By Natalie Shribman
I grew up going to a rustic, minimalist camp in Algonquin Park with almost no electricity, no boys, and no religion. Their main focus is canoe trips, promoting self-esteem, and body image of girls, and it has been my second home for 15 years. I loved tripping in Algonquin and Temagami, operating the ropes course, creating close relationships with the campers and staff, and living in the woods. But earlier this year, when I was deciding how to spend my summer, I realized that my camp experience was missing one thing that was of vital importance to me: Judaism.
And so I asked my classmates at HUC for a Jewish camp in Canada and Camp George came up several times with high praise. It wasn’t much later that I became part of the Camp George community.
I felt a part of the Camp George community from my first time I saw Maple Lake while driving down Goodfellowship Road. I had felt afraid and overwhelmed before arriving, but as soon as the mixers begun, I only felt overwhelmed with joy and laughter. I remember writing in my journal my first night here that I already felt comfortable and like I belonged.
My first week with campers was nothing like I imagined—I spent my time leading services by the water, reciting the bedtime Shema in campers’ cabins, building birkat hamahouses, making my own tefillan, and experiencing a camp Shabbat for the first time. I love how my days feel Jewish from morning to night. From singing Moda Ani in the morning to singing Birkat HaMazon after each meal, Judaism has become an integral part of my camp experience. It has only been a week, but already I feel my camp experience as a whole has improved because I have the privilege of combining two of my favorite interests, Judaism and nature. Judaism and camp used to be two separate interests of mine, but with my time at Camp George these two interests have become fused into one amazing experience.
As hard as it was for me to embrace a different camp experience, Camp George has opened new doors for me. Back in November when I made the decision to spend my summer in Parry Sound, I was nervous and anxious for the coming summer. While Camp George is extremely different from Tanamakoon, it has been more than enough to affect me, leave a mark, and enlighten my camp experience.