Each installment in this series features a different perspective on Cincinnati 2020, the Jewish community’s visionary plan for building an exceptional future. This week, the Director of Community Building at the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, Barbara Miller, and the chair of Cincinnati 2020, Tedd Friedman, talk with Gretchen Myers, President of the Board of Directors of The Robert Krohn Livingston Memorial Camp (Camp Livingston).
How did you first get involved in Cincinnati 2020?
As a community lay leader, I was invited to attend the forums in 2010 and 2015. I was an active participant in both.
What does Cincinnati 2020 mean to you, given your involvement with Camp Livingston?
Cincinnati 2020’s priorities (Caring, Connecting, and Community) align very nicely with Camp Livingston’s. In terms of the 2020 Pillar of Caring, Camp was originally founded in 1920 as a camp for underprivileged Jewish children, and while its population has broadened since those early days, we continue to provide need-based scholarships to help the less fortunate, as well as to embrace children with a variety of disabilities.
Connecting is Camp Livingston’s “sweet spot,” directly serving the goal of increasing attendance at Jewish camp by building Jewish identity and an incredibly strong sense of Jewish community. A study from the Foundation for Jewish Camp demonstrates that adults who attended residential camps are 55% more likely to feel attached to Israel, 45% more likely to attend synagogue regularly, 37% more likely to light candles on Shabbat, and 30% more likely to donate to their Jewish Federation.
Community is also a strong suit, as Camp Livingston is one of the most important sources of Jewish leaders in Cincinnati and the region. A recent informal board member inquiry identified more than 44 youth group officers who currently attend or did attend Camp Livingston (including 15 regional officers), as have at least four Cincinnati JCC Directors or Assistant Directors and 22-plus current or recent JCC staff members.
Why should Cincinnati 2020 be important to the community?
Cincinnati’s Jewish community is rich in history and commitment, with real challenges and the potential to reach greater heights. The Cincinnati 2020 vision inspires congregations, organizations, and agencies to explore and become involved in the richness of Jewish life and learning. We can become more productive by sharing resources, as Camp Livingston does with other clients of the Jewish Federation’s Shared Business Services, which provides best-in-class nonprofit finance/accounting, HR, and IT services. Everything “Jewish” in Cincinnati, if working together, can benefit and improve upon each of the individual organizations’ visions and goals. I imagine we all want the same thing: children who feel fulfilled, who can prosper independently with great interpersonal and other life skills, who grow up Jewish with a vibrant connection to their peers and to the community. Across our diverse Jewish community, we have many of the same priorities: caring for those in need, graceful aging, employment, heritage, volunteerism, connectedness, love and support of Israel, and the development and implementation of plans to ensure sustainability in all of these areas.
What does the future of Camp Livingston and overnight Jewish camping look like through the lens of Cincinnati 2020?
A dramatic increase in the number of campers attending Jewish camp (both residential and day camps); innovative programming that inspires even greater connectedness; an increase in the number of Camp Livingston “graduates” who move into leadership roles in the community; and, building on the progress with our cabin renovations this past summer, completely revitalized facilities to support Livingston’s good work as it enters its second century.
Has Cincinnati 2020 been successful so far?
Yes! We have seen an increase in attendance to a 6-year high and a dramatic increase in satisfaction, neither of which could have been possible without the Jewish community’s support—and particularly the support of The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati, which is aligned with the three pillars/priorities of Cincinnati 2020. Thanks to funding from The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati, all Jewish children in Cincinnati are eligible for thousands of dollars in grants to attend overnight Jewish camp. The Federation-administered program, Cincy Journeys, makes it easy to apply for these grants online at cincyjourneys.org.
Did anything about Cincinnati 2020 surprise you?
The “blank slate” at the first Cincinnati 2020 community forum in 2010, which was very quickly filled with so many of the same ideas from people representing very different agencies! Then, at the 2015 forum, it was evident that the individual agencies were thinking “big picture” even more, as though they were looking at the whole community, not just what their own agency provided. This collaboration can be so amazing if we do it right! We have an incredible opportunity to truly serve our entire Jewish community from birth through life, generation to generation.
What do you hope the community accomplishes through Cincinnati 2020 in the next five years, as it relates to overnight Jewish camping?
There is widespread, enthusiastic recognition of the importance of Jewish residential camp in the community. We would welcome more people to engage with the wonderful asset we have in Camp Livingston; to visit, schedule retreats there, volunteer, and more. It takes a village to raise a child; it takes a community to support and promote a camp!