Tamarack Camps has musical,
joyous celebration of 100 years.
WENDY ROSE BICE
Special to the Jewish News
n a warm August day in 1902, Ida Koppel and
Blanche Hart, two Jewish women of means, hosted a
picnic on Belle Isle along the Detroit River. Their
guests, recently arrived Jewish immigrant children
and their mothers, became the first campers of what would
become known, two years later, as Fresh Air Society, the operator of Tamarack
One hundred summers later — just five days before the end of Tamarack
Camps' second session — 2,500 Jewish mothers and fathers are visiting Camp
Maas in Ortonville for a special outing with their children. They are gathered to
celebrate Fresh Air Society's 100th birthday at a concert and Havdalah (Shabbat:-----
closing) service featuring Debbie Friedman, the spiritual
songstress of Jewish camping.
Parents at camp? Not since the 1930s have parents
been allowed to visit their kids at a FAS camp.
"I don't think there is another Jewish camp that
would try this, but 100 years is a long time. We wanted
a special celebration," said Harvey Finkelberg, Tamarack
The Aug. 10 fete marked the close of a camp season
studded with centennial activities. Each Shabbat week-
end campers embraced camp history through activities
including quilt-making and skits. At the Jewish
Community Center-sponsored Jewish Book Fair last
November, Tamarack Camps released Songs of Summer,
a compilation of camp songs sung by campers and A
Timeless Treasure: 100 Years of Fresh Air Camp, a hard-
cover book detailing the agency's history. A gala dinner
this October will conclude the 100th-year festivities.
Scores of black T-shirted teenage bouncers — in reality, the Teen Service Staff
crew of 2002 — escort eager parents onto the field beside the Stephen and
Nancy Grand Gymnasium. The teens' job: enforce the rules. No food, no pack-
ages, no bags and no purses (code for "don't try to smuggle in gifts for your
Inside the cordoned-off area stand the anxious campers — amazingly clean
campers — and easily identified in their bright, color-coded T-shirts, a different
color for each camping village. There are a few tearful reunions,
but overall just hugs and kisses and smiles, miles and miles of
"Tonight, we are celebrating what Jewish camping is - all
about. On this Shabbat, the ruach, the spirit of camp, will
come through," a hoarse Finkelberg bellows to the crowd.
Then Friedman takes the stage.
Parents, although charmed at the
chance to see the famous Friedman
in person, have really come to see
their children at camp. Brian
Gordon embraces his 10-year-old
daughter, Mia. "I got a little
weepy-eyed when I first got here,"
the Franklin resident admitted.
"There are - so many memories. I
remember this field; we played ball
here. There wasn't a big gymnasium
or a pool, but it was this same
"This is a great night. It's a rare
opportunity to see these kids in
their own element. Catch a glimpse
of their world," he said.
What goes on behind those bunk
walls is a secret that's 100 years
old, a rite of passage reserved only
for those who've experienced overnight camping. Children
start their camp session nervous and anxious and often
come out, three or four weeks later, more mature, independ-
ent, happy and two or three inches taller.
Behind those walls, a most unique family is formed. With
their many shared experiences, bunkmates often become
lifelong friends. And, as with so many of life's most
are happy to
see each other
Jim Roll of
the stage to