Press Release 12.23.19

$2.8 Million in Funds for Summer Camps to Upgrade Access for Campers & Staff with Disabilities, Increase Inclusivity

Foundation for Jewish Camp and The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation build on initial success, continue critical funding for structural improvements and training to promote inclusion at camps across North America.

15 Jewish camps across North America are recipients of Foundation for Jewish Camp’s (FJC) next round groundbreaking “Yashar Initiative” grants to increase accessibility for campers and staff with disabilities.

This is an important new step in the ongoing work of both FJC and Weinberg Foundation in supporting camps as they strategically address major barriers for participation.  The current initiative — named “Yashar”, the Hebrew word for both “level” and “integrity” — aspires to significantly improve accessibility, providing funds for capital improvements, professional development, staff training, research, and evaluation. Yashar is intended to support a wide range of campers and staff, including individuals with autism spectrum disorder, as well as those with intellectual, developmental, physical, and sensory disabilities.

“The Yashar Initiative has already been a catalyst for growth,” said Jeremy J. Fingerman, FJC’s CEO. “As a result, more and more camps are developing plans for increased inclusion across the field.”

The 15 camps awarded this round of Yashar grants reflect a diverse mix of nine overnight and six day camps, from different regions and a range of affiliations, ensuring broad reach and impact:

  • JCC Rainbow Day Camp, Wisconsin
  • JCC Camp Chi, Wisconsin
  • URJ Olin Sang Ruby Union Institute, Wisconsin
  • Stamford JCC Day Camps, Connecticut
  • URJ Crane Lake Camp, Massachusetts
  • Camp Ramah New England, Massachusetts
  • Camp JCC Bender JCC, Washington, DC
  • URJ Camp Newman, California
  • Camp Tawonga, California
  • Camp Jaycee, California
  • Camp Barney Medintz, Georgia
  • Camp Kehilla, New York
  • Camp Simcha, New York
  • Camp Twelve Trails, New York
  • Eden Village Camp, New York

The approved projects include upgrades of common areas to facilitate accessibility in general, as well as the installation of an art sensory room, construction of an adaptive outdoor climbing tower (that can be used 1:1 by those with disabilities with a staff member), and a zero-entry swimming pool.  In addition to the funding for these capital improvements, the camps will receive program grants totaling over $300,000 to help support efforts in staff training, program development and evaluation.

The grant structure encourages and empowers camps to enlist local resources, with a requirement to independently raise 25% of the project’s cost before applying. The Yashar Initiative aims to not only increase the quality of inclusion, but the quantity; each grant recipient has committed to increasing their total campers with disabilities to at least 5% of the total camper population.

Participating camps from both rounds will gather in Baltimore at FJC’s biennial Leaders Assembly in March 2020. FJC has created a dedicated “Yashar Track” to advance the field’s conversation and practice around inclusion through workshops focused on creating sensory tools, camper intake, staff training, and vocational education programs. At the conference, dedicated time will be set aside specifically for inclusion professionals to meet together as a cohort.

Fingerman adds: “In order to serve the needs of the entire Jewish community, Jewish summer camps continue to find more and better ways to serve all members, regardless of ability. FJC is proud to be facilitating the funding, training, and innovation needed to realize that goal.”

The Yashar Initiative will accept grant applications again in 2020 and 2021.



About Foundation for Jewish Camp: Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) fosters excellence and accelerates innovation at Jewish camps across North America by developing adaptive talent, deepening immersive learning experiences, and catalyzing field growth. Founded in 1998, FJC elevates Jewish camp on the cultural and philanthropic agenda, creating opportunities to engage even more young people in Jewish camp through groundbreaking programs such as One Happy Camper® and FJC’s Specialty Camps Incubator.  FJC advocates for over 300 day and overnight camps that provide nearly 180,000 campers and counselors each summer with a meaningful, personal, and lifelong connection to Judaism. FJC is a public 501(c)(3) charitable organization. For more information, please visit:


About The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation: The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, one of the 50 largest private charitable foundations in the United States, is dedicated to meeting the basic needs of vulnerable people experiencing poverty. The Foundation provides approximately $125 million annually in grants to nonprofits that provide direct services in the areas of Housing, Health, Jobs, Education, and Community Services. The Foundation’s priority communities include Baltimore, Chicago, Hawaii, Israel, New York City, Northeastern Pennsylvania, San Francisco, and Rural Communities (primarily rural areas within proximity to priority communities). The Foundation’s trustees include Robert T. Kelly, Jr., Board Chair; Ambassador Fay Hartog-Levin (Ret.); Paula B. Pretlow; Gordon Berlin, and Nimrod Goor. For more information, please visit