OTTAWA — “We have travelled far, hitched our vessel to a star, but never more we’ll have to roam… for we realize it was right before our eyes at Kadimah, our second home.”
Nearly 300 people travelled far – from Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Kingston, Windsor, Northern Ontario, Vancouver, New York and Houston – to relive the Camp Kadimah feeling evoked by the camp song at a recent reunion in Toronto.
Camp Kadimah, a Canadian Young Judaea summer camp in Lunenberg, N.S., has been in existence for 65 years. Owned and operated by the Atlantic Jewish Council, it began as a place for Jewish children from the Atlantic provinces to come together in the summer and have a happy, healthy, fun-filled experience with other Jewish children. In many cities, towns and villages, there were – and still are – very few Jews, and for many, Kadimah has been the main Jewish connection available.
Over the years, as the Jewish population in Atlantic Canada dwindled, a funny thing happened. Camp Kadimah didn’t get smaller or have trouble staying afloat. Instead, it has grown in both size and popularity. As alumni moved away, they began to send their children “back home” for the summer, and generations of people who never lived in Atlantic Canada formed strong bonds with the region. They, in turn, brought friends who had no other connection, but fell in love with the camp and the region.
The vast majority of Kadimah campers now come from outside the Atlantic provinces, mainly from the Toronto area. Realizing that there are so many alumni living in Toronto, some camp committee members got the idea of holding a Kadimah reunion there. Spearheaded by Michael Freedman (originally from Saint John, N.B.), who attended Kadimah from 1966 to 1980, and his co-convenor Shawna Perlin (originally from Halifax), a reunion committee was formed and the planning began.
Though the committee was hoping for 150 people, nearly double that number arrived at The Terraces of Baycrest on a Saturday evening last month. They ranged in age from teenagers (present-day campers who volunteered to help out for the evening) to senior citizens, all searching for familiar faces in the crowd.
Past camp committee chair Mark Rosen and current co-chairs Victor Goldberg, Jim Spatz and Michael Pink all came from Halifax for the reunion. Past camp directors Benny Prossin, Morty Brown, Melvin Brown and Marty Zatzman, who all live in Toronto, attended and reminisced with former camp friends.
The bonds formed by Kadimah alumni are lifelong and cross geographic boundaries.
“I believe it [the camp] had a major influence on making me who I am today, as there isn’t a day that goes by that I am not reminded of something from camp,” Freedman said.
His wife, Tracy Berman, grew up in Toronto and did not attend Kadimah; however, her life has been influenced by it as well. “One of the conditions of our marriage was that our children would go to Camp Kadimah, and they did,” she said.
Many couples met at Kadimah, and many families have two and three generations of Kadimah alumni.
As the evening wore on, people danced to the music of The Casualties, roamed around the room to mix and mingle, watched videos and looked at the photo board. For one beautiful evening, as the snow fell outside, they were back in Nova Scotia reliving the endless summer of their youth.