Federation wants to see more children spend their summers at Jewish overnight camps, and to help make that happen, Sami Tanenbaum is taking her camp show on the road.
Tanenbaum, the community camp ambassador for the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, is holding Coffee and Camp sessions throughout the area from Oct. 22 to Dec 14 to spread the word not only about the value of Jewish summer camp, but also about the ways Federation can help families collect on that value.
That assistance can mean money to make camp affordable as well as information and expertise to ensure that a child chooses the right Jewish sleepaway camp.
Tanenbaum’s efforts and her position at Federation, which she has held for about nine months, are the products of Federation’s recognition in 2012 that it had to increase the Atlanta community’s camp attendance.
Going to an overnight camp is one of the best indicators of a strong Jewish identity. Summer camp alumni are much more likely to feel attached to Israel, to go to synagogue, to associate with Jewish friends and ultimately to donate to Federation.
But while nationally 15 percent of Jewish youths attend overnight camp, Tanenbaum said, the figure was only 7.8 percent in Atlanta in 2012.
Federation set a goal of sending 2,500 Jewish kids to overnight camp each year by 2022.
“That’s why my position was created,” Tanenbaum said, and that’s why she’s not waiting for families to find her at Federation’s Midtown headquarters.
Federation has signed up 11 partner organizations — Jewish Kids Groups, Jewish Family & Career Services, synagogues — to help market camp initiatives. Those partners get books and other handouts, promotional displays, and stipends to support their efforts.
Tanenbaum is making appearances as part of the marketing effort with those partners. For example, she set up in the lobby of Temple Kol Emeth on the afternoon of Yom Kippur to catch young families going in and out for family and tot services.
The grants available for attending Jewish overnight camps in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, the Carolinas and Florida are not insignificant.
Under the One Happy Camper program, which provides 325 first-time awards each summer to children who live within 50 miles of Midtown, a first-year camper can get $1,000, and a second-year camper can get $500, although Jewish day school students are not eligible.
PJ Library alumni are eligible for another set of grants when they first go to camp. Federation also offers need-based scholarships.
But Tanenbaum offers more than financial aid. She’s ready to help families sort through the camps affiliated with the Foundation for Jewish Camp. That process starts over coffee with the five key steps to finding the right camp for your child, but it continues year-round with her free concierge service. She’s a phone call or email away to make the right camp connection.
The opening two Coffee and Camp sessions are Thursday, Oct. 22, in Sandy Springs, first at the Starbucks on Abernathy Road at Roswell Road at 10 a.m., then at noon at the Starbucks about a mile south at 6160 Roswell Road.
Tanenbaum also is scheduled to stop in Dunwoody, Johns Creek, East Cobb, Roswell and intown in the next two months. You can find the details at JewishAtlanta.org/calendar, or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 678-222-3730.