Land-based activities at Camp Hatikvah form a large part of the summer experience. (photo from camphatikvah.com)
Like most everything, camp enrolment goes in cycles. And, for the past few years, Camp Hatikvah has had a waiting list for its first session, a full second session and has closed off the summers with the highly popular Family Camp experience that sells out within hours of registration opening in October the year prior. With the largest-ever single age group of campers rising through the ranks, Hatikvah is looking to expand its facilities to accommodate these campers as they move toward the counselor-in-training program.
Camp Hatikvah has a formula that seems to be working well. In order to fill every bunk, current board president Joanna Wasel worked closely with camp director Liza Rozen-Delman to make some changes in programming. In addition, they have brought the concept of camper care front and centre, and the programming is more flexible than the camp experience of yesteryear. As but one example, Hatikvah has been bringing in specialist instructors for activities such as tennis or mountain biking to run weekly sessions, and such initiatives are drawing campers. Once their interest is piqued, the kids tend to come back year after year.
“Liza does an excellent job ensuring that the campers are well cared for, safe and happy,” said Wasel. “I believe her reputation of providing exceptional camper care is the primary reason we are seeing the success we are today.”
While Camp Hatikvah has been known for years as a watersport camp, the land-based activities have been overhauled during Wasel’s tenure as president. “We are now able to offer expert instruction from professionals in a plethora of land activities including tennis, football, basketball, fitness, yoga, dance and more,” she told the Independent. “The change has been dramatic and campers are now equally engaged on land and water.”
Those who remember their own experiences of the “good old days” of camp continue the tradition, and send their children, according to Rozen-Delman. “Many of our campers are second- or third-generation participants,” she said. “Our camp is rich in traditions and many of the programs we offer our campers today are based on programs their grandparents participated in during the ’50s and ’60s and their parents did in the ’70s and ’80s. We are very proud of this dedication to our roots and traditions and believe this makes our camp experience even more meaningful.”
The list of former campers reads a bit like a who’s who of the local Jewish community, something that shows the link between camp attendance and Jewish community involvement. Many of the children from Camp Hatikvah are already well ensconced within the community; many are students at Vancouver Talmud Torah. Rozen-Delman noted that campers also come from Alberta, Ontario, Washington and California. Hatikvah has combined a number of initiatives to draw a diverse group of campers, some of whom have no other connection with the Jewish community.
The effort to diversify and attract unaffiliated Jews this year has been aided by the Laskin Outreach Fund. This initiative, created and entirely funded by Elliot and Megan Laskin, provides $1,800 (almost the full fee) to first-time campers from British Columbia with little or no Jewish communal engagement to try Camp Hatikvah in its second summer session.
Both Wasel and Rozen-Delman stress that the programming at Camp Hatikvah is oriented toward helping children develop as members of the community. As a pluralistic camp, children from all sorts of Jewish backgrounds are introduced to and experience the camp’s motto: “Leadership by example.”
Although the programming for younger campers is focused on fun and socializing, with some Zionist and Jewish learning, it is the staff-in-training (SIT) program that begins the leadership training in earnest.
“This program is designed specifically to enhance the leadership abilities and traits of our campers. Participants engage in almost daily hadracha (leadership) sessions or discussions where they learn the importance of leadership, citizenship and community,” said Rozen-Delman of SIT.
Both Wasel and Rozen-Delman are alumna of Camp Hatikvah, with Wasel starting as a camper in 1988 and Rozen-Delman in 1979. Both have worked and volunteered within the Jewish community, in addition to their work at Camp Hatikvah.
While local Jewish life is part of the formula, Hatikvah’s Zionist roots are as strong as ever. Last summer, there were 14 Israeli schlichim (emissaries) on staff.
This year’s camp sessions are both looking like they will be full, said Rozen-Delman. For more information on the camp, subsidies to attend or the Laskin Outreach initiative, call the camp office at 604-263-1200.
Michelle Dodek is a freelance writer who spent one summer at Camp Hatikvah a long time ago and loved the sailing program.