When the Kaplan family was looking to move from their home in California, they were willing to go anywhere a strong Jewish community could be found. Cincinnati certainly checked that box, but another key factor in the Kaplans’ decision to move here was the Cincy Journeys grant program. “A colleague of mine was telling me about all of the opportunities in Cincinnati, with the travel grants being at the top of the list,” said Rachel Kaplan. “That was actually one of the things that really made Cincinnati a perk for us—knowing that we wanted to be able to provide camp opportunities for our children.”
Rachel is the executive director at Cincinnati Hillel, and her husband, Drew, is a rabbi and the director of pastoral care at Cedar Village. “As two Jewish communal professionals, we have known what it's like to fill out an application for grant money—or for scholarships—based on people’s needs,” said Rachel. “The thing that makes Cincy Journeys so great and so unique is that it’s for every Jewish kid in Cincinnati. It makes Cincinnati feel like a much more inclusive community.”
The Kaplans have four children, the oldest of whom is Sophie. This year, 2022, will be the third year Sophie has attended camp in person, and her fourth year overall (due to the pandemic, Sophie attended camp virtually in 2020). “I go to summer camp at Camp Stone in Pennsylvania,” she said. “It’s great. There are so many activities like sports, singing, and horseback riding. My favorites are volleyball and soccer.” In addition to the traditional camp activities, Sophie has met other Modern Orthodox campers from all over the country, and she enjoys taking part in Jewish learning with them.
“We picked Camp Stone for Sophie because it aligned with our ideology,” explained Rachel. “We wanted her to learn and experience things that she wouldn't get from her current public school. We can’t really provide her Jewish learning opportunities after school because it would interfere with her other extracurriculars, but being able to provide that over the summer was really important to us.”
According to Drew, there was nothing remotely similar in California to the Cincy Journeys program. “Having this program here in Cincinnati shows the values of the community. To provide Jewish education and Jewish experiences to future leaders of our community—this is a really important investment that they’re making.”
Cincy Journeys helps every eligible child attend overnight Jewish camp, and it helps every eligible teen or young adult travel—through educational programming in Israel. “As our other children get older, we plan to continue using the camp grants,” said Rachel. “And as Sophie gets older, we plan on using her Israel travel grants as well. It’s really a no-brainer. Why wouldn’t we? Camp is expensive, yes, but to get two grants, worth $3,500 each, really takes some of the pressure off of us financially.”
All Cincy Journeys grants are entirely funded by the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati and administered by the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati. “There is so much community support for Jewish life in Cincinnati,” Rachel added. “There are many more opportunities here than in any other community this size.”
As for Sophie, she is looking forward to going back to Camp Stone this summer and catching up with her friends. “I can’t wait!” she exclaimed.