Photo Credit: Foundation for Jewish Camps
The Yasher Initiative

The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation has announced a groundbreaking $12 million award under its Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) Yashar Initiative that will will enable 16 Jewish camps across North America increase accessibility for campers and staff with disabilities.

A past FJC-administered survey had identified the need for greater accessibility for staff and campers with disabilities as a major barrier to participation in Jewish camps.


The Yashar Initiative was designed to address the needs of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder as well as people with intellectual, developmental, physical and sensory disabilities.

The mammoth grant award was announced just before the start of World Autism Day.

The awards are expected to provide support for capital improvements, professional development, staff training, research and evaluation at the camps. But each grantee was also required to independently raise 25 percent of the project cost prior to applying for the funding.

Each camp will receive money for both capital improvements as well as a program grant totaling $2.5 million for the first round of the initiative, according to a release from FJC.

“This initiative is especially critical because it benefits not only the camps that receive direct funding, but also advances the field with best practice information regarding inclusion models and training for staff,” said Paula B. Pretlow, a Trustee with The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. “Most important, however, Yashar ensures that all campers are able to access this foundational aspect of a Jewish upbringing.”

“Every moment of this process has been filled with the kind of excitement that can only be found on the brink of creating real, substantive change,” said Jeremy Fingerman, CEO of FJC.

The camps are expected to complete their improvements by the summer of 2020.

The Yasher Initiative will accept grant applications again this fall, and in the fall of 2020.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.