HALIFAX — On a glorious July afternoon, the eyes of Ziv Nevo Kulman expressed admiration and sometimes envy of what Camp Kadimah in Nova Scotia offers more than 250 campers and 100 staff.
“What a wonderful place,” said the Israeli consul general for Quebec and the Atlantic provinces during a three-hour visit to the venerable camp that opened in 1943 at Barss Corner, about 100 kilometres from Halifax on Nova Scotia’s south shore.
“Growing up in Israel, I went to day camps for a week at a time, but never to a six-week camp like this. This is so special for these young people. In Israel, your Jewish identity is guaranteed because you live in Israel, unlike [in Canada] with such a diverse population. This [camp] feels like a kibbutz. It’s so well organized and everyone knows each other.”
Nearing the end of the first year of a four-year term as consul general, Nevo Kulman was making his first visit to the camp and second to the region.
“Now that it’s summer, it’s like discovering a new country [after a severe winter in Quebec]. I’m seeing Canada now with a new perspective. The people [in summer] are totally different,” he said with a smile.
During a tour of the camp grounds, Phil David, in his first year as camp director after spending summers as a camper and staff member, stressed to Nevo Kulman how Kadimah is warm, accepting and judgment-free.
“Our theme this summer is ‘Be a mensch,’ which really has different definitions but boils down to ‘Be nice to people and be supportive.’”
David said camp enrolment is up by more than 10 per cent, with 257 campers, 70 from Atlantic Canada, 15 from areas outside Ontario and the balance (about 175) from Ontario, mostly Toronto.
“Many are children and grandchildren of camp alumni from the Atlantic provinces who are now living in the Toronto-area,” he said. “We are into our fourth generation of Maritime families at Kadimah. There is a very strong retention rate, probably close to 90 per cent, and the children and their families have been solid ambassadors for Kadimah.”
On this day, Nevo Kulman observed a one-day Tennis Nova Scotia clinic for all age groups. It’s part of a program, co-ordinated through Sport Nova Scotia, that has also brought instructors from the provincial organizations for softball, basketball and water skiing to the camp.
Yet, the importance of the Jewish aspect can’t be overlooked, said Michael Pink of Halifax, camp committee co-chair with Michael Soberman of Toronto.
“Camp Kadimah fills a strong educational and developmental role for those who don’t attend Jewish day schools. Our cultural program gives our children from the smallest communities in this region, and those Ontarians who don’t attend day school, a sense of their Jewishness.”
David, Cape Breton-born but a Toronto resident for many years, has a full-time Kadimah office during the off-camp season. He stressed how he and the Atlantic Jewish Council, which owns and supports the camp, have targeted the Toronto market.
“When we can offer what we do for much less cost than other private and/or Jewish-focused camps, even when you take into account the airfare for the campers to and from Toronto, it’s a bargain for these families. And we include laundry, tuck, out-of-camp trips and even the bus to and from Halifax or the airport to Kadimah.” n