Jul 3, 2015
First Chabad Camp Marks 60th
Rabbi Avraham Shemtov and Rabbi Moshe Lazar reunited to celebrate the Rebbe's historic visit to the very first Camp Gan Israel.
By COLlive reporter
Photos: N&M / CampGanIsrael.com
On Tes Zayin Tammuz, 5716, the Rebbe visited the grounds of the fledgling Camp Gan Yisroel in Upstate New York. Touring the installations, the Rebbe showed his great interest in every aspect of camp.
As the 60th summer of Camp Gan Israel in Parksville continues, this day was celebrated in a special way.
Immediately following Mincha, the campers entered the shul, which had been decorated for the occasion with special lighting, large screens, and state-of-the-art surround sound.
The evening began with greetings from former campers and staff, including Rabbi Shmuel Lew, Rabbi Zev Katz, Rabbi Moshe Feller and others.
Participants first heard from the Head Counselor Berel Slavaticki, then sang Ani Maamin with a video of the Rebbe and recited the Rebbe’s kapital with Rabbi Mottel Dubinsky. A lavish meal was prepared by chef Shloime Futerfas and the dedicated kitchen staff.
Addressing the central theme of the celebration was Rabbi Avraham Shemtov, the Head Shliach of Philadelphia and Washington, DC, who was entrusted by the Rebbe to lead the first Camp Gan Israel until this very day. During its founding year, Rabbi Shemtov served as the Learning Director.
After describing in detail the Rebbe's close connection with camp, Rabbi Shemtov shared a note that he recently found recording the directives that the Rebbe gave regarding the founding of the camp which was the basis of Chabad's international summer camp network.
Rabbi Shemtov then presented the person who took down that note: Rabbi Moshe Lazar who was privileged to be one of the founders of the camp together with Rabbi Yossi Weinbaum and Rabbi Kehos Weiss. Rabbi Lazar was also its first head counselor.
Rabbi Lazar, a Shliach in Milan, Italy who flew in for the occasion, described the Rebbe's fatherly care to each and every individual, and spoke about how Camp Gan Israel has grown from 100 campers in the inaugural season to 400 branches, with 10,000 staff and 150,000 campers annually.
A choir then then sang a song that was composed especially for this event. A sicha of the Rebbe about the importance of camp was then shown, after which a camper spoke and introduced the theme video. The theme video describes the change that camp can make in the life of each camper. Then came spirited singing and dancing.
The evening was capped off by a performance by the world-renowned psychologist and "mind-reader" Mark Salem. Salem, who himself was a camper in Gan Israel, enthralled the audience with his seemingly impossible feats.
The banquet was made possible by the efforts of our dedicated staff. Special thanks was given to Rabbi Shemtov, Rabbi Yossi Futerfas, Naftali Marasow, Shmuli Zalmanov, ECADs Yisroel Cohen and Sholom Loebenstein, and 'Shishim Shona' coordinators Dovi Pinkovitch and Tzemach Dovid Feller.