In 1937 the National Council of Jewish Women established an overnight summer camp in Crescent Beach, Whiterock. This camp operated under the council's auspices until 1944 when members of the Young Judaea youth organization arranged to first rent, and then later acquire, the property so that it could be run as Western Canada's first Zionist summer camp.
Activities offered included arts & crafts, drama, music, athletics, singing and dancing but the basis of the program was designed around providing campers with a strong background and knowledge of Jewish and Zionist affairs.
As a 1949 article in the Jewish Western Bulletin stated, Camp Hatikvah provided early participants with a "place where they could live and express themselves as Jews, unhampered with fear of others and free from the out-of-place feeling that is so often a part of North American Jewishness". Developed in the aftermath of the Holocaust, Hatikvah existed to "produce proud, happy Jewish youth who were earnest and sincere in their beliefs" and committed to the re-building of the Jewish people.
By the early 1950's Camp Hatikvah was operating at maximum capacity and the community knew that they needed to find a new home. Under the leadership of people like David Nemetz, Max & Bessie Waterman, Irving Chertkow, Harry Nemetz, Irving Lipsky, Shep Margolese and many more, the camp secured its current location for $37,000. The site itself was bare with the exception of an old farm house but the community quickly got to work raising funds to develop the camp. Upon opening in 1956, the camp had a hall that was used for both dining and recreation as well as six camper cabins.
Leo Marcus was the first Director and he immediately implemented the very highest standards of safety, health and programming. As a result, Camp Hatikvah quickly earned the reputation of being one of the finest Jewish camps in Canada.
Enrolment continued to increase and the camp was in a constant state of expansion under the lay leadership of Morris Feldstein who served as the dedicated camp chairman for many years. Three more cabins, an "H dock" for swimming and a new recreational hall were all added by 1962. As this happened, the camp also began to diversify its program options, adding waterskiing to its already impressive roster of activities.
In 1964, Hatikvah developed a new "senior camp" called Massada at the southern end of its site. Designed for children aged 14 through 16, the program was a training ground for leadership within the Canadian Young Judaea movement. Participants received daily lectures in zionist history, current events and Hebrew. Living in canvas tents, campers had a lot of opportunity to self-govern and were given great latitude in designing their program.
Needing even more space, and with a desire to offer specialized programming determined by age, Hatikvah introduced the Kochot unit in 1966. Another tent-city, this site was built on the shores of the U-dock and would remain there for ten years.
The early seventies proved to be an exceptional time for Camp Hatikvah. By then, the camp was one of the prized possessions of Western Canada's Jewish community. Standards for health and safety were second to none and the camp held a most enviable reputations amongst Jewish and non-Jewish camps alike.
However, the glory of the camp would be marred by financial trouble plaguing the Zionist Organization of Canada (ZOC) who technically owned the camp land by virtue of being placed on the deed at the time of purchase. In 1977, they announced their intention to sell the camp site so that they could use the funds to cover their own needs in Eastern Canada. As one would expect, our community was outraged. While the ZOC was on the title of the camp and had provided some financial assistance for programming until the late 60's, it was the local community that funded the purchase and development of the property. Negotiations began between the ZOC and camp leaders like Les Raphael, Samuel Belzberg and Bruce Zien. Eventually Ted Zacks and Harold Orloff began proceedings in the B.C. Supreme Court on behalf those who donated money for the purchase, building and operation of the camp over the years.
The fight against the ZOC continued for many years until the community's efforts eventually proved successful. By 1980, the ZOC was forced to transfer title of the camp to the newly formed Camp Hatikvah Foundation.
While the Foundation now owned the land, it also inherited a massive mortgage that the ZOC had taken against the camp property. Revenue from operations was not sufficient to cover the mortgage and so the camp embarked on a community campaign led by Ted & David Zacks. Just as it always had, the community rallied and the mortgage was paid off through donor support. Camp Hatikvah was safe and the organization could go back to focusing on what it did best; providing an exceptional camping experience to Jewish youth.
During the challenging final years of the 1970's, a decision was made to completely restructure the camp program. Camp Massada was shut down and Kochot was moved to their old site at the southern end of the camp. A new leadership development program (L.I.T.'s) was created just for 15 year olds and greater emphasis was put on practical camp-related skills like childcare and swimming. The ultimate goal was to ensure the camp had a steady cycle of trained local staff.
The Kochot and L.I.T. sites also got a face-lift (sort of) with the canvas tents being replaced by plywood structures!
The 80's were exciting times for Hatikvah. Registration was booming and the program continued to be diversified. Outripping was enhanced and campers experienced a whole new caliber of chugim.
Hatikvah hired its first year-round Director in 1994. Hailing from Winnipeg, Paul Myers professionalized the camp operations and the next decade saw a period of rapid expansion. Staff would return summer after summer - some all the way through graduate school - and, as a result, the camp had a renewed sense of stability, continuity and success.
In addition to the sweeping changes made to the camps program in the 90's, the site also continued to see improvement. The S.I.T. site was moved to the western shores of the camp and "Dead Fish Dock" was swamped and replaced with the "Y-Dock" for canoeing and kayaking.
In 1999, Hatikvah welcomed a very special guest to camp. Jean Chretien, the Prime Minister of Canada at the time, spent the afternoon at camp playing baseball and visiting our U-dock. It was indeed a very special and memorable experience for all those who were there.
As the new millennium approached, the entire Kochot site was torn down and moved to what used to be the baseball diamond. The Snider Ulam was also erected, providing for a great deal more recreational space not only for Kochot but for the whole camp. The old house was replaced by the Diamond Knesset and many new Hatikvah cabins were built.
Paul Myers retired in 2007 after 14 summers at the helm of the organization. It was truly the end of an era but the camp was very fortunate to have found a wonderful new Director immediately. Liza Rozen-Delman was a past camper, staff and Assistant Director and re-joined the organization with an already rich passion and commitment for the camp. Under her leadership the camp has continued to grow and expand. Enrolment is at an all time high and the camp looks better than ever. Several Hatikvah cabins have been replaced, the Ulam was renovated in its entirety by the Paperny family - though the inside walls with names scrolled all over them were carefully kept to maintain a link to our past. The camp also has a new hockey arena for recreation and the new Sara Stern Amphitheatre for camp gatherings.
While the camp's physical site has changed dramatically over the past sixty five years, the goals of Camp Hatikvah remain the same as they were upon establishment. Campers continue to experience a balanced program of culture, athletics and arts all within a Jewish and Zionist atmosphere so that they can develop a deep love and appreciation their for heritage and community.