On a sun kissed weekend in June 2006, nearly 300 people gathered together in Quyon, Quebec, to celebrate friendship, history, tradition, and 70 years of Jewish summer camp at Camp B'nai Brith of Ottawa.
It started with the camp's main website where hundreds of photos of alumni began to appear, all contributed by alumni. Today, thousands of photos from as early as 1939 show the history of the camp and the changes over time.
In November of 2005, alumni began to take reunion ideas into their own hands. In Montreal and Vancouver, small groups of former CBBers gathered to renew friendships. Then the monster one happened. At a bar in Toronto in November, Felicia Greenberg, formerly of Ottawa, organized a small gathering, which turned into over 100 people from Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Florida reminiscing about CBB. That night, the reunion date was announced.
From there, it was an exercise in marketing and planning, and a committee linked by email and conference call started planning. The committee, Michael Polowin and Ross Baylin of Ottawa, Danny Chazonoff and Mitch Kastner of Montreal, Felicia Greenberg of Toronto, Debbie Nadel of Vancouver, Lorne Fisher of Florida, Leslie Goldstein of Colorado, and Richard Levine of Baltimore, worked through the months and the details, and on June 23, the former campers and staff arrived.
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All ages, shapes and sizes, from all over North America, people in their 20's to their 70's arrived at CBB, all overwhelmed. Some began crying as they walked down the road into camp. Hugs and kisses were exchanged. Most would say that they were not prepared for the depth of emotion as they arrived.
Former CBBer's jumped right into the programming. Some arrived with their waterskis, tennis rackets and baseball gloves under their arms. People swam in the pool, canoed, sailed and schmoozed. Grins and smiles were everywhere. Floor hockey, newcomball, and baseball dominated Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. On Saturday, the main event - the Apache relay - all over camp - the events took place, from the silly to the athletic. It culminated after dark with the traditional "burn rope burn".
Thankfully, with all the activity, while all of us thought we were 18 again, all just kids again, none of us were - but apart from a few muscle pulls, no-one was the worse for wear after the weekend.
Saturday's lunch, honoured all the former Directors that were able to join us, and to blow out the candles on CBB's 70th birthday cake. A traditional camp picture was taken, with former Directors of the camp front and centre, as they always were.
Saturday night, a late night BBQ and bonfire was held. Music was provided by former campers Kenny Smilovitch (at the bonfire) and Steve Rivers and Lewis Levin (in the mess hall).
Throughout the weekend, the reaction was the same. No-one expected the depth of emotion that we all felt. None of us really understood until we were there, how much the people and place meant to all of us. And all of us were glad we had come, and looked forward to coming back and sharing the experience again.