In today’s secular world, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep our children connected to their Jewish heritage, culture and traditions. Without these strong ties to their religion and each other, youth and young adults are less likely to make Judaism an integral part of their own families and communities as they mature. The best way to enhance and increase Jewish identity in our youth and help sustain our proud heritage is through Jewish camping experiences and here in Connecticut, that is Camp Laurelwood.
Since 1937, Camp Laurelwood has integrated Jewish traditions and culture to provide an environment that is welcoming to all, known in the Jewish faith as Hachnasat Orchim. Camp Laurelwood provides opportunities where each child can find their own comfort level with their religion and live American values through a Jewish lens. Research indicates that participation in Jewish summer camp has a tremendous positive impact on campers’ adult Jewish life. For example, they are 10 percent more likely to marry a Jewish partner, 55 percent more likely to feel attached to Israel, 21 percent more likely to feel that being Jewish is very important and 45 percent more likely to attend synagogue at least once per month. Camp Laurelwood’s mission is to provide a fun, safe and inclusive environment that builds self-esteem and encourages personal growth. The programs explore and enhance Jewish identity and values, encourage healthy lifestyle choices and lay the foundation for positive, lifelong friendships. This is achieved through a wide array of programming such as swimming, dance, music, arts & crafts, all sports including Gaga and boating, drama, nature and so much more. Programs are age appropriate, fun and meaningful, while working on skill development and meeting the core values of Jewish camping. In summer 2016, Camp Laurelwood served 311 overnight campers and 44 day campers, added five new Gaga courts, three new tetherball sets, created tournaments in archery, soccer and tennis, created a Gaga League and renovated the infirmary. Through the financial support of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven, made possible through the Federation’s Annual Campaign, Camp Laurelwood provides significant dollars to campers for summer camp scholarships; last year 33 campers who would not have otherwise been able to attend camp received scholarships. For summer 2017, so far 24 scholarship offers have been made with 22 accepted. Furthermore, our Federation dollars provide staff with appropriate resources to better engage and serve the campers, including training opportunities aimed to increase staff’s skills and experiences and provide resources to enhance camp programming, including more robust sports activities and a stronger creative arts program.
Because of your support of the annual campaign, we are giving the gift of camp to children who otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to attend or benefit from this experience. Support the Annual Campaign of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven and help to fund community-wide programming that aids people in need here at home, in Israel and around the world, as well as nurtures and sustains programs that enrich our Jewish community. From feeding the hungry to helping the unemployed, from supporting families with special needs to funding Jewish education and Israel experiences, the Jewish Federation is focused on addressing the most pressing issues facing our community every day.