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By Atlanta Jewish Foundation, CARING, COMMUNITY, Eric's Blog, GLOBAL JEWRY, INNOVATION, Jewish Camp Initiative, JEWISH JOURNEYS, People in Need, PHILANTHROPY


Start a Campfire is Ending Soon!

By Jewish Camp Initiative

They say that Jewish overnight camp is one of the three most effective vehicles for attracting and engaging young people in Jewish life. Kids who attend camp: 

  • Feel a deep, personal, lifelong commitment to their Jewish identity, ownership of their Judaism and connection to Israel. 
  • As adults, they tend to prioritize Jewish experiences and incorporate Jewish values and knowledge into their family life. 
  • Are equipped with a greater sense of community, connectedness, competency and resilience.  

You still have a chance to make a difference and ensure that kids from all over metro Atlanta can attend camp this summer—like Former Kid and current President and CEO of Federation, Eric M. Robbins! 

Overnight camp gives kids lifelong connections to their Jewish community. And many children are only able to attend because of scholarships and grants. Please, donate now to ensure that Atlanta’s kids get to experience the magic of Jewish summer camp! 

Let’s Start a Campfire!

By Jewish Camp Initiative

Did you know that the Jewish Camp Initiative has been sending kids to Jewish overnight camp for 10 years? It’s true! And you can be part of that legacy. The Start a Campfire campaign is happening now, and any money you donate will be used for camper scholarships and grants this summer! Many kids in Atlanta would not be able to attend Jewish overnight camp without this support. Kids like Jaron (18) and Lexi (14) rely on it:

“Sending our children to Jewish summer camp was non-negotiable for our family. We did not go to Jewish overnight camp when we were young, and we wanted our children to take advantage of the many opportunities we have within the Atlanta Jewish community. At summer camp, everything comes together—it’s immersive, they meet people from all over. And best of all, they are outdoors all summer.

But when our oldest, Jaron, was getting close to camp age (at the time, a rising third grader) we were uncertain how we were going to pay for his tuition. We started doing research on ways to make it affordable. We filled out an application with Temple Emanu-El for a scholarship, and someone recommended Federation and the new Jewish Camp Initiative scholarships. And the rest is history.

Both Jaron and Lexi have attended Camp Coleman since the first summer each was eligible. They would not have been able to attend without the grants and scholarships, especially during the summers where we had both of them going—and we would never have wanted one to go and not the other.

This will be Jaron’s first summer as a counselor, and he is very excited to be on staff; he is ready to give back to the campers at Coleman from an adult perspective. Camp is a part of each of their identities—it’s a tradition, it’s what they do every summer, it’s what they can count on. They both have tight-knit friend groups they talk to and lean on throughout the year, even when they are not at camp.

Other parents, we want you to know: it does not have to be scary to ask for help. A grant or scholarship is an investment in your child, in their Judaism. You can reach out, there are plenty of resources.

You should care about camp even if your children are grown, or if you never had children, because the traditions of Judaism are passed down through camp. It is the chance to teach and model outside of the home. The values that camp instills are the same as at synagogue. Our children would never have had these opportunities without the Jewish Camp Initiative, and they have become better people because of it.”

-Paige and Evan Pearson

In the last 10 years, Jewish Atlantans helped raise over $30,000 annually during Start a Campfire (plus matching donations), which has helped provide over 5,200 camp scholarships and grants! To see more of the tremendous impact of Start a Campfire and the Jewish Camp Initiative, click here.

Day Camp Registration is Open!

By Jewish Camp Initiative

It might be cold outside, but it’s already time to start planning for summer! Day camp registration is now open for the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta’s (MJCCA) Day Camps and In the City Camps, Atlanta’s two largest Jewish day camps.

Registration for MJCCA Day Camps began for returning families and MJCCA members on January 8 and opens today to the wider community. In the City Camps is also now accepting applications for summer 2023.

“We are so excited to sign up for another fabulous summer of day camp for both of my boys today! We feel so lucky to have two incredible Jewish camps to attend that will enrich our whole family’s summer,” Melissa Kaplan shared on Sunday after registering her 4- and as campers for a month each at MJCCA Day Camps and In the City Camps, “The kids can’t wait till summer!”

