The Yedid Nefesh grant, a new initiative of Foundation for Jewish Camp, will help 32 Jewish camps address mental health, the foundation announced Jan. 15.
The North American day and overnight camps have been awarded more than $1 million to serve the mental, emotional and social health needs of campers and staff. More than 90 camps applied for the grant, according to a news release, and those chosen represent a “diverse range of day and overnight camps, Jewish denominations, regions and camp movements.”
According to the National Council of Behavioral Health, 50% of all lifetime mental illnesses begin by age 14, and 75% by age 24, covering age ranges of both campers and staff.
The grant was made possible by The Marcus Foundation, which is based in Atlanta and funds causes related to children, Judaism, medical research, free enterprise and community.
“Our partnership with The Marcus Foundation enables us to raise the bar of excellence for all Jewish camps, said Jeremy J. Fingerman, FJC’s CEO. “We’re confident that the Yedid Nefesh grant will have a positive impact on the Jewish camp community.”
The initiative aims to address the increasing challenges campers and staff face as they relate to mental, emotional and social health, with a multi-faceted, whole-person approach. Funds will be distributed to help camps hire qualified mental health professionals, and will be directed to counselor training and wellness programming, such as meditation, yoga and journaling, according to the release.
“Our field has an enormous responsibility to teach children and young adults how to take care of one another and to proactively cultivate resilience and wellness as we address the rising mental health crises,” said Jill Goldstein Smith, program manager at FJC, in the release. “This gives FJC a unique opportunity to learn from and with its many camps. The program is designed to facilitate sharing and growth across pluralistic Jewish identity and diverse communal needs and practices using a multi-pronged approach.”
A selection of camps will pilot a comprehensive assessment module to assist FJC in developing best practices around policies, procedures and staffing models. The program will span three years, and a second cohort of 30 camps will join the initial grantees in 2020.
Among the first-round recipients of Yedid Nefesh funding are Camp Livingston in Bennington, Ind.; Habonim Dror Camp Tavor in Three Rivers, Mich.; Camp Young Judaea Midwest in Waupaca, Wis.; Emma Kaufmann Camp in Morgantown, W.V.; Camp Havaya in South Sterling, Pa.; Pinemere Camp in Stroudsburg, Pa.; URJ Camp Harlam in Kunkletown, Pa.; Camp Interlaken JCC in Eagle River, Wis.; and Camp Chi in Lake Delton, Wis.