No Downturn for Jewish Camping in the Berkshires, written by Liz Barnett, Eisner and Crane Lake Camp board member
Despite the economic woes plaguing our communities, Jewish camping in the Berkshires is thriving! Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Eisner and Crane Lake Camps are less than one month away from another amazing summer season. Both camps are at capacity—even have waiting lists for some age groups—and have made significant investments this year in programming and facilities. These include a brand new indoor sports building and fine arts center, as well as refurbished camper cabins.
How can this be? So many summer camps are struggling to fill their bunks and offer competitive programs, in part because they lack the multi-faceted networks found in URJ camps. Both Eisner and Crane Lake enjoy the support of a strong base of alumni, camper families, staff, and 200 URJ congregations in the Northeast. For example, Eisner’s 50th Anniversary reunion last year drew 2,000 people and inspired many to contribute to the camps’ capital and scholarship funds. Thanks to their generosity, this summer more than 250 children will be able to attend Eisner and Crane Lake as a result of scholarship awards. The Grinspoon Philanthropy of West Springfield and Foundation for Jewish Camp have also been instrumental in recruiting new campers through a variety of first time camper incentives. Further, the camps’ strong and vibrant Board of Directors provides professional skills to the camps’ fundraising, marketing, and physical expansion initiatives. These dedicated volunteers are instrumental in supporting camp leadership’s plans for growth and differentiation in the competitive camping market.
Best of all, Eisner and Crane Lake continue to see tremendous retention in campers and staff. The majority of staff members have grown up at one of the camps and many have participated in counselor-in-training and year-round staff leadership training programs, many programs funded by The Foundation for Jewish Camp. Through the camps’ unique blend of exciting activities and informal Jewish education, counselors and campers develop lasting relationships and strong Jewish identity. They truly are the next generation of Jewish leaders