When Ellie sent her children to Jewish overnight summer camp, she had ambitious hopes for the benefits they would get out of their time at URJ Camp Kalsman: connecting to the Jewish community. Making new friends. Learning independence and self-sufficiency. Building a sense of place that would encourage them to continue the camp tradition with their kids.
Did camp meet those expectations? “It has. And more,” Ellie says, adding, “Camp has strengthened my children’s Jewish identity and social circles. The investment the community has made in them, through scholarships, has enriched their lives tremendously and is something they will pay forever forward in the Jewish community.”
The camp experiences that Ellie’s kids and hundreds of others enjoyed this past year were made possible by need-based camp scholarships from the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle.
Alissa is another parent who says a Federation scholarship made a “big difference” in enabling her to send her daughter to Camp Agudah near Toronto, where Alissa’s family moved from last year. “It feels good when you feel supported by the whole Jewish community,” she adds.
Camp scholarships are a bedrock component of the Federation’s investments in Jewish life, which include support for children’s formative Jewish experiences. “Financial barriers should not stand between our children and the identity- and values-building experience of Jewish camp,” says Federation President & CEO Nancy B. Greer.
“We have found that kids who attend Jewish overnight camp for the first time are usually hooked for life, most continuing to attend in future years as campers and eventually as junior and senior counselors. The camp experience provides numerous areas of growth and enrichment, and helps build our future leaders,” says Lisa Brashem, the Federation camp scholarships committee chair.
Another benefit, Brashem adds, is that the scholarship program enables Jewish children from all over Washington state, especially those from communities with few ways to connect with other Jewish youth, “to experience the joy of meeting others just like them, in a safe and enriching environment.”
For the 2017 camping season, the Federation awarded 259 need-based scholarships and 80 One Happy Camper incentive grants for first-time campers. Federation scholarships averaged $608 and ranged up to $1,500 depending on need. Federation awards were pooled with funds from synagogues and camps to ensure children’s needs were met. The One Happy Camper program, which is not need-based, funds grants of up to $1,000.
The scholarship program is a community effort. The Federation administers the scholarship program for Camp Solomon Schechter, Sephardic Adventure Camp, and URJ Camp Kalsman, helping to ensure each child’s financial need is met and freeing up camp staff to do what they do best — give children a life-changing Jewish experience.
Like Ellie’s children, many receiving Federation scholarships attend camps in Washington, but like Alissa’s daughter, many kids awarded scholarships go to camps outside Washington.
Both Ellie and Alissa agree the scholarship application process was easy to navigate and assures confidentiality. “I felt the process was straightforward. You make it very intuitive, very straightforward,” Alissa recalls.
Says Ellie: “Deciding to apply for aid is the hardest part. The online application is easy to complete and the Federation has super-helpful staff available in case you run into a computer glitch or have a problem.”
Scholarships are made possible by Federation donors and grants from the Samis Foundation, the Loeb Family Charitable Foundation, the Charles & Lillian Kaplan Scholarship Fund, the Alfred & Tillie Shemanski Trust Fund, and the Alfred & Tillie Shemanski Testamentary Trust and Foundation.
Alissa and Ellie say they have recommended to other parents that they apply for Federation camp scholarships for their children. Scholarship applications for the 2018 camping season opened in November, and the deadline for returning completed applications is Tuesday, March 6. The One Happy Camper grant program also is open for applications and will remain open until available funds are disbursed, so it pays to apply early!
“Camp turned out to be the best gift our children have ever been given, and I’d encourage families to put their kids on camp buses and fill those cabins!” Ellie says. Children attending camp, she adds, “truly does help ensure a stronger future for the Jewish community.”
The deadline for 2018 applications is March 6. jewishinseattle.org/camperships