Big news: The URJ and Camp Harlam, our Philadelphia-based regional overnight camp, recently announced that in 2014, we’ll be opening the first URJ-affiliated day camp!
With 14 URJ overnight camps across North America serving more than 8,000 children and young adults, this entry into day camping is expected to create exciting new opportunities for outreach to young Jewish families and act as a gateway experience into Jewish camp for hundreds of young children. This foray into day camping is a strategic initiative to complement the Movement’s focus on youth engagement.
Paul Reichenbach, the URJ’s Director of Camp and Israel Programs, said, “URJ camp and Israel experiences give kids Jewish cultural roots and inspire them to seek more and more connections. A day camp model will enhance our ability to reach more kids and encourage them to embark on their own Jewish journeys.”
Camp Harlam was selected to launch this pilot program for a few reasons: the camp’s exceptional reputation and brand, the strength of the Reform congregations and communities in the Philadelphia region, and the ability of the camp’s professional and lay leadership to articulate a compelling vision for Harlam Day Camp. The expectation is for the day camp to be a model; based on its success, we’ll consider other day camp initiatives for various target communities throughout North America in the coming years.
Drawing on Camp Harlam’s years of experience will be critical to assure that a summer at Harlam Day Camp will have a lasting impact on its participants. The day camp will offer a robust program that builds skills and introduces children to new things; a community that produces real and meaningful relationships; excellent role models and leaders; and a sense of connection that will continue after the summer ends. Camp Harlam has secured funding to allow for the build-out of this vibrant program and financial assistance for families in need.
In the Greater Philadelphia area, Camp Harlam will be joining an established market of Jewish day camps, as the Philadelphia area is the off-season headquarters to a number of Jewish overnight camps and a vibrant Jewish community. Aaron Selkow, Camp Harlam’s director, said he believes that this endeavor is an opportunity for Camp Harlam to be a leader within the Reform Movement and to partner with others to push the envelope for excellence in youth development, family engagement and Jewish communal service.
A critical asset for Camp Harlam will be the large Reform Jewish population in the region and Harlam’s established partnership with 13 URJ-affiliated congregations in the Greater Philadelphia area. As with its overnight camp, synagogue support will be a key to promoting and supporting the educational elements and enrollment of the day camp. Rabbi Gregory Marx of Congregation Beth Or in Ambler, PA, said of the day camp announcement, “Jewish camping has proven, time and time again, to be a wonderful tool for enhancing Jewish identity, belonging and meaningful Jewish experiences. I welcome Camp Harlam’s decision to move forward in this worthwhile effort.”
Leadership of the new camp will be locally based, under the helm of a new year-round director, Eytan Graubart. Graubart, who has been a director in the Jewish camping field for the last six years and comes with a wealth of knowledge and experience, will work closely with Selkow to develop a top-notch Jewish day camp program that will also be coordinated and tightly integrated with Harlam’s overnight program.
URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs said of the endeavor, “Camp Harlam, like all of our URJ camps, has developed its own joyful and engaging brand of Reform Jewish living and learning in a truly beautiful, fully immersive, well-supervised, fun setting. The day camp initiative is a way to expand what Camp Harlam already does so well and offer more entry points for Jewish families to engage with the Reform Movement.”
The location of the day camp is still being determined and will be announced in the coming months.