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Camp Kadimah alumni come from far and wide for reunion

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From left, Sandra Simon Hoffman, Shirlee Arron Medjuck, Debbie Mosher, and Rita Mintz Altszuler – all of whom attended the first session of Camp Kadimah in 1943 – light Shabbat candles at the camp’s 75th anniversary celebration in Halifax in July. (Spencer Halickman photo)

After a few minutes, it was as if nothing had changed. At CK 75, a celebration of 75 years of Camp Kadimah in Lunenburg County, N.S., campers and staff from 1943 onward saw each other for the first time in decades.

More than 400 alumni and friends of the revered summer camp gathered at the end of July to re-kindle relationships, embellish stories and remember the carefree summers of sports, song and dance, arts and crafts, drama, boating, swimming and even serious discussions about Israel and Jewish issues.

The 75th anniversary celebration brought alumni from Atlantic Canada, as well as places such as Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and as far away as Oslo and Israel.

“I had such immediate emotion when I saw so many friends from years ago,” cried Faith Guss, who was raised in Saint John, N.B., but has lived in Norway for the past 40 years. She was 10 when she came to Kadimah for six weeks during the summer of 1954 and hasn’t seen the camp since 1963.

“I wanted to see everybody,” said Guss. “I’ve never been anywhere where I felt I belonged so much. Kadimah has such a richness and warmth.”

That message was echoed all weekend.

From left, Howard Conter, Michael Soberman, Michael Pink and Karen Conter celebrate the 75th anniversary of Camp Kadimah in Barss Corner, N.S., in July. (Spencer Halickman photo)

Semon Jacobson, who grew up in Halifax but emigrated to Toronto in the 1960s and has since sent children and grandchildren to the camp, said that, “It makes the heart feel good to see all these people again, so happy and filled with such fond memories.”

His nephew, Jonah, who’s now in his 40s and living in San Francisco, hasn’t been back since 1996. “It’s a whole new camp,” said Jonah Jacobson, remarking on the new cabins, sports fields and expanded waterfront. “I parked my car on a field that was woods when I was here between the mid-’80s and ’96. I saw camp compatriots who are now adults, and adults who were my campers when I was a counsellor.”

At the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax on Friday night, a traditional camp Shabbat dinner was held. It included roasted chicken and all the fixings and everyone was clad in white and blue, as the candles were lit by four of the original campers from 1943.

Rita Mintz Altszuler, who was originally from Halifax but now lives in New York, said, “I remember I was just so happy to be away from home for the first time, to meet new friends from across the Atlantic region.”

Members of Evie Dubinsky Carnat’s family lead a tribute to the late song and dance instructor at Camp Kadimah, during the camp’s 75th anniversary celebration in Barss Corner, N.S., in July. (Spencer Halickman photo)

A singing tribute to long-time music director Evie Dubinsky Carnat was performed by her family and left few dry eyes, as people sang along to Kadimah and Israeli folk standards.

Saturday morning Shabbat services, a playground picnic for young children and grandchildren of alumni, and a typical Kadimah Saturday night social completed the Halifax portion of the weekend. A 30-minute slide show encompassing all 75 years brought screams of delight as people saw themselves as they used to be.

Gail Gottlieb Fenwick, a Halifax native who lives in Toronto, spent seven summers at the camp. “All three of my children went to Kadimah, as campers and staff. Everyone should go there. There will always be connections with Kadimah people for me. It never goes away,” she said

The annual visitors’ day brought back more memories. Local men and women who have contributed to life at the camp were honoured, including its caretakers, chef of 25 years and the owner of the local general store.

“Camp is my family,” says chef Anne Joudrey of Barss Corner, N.S., where the camp is located. She’s prepared countless meals throughout the years. The kids’ favourite? “Pizza, without doubt,” she laughs.

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Camp Kadimah 75 sign burns brightly on a barge in Halifax Harbour during the 75th anniversary celebration of Camp Kadimah in July. (Spencer Halickman photo)

Camp board co-chair Michael Pink summed up the weekend: “It was so exciting to see four generations of families come together to celebrate 75 years. The hevrah, the ruach. There is no way to duplicate this feeling – ever.”