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Members of Camp Massad Choir



By Rhonda Prepes, P. Eng.

How does a summer camp north of Winnipeg Beach in Manitoba give rise to a choir- one comprised of camp alumni and others, who perform at Bar/ Bat Mitzvahs and other Jewish events?

The Camp Massad Choir, which performs a variety of services, songs, blessings and prayers, usually in the “Massad tradition” (in the style of the late Cantor Benjamin Brownstone) originated in 1993, some 40 years after the camp was founded. It was born out of a desire by a Bat-Mitzvah to have her life cycle event at the site of the camp.

Every year at Camp Massad , counselors and Campers sing Hebrew songs, and  conduct Sabbath prayers, as a way of enhancing Jewish life and culture, and strengthening Jewish identity.

Former campers and staff  have many positive memories singing t’feelot (prayers) and shereem (songs) at Massad, which is the only Hebrew-speaking Camp in Western Canada.

As Jackie Winestock , a choir member says, “It was some of these former campers and staff members who decided to join together long after camp was over for them and relive some of their memories by singing songs and prayers they had originally learned at Massad.”

Since  1993, the  volunteer choir has participated in five or six B’nei Mitzvot a year with Miriam Baron as musical director and Leah Braemer as services facilitator.

Braemer, who is a Hebrew and English Literature teacher at Brock Corydon Elementary School, says, “We specialize in creating unique services  for Bar/Bat Mitzvah occasions suited specifically to meet each family’s request. This trend of creating distinctive  services is becoming increasingly popular for Jews who are not affiliated with a synagogue or who do not identify with a particular sect of Judaism.”

The choir is capable of performing entire services for  a Bar or Bat-Mitzvah occasion, daily services and other life cycle event services.  The adaptable services can use modern tunes and new melodies.

“The choir members are intent upon keeping the traditions of Camp Massad alive and at the same time giving the community a little taste of what  Massad has to offer,” notes Baron.  It infuses special “ruach (spirit)” into every service performed.
Lake Winnipeg
Beautiful Lake Winnipeg with waters
that rival the Caribbean!

Anywhere from 6 to 15 choir members may turn out for an event. It is open to new members, whether a person has a connection to Camp Massad or not.

“The only requirement is that you be able to carry a tune,” says Braemer.

What is on the Choir’s agenda right now? It’s latest gig was performed on Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 10:30 a.m. at the Gwen Sector Centre in honour of Leona Billinkoff’s 90th birthday. Leona was one of the original founders of Camp Massad in 1953, and the community is invited to attend this event free of charge.

Anyone interested in knowing more about  the Choir or Camp Massad (creative  programming, outdoor swimming pool, basketball courts, paved tennis courts, baseball diamond, outdoor stage, play structures,  private forest with hiking trails, and close proximity to beautiful Lake Winnipeg) can visit or call the Camp office at (204) 477-7487.

Registration is still being accepted for this summer.

Rhonda Prepes Rhonda Prepes is an engineer, educator, mother, writer, and former Massadnik in Winnipeg.
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Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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