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July 04, 1986 - Image 40

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-07-04

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Some families are
finding new friends, and
Jewish roots, on weekend
camping excursions.

v*.vITSProyfv1 , 6-



Special to The Jewish News

Many families today are search-
ing for activities that will enable them
to grow together and have fun. The
Shalom and Chai camping groups
seem to have found a way to do both
with other Jewish families.
Shalom is celebrating its bar
mitzvah this year as the oldest Jewish
camping group in Michigan. Thirteen
years ago, out of a desire to camp with
other Jewish families, Chuck and
Marlene Toby placed an article in The
Jewish News seeking other families
interested in camping. We were met
with an overwhelming response,"
Marlene said.
By Shalom's second meeting, 40
families were ready to join. To keep the
group at a manageable size, Chai was
formed soon after. One year later, the
Mazel group was formed from an over-
flow of Chai members. However,
Mazel now meets only for non-
camping activities.
Twenty-six families now belong to
Shalom, which camps every second
weekend of the month between April
and October. It is not unusual for some
families to have joint memberships be-
cause Chai, which has a membership
of 20, has its monthly outings every
fourth weekend.
Plenty of advance planning is
necessary. Advance reservations are
required for camp sites because of the
size of their groups and because many
campgrounds are now completely pri-
vate or sold condominium-style.
Spaces at these sites are rented for


Friday, July 4, 1986

only extended periods. It is also dif-
ficult to find facilities that can cater to
the variety of equipment the members
bring: motor homes, pop-ups, trailers
and tents. Distance and time frame
also limit how far each family is will-
ing to drive. Southeast Michigan and
nearby Ontario are the preferred loca-
tions because a family that cannot
leave the Detroit area until 7 p.m. on a
Friday may not want to travel three
hours and then have to set up their
camper in the dark.
Both Chai and Shalom stress to-
getherness and Jewish unity and a
typical weekend exemplifies those
qualities. Most families arrive before
sunset Friday night, in time for an
evening service and an oneg Shabbat.
Afterwards, both a hospitality (bever-
age) and sweet table are set up, filled
with coffee and homemade desserts. A
traditional campfire follows. We have
Jewish sing-alongs and a couple of
older kids play guitar," Shalom
president Bruce Topy explained. "It's
nice being with friends and eating
popcorn and roasting marshmallows.
The fire usually lasts until 2 a.m."
Saturday mornings are normally
filled with fishing, swimming or other
individual activities. In the afternoon
planned group activities are held. A
recent one was a white elephant sale in
which everyone brought an unwanted,
wrapped item from home to be traded.
"Using Monopoly money, the item is
bid on," Topy explained. The Shalom
white elephant "treasures" ranged
from crossword toilet paper to mustard
containers. The families also play vol-
leyball and baseball games and, no


matter how young a person is,
everyone can participate.
After a busy day, Saturday pot
luck dinners are another tradition
that Shalom and Chai campers enjoy.
Tables are joined together and
everyone brings a main dish for them-
selves in addition to a passing dish to
accommodate everybody's appetite
plus ten extra-hungry teenagers,"
Marlene said.
In Shalom, when tables are
brought together, they form a proces-
sion so long that Marlene jokes, We
are known for having the longest pot-
luck dinners." Afterwards, a 50/50 raf-
fle is held. Everyone contributes $1
and receives a numbered ticket. Who-


ever has the winning number receives
half of the money and the other half
goes to the'club. However, the winner
also gets to clean the dinner pots. Once
again at night, a campfire is used as a
place to enjoy group company, re-
minisce about the day or sing songs.
Sunday mornings include a group
breakfait, usually featuring bagels
and cream cheese. Although some
families leave for home as early as 1
p.m., there are others that stay as late
as 7. However, never is a single family
left behind by themselves. "When
hauling a trailer, it is always safer to
have someone else on the road with /
you in case of any trouble," Toby said. '\
Although both groups essentially

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