Shep Englander — Federation Journal
Cincinnati 2020 in 2017: Mark Sass
Each installment in this series features a different perspective on Cincinnati 2020, the Jewish community’s visionary plan for building an exceptional future. This week, we hear from Mark Sass, former Jewish Federation Board member and researcher for the Foundation for Jewish Camp.
What is your current title, both in regards to Cincy Journeys’s overnight camping and in terms of your involvement with Cincinnati 2020?
Professionally, I am President of the Summation Research Group, whose clients include the Foundation for Jewish Camp and the Grinspoon Foundation. Within the Jewish community, I am Past President of the Valley Temple, Past President of the Reform Jewish High School (Kulanu), past board member of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, and a current member of the advisory board for Goldman Union Camp Institute (GUCI). I am also a current board member of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and a member of the URJ’s North American Camps (NAC) committee. I have had several occasions to consult with Cincy Journeys regarding the camper and parent research I’ve done for the camp foundation.
How did you first get involved in or hear about Cincinnati 2020? What is your role now?
I was not directly involved in the development of Cincinnati 2020; although as a past Federation board member, I became very familiar with it. I believe my involvement with overnight Jewish camps and my synagogue are consistent with the 2020 vision.
What does Cincinnati 2020 mean to you, given your involvement with Cincy Journey and their overnight camps?
The “connecting” priority has particular relevance to me, given my involvement with overnight Jewish camps. Camps deliver extremely powerful and immersive Jewish experiences that, in the words of Cincinnati 2020, “enable meaningful Jewish lives” in ways that are both affirming and life-changing.
Why should Cincinnati 2020 and Cincy Journeys be important to the community?
Aside from personal experience and ample anecdotal evidence, extensive research and analysis by the Foundation for Jewish Camp has clearly established the long-term impact of overnight Jewish camp. Camp attendance has been shown to be one of the most engaging and positive Jewish experiences of young people’s lives and often leads to life-long Jewish commitment and involvement.
How can we help others understand the connection to and the importance of Cincinnati 2020?
With respect to the 2020 pillar of “connection,” overnight Jewish camp should be a priority for both the affiliated and unaffiliated Cincinnati Jewish community. In Cincinnati, we are fortunate to have truly excellent camps available to us in this region. My professional involvement with camper satisfaction research confirms the extraordinarily high quality experiences they are providing.
What does the future of overnight camping look like in Cincinnati?
Very bright. There certainly seems to be strong community and congregational support for overnight camping. Admittedly, cost is a barrier for some families, but the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati offers financial incentives that are among the most generous in the country.
Has Cincinnati 2020 been successful so far? How do you measure its successes, both when it comes to overnight camps, Cincy Journeys, and otherwise?
Looking just at the growing enrollment at GUCI and Camp Livingston from the Greater Cincinnati population, it seems quite successful.
What do you hope the community accomplishes through Cincinnati 2020 in the next five years, both in terms of supporting families, and otherwise?
My hope is that there continues to be strong interest and support for overnight Jewish camping, affiliation, Israel programs, and the various Jewish agencies throughout the area. They all provide powerful avenues of Jewish connection and engagement.
The Jewish Federation of Cincinnati: We look at the whole picture, taking into account the diverse needs of the entire community. Together we can do almost anything.