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Massadniks on a rainy night in July

By BERNIE BELLAN With the gorgeous summer we’ve been enjoying thus far, campers at our two sleep-over camps can consider themselves blessed.

Rady JCC day camp


Camp Gan Israel campers
Gray Academy Grade 7 students and BB Camp staff who are Gray Academy alumni this past June.

But, it's not just BB Camp and Camp Massad that have found themselves inundated with campers. The Rady JCC day camp has had an astounding 1750 registrations this summer. And Camp Gan Israel, the day camp run by the Chabad Lubavitch movement, has also had 97 registrants.

Both BB and Massad though have found themselves expanding to accommodate many new campers from the Russian-Israeli community that has become the primary source of newcomers to Winnipeg's Jewish community.

In response to an email I sent her, BB Camp Executive Director Brenda Tessler Donen  supplied us with information about how popular her camp has been this summer. She wrote that,  “We have 312 campers between the ages of 7 – 16 years attending resident Camp this summer. The Camp is also operating a day camp that has 350 campers.”
 In response to a question I posed about how many of the campers are from families that are new to Winnipeg, Brenda wrote, “I would estimate that 20% of our camper population are from Russian speaking families.”     
She also noted: “Our engagement with newcomers is a priority for the Camp.  We have had a positive response for our day based programs which has resulted in families registering for resident camp.  Integrating new Canadian youth has been highly successful and in fact, five of the Camp’s staff are Russian speaking.  The Camp also has  eight staff who were originally from South America.”
Brenda added the following information:
“For our Open House program in June, we had 174 children and adults in attendance.  80% of the registrants were Russian speaking families.
“Our Family Weekend program had a record attendance of 136 people (from infancy to seniors)  - 20% were Russian speaking families.”
“The Camp has had a very successful outdoor ed season – with 13 schools from both Manitoba and Ontario including Gray Academy.  The Canadian Diabetes Association will be hosting their six day camp program at BB Camp in late August.  Over 100 participants attend that program.    
“On August 6, BB Camp in partnership with the PJ Library program will host ‘PJ Goes to BB Camp’ – over 120 adults and children will attend this day long event and close to 75% of the participants are Russian speaking.”

I also spoke with Camp Massad Executive Director Danial Sprintz. Although Camp Massad has a much smaller capacity than BB Camp, it too has been enjoying record registrations, to the point, Danial noted, that they had “to close registration in certain age groups”.
Total registration for both the first and second sessions numbers 195, I was told. As well, the day camp (which is open to kids 6 and under), and which is able to take in 20 kids each session, has had 35 registrants.
(By the way, although both BB and Massad  accept kids age 7 and up for sleep-over camp, next year Massad will expand its “Bisseleh Massad” program – currently open to 7-year-olds, and which offers one week of sleep-over camp, to include 6-year-olds.)
I also asked Danial the same question I had posed to Brenda: “How many of Massad’s campers come from newcomer families?”
Danial said that “between 35-40 percent” of the campers at Massad come from newcomer families – which would put it in the range of 70 kids altogether. Using Brenda’s figure of 20 percent of BB Camp’s total registration of 350 coming from Russian-speaking families, that also works out to another 70 kids from newcomer families – or a total of 140 kids from newcomer families altogether at both camps.

Now, at this point I ought to be careful what I write, because there’s a fair bit of rivalry between the two sleep-over camps. Frankly, Massad has always portrayed itself as “the poor sibling” – offering to make up in spirit what it can’t offer (in comparison with BB) in resources.
That being said, Danial did note that Massad has continued to improve its physical infrastructure. There is a new basketball court, which is as good a court as you’ll find anywhere, he suggested, – with NBA quality nets.
In addition, “we’ve refurbished four of the cabins,” Danial said. “We’ve also planted about 500 new trees.” (That, combined with the vastly improved drainage system, means Massad is no longer the swamp it used to be after a heavy rain.)
But, what Massad is really all about, Danial insisted, is “inclusion” – in an identifiably “Jewish” camp. Taking a veiled swipe at BB, Danial said: “If you come from another country and you want to send your kid to a Jewish camp,” then you’ll send him or her to Massad. (Oy, am I going to get a blast from Brenda after she reads this. Hey, let’s be fair then: BB is a Jewish camp, too. There has always been a sort of reverse snobbery with Massadniks…you know, “we’re not the rich camp; we’ve always toughed it out.” It’s all in good, healthy fun for campers and staff – both current and former, to take a poke at the other camp.)

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