Jewish Experiential Education at Camp


Jewish Experiential Education at Camp



In partnership with the Foundation for Jewish Camp, CASJE explored how research can best be used to advance the field of experiential education at camp and understand the impact of camp on the Jewish lives of campers and counselors. A Problem Formulation Convening was held in January 2015. With the support of The AVI CHAI Foundation, CASJE developed a preliminary framework for identifying camp outcomes.


Research Overview


What impact and effects do Jewish summer camps have on their participants?

Sending one’s children to Jewish camp is a deeply embedded tradition among North American Jews. More than 20,000 children attend Jewish camp for the first time each year, and more than 300 traditional and specialty overnight camps exist in the United States; all seek to instill Jewish values and culture in young people through time-honored camp activities. Though we have seen that children with quality Jewish camp experiences are more likely as adults to value their Jewish identity, engage in their communities, and support Jewish causes, we are not certain about the causes and sources of these outcomes.


Questions from Convenings and Conversations

The conversations and questions outlined in this document suggest programs of research with potential to significantly improve the field of Jewish summer camps and to make a broader contribution to Jewish life in North America.

  Download Resource

Connection, Not Proficiency: Survey of Hebrew at North American Jewish Summer Camps

A new report from the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education at Brandeis University, funded in part by ;CASJE, offers an unprecedented look at the many ways, to what degree, and the reasons why Hebrew is incorporated at Jewish overnight camps across North America. Connection, not Proficiency: Survey of Hebrew at North American Jewish Summer Camps surveys the experiences and opinions of camp directors at 103 camps. As the report shows, the overwhelming majority of these camps are deeply invested in using Hebrew to connect their campers to their camps’ traditions, to Israel and to Jewish peoplehood.

The survey report is part of a larger study of Hebrew at North American Jewish Summer Camps being conducted by Sarah Bunin Benor, Jonathan Krasner, and Sharon Avni, the results of which will be published as a book (Rutgers University Press, forthcoming in 2017). Beginning with pilot research in 2012 and culminating in 2015, the study involved observation at 36 camps around North America, interviews and focus groups with about 200 staff members and campers, archival research, and document review, in addition to the survey whose findings are presented in this report. The study is a project of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education at Brandeis University, with funding from CASJE and additional support from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and City University of New York. Initial seed funding was provided by a Wexner Foundation Alumni Collaboration grant.

  Download Report




The great opportunity that educationally-minded Jewish summer camps provide is a platform for cultivating and developing new generations of practitioners, stakeholders, and researchers of Jewish education. The experimental nature of camp and, as others have noted, its inherent liminality and ingrained status as being countercultural, makes it a setting ripe for empowerment. We should aim to create laboratory camps, institutions that think of themselves consciously as educational for both campers and staff and that invite cohorts of prospective and seasoned educators to learn, observe, and play within them.

Jacob Cytryn, Camp Ramah in Wisconsin