There weren’t very many Jewish families in New Glasgow, N.S., where Harvey David grew up. Maybe five, 10 at most. Nor were there very many opportunities to foster David’s sense of Jewish identity or community. He attended the local YMCA-run camp for a few years, but when Camp Kadimah opened in 1943, when David was 12, he signed up immediately.
“It was a good experience. A lot of my friends that I have today are friends that I made at Kadimah,” he said. “Where I was living, in New Glasgow, you couldn’t even have the opportunity to mingle or make friends with Jewish people. When I went to Kadimah, they were all Jews there. I enjoyed the experience for a young fellow. It was a good experience for me, no doubt about it.”
When David’s daughters were old enough, they went to the camp, as well. Shayna David-Macy, who began going to camp in 1974, remembers her experience as being similar to that of her father’s.
“I was from a small town, New Glasgow, and we were the only Jewish family with kids at that time. So I went (to Kadimah) only knowing cousins that were going. And as soon as I got there, I met friends and we stayed in touch after camp and we’re still friends today,” she said. “I remember lots of things about the camp, but I would say that is something that stuck with me – the lifelong friendships that I made.”
David-Macy also appreciated the Jewish content offered by the camp. Similar to her father, she didn’t have many chances to learn about, or participate in, communal Jewish life in her home town. At Camp Kadimah, she learned about Israel and some Hebrew words.
By the time her kids were old enough to go to camp, her family was living near Toronto, so they didn’t originally attend Kadimah. But her eldest son, Aaron Macy, tried out Kadimah in 2009, after having negative experiences at some other camps, and quickly grew to love it. He specifically remembers the moment in 2011 when he was doing an Oneg dance on Shabbat and wished his two younger brothers were with him.
“I just remember thinking to myself, ‘This is such a generational thing, I need to bring my brothers along. I want them to experience this, too.’ It feels timeless when you’re there. And the next summer, my brothers came to camp,” he said.
Macy said he is proud to be a third-generation camper. “There’s something really special about finding your aunt’s name in a cabin from the ’80s and the ’90s,” he said. “It’s really cool that they were there before, when they were your age. It’s not something that I really grew up with in Toronto.”
Susie Freedman Tapper has seen her children experience the same thing. She attended Camp Massad, a Hebrew immersion camp in Manitoba, for three years as a camper and another four as a counsellor, and now sits on its board of directors. It’s where Freedman Tapper and her husband shared their first kiss, and where her two daughters, Maddy and Emily, are this summer.
One summer, Maddy found Freedman Tapper’s name signed on a wall from 1984, her first year at the camp. Maddy signed her name next to it.
Freedman Tapper said that she and her daughters enjoy talking about what camp was like then, and what it’s like now.
“It’s a nice connection, another shared experience that we have with them. So, of course, over the past 20, 30 years, things have changed, but there are many things that still remain the same.… So, you know, we talk about, ‘Oh, back in our day, we did it like this and we did that,’ but we can have that shared experience with them that’s really special,” she said.
“Having it be … a place where you know your family has gone, and you’ve heard their stories about it, it automatically gives you a connection to that place.”
Joanna Shapiro attended Camp Ramah in Ontario as a camper and a counsellor, and returned as the camp doctor years later when her children started going there. Shapiro said she remembers camp as a special and spiritual place, and she wanted her kids to have a chance to experience the same thing.
Although Shapiro’s children attend Ramah, she said she would have been happy for them to go to any Jewish camp. That being said, she’s glad that she and her kids can bond over specific Ramah details, from the opening night meal, to the big camp-wide events.
“I think they like the idea of a legacy. They have this ‘yom sport’ (which means day of sports), which is this big tradition, and it’s been going on ever since the camp started. And they feel proud to know that I was involved in yom sport,” Shapiro said. “We talk about, ‘Doesn’t this smell like camp, doesn’t this weather feel like camp?’ … Certain things don’t change at all and the kids laugh about that.”