Fond memories, lots of laughter guaranteed at weekend reunion of about 175 adults headed to Interlake Hebrew-immersion camp celebrating 70th anniversary
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/08/2022 (275 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Just days after welcoming her 10-year-old daughter home from summer camp, former Winnipegger Ryla Braemer heads back to Camp Massad to experience a weekend of songs, fun and laughter herself.
“I want to work to make sure it’s there for my kids and I also want to experience some of the camp flavour through the reunion,” said the camp board member who plans to fly in from Toronto for the camp’s 70th anniversary celebrations beginning Friday.
Established just north of Winnipeg Beach in 1953 to promote the Hebrew language and Jewish identity, Camp Massad has been a summer home to school-aged campers for several generations, with former campers often returning as counsellors and program directors.
“We call ourselves ‘Massadniks,’ and we find each other wherever we are,” Braemer said, referring to the bond shared among alumni of all ages.
Expected to attract about 175 adults over the weekend, the reunion will feature several camp traditions, including a Shabbat prayer service and dinner, outdoor activities and, of course, lots of songs, skits and laughter, said director of planning and programming Drew McGillawee.
“We do a pretty good job of relating our history and passing it down from generation to generation,” he said of the storytelling that happens at reunions held every decade.
The camp also passes down Hebrew songs that promote spirit, including one that translates to “Hooray Massad.”
Billed as a place to make memories, North America’s only Hebrew-immersion residential camp also encourages participants to develop skills such as problem-solving, resilience and creativity while building friendships that last a lifetime, said board chair Josh Winestock, who spent 18 years as a camper, counsellor and director before returning to volunteer on the board.
“For many people, their camp friends are the friends they feel the most connected to all of their lives,” said Winestock, a music teacher in Toronto.
Along with those relationships, some friendly rivalries endure from the multi-day Maccabia competition held at the end of each three-week summer camp session. Winestock said those results are rehashed at reunions over the years, and six decades of winning teams are posted on the camp website to remind people of their past glory days.
“People discuss the scores and who won and lost for decades after,” he said.
Reunion attendees can view upgrades and improvements to camp buildings on the eight-hectare site just west of Highway 9, he said. Since the last reunion a decade ago, more than $1 million was spent on expanding the dining hall, updating cabins and improving accessibility and landscaping.
“As alumni get older and start working (elsewhere), they don’t get to go to camp anymore,” said Winestock of the reason for the reunion.
“We hope they can reconnect to all their camp friends and be part of the community and reconnect with the camp as Massadniks.”
That’s exactly what Braemer hopes the weekend holds for her. Alongside cousins, siblings and friends who have attended over the years, she expects to spend much of the reunion laughing and reminiscing about shared antics and activities.
“To me, that’s what Judaism is,” said Braemer, whose younger children anticipate their own turn at camp.“It’s the songs, the food, the sense of community, the family coming together. And that was nurtured at camp.”
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Brenda Suderman has been a columnist in the Saturday paper since 2000, first writing about family entertainment, and about faith and religion since 2006.
The Free Press acknowledges the financial support it receives from members of the city’s faith community, which makes our coverage of religion possible.