In 2000, AVI CHAI commissioned a study of the field of Jewish camps conducted by the Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University. The study explored the Jewish environment and educational programming at 18 Jewish overnight camps (and two Christian camps that were used for programmatic comparison). In addition to assessing the different models of Jewish education that were employed at the camps, the researchers explored the backgrounds of Jewish camp staff and their motivations for working at camp during the summer, and conducted a census of Jewish overnight camps.
This seminal camping study resulted in the publication by AVI CHAI of Limud by the Lake, a policy report on the research findings that included programmatic recommendations, and “How Goodly Are Thy Tents”, published by University Press of New England, a more complete report of the research. The report guided AVI CHAI’s entry to and support of the field of overnight camps by focusing our efforts on increasing the number of Jewish children who would have a summer Jewish camp experience by building additional capacity (Building Loan Program for Overnight Camps); staff retention (Cornerstone Fellowship, Achva) and enhancing the Judaic environment of the camps (Lekhu Lakhem , Tze Ul’mad, Yitro).
At the request of the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC), in 2008 AVI CHAI asked Brandeis researcher Professor Amy Sales to repeat and expand the study as a way to further guide the community’s philanthropic investments in Jewish camps. In addition to returning to most of the camps visited in summer 2000 to assess change, the researchers are exploring alternative summer choices made by Jewish families for their children and the impact that summers in camp have made on the staff, who are a target audience for Jewish engagement by some camping movements. The report was released in March 2011 and can be found at Limud by the Lake Revisited: Growth and Change at Jewish Summer Camp.