The Weinberg Foundation today announces a $12 million grant to the Foundation for Jewish Camp that will support a new initiative to increase accessibility for campers and staff with disabilities at Jewish summer day and overnight camps. The Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC), an organization that works with more than 250 day and overnight camps from all streams of Jewish belief and practice to promote excellence, will manage this initiative.

 According to FJC Board Chair, Julie Beren Platt, “We do not want parents of children with disabilities to have to choose between giving them the meaningful experience of Jewish camp or supporting their children’s needs. With this initiative, we hope to create a world in which this choice is no longer necessary by ensuring campers with disabilities have access to transformative Jewish summers.”

Jewish camp is a tool for decreasing learning loss over the summer while building Jewish identity, community, and leadership. According to a 2013 Foundation for Jewish Camp survey, camp professionals highlighted two areas, among others, in which they required support to better serve children with disabilities: funding for capital improvements to increase accessibility as well as training for staff. This initiative provides day and overnight camps with essential support in both of these areas and will also provide funding for professional development, research, and evaluation. FJC and Weinberg hope this support will significantly increase the number of children and staff with disabilities who are able to participate in Jewish camp.

 “Through this initiative, the Weinberg Foundation will continue its commitment to serving vulnerable populations by ensuring that all children have access to this formative part of a Jewish upbringing, regardless of race, family economic ability, specific Jewish background, or disability,” says Rachel Garbow Monroe, President and CEO of the Weinberg Foundation. “This initiative is especially critical because it will not only benefit the camps that receive direct funding, but it will also advance the field with best practice information regarding inclusion models and training for staff.”

Since its founding, the Weinberg Foundation has provided 78 grants, totaling $5.8 million, to camps, Jewish and otherwise, to improve accessibility for campers and staff with disabilities.  

The $12 million, three-year grant includes $10 million to support capital projects, as well as $1.4 million in program grants ranging between $20,000 and $30,000 to any camp receiving a capital grant. In addition, $600,000 will support FJC’s operation of this initiative, including oversight of an evaluation and development of inclusion training programs for camp leadership and camp inclusion directors.

Projects funded through this initiative will support individuals with autism spectrum disorder, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and physical and sensory disabilities. Here are a few examples of capital projects:

  • Increasing asphalt/paving to expand accessibility.
  • Building or renovating facilities to serve campers with disabilities (e.g., wheelchair accommodations, ramps, grab bars, lighting, HVAC installation, emergency medical stations, etc.).
  • Installing “zero-entry” systems, or other mechanisms, to make swimming pools accessible in a dignified manner.

Over the next three years, there will be a series of open application periods for camps to submit applications. The Foundation for Jewish Camp will lead the application process. More details on this initiative will be released soon at www.jewishcamp.org/accessibility. To receive funding through this initiative, Jewish day and overnight camps must be located in the United States, have ACA accreditation, and be welcoming and accommodating to all children regardless of affiliation, denomination, or religious background.