Tamarack, 1978: Campers Joe Lash, Joel Topf, Andrew Edelson and David Blau.
Tamarack, 1978: Campers Joe Lash, Joel Topf, Andrew Edelson and David Blau.

Tamarack family legacy began in 1920s and is going strong.

Since the 1920s, a member of the Lash family has either been a camper, counselor or staff member at Tamarack Camps. So, if the great-great-grandchildren of Masha and Joe Simkovitz want to literally walk in their ancestors’ footsteps, all they have to do is take a hike.

In fact, outside of the 1940s, when family members were drafted for WWII, there has been a Lash on staff in every decade. They include Franki Bagdade of West Bloomfield, who now is director of support services and special needs. Three days after Myles and Linda Lash married in 1968, they headed out to staff the Western trip.

Masha and Joe Simkovitz with the Lash kids.
Masha and Joe Simkovitz with the Lash kids.

For the Lash family, Tamarack permeates every discussion during family gatherings and Jewish holidays and shaped their values. Camp is the topic around the house from the minute they arrive home at the end of the summer until it is time to head back the following year.

“From the way we were taught to honor and celebrate Shabbat and even the way we were taught how to be good family members and parents by taking care of little kids as counselors, my family’s strongest Jewish connections come from our camping experiences at Tamarack,” said Joseph Lash of Huntington Woods, now Tamarack board president. He credits the strength of staff, headed by CEO Steve Engel. “Over the decades, other Jewish camps look to us, knowing that we have the secret sauce in making the best possible Jewish camping experience.”

In the 1920s, Joseph’s grandfather Irving and grandmother Rose (Simkovitz) were campers and junior counselors. Mom and Dad, Carol (Stutz) and Steven Lash, were also campers and on staff. Before he became an orthodontist, Steven was head of the kitchen staff.

“When he was done working, Dad would come by and bring my Mom fresh-baked cookies,” Joseph said. “My dad went to Mumford High School and my mom went to Berkley. If it were not for Tamarack, they would have never met and that courtship, and then our family, would never have happened.”

Just as his parents and grandparents met as staffers, Joseph also met his wife, Stacey (Cohn), when they were counselors in the 1990s at Camp Kennedy in the Upper Peninsula. When their daughter Cara, now 16, moved into her cabin there decades later, she could spot her parents’ names signed high up on the beams. Carol also made a paddle, just as Mom and Dad had done during their summers at camp. She is working at Camp Maas in Ortonville this summer.

Tamarack, 1978: Campers Joe Lash, Joel Topf, Andrew Edelson and David Blau.
Tamarack, 1978: Campers Joe Lash, Joel Topf, Andrew Edelson and David Blau.

When it was time to head out on the Western trip, Cara reported back that she hiked the same challenging Chilkoot Trail that Dad did in 1989 as a staffer. Sharing these experiences a generation apart with his daughter is a very “cool” connection, Joseph said.

Now that Joseph is the camp’s president, he strolls around with different eyes. There are improvements to be made in a building or in a village and fundraisers to plan.

But still, they are the same paths his family has walked in the summer for generations.

“The amazing thing is that when I stroll by Specialty Village, which used to be the girls’ Pioneer Village, I am tracing the footsteps in the very same spot where my wife, my grandmother, my mother and my daughter all stayed when they were campers,” he said. “They went to camp in all different decades, but they all essentially had the same camping experience.”

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Stacy Gittleman is an award-winning journalist and has been a contributing writer for the Detroit Jewish News for the last five years. Prior to moving to Metro Detroit in 2013, she was a columnist and feature writer for Gannett's Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester, NY. She also manages social media pages for other local non-profit organizations including the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit. Contact her with breaking news and feature story ideas that impact Detroit's Jewish community at stacy.gittleman@yahoo.com