Goodman Camping Initiative for Modern Israel History Set to Transform Israel Education


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FJC - Alicia Zimbalist


February 2012 (New York, NY and Northbrook, IL) - The Larry and Lillian Goodman Foundations has awarded a four-year, $2.3 million matching grant to the iCenter and the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) to establish a joint project, the Goodman Camping Initiative for Modern Israel  History.  A matching component has been fulfilled by The Marcus Foundation and the AVI CHAI Foundation, who are jointly contributing a $1.3 million grant to the program. 

The initiative targets independent Jewish camps and builds upon other Israel education initiatives in the camping world funded by these foundations and others. According to FJC’s recent study, CAMP WORKS, Jewish camp alumni are 55% more likely to feel emotionally attached to Israel.  The objective of this new initiative is to enhance and expand the modern Israeli historical and cultural teachings at nonprofit independent Jewish overnight camps, forging an even greater connection between campers and the Jewish state.

“As young Jews are our future leaders, Jewish camps provide an ideal environment for them to learn about Israeli history and culture so that they will be knowledgeable when standing up against anti-Israel sentiment on college campuses,” says Larry Goodman Chairman of the Goodman Foundations. “We believe the Goodman Camping Initiative will be an influential program in building deep ties with the state of Israel for thousands of campers and staff.”

“Over 70,000 campers and 10,000 counselors attend Jewish overnight camp each summer,” explains Jeremy J. Fingerman, CEO of FJC. “There they explore their religious and cultural identity in joyful, interactive ways that are impossible to replicate in other settings.  The opportunity for Israel engagement in an experiential learning environment is enormous.”

Beginning in summer 2012, participating camps will feature an in-house modern Israel educator and five senior staff who have been intensively trained in a learner-centered curriculum.  The first cohort, which has already been selected, will be made up of 12 camps and the program is geared to expand to 36 camps over the four year period.  “The aim of the initiative is that the story of Israel becomes the story of the campers and counselors,” says iCenter Executive Director Anne Lanski, “it becomes a dimension of their identity and a source of their pride in being Jewish.”


Established in 1994, the Lillian and Larry Goodman Foundations are dedicated to strengthening Jewish life in Chicago, the United States, and Israel, as well as improving the quality of life within the Chicago metropolitan area by supporting secular organizations which address hunger issues and the prevention of drug abuse. For more information visit

The AVI CHAI Foundation was founded in 1984 by Zalman Chaim Bernstein z”l. Since then, the foundation’s mission has been and continues to be to strengthen Judaism, Jewish literacy, and Jewish tradition wherever his foundation was to operate—North America, Israel, and the former Soviet Union—and to sustain, enlarge, and enrich Jewish commitment to the State of Israel.  In North America, the foundation’s focus has been to foster and nurture the energizing nucleus of the American Jewish community, by which the foundation means American Jews who are Jewishly literate, who view their lives through the lens of the Jewish religion and feel a deep connection to the world-wide Jewish people, with its center in Israel. Believing that the most effective educational vehicles to achieve this energizing nucleus are Jewish day school and overnight summer camps, the foundation has invested significantly in both fields. With a sunset date of 2020, AVI CHAI’s goal for its remaining years is to nurture and grow the strength and influence of institutions, people and ideas that serve the day school and overnight camp fields.

The Marcus Foundation is a 501(C)3 organization created by Bernie Marcus, co-founder and former CEO of The Home Depot.  The Foundation focuses giving on children, medical research, free enterprise, Jewish causes and the community.

The iCenter envisions generations of young North American Jews for whom contemporary Israel is an integral and vibrant part of their personal and collective Jewish identity. This vision includes a pre-K through grade 12 Jewish educational system in North America that fully incorporates Israel – people, land, history, language and culture – into the very fiber of its overall mission. Jewish educators across the system will see the engendering of knowledge about, and connection with, Israel as essential to their educational agenda. Furthermore, Jewish educational institutions will integrate Israel into all areas of learning and activity.

The Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) is the only public organization dedicated solely to nonprofit Jewish overnight camps. FJC employs a variety of strategies toward a single goal: to increase the number of children in Jewish summer camps.  To this end, the Foundation creates inspiring camp leaders, expands access to and intensifies demand for camp, and develops programs to strengthen camps across the Jewish spectrum in North America.  Through strategic partnerships on local and national levels, FJC raises the profile of Jewish camp and serves as a central resource for parents and organizations alike.  FJC works with more than 150 camps, 70,000 campers, and 10,000 counselors across North America each summer to further its mission.