Camp Works – and We Can Prove It!

Recently, the URJ Camp and Israel Programs leadership was able to study with Bob Ditter, M.ED., LCSW, who helped us articulate what our campers know so intrinsically: URJ Camps and Israel Programs provide our children the opportunity to be vitally engaged. Wow. The word “vital” alone gets me, let alone the “engagement” part! Our children immerse themselves in a world shaped and defined by Judaism without distraction of any screen (rapt attention), are allowed to self-direct spontaneous creative play, build deep and meaningful relationships and master the critical skill of grit (an oft-underused word) and resilience. Not do our children thrive in this environment, they are hungry for it.

Not only do our children thrive in camp, they also obtain a love and appreciation of Judaism in such a deep and meaningful way.  Studies document how summer camp influences the ways in which adult Jews choose to engage with the community and the degree to which they associate with other Jews can be felt long after the last sunset of the summer. The impact is striking, especially when compared to their peers who did not spend their summer months at Jewish camp.

The Foundation for Jewish Camp’s CAMP WORKS study provides evidence that summers at Jewish camp create adults who are committed to the Jewish community and engaged in Jewish practice. Utilizing the most recent National Jewish Population Survey and 25 local community studies completed between 2000–2008, this report offers the fullest picture to date of the impact of Jewish summer camp.

Camp attendance increases the likelihood of adult participation and identification in every one of these areas. As adults, campers are:

  • 30% more likely to donate to a Jewish charity;
  • 37% more likely to light Shabbat candles;
  • 45% more likely to attend synagogue monthly or more; and
  • 55% more likely to be very emotionally attached to Israel.

Check out the infographic below and the full report for more.

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Miriam Chilton

About Miriam Chilton

Miriam Chilton is the URJ's Vice-President of Youth; prior to this, she served as Director of Strategy, Operations and Finance for URJ Youth, Camp and Israel Programs. Miriam has a Master of Arts in Business Administration and Master of Science in Information Systems from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts, Political Science from Ithaca College. When not out in the field trying to engage more young people, she is an active member of Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield, N.J.

6 Responses to “Camp Works – and We Can Prove It!”

  1. avatar

    I’m sorry but this report is poorly written and incredibly misleading. There is an obvious endogeneity problem between people who go to camp, and their outlook later in life, that was hardly addressed. I’m offended as both a Jew and a scholar.

    • Kate Bigam

      Hi, DL. This is Kate, the URJ’s Social media & Community Manager. I wanted topoint you toward the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s backgrounder about the survey & how it was conducted, which may address some of your concerns. If not, we encourage you to touch base with the FJC about your concerns so that they may clarify further. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Larry Kaufman

    I am perplexed by the lack of clarity and outright ambiguity in DL’s criticism of Miriam Chilton’s post about the Foundation for Jewish camping’s research study.Is it the study or the report on it that he is faulting?

    I assume the endogeneity problem is based on the assumption that people whose parents have sent them to Jewish camp are predisposed by the nature of their homes and upbringing to live a more affirmatively Jewish life. I’m reminded of the Yiddish expression, a khisoron, di kalleh’s tzu sheyn, it’s really a pity, the bride is so pretty.

    DL’s comment would be more useful if he explained where and how he feels he has been misled.

  3. avatar

    DL’s comment is “right on.” The study is an embarrassing piece of social science research. One can’t assess causality (“camp works”) simply by comparing respondents who went/didn’t go to camp. You don’t fix the problem by throwing all of your variables into logistic regression models. Unfortunately, the overheated rhetoric of the report is not matched by details of the analyses. Along with the fundamental causality problem, there’s no information about how they deal with the statistic complexity of combining multiple studies in the same analysis.

  4. avatar

    Interesting and unsurprising data, but nothing from which I would be willing to construct an argument. I am disappointed that what the website calls a “full report” tells us nothing at all worthwhile about methodology or decisions about measurement criteria or scales. It would be interesting to learn how criteria of Jewish identity were chosen and what was not included. It would be interesting to know how the team controlled for various factors. I would not be willing to tell anyone anything meaningful based upon this “report,” except that it affirms (but does not confirm) what I, among others, already assumed. It might be able to do that, but nothing reported here does so. Where can the full document and the various instruments be viewed?

  5. avatar

    all I know is that I agree with camp works. I grew up orthodox and chose to not be so observant, and my parents viewed it as I went away from judaism. But then I had kids, and my oldest son went to camp Kutz and he became more religious wearing a kippah, tzizit and observing kashrut laws….

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