School ends this week, and the kids are ready for summer! Amongst the most popular options for summer camp are the Soloway JCC Day Camps (SJCC), Camp B’nai Brith of Ottawa Overnight Camp (CBB), and Camp Gan Israel Day Camp (CGI). All three camps offer a diverse range of programming and activities to encourage the growth and development of kids with any interest -- sports, arts, swimming, Shabbat programming, and more. The SJCC offers programs for kids from ages 2-14, CBB provides fun for kids ages 7-16 and CGI programs for kids 18 months to 9 years old for boys and 12 years old for girls.
The E-Bulletin was thrilled to connect with Gail Lieff, the Sports and Speciality Camps Director, Reesa Shinder, the Day Camps Director, both from the SJCC, Jill Doctor, Associate Director of CBB, and Devora Caytak, Director of CGI. This is a very busy time for them, but they were excited to share what this summer has in store for the kids.
E-Bulletin: What does it look like to prepare a camp for the arrival of the campers?
CBB: We have an expression at CBB, 10 months for 2. We spend 10 months planning and getting excited for two months of summer fun. The past 10 months have been like no other as we have been busy updating and replacing many of our most popular facilities. CBB campers and staff are going to love our new mini-putt, tennis courts, pickleball, and basketball courts, and our beautiful new CBB gymnasium, which was used in summer 2022, but is now 100% finished. But camp is nothing without our amazing staff! The supervisor team will be heading up to camp first, followed by the rest of the staff a few days later. They will spend time training, bonding, and preparing to provide an unforgettable summer for all our campers.
SJCC: At SJCC Summer Camps we are busy getting everything organized so that when campers arrive on Day 1, we can hit the ground running. We are loading up on new supplies for arts & crafts, outdoor games, and more. We will be transforming all the rooms at the SJCC, including Ganon Preschool, into camp-friendly spaces and arranging campers in swim groups according to their level since we are bringing back swim lessons for the first time since the pandemic. Our staff will be getting together for training, bonding, and getting creative with plans for their groups. Parents can log into a Zoom call with our camp directors to learn what they can expect from SJCC Summer Camps.
CGI: Camp Gan Israel of Ottawa is a summer camp dedicated to enriching the lives of children from diverse Jewish backgrounds and affiliations through a stimulating camping experience. We are part of the largest and fastest growing network of day camps, enjoying a reputation as a pioneer in Jewish camping, with innovative ideas and creative activities, to provide both enjoyment and inspiration to children along with encouragement to try new things. There is a tremendous amount of creativity and hard work that goes into planning a summer of fun.
We have 10 counselors coming to Ottawa this summer from all over North America. These are high school kids who want to give campers a fabulous time at camp and a good feeling about being Jewish.
EB: What is the most exciting part of welcoming kids to camp?
CBB: There is nothing better than seeing those full busses pull into camp and watch the smiling campers pour of out them. There is so much excitement in the air as the kids reunite with their camp friends and run to hug their favourite staff members. All our staff is there and ready to greet and high-five all the kids whether it’s their first or fifth summer. The camp is filled with love and ruach (spirit) and it’s what drives us!
SJCC: Summer is a special time when our building is alive and buzzing with happy smiling kids, singing and cheering throughout the day. It is great to see so many familiar faces summer after summer. That tells us that we are doing something right! Ottawa families know that their kids will have a positive experience at the SJCC Summer Camps and for many, it’s a familiar and comfortable place where kids feel welcome and at home. It is so rewarding to see a new camper, who might not know anyone or ever attended a program at the SJCC, come out of their shell, make new friends, and thrive over the summer.
CGI: On a personal note, I think one parent summed up Camp Gan Izzy of Ottawa in a few words, "This camp is the only place in Ottawa where Jewish children, from every different background imaginable, religious, not religious, reform, Orthodox, non-affiliated, etc. can spend a summer together having fun, without any hang-ups about being friends." Helping each camper find their love of Judaism is what makes camp exciting every summer.
EB: What expectations do you have for Summer 2023?
CBB: CBB has been providing Jewish kids with exceptional summer experiences for more than 80 seasons and this year will be better than ever! Aside from all the amazing new facilities, we have a new director, Dov “Bear” Shapiro, who brings with him years of camping experience. Our veteran admin team of Justin, Jill, and Marnie, together with Bear’s fresh perspective is a recipe for summer perfection. There are so many new programs and activities that the campers are going to love plus all the CBB traditional favorites.
SJCC: This is the first summer, post-COVID, where we can really get back to a “normal” summer. We expect our campers to have an unforgettable summer as we bring back a wide variety of Specialty Camps (11 in total), more exciting field trips, and amazing special guest visitors. It’s going to be a great summer!
CGI: Our hope is that Jewish children are excited about being Jewish, and that they increase their knowledge while being in a safe environment having extreme amounts of fun. One camper came to camp not knowing how to swim and after our daily professional swimming lessons, went on to become a competitive swimmer. Another camper connected so deeply with her Judaism that she decided to make the switch from public school to Jewish day school. It is a privilege to be part of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's vision to make this world a better place to live and grow as a Jew.
To learn more about SJCC camps visit: https://www.jccottawa.com/sjcc-summer-camps/
To learn more about CBB visit: https://www.cbbottawa.com/
To learn more about Camp Gan Israel visit: https://www.cgiottawa.org/
To learn about more camping options visit: https://www.jewishottawa.com/family-and-kids/camps