Mental Health, Wellbeing, & Thriving at Camp - Foundation for Jewish Camp
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Mental Health, Wellbeing, & Thriving at Camp

FJC’s diverse network of camps share many commonalities in the area of camper care, and grow from working together. Camps have solid protocols set up for on-boarding campers and addressing issues, but there is still much room for engaging the entire camp staff in creating caring, supportive communities. Training modules and additional resources are accessible through FJC’s Campopedia page. To learn more about mental health, social-emotional wellbeing, and thriving at camp program opportunities, please contact FJC’s program manager, Jill Goldstein Smith,


With Generous Support of the Neshamot Fund, Jewish Women’s Impact Philanthropy of UJA-Federation of New York

During staff orientation, three overnight camps in the New York  trained 30 counselors in Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA). These staff members received a 3-year certification and participated in ongoing development throughout the summer with their camp’s community care professional..These trainings were provided in partnership with Westchester Jewish Community Services (WJCS), and staff learned crisis management, active listening, communication skills, and more.

Curriculum for the trainings focused on building resiliency in campers and staff (especially teens),  non-verbal communication training, crisis de-escalation, reviewing and applying the YMHFA action plan, self-care, para-verbal communication (tone, volume, cadence), and most of all – reflection.

The camps that participated are:

With Generous Support of the Neshamot Fund, Jewish Women’s Impact Philanthropy of UJA-Federation of New York

FJC facilitated a convening in October 2018, bringing together more than 20 professionals representing NY-area day and overnight camps, mental health organizations, and Jewish education for a day of collaboration, brainstorming and prioritization.

Based on our learning, FJC created and facilitated a “Mental Health & Thriving at Camp Train-the-Trainer Symposium” on Sunday, March 24th at JCC Manhattan. Forty camp leaders from 13 day and overnight camps (listed below) gathered for a full day of learning, sharing, and summer planning.


o Camp HASC
o Camp Ramah in the Berkshires*
o Camp Settoga of JCC Manhattan*
o Camp Tel Yehudah*
o Camp Yomi of 92 Street Y*
o Camp Young Judaea Sprout Lake*
o Eden Village Camp*
o Habonim Dror Camp Galil
o Moshava Indian Orchard*
o New Country Day Camp-14th Street Y*
o Surprise Lake Camp*
o URJ Camp Harlam
o URJ Crane Lake Camp*


As part of a larger initiative, ten of the camps* committed to integrating content learned at this training into their camp’s staff orientation this summer, to both increase and enhance training in these areas. They are also participating in pre- and post-summer staff surveying to broaden the minimal data that exists on mental health and staff preparedness at camp.FJC also welcomed partners to the symposium, including The Jewish Education Project and Union for Reform Judaism.

Each participant engaged in 4 sessions of 12 workshops offered, using experiential activities focused on mental health, social-emotional well-being, and resiliency. FJC recruited experts as Presenters/Facilitators (including from NYU Langone Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Ramapo for Children, Wediko Child Services, Tulane University, and more). Workshops were designed to be adaptable for camp environments and counselor trainings. Topics ranged from body image, anxiety, and anger management to suicidal ideation, trauma-informed care, and the role of gender identity expression, and more. Workshop materials and additional resources are available field-wide through FJC’s online resource bank, Campopedia. These resources were also shared with those participating in FJC’s Midwest Camp Leadership Network program in Chicago and in FJC’s Facebook group for Mental Health & Community Care Professionals.

Some thoughts shared through a post-event survey include:

  • “I appreciated this new model to talk about mental health at camp! I look forward to the next one!”
  • “Thank you for a great day. I like when I get one or two takeaway’s from a conference. Today I got more!”

Stay tuned for details about upcoming opportunities supported generously by the Neshamot Fund, Jewish Women’s Impact Philanthropy of UJA-Federation of New York.

In the meantime, check out FJC’s flagship programs for mental health-related learning opportunities. This includes workshops at Leaders Assembly (March 2020) and counselor sessions at the Cornerstone Fellowship seminar!

Previous training modules and additional resources are accessible through FJC’s Campopedia page.