Camping with purpose

Jewish summer camps provide safe and welcoming environments for cultural education and communal bonding for young people. These programs help ensure that Jewish traditions and values are learned, celebrated, and embraced.

Tidewater Jewish Foundation is committed to supporting organizations that foster Jewish identity among the youth, such as the Foundation for Jewish Camp. Through a partnership with the foundation, TJF offers incentive grants for the One Happy Camper program. This program includes a one-time needs-blind grant of up to $1,000, helping to make it possible for families to afford residential Jewish summer camps.

Amie and Byron Harrell’s two sons, Archer and Brayden, participated in the program last year when both attended Camp Sababa and experienced overnight residential camp for the first time. . .’sleeping away’ in Virginia Beach.

“Both were hesitant to go away, so we felt like that was a great entryway into sleep away,” says Amie Harrell. Despite their reservations, the camp proved to be a transformative experience, so much so that they both chose to return for longer stays this coming summer.

Brayden found a deep connection at Camp Sababa and opted to return for a three-week stint. “He’s the older one. He made some great friends and wants to ensure he stays in touch with them this summer,” says Harrell, highlighting the community aspect of the camp experience. On the other hand, Archer decided to explore new horizons at Camp Airy in Maryland alongside friends from his Religious School class at Ohef Sholom Temple.

For Harrell, separating from her children during camp sessions was challenging, marked by anxious waits for updates. “As a mom of boys going away to camp for the first time, it was a challenge being at the mercy of their communication,” she says, recalling how she constantly refreshed her computer, hoping for pictures or messages. Despite this, she observed significant growth in her sons upon their return. They were more resilient and open-minded and had a deeper connection to their Jewish roots.

Given the transformative experiences of her sons, Harrell says she strongly believes in the value of these camps, especially in challenging times when antisemitism is on the rise. “Being with Jewish friends and making those connections is so vital to the development, growth, social, and emotional wellness of our children,” she says.

For Jewish families, it’s important that these camps are not just fun experiences, but also provide a nurturing environment for their children’s development.

TJF is now accepting applications for incentive grants to Jewish summer camp. Apply at