We have known for years that Jewish summer camps have a profound, positive impact on young people. Adults who attended overnight Jewish camp are:
But these camps take on an even greater sense of importance as our community navigates the challenges of the past few years. From a global pandemic and prolonged isolation, to antisemitic rhetoric and violence in Ukraine, we are working through the realtime effects of cascading collective trauma.
Cascading collective trauma is when multiple catastrophes are experienced by large groups of people, one after the other, each one compounding the impact of the prior stressor. In short, the bad news continues to escalate, with little time to heal between catastrophes.
According to Roxane Cohen Silver, a University of California at Irvine psychologist, there are ways to mitigate the impacts of cascading collective trauma. Communities that are more resilient against this unique brand of trauma have more community commitment, integration, strong social networks and instrumental and emotional support. They offer positive coping and resilience-building activities (for example, outdoor exercise), programming to reduce loneliness (particularly for those most isolated) and arts-based and life-skills based activities.
This is where Jewish summer camp plays a crucial role. Overnight Jewish camp weaves Jewish values, culture and traditions into the fabric of camp, helping campers to connect to their own identity and the larger Jewish community. Whether they’re telling stories in their bunks, learning about the environment or playing tennis, campers explore what Judaism means to them in a safe, nurturing and fun environment. Young Jewish campers forge strong friendships and community ties through engaging programming, which can help young people feel more connected, supported and empowered.
“I have seen a spark around Judaism in Nola since experiencing and returning from GUCI,” says one parent. “We live in a Christian majority community and school district. In fact, Nola and her sister are the only students at their elementary school who are Jewish. Until experiencing the summer at GUCI, Nola was a bit shy about her religion. Now, she’s confident and proud of being Jewish.”
JewishColumbus plays a vital role in connecting our young Jewish community to overnight Jewish camp opportunities. Thanks to generous donations from community members like you, we offer grants for First Time Campers eligible for the One Happy Camper program and Returning Campers needing financial assistance. Through these programs, JewishColumbus helped more than 120 youth attend an overnight Jewish camp this summer. Applications for 2023 overnight Jewish camp funding will go live on November 1, 2022. Stay tuned for more information.
If you’d like to help JewishColumbus continue this vital work, then the best way to get involved is to contribute to our 2023 Annual Campaign. Our kids need access to safe, enriching experiences now more than ever, and your support makes these experiences accessible.
The months ahead will undoubtedly continue to challenge our Columbus Jewish community. But we are resilient. Your steadfast commitment to this community ensures that our next generation of Jewish leaders have spaces to cope with cascading collective traumas, forge lasting friendships and live happy, fulfilling lives. We are sincerely grateful for your support.
The JewishColumbus Team