The Hiddur Initiative, a project of the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC), with support from the Jim Joseph Foundation, AVI CHAI Foundation, and the Maimonides Fund, guides Jewish residential camps through a process to improve their Jewish vision and programming in service of inspiring campers to live engaged, knowledgeable, and joyful Jewish lives. The project was piloted in eight residential camps for a three-year period and has just completed its third and final year.
Hiddur employed a cohort of seasoned camp educators who were each matched as coaches with Jewish residential camps, with the goal of supporting the camps’ development of tools and skills to improve their Jewish experiential education programs. Coaches met with their camps on a regular basis throughout the year and worked with camps in person during the fall, spring, and summer. Camps, in turn, committed to working with their coach and engaging lay-leaders in the Hiddur process. Collectively, the goal of these activities was to improve each camp’s Jewish educational vision and practice, and, as a result, campers’ Jewish engagement.
In this third and final year of Rosov Consulting’s work with the Hiddur Initiative, the evaluators concentrated their work on evaluating the camps’ efforts to engage staff and impact campers, while at the same time comparing Year 3 data to Years 1 and 2. In each year of Hiddur, Rosov Consulting collected both qualitative and quantitative data.
Beautification and Exploration: Evaluating Three Years of the Hiddur Initiative
With a $10.2 million combined investment from the AVI CHAI Foundation and the Jim Joseph Foundation (the funders), the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) incubated four new Jewish specialty camps from October 2012 through November 2016, turning ideas into actual, functioning camps.
The funders engaged Informing Change in October 2012 to design and implement a five-year evaluation of this second cohort of FJC’s Specialty Camps Incubator (the Incubator). Informing Change evaluated the extent to which the new camps developed the capacities needed to run strong summer programs, deliver intended camper outcomes, become sustainable nonprofit entities, and expand the number of Jewish youth attending camp. The evaluation findings are based on surveys from campers and parents, as well as interviews, site visits, observations, and materials reviews.
The Hard Work Behind the Magic of Camp: Results & Learnings from the FJC Specialty Camps Incubator II, Informing Change, August 2017
About a century after the first Jewish overnight summer camps were established in North America, Hebrew remains an important component of the camp experience. Some camps use very limited Hebrew, such as blessings and a few terms like Shabbat shalom and tikkun olam. Others incorporate Hebrew in activity names, announcements, and theatrical productions. To understand better how and why camps use Hebrew, Sarah Bunin Benor, Jonathan Krasner, and Sharon Avni — a sociolinguist, a historian of Jewish education, and an educational linguist —conducted this study.
This report is part of a larger study, “Hebrew at North American Jewish Overnight Summer Camps,” including observation and interviews, the results of which will be published as a book (Rutgers University Press, expected publication 2017). The study is a project of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education at Brandeis University, with funding from the Consortium for Applied Studies in Jewish Education (CASJE) and additional support from the Wexner Foundation, Hebrew Union College, and City University of New York.
Beginning with pilot research in 2012 and culminating in 2015, the study involved several components:
- observation at 36 camps around north america;
- interviews and focus groups with about 200 staff members and campers;
- archival research; and
- document review.
To complement this qualitative research, the researchers conducted a survey of Hebrew use at camp, the results of which are reported in Connection, Not Proficiency. 103 camps participated in the survey, a response rate of 64%. They represent approximately 45,000 campers at a diversity of camps according to region, religiosity, and orientation toward Israel. For results of the full study, see the authors’ book, forthcoming in 2017.
Connection, Not Proficiency: Survey of Hebrew at North American Jewish Summer Camps, August 2016