Camp/Retreat Model: WHC Mobile


Washington Hebrew Congregation, Washington, D.C.

WHC Mobile

Model Summary:

WHC Mobile is an 8th/9th grade innovative educational model that is engaging and interactive. It includes weekend and weekday learning opportunities with 3 main components: retreats, hands-on learning, and special events to offer students the greatest flexibility and difference in programming. The exceptional retreats offer learners a chance to become immersed in various topics (e.g. Jewish identity, sexuality) for a full weekend. The retreats build community by learners and facilitators all sharing space, meals, prayer, study, and social time.

Who are the Learners?

8th-9th graders; there are 50-60 learners per grade.

Who are the Educators/Learning Facilitators?

  • The Director of Informal Education is the primary point person; he designs the curriculum and leads the main programs.

  • A rabbi is assigned to the programs.

  • The Assistant Director of Youth, college students, and young professionals serve as front line staff facilitating the learning.

When Does the Learning Happen?

  • Weekend and weeknights.

  • Currently, WHC Mobile is using a more flexible schedule and understands that not all of the students can be there every time, but all of the students can at least attend something at some point.

  • Most of the programs are on the weekend with options 1-2 times a month during the week.

Where Does the Learning Happen?

  • Everywhere! Retreat sites, Washington Hebrew Congregation, and in the greater DC area (National Mall, Potomac River, China Town, etc.)

What is the Learning? How is it Designed?

  • Basic curriculum topics are Jewish identity and Jewish values - the curriculum is purposely open enough to really include everything.

  • A smaller curricular goal is overall teen development (sexuality retreat, self-esteem retreat, etc.).

What Were You Trying to Achieve with this Model?

The previous program at WHC wasn’t reaching the learners. When the current Director of Informal Youth came to WHC a decade ago, he was not comfortable leading the “old” program. He wanted to create a model that was always worth the learners’ time. He looked at what pieces had been successful and used those to build on.

Key First Steps and Recruitment Plan:

  • WHC currently runs retreats for younger students (there is a one-night retreat for 6th graders) to get them excited about WHC Mobile.

  • WHC does a variety of outreach in 7th grade from formal presentations to word of mouth, including a lot of social media promotion and making and sending out videos and media presentations.

  • As the students transition into 8th/9th grade, the goal is retention and keeping as many students engaged as possible, but a secondary goal is to remain in contact with the students even if they aren’t coming regularly so they always know WHC has a place for them.

Role of Governance and Clergy:

At least one of the rabbis is directly connected to each program. Rabbis also attend and staff all overnights.


  • Fee for the program: $745 (includes the retreats) per student

  • WHC spends around $40,000 a year on retreat facilities and $10,000 on transportation.

  • WHC Mobile staff are only paid for events they work.

Hiring Needs:

  • Ideal educators have camp experience, retreat experience, or are alumni from the program (sometimes up to ½ the staff).

  • WHC hires staff who can be in the moment and adjust accordingly based on the direction the conversation takes.

Relationship of Model to Congregational Learning System:

WHC Mobile is the only option for 8th/9th graders at Washington Hebrew Congregation.

How Do You Describe Your Congregation?

  • Reform Movement; 2700 families; 5 rabbis and 2 cantors.

  • WHC educational vision: Learners will feel connected to the WHC community and value life-long Jewish learning.



  • After School and Beyond
  • Congregational Learning
  • Teen Engagement
  • Educator Training