Camp BB Riback – a family’s perspective

Anat Ovics with her kids: Noah, Eva and Maya Sharon are all big fans of Camp BB-Riback. (Photo supplied).

by Maxine Fischbein

(AJNews) – Camp BB Riback is a family affair for the Ovics and Sharon clan. The Edmonton family has been affiliated with the camp for two generations and is hoping that COVID-19 can be brought under control by this summer so that Noah (18), Eva (16) and Maya (13) can once again have fun at Pine Lake.

Their Mom, Anat Ovics, recalls her summers as a BB camper and counsellor with fondness.

“It was a fantastic opportunity to meet other Jewish kids from all over Alberta,” recalls Ovics, who maintains friendships forged at Camp BB.

“When I hear about my kids’ experiences at camp I say oh my gosh, I remember Maccabiah . . . I remember buck buck . . . . All these traditions still exist for them, so I’m glad that they get to experience that as well.”

Ovics was a camper in the 1980s together with current Camp Director Stacy Shaikin, under whose watch Noah, Eva and Maya attended their last two camp seasons.

“I vividly remember what Stacy was like as a camper. When I heard that he was going to be the head of camp I was excited because I couldn’t think of a better fit. He’s super smart, he’s funny, he understands the traditions,” Ovics said.

The summer of 2020 was to have been Noah Sharon’s second year on the camp staff. He previously served as a counsellor and did a Performing Arts rotation. He’d been looking forward to stepping into the role as Performing Arts Specialist.

“Camp for me has always been a really great experience,” says Noah. “It always is the highlight of my summer. . . . As a counsellor it’s definitely a different experience than as a camper, but it’s just so much fun as a counsellor as well.”

Noah was disappointed to miss out on the fun last summer because he had some big plans for the camp’s performing arts program. He’s hoping that COVID-19 will recede and he’ll be able to take on the role of performing arts specialist for summer 2021.

Noah has some impressive credentials as a recent graduate of the Victoria School of Performing and Visual Arts (where his sisters also study) and a first year student at the University of Alberta where he is majoring in drama.

Hooked on Camp BB Riback since her first wonder week about a decade ago, Eva Sharon – currently in Grade 11 – was to have been a counsellor-in-training last summer and hopes to sign on as first-year staff this summer.

Eva describes the camp as a “very special community” that has enhanced her Jewish identity and allowed her to hang out with friends and meet new people.  One of her favourite camp memories is a Leadership Training Program (LTP) trip that featured tenting, river rafting and clanging pots and pans for morning wakeups.

“Camp is a very special community,” says Eva. “Not only does it keep you connected to your Jewish identity, but you get to make so many friends. . . .It’s just such a special group of people and it’s always a lot of fun.”

“It was really sad and disappointing,” said Eva of the 2020 season’s cancellation, her last opportunity to be a camper before transitioning to counsellor.

Maya, who is in Grade 9, also pined for Pine Lake.

“I missed all my friends . . . .  It’s the best part of my summer, just going to camp and hanging out with everybody for three weeks.” Maya has attended camp with the same tightly-knit group of girls since kindergarten at the Edmonton Talmud Torah, where she and her siblings attended elementary school.

She speaks animatedly about bunk parties and everyday pleasures like playing cards and just talking with her cabin-mates. Maya’s memorable highlights include counsellor-supervised sneak outs.

The Judaic aspects of camp are appreciated by all three of the Sharon siblings.  The candlelit Havdalah service that ends the Sabbath is a cross-generational favourite for the family as is another camp classic – Maccabiah – when teams vie against each other in sports, art and even wacky competitions like bubble gum blowing. Each Maccabiah has a theme with teams named for Jewish heroes. Recent examples were Hollywood superstars Scarlett Johansson and Gal Gadot.

“Even if you lose Maccabiah, it’s so much fun,” Eva says.

Another highlight for Eva happens on Friday evenings when campers in Grade 7 and up participate in Sichot (Hebrew for discussions) ranging from serious topics to goofy ones.

For Maya, Eva and Noah, the camp musical is a beloved tradition.  One or more of the sibs have taken part in Frozen, Annie, The Little Mermaid, Shrek, Camp Rock, Beauty and the Beast, Lion King and a camp-produced musical based on the cartoon Phineas and Ferb.  Noah played leading roles in Footloose and High School Musical.

The Sharon siblings are keeping their fingers crossed that it will be safe to go back to Camp BB Riback this summer. They will be relying on the advice of their dad, Dr. Raffi Sharon, a pediatrician who has twice served as the Camp BB Riback physician.

Like many other families, the Ovics and Sharon family have deep roots at Camp BB Riback. COVID-19 may have temporarily taken them out of the camp, but nothing will ever take the camp out of them!

Click here for a related article about Camp BB Riback.

Maxine Fischbein is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Alberta Jewish News.

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