At MJCCA Day Camps, families can choose from an array of themed camps, including sports, performing arts, teen, and traditional camps for rising Pre-K kids through 9th graders. Campers enjoy adventures across the 52-acre MJCCA campus, with features including an archery range, zip line, gymnastics pavilion, dance studio, tennis courts, rock wall, high-ropes course, daily swimming, and boating on the lake! MJCCA offers a multi-week discount, before-camp and after-camp care, and air-conditioned bus transportation. See all their incredible camp options and register at

In the City Camp’s Kids Camp fosters a strong sense of belonging and connection in rising kindergarten through 5th grade campers, supporting them as they build confidence, make new friends, and explore new interests. Their trained activity specialists infuse activities with Jewish values, such as kavod (respect) and ahava (love). For rising 6th, 7th, and 8th graders, their Tween Academy—in partnership with The Weber School—provides an experiential way for middle schoolers to explore areas of interest in a state-of-the-art high school with best-in-class amenities. Rising 10th graders and above can apply to be ITC counselors. Click here for more information on ITC’s dates and rates and click here to enroll now.

Summer 2022 saw over 2,500 campers from across Atlanta experience Jewish day camp at these, or another Jewish day camp—some options of which include three locations of Gan Izzy, as well as programs affiliated with Atlanta’s Jewish day schools.

Melissa Scholten-Gutierrez, Federation’s Director of Family Education and Engagement says, “Jewish day camp is a unique opportunity for a child to have joyful, immersive, Jewish experiences, and for parents to see what that looks like on a daily basis.”

Whether your kids are new to camp or returning for another summer of fun, don’t wait to secure their registration! Slots fill up fast, and summer will be here before you know it.

Summer Camp Professionals Meet in Atlanta

By Jewish Camp Initiative

It may be winter, but summer will be here before we know it. Luckily, the hardworking professionals behind Jewish Summer Camps don’t hibernate til spring. Last week, hundreds of them met in Atlanta for the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) Leaders Assembly—the largest one ever!

Leaders Assembly is for professionals at Jewish day and overnight camps and everyone who works with those people—including representatives from the camps, other Federations, funders, Jewish Foundations, lay leaders, and board members. It’s a chance for camp pros to swap ideas, hear from experienced colleagues, and build relationships.

Due to COVID, it was the first in-person Leaders Assembly in four years, and the first for Melissa Scholten-Gutierrez, Federation’s Director of Family Education and Engagement. “My favorite thing was meeting so many other camp and Federation partners. It was amazing to be in the same room as so many of my colleagues, many of whom I’ve only met online,” Melissa says.

The biannual gathering began at the Westin Peachtree Plaza on Sunday, December 4 and finished on Tuesday, December 6. It was the largest-ever Leaders Assembly, with approximately 850 people in attendance. Melissa says, “The energy was beyond amazing, it was palpable.”

Sunday night, Federation had the honor of co-hosting an event with the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) celebrating the 10th anniversary of Atlanta’s Jewish Camp Initiative and honoring Mark Silberman’s contributions to the field. In a video which was played during the event, FJC’s CEO Jeremy Fingerman said “FJC relies on camps and communities working together to help advance the field, and the Atlanta Jewish Camp Initiative, along with Mark’s relentless efforts, truly serve as an example for all.”

Melissa was on the host committee, as well as the One Happy Camper and Federation planning committee. She also gave a talk during the closing plenary that touched on Chanukah and the opportunity to “celebrate the miracle of Jewish camp.”

It was very meaningful for the attendees to meet again after a tumultuous two years. Melissa says she’s spoken to several other attendees, and they already greatly anticipating Leaders 2024. Just like campers, these professionals are energized and ready to collaborate once again.

Camp Barney Medintz Announces a New Executive Director

By Jewish Camp Initiative

The Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta (MJCCA) has announced that Danny Herz will be the new Executive Director of Camp Barney Medintz, following a nationwide search.

Herz’s role will be to lead and oversee strategic planning, day-to-day operations, facilities management, programming, and staff development. He will also partner with MJCCA leadership to set the vision for the future of Camp Barney Medintz.

