S’more JCC Camp News



Regional Hubs

Southern states regional have very serious virtual meeting.

“Our camps and JCCs cannot meet their potential without learning from each other, without pushing each other to innovate and grow, and without taking steps forward in a coordinated way.” – 2010 Day Camp Task Force Report, JCC Association

At JCC Association, we believe strongly in this vision; and we are excited to continue rolling out JCC Camp Regional Hubs to support the work of our camps. As part of our Day Camp Initiative, regional hubs create a space for camp professionals to learn together, to share challenges and successes, and to think together about strategies that increase the effectiveness and reach of JCC camps. With more than 150 JCC Association-affiliated camps, we touch the lives of more campers and staff than any other camping movement in North America, and our successes are strengthened by working collaboratively.

To date, more than 60 JCC camp professionals have gathered through their regional hub — virtually or in person. Coordinators from 10 of our regions have gathered virtually to compare notes on the successes, challenges and presentations within their local hub.

Thank you to our regional coordinators thus far for taking time and energy to support the beginning of many hubs and coordinating efforts with us at JCC Association:

Mindy Bernstein – David Posnack JCC in Davie, Florida
Fara Gold – JCC of Greater Washington in Baltimore, MD
Sandy Siperstein-Rafner – Lawrence Family JCC in San Diego, CA
Phil Faibish – Prosserman JCC in Toronto, Ontario
Meryl Rindsberg – Marcus JCC Atlanta in Atlanta, GA
Sara Sideman – Katz JCC in Cherry Hill, NJ
Beth Richman – Raleigh-Cary JCC in Raleigh, NC
Michael Steklof – JCC of Louisville in Louisville, KY
Jenni Sussell – 14th St Y in New York, NY
Leslie Zide – JCC of Greater Boston in Newton, MA
Mitch Morgan – Pinemere Camp in Philadelphia, PA
Hannah Long – JCC of San Francisco in San Francisco, CA
Ari Golub – Mandel Jewish Community Center in Beachwood, OH
Gayle Malvin – JCC Chicago in Chicago, IL
Debra Grass – JCC of Greater Kansas City in Kansas City, KS

JCCs participating have had great feedback about their camps’ participation. The camp directors have found their hub to be a much-needed space for idea incubation, program and policy development, sharing successes and problem-solving challenges, learning about best practices, creating shared opportunities and initiatives, and networking.

Our vision is of one world of “JCC Camps” – inclusive of both segments of our camping field as partners, not competitors. Rather than working down two separate roads, we believe there’s tremendous value in creating one community of colleagues, giving both day and overnight camp professionals the opportunity to develop real and meaningful partnerships, share resources, and leverage the assets of our incredible camping field.


Celebrating Israel Day at the Detroit JCC

Celebrating Israel Day at the Detroit JCC

This past summer, we piloted a Hebrew Immersion program at select JCC day camps. Hear from directors Tal Seigmann (Center Day Camps, JCC of Metropolitan Detroit) and Phil Faibish (Centre Camp, Prosserman JCC of Greater Toronto) about their strategies for success.

How did this program work in summer 2014 as the first year Steinhart foundation worked with JCC day camps?

Tal: It was a very successful summer. All of our campers began not speaking any Hebrew and at the end of the eight weeks of camp, they were communicating in Hebrew.

Phil: Some of our campers attend day schools in the community, so they had a foundation in Hebrew. There were two campers who did not know any Hebrew at the beginning of camp and, by week seven, it was wonderful seeing their faces light up as they conversed in Hebrew at camp!

What would you recommend to directors who are starting the program related to staffing and recruitment?

Tal: You want all-star shlichim to be your counselors, since they are only allowed to speak in Hebrew and at the beginning of the summer the kids don’t understand any words. It is very important that they are animated — theatrical and expressive! Take time to invest in interviewing your candidates in person, in Israel. It is very important to be highly selective.

Phil: We worked with the local day school for recruitment for staff and campers. We actually ran their Yom Ha’azmaut program in order to connect further with their community and the Israelis in Toronto. Connect with your community resources to find a program coordinator to ensure the success of your program.



