MONTREAL — Stuart Guttman could not have sounded happier.
The director of Camp Massad in the Laurentians had just learned that his Jewish camp would for the second straight year be one of only two in the province – the other is Camp Kinneret-Biluim – to receive $1,000 each in funding from the New York-based Jewish Teen Funders Network (JTFN) to develop self-created philanthropy programming.
“Last year was our first year,” Guttman told The CJN. “This year we will also be very involved.”
According to its website, the JTFN (jtfn.org), which was created in 2006, is the “central address for Jewish youth philanthropy programs across North America,” responsible for creating to date about 150 Jewish teen and philanthropy programs.
Outside Quebec, only five other Jewish summer camps in Canada – B’nai Brith Jewish Community Camp in Kenora, Ont., Camp Ramah and Camp George in Ontario, Camp Kadimah in Nova Scotia, and JCC Camp Shalom in British Columbia – are among the 50 in the United States and Canada deemed eligible for JTFN funding this year.
More significantly, suggested Guttman, it points to the fact that camp is often the starting point for Jewish community involvement that has a realistic chance of lasting a lifetime.
“Camp often sets the curriculum,” Guttman said. “Jewish camp has emerged as one of the strongest identifiers for continuing community involvement.”
In the case of 67-year-old Camp Massad, which is modern Orthodox in its approach and steeped in Hebrew language, JTFN involvement has included trips to the city to see Jewish agencies and even a visit to the camp by Federation CJA representatives.
The teens at the camp then decide – guided by Jewish values – what the best use of the money will be through the “foundation” they create. Camp Massad also has its own leadership training and development and counsellor training programs that complement the JTFN initiative.
In general, Guttman said, Quebec’s four most established Jewish community camps – Massad, Kinneret-Biluim, Y Country Camp, and Camp B’nai Brith – are holding their own and consult monthly, even though each is seeking to attract new campers for their own camps from the same Jewish community pool.
Guttman said the camps also get support from the Bronfman Israel Experience Centre, and an official from one of the camps – but representing them all – visits Israel annually to help make Israel a continuing touchstone of the camping experience.
“It’s not as if there are any real trade secrets,” Guttman said. “We have open lines of communication. The idea is that camp is for everybody, but not every Jewish camp is for every child.”]