This past weekend, I attended the Alumni day of URJ Camp Harlam. I started working there in the summer of 1963. I spent nearly 40 years involved with the camp in a variety of capacities. My children went there and next summer, the first of the grandchildren will attend. The main reason for my being at camp was to co lead a service of memory and celebration for my friend and colleague of 50 years, Arie Gluck. As I mentioned in this space last month, I officiated at his funeral, which was a private service. This gathering of camp Alumni (the majority of whom grew up under his leadership) would be camp family farewell, held in the old “chapel in the woods”, where Shabbat mornings were and are the custom.
The largest gathering of Alumni showed up. My colleague, Rabbi Amy Schwartzman, asssited by a camp song leader, helped create the memorial moment. Two veteran campers, now grown, reflected on Arie’s mentoring and influence. One of his daughter’s and granddaughter read a poem that ws part of the funeral service. There was laughter and tears. There was a sense of his presence. There was a sense of closure. His camp family had gathered to say goodbye in a place that represented his life.
I mention this day because, as the day progressed and I followed my own grown chidlren and grandchildren around the Alumni activities, there was a quiet sense of completion that I felt. You know, it is often hard to let go of relationships and connections, especially when they represent so much a part of one’s life. Yet, driving home, it felt right to feel that this service and the day, represented a sense of closure. I think often of all the memeories of my years of involvement with the camp. Indeed, the impact of URJ camps (and the other denomination based camps) is easily one of, if not THE, crowning achievements of our American community. The number of rabbis, educators, cantors, Jewish professionals and the like who were influenced and inspired by their activity at our camps is incalculable.
Yet, there comes a time to turn the page. A time to celebrate the memories, take joy in the relationships that were established and move on with life. Of course, this is a message for all of us at various stages of our life. Life continues to unfold, presenting us with new challenges and new possibilities for growth. We all face these moments in our life. If we are lucky, like those alumni who gathered at camp, there will always be a special place in one’s for a place and people who meant so much. But, with life, as it unfolds, we take those memories and hold them close. We, if we are lucky, take some of those relationships as well into our future, never forgetting what was, but ready to embrace what will be.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.