JCC day and overnight camps represent the largest network of Jewish camps in North America at more than 160 sites.
Serving thousands of Jewish children, teens and staff members, JCC camps share a commitment to provide the highest quality camping experiences within pluralistic Jewish environments. JCC camps span the landscape of North American Jewish communities, and their programs, sizes, specialties and facilities reflect the JCC Movement’s diversity and their own organization’s mission.
JCC camps offer excellence in traditional and specialty camping in warm and nurturing vibrant Jewish environments. JCC camps are open and inclusive values-based communities that nurture the emotional, social, and physical growth of campers and staff, instill a sense of pride and belonging to the Jewish people, and foster a desire to make the world a better place.
— Allan Finkelstein, President Emeritus, JCC Association
History of JCC Camps
The first Jewish camps in North American were JCC camps, created as Fresh Air Fund camps. Just as the first Jewish Community Centers were established to provide educational and cultural support for adults new to the U.S., summer camps were opened to give their children some relief from the hot and dirty city. The first camps, Surprise Lake Camp, Tamarack Camps, and Camp Wise, were all established between 1902 and 1907. Motivated by the idea that no child should be denied a true outdoor experience, these camps focused on providing healthy meals and fresh air, ensuring that underprivileged Jewish children could experience a carefree week or two in nature.
Around the same time, day camps grew out of local recreational programs, often started by school coaches or neighborhood nursery schools. They began to expand after World War II, just at the time that many Jewish families moved from urban centers to the suburbs. As young mothers entered the work force in the 1970s and 80s, day camps became more important and greatly enhanced their programming, offering a wide variety of sports, arts, and special-interest activities.
Today, JCC day and overnight camps make up the largest network of Jewish camps in North America. Twenty-five overnight camps and over 135 day camps provide meaningful summer experiences for 85,000 campers and 17,000 staff every summer. While started as fresh air camps, we are now known for excellence in program and activities, strong, visionary leadership, and vibrant, meaningful Jewish environments. JCC camps have a tremendous impact on social and emotional growth and Jewish identity development, creating joyful, exuberant communities founded on Jewish values.