MJCCA’s CEO, Jared Powers, says, “As we got to know Danny and learned about his commitment to helping campers, staff, students, and athletes fulfill their goals, build Jewish identity, and develop personally, it became clear his vision and ideology were the right fit for Camp Barney Medintz. We’re thrilled to have him taking the helm at Camp Barney Medintz.”

Camp Barney Medintz is a leading Jewish summer overnight camp, and one of the largest in the country. The camp sits on more than 500 acres in the North Georgia mountains and features two lakes. Established in 1963, the camp gives children from across the country the opportunity to make lifelong friends, explore their hobbies, build a sense of independence, and be immersed in Jewish culture.

Herz is currently the Executive Director of the Union for Reform Judaism’s summer camps 6 Points Sports Academy, 6 Points Creative Arts Academy, and 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy. He has been an integral part of that organization for more than 13 years. Previously, he worked for more than 15 years in education, serving on the senior administrative team at Jewish schools in Southern California and South Florida, as well as being a teacher, coach, dean of students, and athletic director.

He will officially assume his new position as executive director on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2023. Herz says, “Camp Barney Medintz has established itself as a premiere Jewish summer camp for families nationwide, and I’m extremely excited to take on this role. I look forward to bringing my experiences in overnight camping, education, and athletics to the Camp Barney Medintz community and to meeting our campers, staff, and alumni.”

Federation is proud to support MJCCA and thrilled to welcome Herz to Jewish Atlanta!


How Camp Led Me to my Career at a Jewish Nonprofit

By Jewish Camp Initiative

By Jessie Schwartzman


In the fall of 2007 I was watching a  presentation about a sleep away camp at my synagogue. The five minute video immediately captured my attention and shortly thereafter I was begging my parents to let me go. I somehow convinced my parents to say yes even though I didn’t know anyone else going, and by July 2008 I was off for my first year at URJ Camp Coleman. I came back from my first summer totally in love with the place and to this today it has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. 

Over the past 14 years Camp Coleman has given many things: the best memories, the truest friendships, and a sense of direction with my career choice. After my time as a camper at Coleman was finished I quickly applied to be on staff. I knew I wanted to give back the place that had given me so much. In the Summer of 2016 I started my journey as a camp counselor, it’s still till this day one of the hardest and most fulfilling jobs I have had. I also was just starting my sophomore year at Florida State University ,where I was very much involved in the student life at Hillel. 

After that summer at camp I knew my Judaism was important to me, I just didn’t realize how much until I was offered a part time job at that Hillel. During the year I was helping my peers and other students stay connected with their Judaism and over the summer I was doing the very same thing for my campers. After my second year on staff it had clicked for me that working in the Jewish non profit world was where I wanted to begin my career. 

Fast forward to the spring of 2019. I was about to graduate and I was vigorously applying for jobs. Through many hours and many different interviews I landed a job with the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta…. JumpSpark Teen Engagement Coordinator. I was super excited about the opportunity to work with teens and I was even more excited that it was a unique combined position with Union for Reform Judaism. Over the last three years this job has allowed me to work with teens in the Atlanta community on so many levels, and the best part it allowed me to stay at camp a little while longer. I was able to sit on the Coleman year round team and influence the next generation of teens.

I am now starting a new full time position at Federation in the teen space and I owe this transition and success all to camp. Camp taught me the importance of giving back to my community, the importance of doing work that matters, and the importance of Judaism in everyday life. Because of camp I get to do what I love and I don’t think 10 year old me realized what was in store after that first summer at camp. 

Working Hard to Have Fun at Camp

By COMMUNITY, Jewish Camp Initiative

By Allyson and Mark Tibor
Our daughter, Rachel, has attended Camp Barney Medintz since she was a rising 3rd grader. There was no two-week session for her, as she was ALL IN from the very beginning. (She was so excited to have a vacation from her brothers!) Camp quickly became her true happy place.

Rachel entered 10th grade last Fall, along with her twin brother. She was returning to school in-person, like so many other kids, after a year and a half of remote learning. Unfortunately, this school year would prove to be very different. The pandemic had taken its toll, and it became evident that she would need extra assistance, and likely also summer school.

