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February 07, 2013 - Image 28

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-02-07

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February 7 • 2013

Special Needs Campers


oundation for Jewish
Camp (FJC) is pleased to be
the recipient of a research
grant to map current services
available to children with special
needs and physical disabilities at
nonprofit Jewish overnight camps
across North America.
This will be the first research of
its kind in the Jewish community
and will drive the ultimate goal of
making the unparalleled experi-
ence of Jewish camp available to all
"The immersive, joyous envi-
ronment of Jewish overnight
camp builds Jewish identity,
strengthens the Jewish commu-
nity and fosters Jewish leadership,"
says Jeremy Fingerman, CEO of
FJC. "Unfortunately, many Jewish
children with special needs and
physical disabilities are unable to
benefit from this unparalleled expe-
rience due to limited resources and
Thanks to a $60,000 grant
from Dr. Allan and Nan Lipton of
Hershey, Pa., FJC is working with
Laszlo Strategies, a firm special-
izing in helping nonprofit groups
champion the causes of medical sci-
ence and people with physical and
developmental disabilities, to sur-
vey the field beginning in January
2013. This research will provide
a thorough understanding of the
options Jewish camps offer to chil-
dren with special needs and provide
a baseline for expanding services.
The research will be followed by
a convening of the field — both
Jewish camp professionals and spe-
cial needs experts — to allow FJC
to locate the gaps, establish where
and how the needs can be filled,
and develop a set of guidelines for
camps to use as a resource.
A bus tour in July 2012 launched
the Foundation's formal exploration
of the issue. Done in conjunction
with the Jewish Funders Network,
the three-day tour took staff, board
members and potential funders to
eight camps in the Northeast to see
firsthand the types of programs
nonprofit and for-profit camps offer,
speak with experts in the field, and
discuss options and ideas for next
Many Jewish camps are leaders in
accommodating special needs chil-

Research will
establish where
and how the
needs can be filled
for those with
special needs and

dren with inclusive or parallel pro-
grams and several camps are able to
assess and enroll children with spe-
cial needs on a case-by-case basis.
Even so, although Jewish overnight
camps serve nearly 75,000 children
each camping season, they are able
to accommodate fewer than 1,000
special needs campers every sum-
mer; the need is far greater with
growing wait lists for many Jewish
camps that serve children with dis-
This initial research will be the
catalyst to exploring the range and
types of activities camps could be
utilizing to integrate campers with
special needs. The project will cata-
log the language and philosophies
used by the field concerning special
needs, examine legal issues, deter-
mine what steps need to be taken to
improve the range of services and
expertise of camp staff, and more.
"FJC aspires to enable all children
to experience the magic of Jewish
camp?' explains Fingerman. "We are
committed to exploring and imple-
menting the best and most compre-
hensive ways of doing so to ensure
that we are meeting our vision of
ensuring a vibrant Jewish future:'
"We are proud and excited
to be working on this project,"
says Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi,
founder and president of Laszlo
Strategies. "FJC is a data-driven
organization that has already
proved the importance of Jewish
camp to the Jewish community and
individuals alike. We aim to help
them make it possible for every
Jewish child to have the opportu-
nity to experience the life-changing
impact of a positive Jewish summer
camp experience:'

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