Values, Virtues, & Making Mensches
A Study of Jewish Camp’s Impact on Character Development
Summer camp plays a significant role in the socialization of North American Jewish youth. It is a place where young people form their moral and spiritual identities and gain values and skills to contribute positively to the world. Overnight camps, in particular, provide a unique opportunity to deepen character and strengthen virtues, build connections with each other, form a sense of belonging, and become mensches (people of exceptional character) who have a positive impact on the world.
With generous funding from the John Templeton Foundation, FJC is working with camp cohorts to identify, refine, and design best practices in character virtue development and evaluate their impact on the minds, hearts, and behaviors of campers and staff. Based on a landscape survey we conducted in 2021, we learned that the virtues most important to camps are relational—those that enable campers to relate to each other well and build inclusive community together, specifically loving-kindness (chesed in Hebrew).
In the next phase of qualitative and quantitative research, we seek to answer: “How do activities and rituals at Jewish overnight camp nurture and promote character development in adolescent campers and camp staff?” And, “What are the best practices that support young adult camp staff to model and nurture kindness in themselves and others?” Through Virtue Ambassadors, and Learning Circles, this research will contribute to the development of new virtue development resources and practices for the field.
We welcome your thoughts, ideas, and participation. Please be in touch with Nila Rosen, our Director of Learning and Research, at firstname.lastname@example.org.