Who We Are
ALL ARE WELCOME AT SHALOM INSTITUTE
As a leading experiential Jewish education, retreat, environmental, and community center in Southern California, we are proud to welcome everyone into our Big Tent. Our programs serve youth and adults representing diverse walks of life in the Jewish community and beyond: from secular to orthodox, from LGBTQIA to interfaith families, and from Russian, Persian and Israeli American communities to adults and children with disabilities, to non-profit organizations and schools throughout Southern California. As a premier Jewish Community Center for experiential education, community engagement, inclusion and accessibility, and Jewish overnight and day camping, we serve thousands year-round in immersive, transformative experiences. We are nationally known for our programmatic excellence, community partnerships, and for being a “green” leader through our sustainability education and practices.
Shalom Institute began as Camp JCA in 1951 in Barton Flats in the San Bernardino Mountain as the overnight camping program of the Jewish Centers Association (JCA), which later became Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles. Camp JCA opened a second site in Malibu in 1972 and ran two sites until the mid-1980s eventually selling the Barton Flats site in 1993. Focused now in Malibu, Camp JCA Shalom experienced a period of tremendous growth in the late 1980s and early 1990s eventually evolving into Shalom Institute Camp and Conference Center in 1998. In 2005, with the dissolution of the JCCs of Greater Los Angeles, Shalom Institute became an independent non-profit organization.
Shalom Institute engages more than 1,200 campers who attend Camp JCA Shalom overnight and day camps, Camp Gesher for Russian-speaking Jewish families, and thousands more who participate in our Jewish educational, environmental, social justice, and retreat experiences each year. We connect people of all ages to community, Judaism, self-discovery, fun, nature, friendship and more.
Our programs serve youth and adults representing the vibrant tapestry of Jewish life: from secular to orthodox to interfaith families; Russian, Persian and Israeli Americans; and adults and children who have special needs.
On November 9, 2018, the Woolsey Fire swept through Malibu and more than 95% of the buildings and program areas were destroyed. One hundred days after the fire’s devastation, 90% of our programs were running at locations throughout Southern California.
Our 2019 program year was remarkable with tremendous impact on program participants; camp parent survey results point to it being the best summer program in recent memory. We entered 2020 with high caliber programming, meaningful experiences for all ages and even had waiting lists for retreats and programs.
Shemesh Farms, our social enterprise that employs 60 young adults with developmental disabilities had relocated after the fire to Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue and was blossoming; our farm employment program for adults who have developmental disabilities was nearing capacity and our Shemesh Farms products were reaching new sales numbers. Additionally, our Summer 2020 Camp JCA Shalom enrollment was ahead of the previous summer. Then, like most other community and camping organizations, our programs came to a halt in March 2020 due to Covid-19 and we were forced to change course and discover creative, virtual ways to engage our community. The resilience and creativity that helped us rebound after the fire led us to craft innovative, meaningful summer camp and community programming. After a couple of weeks of virtual summer experiences – offered at no cost – it was apparent that Shalom magic was felt even through a screen. Our virtual programs continued successfully throughout 2020.
Summers 2021 and 2022 for both Camp JCA Shalom and Camp Gesher found us back in our temporary home at Gold Creek Center in the Angeles National Forest. Registration for these camps was greater than pre-pandemic enrollment, demonstrating the value and impact of our virtual programs and engagement throughout 2020. Camp staff is creating a program of excellence with protocols in place to ensure the physical and mental health and safety of all involved. Shemesh Farms continues to blossom with new herbs and spice products, in-person business meetings and experiences, farming and harvesting, new organizational and business partnerships, and a Shemesh Farms cookbook.
We enter our 72nd year with pride and optimism. We know this is a critical time in the life of Shalom Institute as we re-envision our organization during a pandemic and develop a master rebuild plan while undertaking a strategic visioning process. Providing immersive, transformational experiences year-round creates life-long connections and strengthens Jewish identity and community that ultimately leads to Tikkun Olam, creating a better world. We know the impact of Shalom Institute programs and services on participants is critical to helping ensure the Jewish future.
Shalom Institute promotes and maintains a policy of non-discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity, religion, disability, age, veteran status, ancestry, or national or ethnic origin in the administration of all programs and services.