cost?

Birthright trips are free for participants. Generally Birthright charges communities who want to try and put together a trip a large sum of money – but we’ve got you covered!

What does the registration process look like?

You will collect the names and contact info of your eligible and interested staff members and send the lists to us by July 1, since Official Birthright registration begins in September. As we come closer to the date, our partners (the logistical operators) of the trip, AMAZING ISRAEL, will reach out to registrants directly by phone and e-mail, providing them all of the information they need to register online on the Birthright registration page. They will be asked to pay a refundable deposit and schedule an interview. Once they are “approved”, we will get the lists and share them with you, the placement-per-bus process and staffing begins.

Please take the time to get this message out to your staff, the success of this initiative rests on our ability to collect participants. JCC Camp Birthright buses are back in response to requests from the field and we’re looking forward to making this happen with your help!


Want to connect your staff to the great resources on JCCA.me? If you haven’t checked it out lately, there are lots of useful content pieces (and TAG units!) that can help your staff program for the summer, both in the camp and Mandel Center for Jewish Education (MCJE) knowledge bases. If you’re interested in setting up a username and password for your summer staff to utilize JCCA.me, please contact Chris Strom at cstrom@jcca.org.



Over the summer our team is on the road visiting camps! With over 160 camps we can’t get everywhere, but we know the best way to learn about what you do is to see you in action. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to see innovative takeaways and highlights from our visits this summer.


The Harold Grinspoon Foundation (HGF), has recently announced the expansion of their JCamp 180 program with the addition of up to 15 new camps, INCLUDING DAY CAMPS! Until 2010, HGF’s work in camping was limited to Jewish non-profit overnight camps. As our Day Camp Initiative took form, HGF was the first national partner to step forward and recognize the potential power of Jewish day camp, and since then we’ve partnered with HGF to bring 17 day camps into their JCamp180 program, through two cohorts of pilot camps. This announcement to open their doors to new day camps is a wonderful step forward in our partnership, and we’re thrilled that more JCC camps will benefit from the institutional strengthening and matching grant opportunities provided by participation in JCamp180.

Camps selected to be in JCamp180 are assigned a mentor who works with them in their core areas of focus including strategic planning, governance, fundraising, and technology. You can read more about what they do on their website.

Please read their materials carefully, and if you’d like to talk further about this opportunity, contact JCamp180 director Mark Gold at mark@hgf.org.

The application timeline is below:
August 15, 2014 – application process open
September 12, 2014 – application deadline
October 3, 2014 – camps are selected and notified
November 2-3, 2014 – JCamp 180 annual conference


JCC Association is proud to partner with the New York Yankees to offer JCCs, and JCC camps, discounted tickets for the 2014 home season! These are for camps to send groups or for camps to offer to their families or staff for personal use. Visit our special JCC Association link to purchase 1-8 tickets (password JCCA14), or contact Cory Sigadel directly for larger group ticket purchases at 646-977-8094 or csigadel@yankees.com. See more details and schedule.


Reflections by Myra Meskin, JCC Association’s camp intern

Shefayim Shlichim

Getting ready for Shabbat with the 400+ shlichim  preparing to spend their summer at a JCC camp this year!

Five weeks ago I stood in room full of hugs and crying eyes, messages of thanks and love, and promises to stay in touch – it was like the last day of camp…but in April! As a graduate student in Jewish education and the camping intern at JCC Association, I had the unique opportunity of attending the Jewish Agency for Israel’s (JAFI) shlichim training seminar, a required program for all shlichim working in camps this summer. I was there as a JCC camp representative along with our second cohort of Israel Up Close!  participants. JCC Association’s initiative to enhance Israel programming in JCC day camps by providing funding for 11 day camp directors to attend the training and participate in an extra educational seminar. Together with 16 other JCC overnight and day camp directors attending we spent five days preparing the shlichim for their upcoming roles in JCC camps across North America.

The night before the shlichim arrived, as we prepared for the arrival of the shlichim, I expressed concerns about my ability to contribute to the group. As someone who’s never worked in a JCC camp and whose memories as a day camp camper are decades old, what could I – a twenty-something education student only a few years older than these post-army shlichim – offer to help them transition into camp? What I quickly learned was that simply my presence in the room, and that of the camp directors, would prove to be immeasurably valuable.

