By: Tamara Leszner-Rovet, alumna
When I was asked to contribute to the Camp George blog to speak about the Inaugural C.I.T program year (2000), I immediately tried to find the photo album which had all the memories of that summer in it. (Yes, we used actual cameras back then!) It didn’t take me long to find it thankfully, and as I was looking through, all the memories of that summer came flooding back. I found one of my most favourite photos, which is me covered from head to toe in red paint as part of the red team for Maccabiah.
Coming from a different camp where I never liked participating in camp wide activities, this was the first time that something like Maccabiah was so exciting for me. The staff made it sound so fun, and I dove right in with full spirit and had an absolute blast! Traditions like Maccabiah are what make Camp George so special. Being part of the inaugural C.I.T. program, my fellow C.I.T.’s and I were able to create some of the traditions that would be traditions carried out by C.I.T.’s for many years to come.
We had no idea that setting up and hanging out on camping chairs in a circle outside of the mini-lodge, planning second session Maccabiah (including creating the entire arts component- my song won!), learning how to plan and implement programs, planning and carrying out C.I.T. Shabbat, planning second session banquet (our theme was “The Garden of Eden” and the center of the Chadar had a huge fake apple tree in it!), and our bonding trip (which for us was a canoe trip that would later become the Ottawa rafting trip) would still be traditions carried out by the C.I.T.’s to this day.
I came to Camp George knowing almost no one, desperately needing a change and a place to freely explore my Jewish identity. It didn’t take long for me to immediately feel at home. In fact, I never wanted to come home after that summer. In all honesty, my C.I.T. summer was probably the best summer of my life! We were still able to be campers, but with the extra responsibilities and respect of staff members, with the hopes of becoming future leaders in the camp and Jewish community. After my C.I.T. summer, I spent another 7 summers at camp, most notably as the Tuck Shop manager, and when I could no longer spend my summers at camp, I was part of the Alumni committee for many years following.
All participants in our C.I.T. program became instant friends with hundreds of inside jokes, and it was a group where you were welcome no matter where you came from, and all imperfections were embraced and celebrated. During my C.I.T. summer, I was truly allowed to be myself without judgment in such a special, welcoming, and accepting community. Everyone who goes through the C.I.T. program at Camp George has their own C.I.T. summer story. My 3 brothers all went through the C.I.T. program, as have many of my cousins. It connects us to speak about our C.I.T. summer memories.
As I look back, the C.I.T. program played a huge role in my life now as a business owner, Music Therapist, and as a mom. The C.I.T. program gave me the chance to explore my likes and dislikes, learn how to interact with people and make connections, how to properly plan and implement programs for people all ages, and ultimately provided the necessary skills and tools I needed for the real world. It was such an honour and a privilege to be part of the Inaugural C.I.T. program. Camp George is such a special place that still holds fond memories and friendships in my heart, even after all these years.
And even today when life gets really hectic, I sometimes close my eyes and take myself back to that summer of hanging out on Maple Lake, without a care in the world, feeling so lucky to have been part of such an amazing community. I can’t wait for my son, Mason, to be old enough to attend Camp George and experience this wonderful community himself. Perhaps one day he will sit down with me to bond over memories of his C.I.T. summer. From Generation to generation, l’dor v’dor.
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