The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and the Foundation for Jewish Camp are surveying local families to find out what attracts or deters them from Jewish camp.
The survey was emailed to about 3,000 area families who participate in PJ Library, a national initiative that mails free books with Jewish themes to young children.
Brian Mono, director of the Federation's Center for Jewish Life and Learning, said the library participants seemed like a good sample because those parents will be thinking about camp in the near future "so we can really capture the market at the time of choice."
Since the program has been in Philadelphia for three years, he said, some parents might be making those decisions now for older children who participated in the past. Plus, he added, Jewish Learning Venture, which operates the local PJ Library, allowed them to use the contacts.
Ultimately, Mono said, the goal is to get a better understanding of the target audience for Jewish camp so that institutions serving this area can hone their marketing messages and increase enrollment. Based on analysis and reports showing camp's impact on Jewish identity, Federation has made it a funding priority, Mono said.
This is the fourth market research study, all conducted by sociologist Steven M. Cohen, that the Foundation for Jewish Camp has cosponsored since 2007 to learn about parents' attitudes and behaviors toward Jewish summer camp.
Results from Los Angeles, Toronto and the Midwest revealed interesting regional differences in the way families approach camp, said Cohen.
For example, while most studies show that secular Jews are relatively uninterested in Jewish camp, that was not the case in Toronto, he said.
"Every one of these regions poses different opportunities and different marketing considerations, if you want to expand participation in camping," said Cohen, director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at New York University-Wagner.
The heart of the survey, Cohen said, is a question asking parents to write out their reasons for or against sending their children to Jewish overnight camp. Results are expected to be released in the late fall.