Camp TEKO and Ramah Wisconsin were two of 13 Jewish camps across North America that received grants from the Foundation for Jewish Camp to increase accessibility for campers and staff with disabilities.
The grants are part of the FJC’s Yashar Initiative and totaled $2.6 million to all of the camps in this round.
“We’re still in the quiet phases of a capital campaign and special needs and inclusion are a big focal point,” said Camp TEKO director Abby Kirshbaum, who added that some money will be available for programming as well. “We’re working with Naomi Heller, and while we can’t have her full time, we can up her hours because of this and continue to work with her.”
Kirshbaum said that about 20 or 25 families mark that they want to talk to the inclusion team at TEKO, which is part of Temple Israel. The grantmakers want to see at least 5 percent of campers getting special needs services.
“We’re trying to make more public that we have things in place for all campers,” Kirshbaum said.
Part of a larger $12 million initiative generously funded by The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, “Yashar” — the Hebrew word for both “level” and “integrity” — is responsible for significant improvements to accessibility and inclusion at camp, providing funds for capital improvements, professional development, staff training, research, and evaluation. Supporting a wide range of campers and staff, including individuals with autism spectrum disorder, as well as those with intellectual, developmental, physical, and sensory disabilities.
“The Yashar Initiative has been a catalyst for growth over the past two years and after a difficult year of social isolation and separation, we know that all children, teens, and youth need camp this summer more than ever,” said Jeremy Fingerman, FJC’s CEO. “FJC is excited to see the continued and growing interest in expanding efforts to serve campers with disabilities, especially during this very trying year. Camps continue to demonstrate their commitment and prioritization of this important work.”
The 13 camps awarded this round of Yashar grants reflect a mix of seven overnight and six day camps, from different regions and a range of affiliations, ensuring broad reach and impact.