What’s Your Camp Legacy? Join me!

Written by Sarah “Zinger” Eisinger

Dear Camp Friends –

I finally realized my dream to go to Family Camp this past summer at Interlaken. After so many years away, I took my husband and daughter, Micah, then 5, to Camp in August. We had the very best week, and I was so grateful to be able to do it. In addition to waterskiing, tubing together, and making tie-dye on the athletic field, Micah also loved the singing, the prayers and the campfire. She still talks about Family Camp, and we are still singing Motzi the “Camp Way;” most important, Camp is now a part of her story.

I’ve had the chance to become reacquainted with Camp in a much deeper way over the past three years. I didn’t mean to be away from Camp for so long, I had always imagined–dreamed—of sending my own kids to Camp one day. But for a variety of reasons, life went in a different direction.

And then something unexpected happened. Fast forward to spring 2019: I had moved to Western Massachusetts in 2014, married, had a kid and was working in economic development when I was approached about a job at the Harold Grinspoon Foundation as the director of JCamp 180.  It was a job that had my name on it: directing the management consulting arm of a national foundation that provided funding and consulting to nonprofit Jewish camps across North America, including Interlaken. I had done everything in the job description in the secular nonprofit world—and Camp was such a part of me and my identity. I knew I could help execute the mission to strengthen camping.

I started the job in June 2019 and had the weepiest summer of my life: visiting 17 camps with my staff, where I had that feeling of joy, nostalgia, pride and community every time. It was profound. The culminating trip to Interlaken was too short but so sweet and meaningful; Toni and her staff welcomed me with open arms, and I felt at home.

By that fall, I was fully immersed in Camp and learning about how much the field had changed since my time as a camper and counselor in Wisconsin. During my time, there were no organizations like JCamp 180 or others (Foundation for Jewish Camp) providing support, resources, and training across the field.   

Together, our organization and others have helped elevate the field and share nonprofit best practices to help camps thrive in terms of their planning, governance and fundraising. In these areas and others, camp has become much more complex, a microcosm for all that is happening in the larger society. Camp now tackles everything from growing anxiety and depression among campers and staff to food allergies to the increasing cost of living Jewishly to security issues, and of course a complex COVID world. There is also the intense pressures to fundraise for capital and operating expenses. Camp feels a lot less innocent.  In spite of all this, camp and our camp especially, feels exactly the same: special, beautiful and sacred.

One of the hallmarks of JCamp 180 is our focus on Legacy Giving, helping camps develop and secure bequests for after-life giving to secure their long-term future. You know what I’m talking about, those gifts that we all think only super wealthy people make. I’ve learned that’s just not true—anyone who loves camp can leave a Legacy. And in fact, during the COVID pandemic, I made the decision to give a Legacy gift to Interlaken.

During the pandemic, I changed my will, adding in an after-life gift to Interlaken.  I’m writing you now to ask you to join me in Camp Interlaken’s Legacy Circle. I’ve looked at the names in Camp’s Legacy Circle and I recognize so many of them, and so will you. But so many of YOU, friends and former campers, are not represented. I know that you love camp as much as I do— you attended Family Camp, you send your kids there from all over the country, your kids work there now, and you donate to camp—and I hope now you’ll invest in Interlaken alongside me in this special way. We can all make these contributions, large or small, and it feels wonderful.

My goal is to help Camp bring in 25 new Legacy members, literally a small K’far group, before the start of the summer 2023 season. I know we can do this together and that you can take this important step with me to ensure Camp’s long-term future. I hope to be back next summer with Jonathan and Micah at the Opening Campfire of Family Camp 2023 for another incredible week.

Forever Camp friends,