Last week at the 2014 JCamp 180 Annual Conference in Springfield, Massachusetts, Ed Samiljan, San Diego mensch, former Federation Board Member, and Jewish camp visionary, received the Outstanding Philanthropist Award for his hard-work, dedication, and personal contribution to Camp Mountain Chai in San Diego.
JCamp 180 aims to significantly enhance the long-term effectiveness of non-profit overnight camps and organizations that engage young people in meaningful Jewish cultural and educational experiences. Each year, JCamp 180 hosts an annual conference where Jewish camp professionals and community leaders gather to learn, network, and schmooze for a weekend of enrichment and development opportunities. On the last day of the conference, the Annual JCamp 180 Award Ceremony is held, honoring those who have demonstrated achievements over the past year in the field of Jewish Camp.
Ed Samiljan became actively involved in the San Diego Jewish community at age 48 upon moving to the west coast with his family. Although leaving the east coast behind, he didn’t forgo his strong Jewish identity, in particular, his passion for Jewish Summer camp that was afforded (barely) to him as a child. Having grown up poor, Ed recalls Jewish Camp as a “frivolous expense”, but one that his parents were able to scrape together for an unforgettable and life changing experience.
When Ed first became active in the San Diego Jewish community, he wanted San Diego to be the most welcoming Jewish community to the greatest amount of people. Feeling strongly about Jewish continuity he got involved in the Pathways to Judaism project— a program that sought to engage interfaith families in the Jewish community. It was there he realized his destiny, to lower the barriers to entry and long waitlists of Jewish Summer Camps that San Diego parents were facing.
To solve this pressing problem, Ed co-founded Camp Mountain Chai personally seeking out funds, donors, partners, and locations for a new Jewish Summer camp. Now, a short ten years later, Ed’s dedication, vision, and generosity, has brought the Jewish Camp experience to thousands of kids. Today, Camp Mountain Chai welcomes more than 500 children each summer and is open year round for Jewish retreats and programs. No child has ever, nor will be, turned away from Camp Mountain Chai due to financial need, thanks to Ed’s vision, generosity, and kindness.
To address the future need for camp scholarship funds, Ed and his staff are in the process of developing an endowment at Jewish Community Foundation to ensure all Jewish children have the opportunity to attend summer camp, and once that is completed a “worthy legacy will be made and left behind,” as Ed puts it.
The Jewish Federation of San Diego County extends its praise and would like to wish Ed Samiljan and the Camp Mountain Chai staff who have worked to turn Ed’s vision into a reality, a huge mazel tov and toda raba!
For a link to the JCamp 180 Outstanding Philanthropist Introductory speech: click here.