Anna Katz was at a loss. June was fast approaching and the mother of three from northern California didn’t know what she would do with her kids all summer. After a bad business decision that landed her husband in prison in February 2014, life as she knew it came to an abrupt end. Her meager income was barely enough to pay for the basics, and financing summer camp for her kids was out of the question.
That’s when the Aleph Institute stepped in. The nonprofit organization based out of Florida serves the needs of Jewish prisoners and their families throughout the US prison system. In 2011, they established the Aleph Institute Jonathan Stampler Camp Fund, giving children of incarcerated parents the chance to attend Jewish summer camp by offering generous subsidies and scholarships. In addition to providing the funds, Aleph also helps with the logistics and planning.
Last summer, when Aleph’s family services director, Rabbi Shua Brook, realized that the Katz children had no summer plans and had never attended a Jewish camp, he found donors willing to pay for their camp tuition. Jodi and Ryan, ages thirteen and eleven respectively, flew to overnight camps in the northeast while John, aged nine, stayed in a local Jewish day camp. This summer, all three children have returned to those overnight camps for another enriching summer experience.
“The benefits of camp are many,” explains Brook. “First, it provides a much needed respite for the parent at home. It also creates a fun and meaningful experience for the kids, providing them with the opportunity to make new friends and explore essential Jewish values. It helps the entire family have a positive Jewish experience and become more involved with their local Jewish community.”
The Katz children are among 96 others who’ve benefited from summer camping experience this year thanks to Aleph, and among hundreds that Aleph has sent to Jewish camps in the US and abroad over the past five years. The impact this experience has had on the children and their families is immeasurable say their families.
“Camp has made Judaism come alive for my children, especially for my teenage girl,” Katz says. “It taught her good values. When she came home last year, she wanted to dress more modestly. Now, she works at the local Hebrew School and is giving back to others.”
Among the overnight camps selected by Aleph are CTeen Heritage Quest, CTeen Xtreme, Camp L’man Achai, and CGI Poconos, among others.
To reach out to Aleph family services department for someone in need, or to donate, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.