In December 2014, at a NY camps regional hub meeting, Michael Rowland, Marketing Consultant at JCC Association, identified four key marketing challenges for 2015:

1. Simplify the customer/member experience: Put yourself in the customer’s shoes, whose expectations are informed by the likes of Amazon and Expedia. Those expectations have become the new norm. From navigating the website to selecting program offerings, what could make the process feel simpler?

2. Customer control: Meet expectations that customers form outside of the JCC. Personalization has gone mainstream, with restaurants inviting diners to “build your own burger,” and automobile companies letting you “build your own car.” Invite the segment of members who are “culture vultures” to build their own arts and culture program, or parents to build their child’s camp experience.

3. Bloggers and social media influencers: Identify the most influential bloggers in your Jewish community, and in the community at large. Connect with bloggers who write about local activities, in particular mom bloggers. They are today’s community journalists, invite them into the JCC to preview new programs, and enlist them as your advanced PR.

4. Video: Video clips are the best way for your website visitors to meet the staff, or for kids to find out about the newest stuff at camp. Video is also a great way to deliver daily exercise or other wellness tips to members. On average, 51 percent more leads are generated when video is included in email marketing campaigns. And your website is 50 times more likely to appear on the first page.

View the webinar on JCCA.me.


Ido Medan-David


JCC Camps Staff Israel trip roundup

The setting: Gan HaPisga in Jaffa, overlooking Tel Aviv. It is late afternoon, and the group just came from a final walking tour of Neve Tzedek and a visit to the old port city, buying a few last souvenirs in the flea market. Everyone is happy, lots of smiles, group photos, and then we sit down in a circle.

Mitch stands in front of the group and begins the summary by asking everyone to take five minutes to reflect on their own, and come back to share with the group.

Going around a circle of 39 people takes some time. With a group of camp counselors it takes even longer. People speak about the impact that the trip had on their own connections to Israel and Judaism, about building a new community, understanding the meaning of being a part of a movement, and what they are taking home (to camp) from their experience. By the time we are ready to leave, a cold Tel Aviv breeze (understatement) chills the air, but not our spirit. The group bursts into cheers and “closing songs,” based on traditions that they bring from their seven JCC camps.

Camp traditions are funny. Each of the seven camps has its “shticks,” ideas, songs and cheers.

But that is the concept behind #OneCamp. The idea is for members of different camps’ staff to learn from one another, share ideas and take what they learn back “home” — to camp. And it was something that participants on this first JCC camp staff Taglit-Birthright trip made a decision to pursue.

If you are a believer in platforms that bring staff from different camps for mutual learning, we just witnessed how big of an impact that could have in a camp-oriented Israel program for staff.

Birthright 1

Exploring the Negev. JCC Camps staff in Ein Avdat.

Throughout the program the group travelled from South to North, getting a glimpse of the beauty and complexity in Israel and its society. They met entrepreneurs who are reviving the desert by building student villages and volunteering in the community, hiked in gorgeous trails, had workshops with great speakers, volunteered, and tied all of this together in “camp style” circle time every night.

One of the most meaningful components of the program was when eight Israeli shlichim who worked in our camps last summer joined the group for five days. Most of them are hoping to come back to their camp next summer as well. The mifgash (encounter) participants in Taglit-Birthright are usually soldiers, but we decided that since this was a camp trip – the Israelis needed to be people who speak the language, and also take this opportunity to both teach and learn.

We want to thank Camp Wise, Pinemere Camp, Camp Sabra, Ranch Camp, Camp Tawonga, Camp Yachad and Centre Camp for promoting this trip to your staff! In the sikkum, or summary, session, many stated that they had debated whether to go with their college or another group on Birthright, but that they are 100 percent sure that they made the right decision to travel with “weird camp people who get them.”

Kabbalat Shabbat ended with this Camp Wise tradition for a closing song, and I think it is more than fitting to end on this note: “C’mon people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another right now.” #OneCamp.


