Articles & Press Releases 09.26.19

Groundbreaking Grant to Address Mental Health at Jewish Camps Across North America

Foundation for Jewish Camp receives $3.2 million grant
from The Marcus Foundation for Mental Health Initiative

The Marcus Foundation has awarded a $3.2 million grant to Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) for supporting mental health across the spectrum of Jewish camps in North America. Funding will be awarded to approximately sixty camps over four years in an unprecedented effort to increase services, capabilities, and awareness in addressing the growing mental, emotional, and social health (MESH) needs among their communities.

The new initiative will be known as “Yedid Nefesh: Nurturing Mental, Emotional, and Social Health at Jewish Camp.” Yedid Nefesh, (translated as Beloved Soul,) refers to a multi-faceted, whole-person approach to wellness for individuals and as a connected community.  Funding will be distributed to support camps’ hiring qualified mental health professionals, enhance counselor training, integrate wellness programming into activity areas, and develop new ways to create cultural change within their camp communities year-round.

“This grant makes this exciting and critically important initiative possible,” said Julie Beren Platt, Chair of the FJC Board.  “Partnerships like this one with The Marcus Foundation enable us to raise the bar of excellence for all Jewish camps.  We are confident this new grant will not only have a positive impact on the Jewish camp community, but also will help promote the importance of MESH in Jewish communal and institutional life across North America.”

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 13% of children between ages 8-15 (the prime age range of campers across North America) experience a severe mental disorder, and of those children, barely more than 50% receive mental health services. According to research shared by the  National Council of Behavioral Health, 50% of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14 and 75% by age 24 (National Institute of Mental Health, 2005), the age range of the majority of overnight and day camp staff.

According to Tom Rosenberg, President/CEO of the American Camp Association, “It’s exciting to see FJC offering camps much-needed MESH training, services, and support for Camp Directors through the generosity of the Marcus Foundation. I expect it will have far-reaching implications for the entire field of North American camp and the children, youth and adults it serves.”

“We are so grateful for this opportunity to bring innovation, excellence, and support to camps across all streams of Jewish belief and practice,” says Jeremy J. Fingerman, FJC CEO.  “Our field has an enormous responsibility to teach children and young adults how to take care of one another, to proactively cultivate resiliency and wellness, and react to the rise in mental health challenges,” he added.  “Jewish camp can embody how we wish the whole world to be, and this grant represents a huge step forward.”

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: