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Hillel Jews, Brews, and Canoes weekend

Jennifer Johnson, Hillel student from the U of M, June 24, 2013

As a recent convert to Judaism, I’ve celebrated Chanukah, Passover and Shabbat dinners with friends. One Jewish activity I thought I’d never experience was camp, so I was very excited to attend the recent Hillel Jews, Brews, and Canoes weekend at BB camp for young adults.  90 Jewish university students attended what turned out to be a perfect balance of advocacy, cultural, religious and secular activities that catered to all participants’ interests.


Shabbat activities began upon our arrival with an outdoor Kabbalat Shabbat service followed by dinner. Spending Shabbat in the woods elevated the level of spirituality on that day and meeting new friends was wonderful. After dinner, Aryeh Lavy, a former Israeli Yom Kippur War POW, spoke to us about his captivity.  Despite the horror he experienced, he chose not to blame his captors.  He refuses to waste his life and energy by blaming and holding grudges.  His positive attitude provided a fresh perspective for many of us.  We then canoed around the Island, and enjoyed the tranquility of a Lake of the Woods sunset.


Saturday morning services were followed by breakout sessions led by different subject matter experts: Mitzvot with Avi Posen, the Morry Motion with Josh Morry, Tzahal with Zev Faintuch, Camp Leadership with Ashley Kaufman, and Yiddish with Itay Zutra.  I attended Josh’s session on how he achieved banning the Students Against Israeli Apartheid group at University of Manitoba.  I also went to the session on mitzvot, where Avi challenged us to reduce a list of 20 mitzvot to our top ten, and then top five, and then top three, and finally our top mitzvah.  We were divided into three groups, and the final list included Tzedakah, Torah study and belief in God.  It was a thoughtful exercise, and interesting to learn peoples’ different perspectives on mitzvot and Jewish observance.


After lunch, there was time to play sports, canoe, kayak, hit the ropes course, archery and hang out with new friends.  Havdallah was conducted on “the bluff” overlooking the lake. We sat around a bonfire and sang Hebrew songs. I found the sing along to be a very powerful experience: in nature, as the sun set, around a bonfire made it very spiritual.  We ended the night with a dance party.


Sunday morning’s final program was an advocacy workshop conducted by CJPAC’s Eleanor Johnston, who led an interactive discussion on political engagement, why it’s important, and how to advocate effectively for Jewish community issues and Israel.


Avi Posen, Federation’s Hillel and Campus Life Director, summed up the weekend: “It was beautiful to see so many young people connect to share a meaningful Jewish weekend.  To see empowered students from BB Camp, Camp Massad and “non-camp” people all come together was something that needs to continue and we look forward to having even bigger and better Hillel events in the future.”  As a newcomer to Winnipeg’s Jewish community, I cannot wait until the next event.  Thanks for an incredible weekend, Hillel!















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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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