Panic began to set in, since her whole world revolves around camp and the friends she’s made there. She was devastated to learn that she might not be able to go. This summer she would be a JIT, which is the last year teens are eligible to be campers. Her friends were all registered and chattering about camp. But our hands were tied—with only a month or so left in school, nobody had any hope that she would pass her classes.

But Rachel became a machine, churning out her work and staying after school. Two weeks before school got out, she had brought up all her grades, and even passed an online course to make up for a science class from the Fall. I had always told her that if she could make it happen, I could make it happen. So now it was my turn.

I kicked it into high gear, much like she had. I made calls, completed paperwork, and prayed. I hoped the donors in our community would want a deserving young girl to have the opportunity to go to camp. Camp Barney was very understanding, supportive, and generous. The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta’s Jewish Camp Initiative placed the last piece into the puzzle. Though we were very late in making our request, they understood our predicament and played a big role in “making it happen.”

Rachel attended Camp Barney’s first session, making new friends and participating in experiences that she could never have had anywhere else. This was the year for “solo,” in which she had to survive alone for 24 hours. She was so proud of herself for not only surviving but thriving! The confidence she gained from that one activity will surely serve her well in the future. If she could do that, she will have faith in herself, knowing what a strong woman she is becoming.

We are forever grateful to our Jewish community for assisting our child in having this life-changing opportunity. She was truly happy, and it showed in all the photos and letters from camp!

Never Underestimate the Power of Jewish Day Camp

By COMMUNITY, Jewish Camp Initiative

By Melissa Scholten-Gutierrez, 
There is no question that summer is in full swing in Atlanta and summer means day camp for so many of Atlanta’s families. Each summer, approximately 3,000 children will attend Jewish day camps, where they will experience unique joyful Judaism and experiential education which they get to bring home to their families each evening.

“Jewish Day Camp is where my children can be most proudly, happily and authentically themselves,” says Eliana Leader. “They can be joyfully and loudly Jewish, explore their creativity, take chances, and expand their horizons. As a parent I love seeing the connections my kids make with their counselors as cool Jewish role models.”

Another day camp parent shared that they love that their children get to meet kids from a wide array of Jewish backgrounds, while other parents love that the language of Shabbat and kashrut is interwoven throughout the programming.

Jewish Atlanta is blessed to have so many phenomenal day camps to meet the needs of the diversity of our community. We know that the impact goes beyond the summer as these connections continue throughout the year and into the future summers and their families’ collective Jewish journeys.

Scholarships Send Hundreds to Camp This Summer

By CARING, COMMUNITY, Jewish Camp Initiative

Federation’s Jewish Camp initiative has lots to celebrate as 2022 summer camp season approaches. As of mid-May 2022, our generous donors have raised $960K to help send nearly 700 kids to overnight Jewish camps. Atlanta kids aren’t just going to Jewish camps in our region, they will be attending 38 FJC (Foundation for Jewish Camp) affiliated camps across North America!

One grateful scholarship family said: “My family and I cannot thank you enough for your generous support. It has been an extremely difficult year and our daughter would not be going to camp without this help. This is the first time she has ever liked a sleep away camp, so we are thrilled to be able to send her back for a second summer! Thanks again for all of the hard work you do!”

Here’s how the funding breaks down:

  • One Happy Camper Grants: $275,550 to 363 campers
  • Needs Based Scholarships: $671,868 to 319 campers
  • Russian Speaking Jewish Access Grants: $12,000 to 11 campers

Todah rabah! We are so incredibly grateful for this gift. You have truly made camp happen for our son.  Thank you for helping us send our child to camp, it truly is his happy place.”

“Wow! I am overcome with emotions right now and am beyond grateful for this generous scholarship! It definitely alleviates the financial stress, allowing me to feel at ease with sending my daughter to camp this summer!! She had the most amazing experience as a first-time camper last year and really wanted to go back this summer! Please know that I am forever grateful. I know her Jewish camp experience will only help nurture her connection to Judaism and to becoming more connected the community in Atlanta. Thank you thank you so very much!”