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By Sophie Yoot, Oct. 31, 2011

The weekly celebration of Shabbat at Camp Massad of Manitoba has always been a uniquely lively and exuberant event, characterized by prayer, ritual, singing, dancing, high energy and an extraordinary sense of Jewish community and positive Jewish identity. Now Camp Massad alumni living in Toronto will have the opportunity to relive that experience.

The first ever Camp Massad Kabbalat Shabbat in Toronto will take place on Friday, December 2, 2011 at the downtown Wolfond Centre. The event will feature a Shabbat prayer service, dinner, singing and rikudei am, all done Massad style.  The event is being organized by an ad hoc group of Massad alumni, most of them former Winnipeggers and former camp counsellors, currently living in Toronto.  It is the first of many events the committee hopes to sponsor.

The committee was organized by Ryla Braemer, a former Massad program director and now an associate director at The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. Braemer has always been appreciative of the tremendous skills and leadership training that the Winnipeg Beach based camp provided her with, and was looking for a way to recapture the excitement of being at Massad while also helping the camp at the same time.  She was confident that many other Massad alumni living in Toronto would share that desire.

“There was an element of wanting to reconnect with alumni, share laughs, reminisce and have fun,” Braemer acknowledges, “but when we met it became clear that in addition to the network we were establishing we also wanted to take an active role in giving back to Massad and keeping Massad alive in a meaningful way in Toronto.”

Hosting a Massad style Shabbat seemed the ideal way to do that. 

 “A Massad style Kabbalat Shabbat was the perfect way in which to come together, celebrate, feel Massad here and also raise money for camp,” Braemer says.

Proceeds from the event and from all upcoming Toronto Massad alumni events will be used to establish a Toronto alumni campership endowment fund.  This fund will help ensure that every summer, children who otherwise could not afford to attend camp, will have the opportunity to experience the incredible magic of Massad. 

The Toronto committee is expecting about 100 people to attend its inaugural event.

“Shabbat at Massad transcends the generations and everyone we have spoken to has strong memories of Shabbat at camp,” Braemer says. “Indeed, it contributed to the Jewish identity of many Massadniks.” 

While many of those planning to attend the event are grown up Massadniks eager to recapture their past or introduce their children to Ani Omedet Bama'agal, the event is open to anyone who is interested in experiencing a dynamic Kabbalat Shabbat or learning about the most unique Jewish camp experience in North America.

Camp Massad after all is the only Hebrew immersion residential summer camp remaining on the continent. Yet, the use of Hebrew in every program, activity, announcement, shtick, song and discussion, is not Massad’s only unique trait.  The fact that it offers a variety of short and flexible sessions, evening programs every single night, and multi age interactive activities that ensure that every camper on site gets to know every other camper, also make Massad unlike any other Jewish summer camp.  

All those involved in organizing the Massad Shabbat are well aware of what makes Massad so special. Many of them, in fact, eagerly agreed to be interviewed for the documentary, Project Maccabiah, a film about Massad and its signature program that is currently in production.  The filmmakers, Shauna Calnitsky and Amy Manusow from Salty Beach Productions, are both Massad alumni currently living in Toronto.

The making of their film, as well as the establishment of the Toronto alumni group and the launch of its first ever event, come at an auspicious time for Camp Massad.  In 2012-2013 the camp will be celebrating its 60th anniversary with three separate events. The first of these is an on-site alumni reunion the weekend of August 24, 2012, an event that is expected to attract alumni from Toronto, of course, and from around the world.

Visit: to register for the Camp Massad Shabbat
Visit Camp Massad Manitoba - Toronto Alumni on Facebook to learn more about the group
Visit to learn more about Camp Massad
Visit to learn more about Project Maccabiah

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