Check out this poem written by Alex Witkin of Pinemere Camp while in Jerusalem on this trip. Witkin says he was inspired to write the poem by his experiences in Jerusalem’s marketplace. Hear Alex read it or read it yourself below.

Under Jerusalem Sky

By Alexander Roy Witkin

So many faces and arcane eyes
bustling through the market
like bees from startled hives
never to be seen again in the deep seas of our lives;
countenances now lost in time
hover in my mind like sea kelp.
I arrived there without knowing my way,
just a magical passenger on a magical bus
full of magical people whom I, too, may never see again,
and I just feel blessed to be a part of the cacophony of beauty we call life,
and it can be so easy to see the flaws in everything
and to fall in bouts of darkness, but dammit,
open your eyes, go outside and breath for a while!
You have all the power to change or to overcome your strife,
waves are always crashing to shore and I want to see them all.
I want to be a Tsunami of Peace, though I’m not sure how,
but I know It’s the natural way,
It’s the birds bouncing in the sky, It’s flowers,
It’s in every spectrum of every shape, It’s in the ink, It’s there,
right in front of us
begging to be born
and held
and cherished
and born again.

We would like to extend a huge thank you to Mitch Morgan (Pinemere Camp) and Rachel Felber (Camp Wise) who took on the challenge and responsibility to lead the JCC Summer Camp Staff Birthright trip this winter. We greatly appreciate that you dedicated your time and energy to bring this program to life and bring Taglit-Birthright back to @JCC Camps.


Rachel and Mitch leading JCC Camps Birthright trip this winter


March 15-18, 2015 JCC Association Professional Conference, with new director cohort in Orlando, Florida
March 18, 2015 Introduction to TAG in Orlando, Florida
March 18-19, 2015 ACA Tri-State JCC Camps dinner and training (FREE. If you are attending Tri-State, registration is required.)
March 26-29, 2015 JAFI Shlichim Training in Israel

There are also a number of upcoming webinars offered to JCC Camps.



TAG: Daily Living Through a Jewish Lens™ is a resource library widely used in JCC camp, afterschool, and teen programs. As a way of celebrating TAG’s impact in supporting JCCs’ Jewish mission for the past 10 years, as well as its flexibility for use in multiple areas of a JCC, the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Center for Jewish Education (MCJE) is opening January 2015 with a #tagyoureit challenge.

JCCs across the continent are encouraged to do a TAG activity at their JCC, such as in their afterschool program, at a teen event, or during a staff meeting. JCCs can take a favorite story, game, or discussion from a TAG unit; choose an individualized TAG-tivity from MCJE’s recommended list or any of the 40 TAG-tivities in circulation. (TAG-tivities and TAG units are all available on JCCA.me in the Jewish Living and Learning Knowledge Base.) JCCs can send their photos and/or videos in with a friendly challenge to another JCC to do the same.

A curricular initiative of JCC Association’s Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Jewish Education, TAG helps participants explore issues of daily Jewish living, identifies issues (friendship, diversity, self-image, etc.) and develops interactive units to explore what Jewish wisdom has to say on the matter.

These interactive experiences help trigger conversations about Jewish meaning in today’s world. Each activity unit includes drama, discussion, games, art, music, storytelling, and Jewish text study components to illustrate the relevancy of Jewish wisdom to our daily lives.

From Pirkei Avot, or Ethics of the Sages, we learn that the world rests on three pillars – on Torah, or learning, on Avodah, or service; and G’milut Chasadim, or acts of loving-kindness. These elements not only comprise the acronym for TAG, but also form the building blocks of the program.

TAG activities are easily accessible for both Jewish and non-Jewish participants, offering fun ways to introduce Jewish thought to such cutting-edge issues as diversity, body image, conflict resolution, and the environment. Other topics include sportsmanship, the power of words, welcoming guests, and loving your friend as you love yourself.

Since 2009, more than 300 JCC professionals from over 110 JCCs and JCC independent camps have participated in TAG regional seminars.