The seminar introduces Israelis to the culture of North American Jewish summer camps (flag pole, Shabbat songs, color war/maccabiah, etc.), to the  pluralistic expressions of North American Judaism, and provides tools to smoothly integrate into their camp. Having spent a number of summers at a camp with shlichim, it’s easy to take for granted the amazing leap of faith required to get on a plane with no concept of the kind of place or people who will be your home for the next few months. For those shlichim whose directors were present at the training, you could see a weight lifted off their shoulders, with a live person to answer their questions and calm their nerves, not to mention a familiar face for when they arrive at camp! As one day camp directors put it: “It’s like starting the summer on the fifth date! You already know each other and are comfortable with one another, so you can jump into the summer with a head start.” For all of the young Israelis without a director at the training, the other directors and our team from JCC Association serve that role of easing their way.

Although I won’t be that familiar face when they arrive in their summer communities, I could provide relevant stories and examples to bring different elements of camp to life. Each camp director in the room was able to contribute uniquely to the learning of all of the shlichim, whether explaining different camp rituals and traditions or contributing to a discussion about the wide spectrum of JCC campers, staff and host families. It was so powerful to see the impact of our directors’ presence not only within their own group, but on the seminar as a whole. While the JAFI staff understands Israelis and their needs, assumptions and anxieties prior to the summer, our camp directors know camp best and provide a critical voice and lens that shapes the training.

While I assume the training would be one-sided, I was amazed by how much I learned and grew, and I know the directors who attended feel the same way. Being able to experience the seminar first-hand provides an opportunity for us as North American camp professionals to understand how we teach about Israel and our shlichim on a much deeper level. The reason we bring them to our camps in the first place is because we know that it is through people-to-people connections that we form our individual bonds with Israel. This is be true not only for our campers and staff, but for our directors as well as their leadership is what sets the tone in camp.

Attending the seminar was valuable on so many levels: for gaining new insights into the experience of our camp shlichim; in sharing of programming and ideas between camps; in spending quality time in ourIsrael Up Close!  educational sessions to learn and reflect on my own commitment to Israel; and ultimately, to spend an amazing week at “camp” – in April!

Find our favorite song from the seminar on the JCC Camps YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnfR-0QvhN0


If you were at the JCC Biennial in April, you were a part of the launch of our new JCC Camps branding, where we showed our first-ever JCC day camps video, presented the new website, and showcased our new JCC Camps social media campaign (like JCC Camps on Facebook, and follow @JCCCamps on twitter!). Now we’re rolling out the first edition of our JCC camps newsletter! It’s an another arm of our branding campaign that will help us build the field, communicate with the field more effectively and efficiently, and ultimately help to better facilitate connections amongst the field. Our North American JCC Camps branding campaign comes in response to the requests of JCCs and camps, who understand that the power of each camp’s individual work is made stronger and reaches a broader audience when we come together celebrating our shared vision and collective identity.

On the JCC Camps website, you’ll see a searchable database of all JCC Camps, with a detailed profile page for each camp. We’ve heard great feedback about the site, and we know that families are already utilizing this new resource. While we filled in the basics for all camps, if you notice your camp’s page isn’t fully populated with content, please let your camp team know they can still be in touch with us to beef up your camp’s content.


Have you seen our new JCC day camps video? With 138 day camps, this video could never perfectly represent each of your individual camps, but it’s designed to convey a sense of shared purpose and impact to prove the power of day camp to our current and future partners. Our videographer, Jeff Brody (who can be contacted at omnivideo@comcast.net), has offered to work with any of you to take pieces of our video and incorporate it with your own footage if you’d like to create a more personalized version for your JCC.  Or you can link the video as it is yo your own website and social media presence to increase the buzz about your camp.

Watch the video & find out how to get a customized version!


Cohort 8 of Merrin Fellowship for Teen Professionals and their mentors complete a bike build in San Diego to donate to JFS. 

Cohort 8 of JCC Association’s  Merrin Fellowship and their mentors complete a bike build in San Diego to donate to JFS.


JCC Association Camping Department staff, Jodi Sperling, Shara Perlman and Myra Meskin at Leader's Assembly.

Myra Meskin (camping intern), Shara Perlman (assistant director of camping), and Jodi Sperling (director of camping) love JCC camps!

In future newsletters we want to be able to welcome new camp professionals to our field, but we’ll need your help! If you hire a new year-round camp professional, please send us their name and their position at nbernard@jcca.org, so we can give them a proper welcome.