Overnight Jewish Camp and Israel Travel: Inspiration Behind the Investment

By Barbara Miller, Director of Community Building, Jewish Federation of Cincinnati

J. David Rosenberg is a trustee and the vice president of The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati. As summer approaches, Rosenberg shares how Jewish Cincinnati earned its spot as the precedent-setter nationwide for funding overnight Jewish camp and Israel travel for young adults. 

Miller: You’ve been a Jewish Foundation trustee since 2010. Things have changed a lot since then!

Rosenberg: Yes! We’ve done quite a bit in six years, in terms of expanding opportunity for Jewish youth to attend overnight camp and to travel to Israel. I was one of The Foundation trustees who initiated and formulated our program of investment in overnight Jewish camping grants and expanded our Israel travel grants.  We worked with the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati to establish the policies for these grants and for their overall branding: “Cincy Journeys.”

The Foundation’s investment in overnight Jewish camping is incredibly generous. In your mind, what’s the return on the investment?

The Jewish Foundation Trustees studied the long-term value of overnight Jewish camping, met with Cincinnati congregational rabbis, Mayerson JCC and Jewish Federation leaders, and interviewed leadership from the Foundation for Jewish Camp. 

Our research showed the tremendous impact of overnight Jewish camping on lifelong Jewish identity, leadership development, and community participation. The program we established is administered by the Federation and provides up to $1,800 for every Cincinnati Jewish child, regardless of need, for a first-time overnight Jewish camping experience and up to $1,000 for a second year of camp. 

We also developed a program of matching grants made by any congregational rabbi to his or her congregants for overnight camping based on need. Cincinnati’s Jewish children and their families have the opportunity to choose from dozens of Jewish overnight camps. More than 750 grants have been made over the last four years.  

We hope that the return on our investment will be participants who feel more connected to their Jewish identities, and are more active in building a stronger Jewish community in Cincinnati or wherever they may live.

The Foundation has also made a substantial investment in young adult Israel travel. Can you tell us how that investment has expanded in recent years?

The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati’s initiative, vision, and investment created the most comprehensive non-need-based subsidies for young adult travel to Israel available in any American city. We now provide two grants, regardless of need, to every Cincinnati Jewish young adult traveling to Israel on an approved program. One grant is for high schoolers, and the second is for young adults, ages 18-26. Our intended return on investment will be a greater sense of connection to Israel, as well as a stronger lifelong Jewish identity. 

Separate but related to the high school and young adult grants, The Foundation is proud to be partnering with local congregations and the Federation on this summer’s 2016 Cincinnati Congregation and Community Israel Mission. By providing non-need-based subsidies for this unprecedented Israel travel and congregational engagement initiative, we hope to see enhanced congregation and community participation, with many travelers taking advantage of what may be their first opportunity to experience Israel.

What does the future of overnight Jewish camping and young adult Israel travel look like in Cincinnati?

I hope we see expanded attendance at Jewish overnight camps and continued high levels of participation in Israel travel by our youth. I anticipate increased engagement in the many varied aspects of our pluralistic Jewish community by those attending overnight Jewish camps and experiencing Israel firsthand, all of which will contribute to Cincinnati being a vibrant Jewish community.


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