Summer camp has played, and continues to play a large role in the socialization of North American Jewish children and youth. This is especially so for the vast majority of Jewish youth in the US and Canada who attend secular schools and are not affiliated with any other Jewish institutions. In “normal” times, Jewish camps are living, breathing, physical communities, and immersive environments in which young adult counselors and staff serve as revered mentors, developing and imparting learning experiences to younger campers. What we have learned since the pandemic shut us into our homes in March is that camps are also dynamic ecosystems that can create, develop, and build connection and community outside of “walls” so to speak, in the virtual environments in which we have been forced to live. These in-person and virtual Jewish communities are ripe for piloting and examining the impact of intentional character formation and investments in a young person’s spiritual growth, development, and identity. FJC and our collaborating scholars propose a planning grant to create the conceptual framework for a larger study of virtue formation at Jewish summer camp. This planning grant would allow us to determine what implementation steps are required to study effective character development in a spiritual context, specifically Jewish summer camp. FJC will use this one-year grant to accomplish three objectives: 1.Create learning circles with multi-disciplinary thought partners to develop the conceptual framework for Jewish camp and plan research activities; 2.Examine and identify the existing mechanisms and practices of character formation employed by Jewish camps through a landscape survey, interviews, and observations; 3.Develop research instruments and a proposal for a three-year study to evaluate the impact of character development practices on the minds, hearts and behaviors of adolescents and young adults who participate in Jewish camp.
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