Samis Foundation:
Living History

Jewish Day School Education

At the Foundation’s inception, Samis trustees identified Jewish day school education in Washington State as the number one priority of the Samis Foundation. Over the past twenty-seven years, Samis has impacted thousands of Jewish lives through its day school philanthropy providing over $80 million in grants to local day schools. Today, day school philanthropy remains the largest funding area of the Foundation. Samis is proud to support Jewish day schools in the Seattle area, including Jewish early childhood, middle and elementary schools and Jewish high schools. Samis is dedicated to ensuring that local day schools are models of academic excellence, providing the highest quality Jewish and secular education.

Samis’ objectives in day school education include encouraging collaborations, co-locations, strategic alliances, and reorganizations to increase sustainability and vitality, marking day schools more affordable, increasing day school excellence, and developing a day school partnership strategy across the greater Seattle community with key stakeholders.

Experiential Jewish Education

Experiential Jewish education features a diverse array of intensive and immersive educational options including camps, Israel experiences, youth groups, and other youth enrichment and engagement experiences. The Samis Foundation has invested nearly $9 million since inception in support of experiential Jewish education. Support for the three Washington State Jewish overnight camps and need-based camp scholarship programs represent the bulk of grantmaking in this area at nearly $6 million. Although Samis has supported other experiential education programs since its inception, in recent years, Samis significantly augmented its experiential education philanthropy by launching two grant pilot programs for teen Israel experiences and youth enrichment and engagement programs.

Jewish experiences in childhood are especially influential as youth move into adulthood, develop Jewish identity, and make important decisions such as choosing to raise Jewish children. Formative Jewish education and experiences increases the likelihood of college students joining a Jewish group such as Hillel or Chabad, participating on a Birthright Israel trip, or taking Jewish Studies or Israel-related college courses. The vibrant and creative field of experiential Jewish education provides families with the opportunity to select the program that best fits the unique needs and interests of their children. 

Jewish Camp

Jewish summer camps are a deeply effective tool for building Jewish identity and continuity, due to their immersive nature. For many youth, camp is their primary Jewish educational experience outside of the home. Camp noticeably increases the likelihood of Jewish engagement in adulthood. As adults, campers are 21% more likely to feel being Jewish is important and 55% more likely to feel emotionally attached to Israel. The impact of camp is arguably greatest for counselors, who are groomed to be role models and whose engagement in Jewish life often continues with Hillel and other Jewish activities as they move through college. Particularly of note, national research conducted by the Foundation for Jewish Camp highlights that camps are the only segment of Jewish education consistently demonstrating growth in enrollment.

Teen Israel Experiences

Youth Enrichment and Engagement

Looking Ahead

The basis and framework of Jewish identity begins in early childhood and is crystalized in youth and young adulthood. During these formative years it is crucial for youth to gain exposure to Jewish life, belief, and tradition, and build meaningful relationships within the Jewish community. Samis’ objectives in experiential Jewish education include expanding opportunities for Jewish youth to attend Jewish camp, identifying and expanding access to intensive and immersive experiential Jewish youth enrichment programs, and increasing opportunities for Jewish youth to engage in Israel Experience programs. Samis is focusing its efforts on supporting recruitment efforts, program quality enhancements to deepen engagement, capacity building to expand participation, and the establishment of key partnerships to leverage Samis’ impact.

Initiatives In Israel

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