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Camp Massad counsellors heading to New York

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PAULA Sturrey considers Camp Massad, an independent Jewish summer camp for children ages 7-16 at Winnipeg Beach, the "most magical, special place" on Earth.

"The atmosphere there is unlike any other location that I've been to. It is home away from home," said the University of Manitoba student, 21, who's in charge of programming for the camp and was previously a camper and is still a counsellor there.

From May 29 to June 1, Sturrey, camp director Hart Jacob, and five other Massad counsellors will be participating in the Jewish Camping Cornerstone Fellowship Conference/Seminar in the Poconos in upstate New York. This is the first time Camp Massad has sent participants to the event, said Sturrey.

The Cornerstone Fellowship training seminar includes 25 camps from across North America that have been accepted into the program, who then send their best third-year returning Jewish bunk counsellors to the leadership seminar.

"The Cornerstone Fellowship teaches camps to blend religious principles with business savvy," said Jerry Silverman, president of the Foundation for Jewish Camping (FJC) during a telephone interview from Boston, although the FJC's offices are in New York.

Each summer, responsible young adults chose to work as counsellors at Jewish overnight summer camps, because they understand the pivotal role that Jewish summer experience can play in a child's life, he added, noting that these counsellors are not just employees -- they are future Jewish leaders.

"The program is designed to help counsellors to input Jewish concepts and values in one on one moments (with campers) and more formal programs," said Naomi Lees, vice-president of programs from the FJC.

She added that a situation might arise where a "Jewish teachable moment" could be used to teach the camper to repeat a positive behaviour.

"We take those moments to connect them to Jewish values," said Lees.

"We have the counsellor look at those moments and use these Jewish teachings to build confidence and empowerment."

"They can use Judaism in a practical way. This is the first entry, sometimes, for the counsellor into becoming a Jewish educator."

Over the past eight years, the FJC has changed.

"Today, our mission is simpler and clear -- to significantly increase the number of Jewish children attending overnight camps," said Silverman.

In order to achieve their mission, he said, the FJC focuses on four areas: professional development; advocacy, marketing and research; increasing the capacity and enrolment in camps; and, investing in excellence and giving out grants to camps that come up with innovative ideas.

"Some research done on Jewish camping in 1999 and 2000, funded by the AVICHAI Foundation in New York, showed that it's critical to retain bunk counsellors at a camp into their third year. That having a person who's experienced by their third summer prepares the counsellor to take his or her experience to a whole new level," said Silverman.

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 27, 2006 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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