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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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Fundraisers will send kids to camp

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Campers enjoy a song session at Camp George in 2010.

TORONTO — Two upcoming events will raise money to send Toronto-area kids area to camp.

On Jan. 29, a Singing for S’Mores concert will be held at 7 p.m. at Temple Sinai Congregation to help send children to URJ Camp George, as well as to benefit the American Conference of Cantors (ACC), an affiliate of the Union for Reform Judaism. The ACC initiative is one of a number of partnerships between the organization and North American camps to raise money for camp tuition and for the ACC’s social justice initiatives.

On March 1, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto will hold a ping-pong tournament called SMASH to help send Jewish kids from low-income families to Jewish summer camp. The tournament will feature celebrity participants Aaron Douglas, Kiowa Gordon and Ivan Sergei, all actors; former NHLer Gary Leeman; talk-show host John Salley and recording artist Shawn Desman.

Money raised at Singing for S’mores will go to Camp George’s scholarship fund. A complete summer – seven weeks – at the Parry Sound camp runs just under $7,000 per camper.

There is no admission being charged for the concert. Instead, organizers are requesting that audience members “pay what you may.” The first such event, held in May 2009, raised just over $4,000, enough to send a child to the camp for one half-summer session.

The program will feature cantors, cantorial soloists, the Leo Baeck Glee Club and two community choirs: Lachan, the Jewish Chamber Choir, and the Toronto Jewish Chorus.

Of the more than 500 campers at Camp George, one in five receives “some sort of assistance,” camp director Jeff Rose told The CJN. He said the number of requests for subsidies has increased over the past few years. Funding is available through the camp’s scholarship fund, as well as through federation’s Top Bunk program, an incentive program for first-time campers at a Jewish camp.

Cantor Katie Oringel of Temple Sinai Congregation, an organizer of the concert, said that her experience with Jewish music at summer camp led her to the cantorate.

Becoming a faculty member at Camp George is “something I always dreamed of doing, and it brings me a lot of joy.”

She noted that in addition to liturgical and Israeli music, the concert will feature Broadway tunes and pieces that refer to a theme of “What I learned from camp,” including ideas like long-lasting friendships.

Cantor David Rosen, cantor of Beth Radom Congregation, who is also helping organize the event, added that this will be “one of the first times that all the Reform congregations are coming together to do something.” As well, he noted, his own congregation, which is part of the project, is Conservative.

The proceeds of SMASH, the federation event, will go to UJA’s camping subsidy program administered by Jewish Family & Child and JIAS Toronto. The program administers over $500,000 a year to help more than 1,000 children attend Jewish day and overnight camps who otherwise wouldn’t be able to participate, said Steven Shulman, UJA’s campaign director and counsel.

“There continues to be great need,” he added.

SMASH organizers expect to have 40 teams of three people, each of which has been asked to raise a minimum of $3,000 from sponsors. As of last week, about 20 teams had signed up.

“In terms of building Jewish identity, summer camp is a particularly effective way to do it. You have a very positive association with [campers’] Jewish identity resulting from the camp experience,” Shulman said.

Ping-pong, in addition to being “hot” at the moment, is an activity that many kids have played at summer camp, Shulman said.

 The UJA event, chaired by Julie Albert and Jay Silber, will take place at Koolhaus on Queen’s Quay E. in Toronto. The 7 p.m. tournament will be preceded by a cocktail reception. An information night is being held Jan. 31 at SPIN Toronto. For more information, contact Shimmy Wenner at federation, 416-631-5699, or go to ujasmash.com

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