Options for Jewish kids

Options for Jewish kids

Panel in Ridgewood will outline programming for toddlers through teens

Sue Ellen Greenberg, left, and Rachel Delancey
Sue Ellen Greenberg, left, and Rachel Delancey

A panel of experts will talk about raising children with Jewish values and spiritual engagement at a free program, called “Jewish Kids: Ideas for Different Ages and Stages,” at Temple Israel and JCC in Ridgewood on Sunday. (See box.)

Erica Danziger, programming and community outreach director of the Jewish Community Center of Northern New Jersey, will discuss PJ Library, a free resource for bringing Jewish stories into the home for kids up to 4 years old.

Sue Ellen Greenberg, a sleepaway camp consultant, will explain how she guides Jewish parents in making a costly investment in their children’s education — and their future.

Rachel Delancey, a planning, allocations, and community outreach associate at the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, will speak about the federation’s Right Start and One Happy Camper incentive grant programs.

And Jessica Spiegel, the principal of the Bergen County High School for Jewish Studies and director of Northern New Jersey Jewish Academy, will outline what BCHSJS offers high school students.

There are hundreds of summer opportunities for children and teens to build and strengthen Jewish identity, Ms. Greenberg, who lives in Franklin Lakes and spends her summers visiting camps and other teen programs, said. “The best camp or teen program for your child is the one that is most compatible to your child’s personality.

“I love being able to help a family find the right fit. I want every child to have the great camp experience that I had.”

Ms. Greenberg, who was a teacher before she began camp consulting 20 years ago, advises families against trusting the internet when they consider which camp to select. “It can be very confusing, and what you see is not what you get,” she said.

There are incentive grants that encourage parents to commit to Jewish camps and preschools, Ms. Delancey, of New Milford, said. For more than 10 years, the One Happy Camper program has offered grants that motivate parents to choose a Jewish overnight camp over secular options. The program is funded through the Foundation for Jewish Camp and organized Jewish communities throughout North America.

More first-time grants are being awarded this year than had been in earlier years, she said, and this year, One Happy Camper has expanded to allocate a second-year grant for families that make $175,000 or less annually.

The grant recipients typically attend overnight camps in Pennsylvania and New York, Ms. Delancey said. Camp can cost from $8,000 to $11,000 per camper, and the grants can offer as much as $1,000. “It might not seem like a lot of money, but it is actually very helpful in convincing families to make that choice to send their kids to a Jewish camp instead of a non-Jewish camp,” Ms. Delancey said. “Then the kids have such a great time and meet so many amazing friends that they continue going back year after year.”

There are 190 camps, representing all streams of Judaism, participating in the One Happy Camper grants program, Ms. Delancey said, and Jewish camps offer kids their single most intensive opportunity to experience Jewish life. “It has been shown to really change the lives of kids. It gives them the opportunity to explore their Jewish identity independently as opposed to synagogue life. It has been fruitful in terms of them marrying someone Jewish and raising Jewish families and becoming members of synagogues and associating with the Jewish community more broadly.”

Right Start, which began in 2019, is similar to One Happy Camper but is geared to helping parents choose Jewish preschool for their kids. Right Start grants are $700 for two to four days a week of preschool, and $1,000 if the child goes for five days. The program is funded by the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey.

“We have recognized that there needs to be a continuum of Jewish life,” Ms. Delancey said. “Jewish preschool builds a great foundation of Jewish thought and knowledge about the holidays. And then you go to Hebrew school and Jewish overnight camp, and then you’re a part of BBYO.

“So in line with this continuum idea, it is really helpful to be able to offer an incentive for families to choose Jewish preschool when they normally might not because not all Jewish preschools have extended hours or anything like that.”

Jewish preschool, she said, “really helps families recognize how important having a Jewish education is even when they’re infants and toddlers.”

Who: Temple Israel’s Temple Talk series

What: Present a panel discussion, “Jewish Kids: Ideas for Different Ages and Stages”

When: On Sunday, January 8, at 12:30 p.m.

Where: At Temple Israel and JCC in Ridgewood.

What format: It’s in-person only

How much: It’s free

What else: A free bagel brunch starts at noon.

For more information: Go to www.synagogue.org

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