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Children participate in unique programming at Camp Massad

Children explore their Jewish identity at Camp Massad


by Zach Fleisher, university student and counsellor at Camp Massad, Jan. 5, 2011

 One of the unique aspects of North American Jewry is the Jewish summer camp. Across North America, there are hundreds of these camps, which include affiliated Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and independent camps. These camps offer an assortment of different focuses, including drama, sports, outdoor activity, Zionism and Jewish identity. Camps offer thousands of Jewish children and teens a safe place to explore their Judaism.

 While Jewish camps provide short term benefits in terms of exciting and enjoyable times to be had by campers, there are also long term benefits. In addition to lifelong friendships formed at camps, The Foundation for Jewish Camp ( provides us with some interesting statistics. Findings show that adults who attended Jewish camps are 30% more likely to donate to a Jewish charity, 37% more likely to light Shabbat candles, 45% more likely to attend synagogue monthly or more and 55% more likely to be emotionally attached to Israel. Clearly, these aspects are all positive in helping to keep the Jewish spirit and tradition alive.
 I am happy to say that most Jewish summer camps help shape these statistics, but one camp that I think stands out among the hundreds in North American camps, summer after summer is Camp Massad. Situated in Winnipeg Beach, in Manitoba, Canada. Founded in 1953, Massad is located about an hour north of Winnipeg, in the beautiful cottage country area of Winnipeg Beach and the Interlake. For 58 years, Massad has fostered a Jewish identity, a strong sense of Zionism and the Hebrew language for thousands of campers from Winnipeg, and also from other cities in North America. Massad offers a campsite that includes an outdoor pool, tennis and basketball courts and a scenic setting within walking distance of Winnipeg Beach.
There are several reasons why Massad is unique among all other Jewish summer camps, and why its continued existence is very important.
Camp Massad had its beginnings as a Habonim camp, and in its first few years, adopted a very secularist policy in terms of religion. Since then, Massad has grown to bring in different aspects of Jewish tradition in its daily prayers services and beautiful Shabbat evening and morning services, as well as daily camp activity. This is important because it teaches campers about Jewish tradition and practices without promoting an affiliated (Conservative, Orthodox or Reform) aspect. Campers from all of the affiliated (and non-affiliated) backgrounds are able to feel comfortable at Massad. Massad also carries on the Jewish tradition of ruach (spirit) in its plays, prayers and daily life.
 Since its inception, Massad has created an environment that promotes and presents a strong sense of Zionism for the campers. In recent years, the connection between Diaspora Jews and Israel has been weakening. Fewer North American Jews feel a strong connection to Israel. Massad is the opposite, where every camper has the opportunity to connect to Israel in a variety of ways. From having Israeli counsellors on the staff, planning and running entire days dedicated to Israel and planning intense and meaningful simulation programs for advanced campers, Massad is first class in terms of Zionistic and Israeli content. Every camper at Massad has a powerful sense and love for Israel instilled in them by the time they leave the camp.
  Programming is also unparalleled at Camp Massad. Massad offers incredible programs like Maccabiah, where the camp is divided into two teams, with each team presenting a themed dinner and play, Televizia (where campers act in short television styled plays) and Yom Sport (the camp is divided in two and participates in multiple sporting activities). These are only a few of the many programs offered at Massad. Because of the focus on ruach (spirit), Massad is able to add its own unique touch to several different aspects of camp life, such as sport, dance, arts and crafts, scouting and Israeli content.
 The final defining reason why Camp Massad is extremely important to this generation of Jewish children is its role as a Hebrew speaking camp. Early on it its history, Massad adopted a Hebrew immersion format. All programming that takes place at the camp is in Hebrew; all the buildings and areas are assigned Hebrew names and campers are divided into age groups with Hebrew designations. Campers without a fluent understanding of Hebrew are also welcomed; the majority of them begin to pick up the language within a couple of days, and function easily. While Massad Hebrew is by no means perfect, it definitely helps children learn a language by using it in their day to day discourse. Because of the immersion format of the camp, the Hebrew language will continue to be practiced for generations, as well as exposing the language to campers who might not normally come in contact with the language.
  It is for these reasons that Camp Massad is clearly unique among Jewish North American summer camps. For more information, visit the camp website at, or phone the camp office at 204-477-7487.
 Camp Massad is also presenting its annual camper reunion in the form of Rikud Zar (dance) at the Asper Jewish Community Campus on Sunday, January 23rd 2011 at 5:30. Cost is 10.00$ a person, or 5.00$ when bringing a friend who has never been to Massad. Cost includes a light supper.
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.