The Union for Reform Judaism summer camps are among the most popular option for Jewish camping in America, and they’re only expanding.
The URJ is an umbrella organization that supports almost 900 congregations in North America, but its involvement with youth programs is gaining attention.
With its latest, 18th camp, the 6 Points Creative Arts Academy, the URJ is expanding its newer, specialty camping model. Supplementing a lineup of traditional regional overnight camps, the specialty camps are geared toward fostering specific skills and interests while maintaining the spirit of the Jewish sleepaway camp experience.
In a program launched through a grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation through the Foundation for Jewish Camp, the URJ specialty camps receive startup funding for a few years while they find their footing.
Buoyed by the success of the first effort, 2014’s 6 Points Sports Academy in Greensboro, N.C., the URJ added the 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy about an hour north of Boston, a second Sports Academy in Los Angeles, and now the Creative Arts Academy just outside Philadelphia.
A second Sci-Tech Academy is set to open in the Los Angeles area this summer.
“It’s a great way for us as educators to meet kids where they are,” 6 Points Sports Academy Director Danny Herz said. “It’s a wonderful thing to offer a kid their passion within an immersive Jewish environment.”
Although they cater to campers’ specific interests, the specialty camps also maintain many of the traditional camping tenants across three, two-week sessions.
Campers can participate in sports, color wars, Shabbat services, various electives and team-building activities. Depending on which specialty model campers select, they will participate in more intensive development of skills in certain areas.
As the specialty model becomes more popular with Jewish campers and their parents, more URJ camps are likely to emerge.
“Our camp has grown because the kids who come have so much fun, learn so much about their sport, and grow as people, Jews, and athletes,” Herz said. “They come back each year because they met their best friends at camp.”