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2014-08-29 digital edition

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August 29, 2014  RSS feed

Text: T T T

St. Pete temple selected to offer camp-style programs

It has been well documented that kids who attend Jewish summer camps tend to stay more connected to their faith than those without the camp experience.

While there may be other factors that cause this to happen, two Jewish organizations feel it is not only important to encourage kids to go to camp, but also that campstyle programming should be offered locally throughout the year.

To that end, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) recently selected 34 new URJ Service Corps Fellows to bring experiential camp education to 38 Reform institutions throughout North America. The only Tampa Bay area fellow among the group is Healy Slackman of Temple Beth-El in St. Petersburg. Slackman got her camping experience at Camp Coleman in Georgia.

Service Corps is a joint program of the URJ (Reform) and Ramah (Conservative) Camping Movements. The program combines young camp staff and alumni to provide camp-style programming throughout the year outside the camp setting. Though each movement runs their own group, they share professional development programs and materials, and learn from one another.

URJ Service Corps Fellows are supported by camp professionals and a rabbi or educator in their assigned congregation and are charged with two main goals:

• Cultivate an awareness of the power of camp in the congregation and encourage more students to attend Jewish summer camps.

• Utilize best practices from Jewish summer camps, including experiential education models, relationship building, and role modeling, to engage students in Judaism and bring some of the “magic of camp” to congregational programs.

Service Corps Fellows like Slackman will serve in part-time youth leadership roles for 4-5 hours per week.

The Fellows “will work actively on camp recruitment to help re-energize the communities they serve through innovative, inspiring, and immersive programming,” according to a UJR statement. Slackman will work under the direction of Anna Solomon, director of lifelong learning and engagement at Temple Beth-El.

“Service Corps Fellows have been able to have an impressive impact on camp recruitment numbers – an impact that previous efforts were unable to accomplish,” said Senior Program Manager for Camping for the Union for Reform Judaism Michelle Shapiro Abraham, “We are now able to identify what success looks like and have a glimpse into a new and exciting approach to connecting children to camp and engaging them in Jewish life year-round.”

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