At it's core, Passover is about story-telling. As we retold the story of our Exodus from Egypt this past weekend, I couldn't help but reflect on the story of Adamah Adventures. It's an impressive story - just a few years ago, Adamah Adventures was nothing but an idea on a piece of paper. Today it's a vibrant program making a tremendous impact on the lives of Jewish young people in the south and around the country. When we opened in 2010, we offered just two itineraries; this summer we have 5 unique programs, along with spring and fall family programs. We have helped to increase the number of kids attending Jewish summer camps - in fact, 75% of our participants report that if we didn't exist, they wouldn't have chosen a Jewish summer program. Both teens and parents report increases in self-confidence and independence, and a stronger Jewish identity.
Our ancestors didn't escape slavery on their own - they had a bit of help from above. Similarly, we could not possibly have gotten to where we are with Adamah Adventures without help and support along the way. The Foundation for Jewish Camp and Jim Joseph Foundation provided the vision and resources to guide us along our journey. We are incredibly indebted to them, and extremely grateful for the opportunity they have given us. It is worth mentioning that based on the success of our program (and the other 4 specialty camps started as part of the same project), the foundations (joined by the AVI CHAI Foundation) are launching a second incubator, with the goal of opening another 4 Jewish specialty camps in 2014. I've received several phone calls from entrepreneurs considering applying to the new incubator, and it's been humbling to share my experience and offer what I can only hope are helpful words of advice. I'm excited to see how their stories unfold.
To continue the metaphor, I don't think we've arrived at the Promised Land quite yet. While our enrollment is growing each year, we're definitely still doing a bit of wandering as we refine our business model with each year's lessons and insights. There are still hurdles to overcome, and I don't think they are ours alone. With the opening of additional specialty camps, the challenge of marketing these camps nationwide is a tough one. Most of the existing Jewish camps are organized as regional or movement based camps. In my opinion, it's not practical to have a Reform sports camp, a Conservative sports camp, a Zionist sports camp; or to have a camp for Reform kids with autism, Conservative kids with autism, etc. For specialty camps to make an even greater positive impact on the number of Jewish kids going to Jewish camp, our Jewish organizations and institutions must find new ways to embrace camps that may be outside of their own movements. JCCs and synagogues must recognize that while there is undoubtedly value in having their constituents attend a movement or regional camp, those camps are not the best fit for every child. I am optimistic that more and more synagogues and JCCs will open their doors to specialty camps, and that together, we will get a little closer to our collective goal of strengthening the Jewish people.
Founder & Director, Adamah Adventures