While TAG’s original focus was for day and overnight camps, TAG’s use has expanded to include afterschool, early childhood, teen, sports, and staff programming.

February marks the beginning of the 2015 TAG regional seminars, beginning in San Francisco on February 12, and continuing in New York on February 24 and March 2, and in Chicago on February 26. These seminars are for both first-time and experienced TAG users, and they will focus on staff training, including approaches and activities to use with staff to help them bring a Jewish lens to their work and to your program participants. TAG Team trainers – specially-trained JCC camp directors and educators – will be conducting the training alongside MCJE staff.

TAG’s celebration will continue in March at the Professional Conference, with a special showcase at lunch, a Taste of TAG workshop, and a post-conference introductory half-day seminar for first-time TAG users who were unable to attend a regional seminar.

Join the fun and the learning in 2015. TAG – you’re it!

TAG Regional Seminars (day-long seminars), which will focus this year on staff training

  • San Francisco: Thursday, February 12, 2015
  • New York: Tuesday, February 24, 2015
  • Chicago: Thursday, February 26, 2015
  • New York: Monday, March 2, 2015

More information and registration.



JCC Maccabi Games 2014, Cherry Hill

With overlapping schedules and serving the same audience, JCC Camps and JCC Maccabi Games and ArtsFest might at first be seen as competing programs. Some JCCs, such as JCC of Milwaukee, are taking the lead in moving these programs away from being competitors and into being collaborators, providing teens with an outstanding summer experience. In programming the summer for teens in your community, consider how you could create an opportunity to allow teens to participate in both programs.

  • Create a pricing “package” that encourages participation in both programs through shared marketing and budgeting.
  • Contract with CITs and junior counselors to participate in JCC Maccabi without affecting your staff ratios at camp.
  • Consider how to feed other programs through the JCC Maccabi experience.
  • Incorporate a JCC Maccabi Games component for younger campers in your camp program encouraging future JCC Maccabi participation.
  • Weave JCC Maccabi ArtsFest into the fabric of your camp arts programming.

Share your ideas with us! We are looking forward to a happy, healthy, collaborative summer for teens! Contact Shara Perlman or Jonathan Fass to continue the conversation.


campsite campminder

We are happy to share that two of the leaders in the field around camp data management are in the process of on-boarding as Preferred Vendors and are working with us to lower costs to this valuable camp tool!

For details comparing these two programs, visit JCCA.me.


The JCC Camps website is a space where every JCC affiliated camp is listed for current and prospective campers, parents, staff, alumni, and donors to learn about your camp and the JCC camps movement. While we know that you may already have a strong web presence. This additional resource would benefit your camp when it has all of your most up-to-date information included.

1. Check out your page and have someone in your office complete your profile form to make any necessary updates! (It should take less than 10 minutes – once you begin it. You need to complete it in one sitting, since it will not save unless submitted).

2. Did you get any great feedback from this summer? Share it with us! There is a new easy-to-use form to submit testimonials from your camp community.

3. Check out a new post from Toni Davison Levenberg (Camp Interlaken JCC) on our camp blog. We will be periodically updating the blog and camp testimonials, so stay tuned!

4. Make sure you are keeping up with trends and updating your website! Two camps that are doing great work are Camp Butwin at the St. Paul JCC and Berkshire Hills Eisenberg Camp in Copake, NY.



We are happy to welcome new JCC camp directors who have joined us since the summer! If we accidentally missed you, sorry! Email Shara with your photo so we can include you in our next newsletter and make sure you’re in the loop on all things JCC camps!

lauraroberts Rebeccaflores emilycollins
Laura Roberts Rebecca Flores Emily Collins
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Shaw JCC of Akron Oshman Family JCC JCC of Youngstown
Akron, OH Palo Alto, CA Youngstown, OH


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Halle Schwartz Seth Finkle Adam Levin
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Osher Marin JCC Osher Marin JCC Gordon JCC
San Rafael, CA San Rafael, CA Nashville, TN


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Capital Camps Galbut Family JCC Allentown JCC
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