I vaguely remember my first summer at Jewish overnight camp. I was eight years old and spending the month of July on my own for the first time ever. I remember Shabbat prayers overlooking the waterfront on Friday nights. I remember Maccabiah (colour wars) and the excitement of the whole camp reaching a feverish pitch. I remember the loud cheering of all of the campers in the chadar ochel (dining hall). I remember crying with my friends as we left camp and headed home for the new school year. All are memories that will stay with me for a lifetime. These summers were formative years for me; all of them from my first year as a camper to my last year on staff as the "Camp Mom". Woven seamlessly into all of these memories was the strong sense of Jewish values and tradition.
Jewish summer camp provided a unique forum to deepen my understanding of my Jewish identity, at times very deliberate and other times much more subtle. It is an extremely important experience for children in our community. This is why I'm so excited about the upcoming first annual Overnight Jewish Camp Fair that's being organized by the Hamilton Jewish Federation at J Hamilton, 1605 Main St. W. in Hamilton, on Dec. 2 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The camp fair will have representatives from many of the Jewish summer camps across Ontario that represent the entire spectrum of Jewish culture and identity. As part of the fair, there will be a variety of Chanukah-themed activities organized and led by the camps, as well as soofganiyot (Israeli-style jelly donuts) and refreshments. In addition to the overnight camps, Camp Kadimah, our local Jewish day camp will also be present. Finally, the Hamilton Jewish Federation will be raffling off prizes to assist with the tuition for those who register for the summer at a Jewish overnight camp.
I sincerely hope that the community will join me in the goal of sending more Jewish children to Jewish summer camps this summer, and I look forward to seeing you all at the camp fair.