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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.


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. 

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