We recently returned to the URJ Camp Harlam for the annual Alumni day. In itself, a very ordinary event, yet, for some special reasons, this one was different. I started at this camp as a mere 18-year-old cabin counselor in 1963. The work I did as part of URJ staff allowed me to continue my association with the camp until now. We rode to the camp with friends who I met that summer, so, we were returning to a place that held (and still holds) 50+ years of memories. The underlying reason for the visit, truth be told, was to see my grand-daughter who has begun her tenure at the camp, marking the beginning of the our third generation, as well as a daughter-in-law who is also on staff. Sitting in the Chapel in the Woods or on the hill overlooking the expanse of the camp, I could not help but have decades of memories flood my mind’s eye. So much had changed, yet, the basics remained the same. So many of the people I met and worked with at Harlam have passed away. I knew few of the hundreds who came to celebrate the camp, but, took great joy in seeing my grand-daughter’s face as she reflected sheer joy and unbridled happiness.
The day was perfect; a clear sky and moderate temperatures. We walked the grounds and, to be true, it often felt strange. So much of my life was spent there and now, as time has passed, it was a challenge to make sense of all that time. Again that old question, “where has the time gone?” Have you ever returned to a special place and felt, at the same time, at home and out-of-place? And I looked at my grand-daughter and could not help but wonder what memories, friendships and dreams she will begin to create and a part of me was envious. I also could not help but think of the juxtaposition of the scene that Sunday. Here was a beautiful ideal place filled with young children who were care-free and happy in that protected cocoon of community while the outside world spiraled into more chaos, hate and division. They will soon come home to that, and as my friends and I drove back down the turnpike, we could not help but reflect on the hope that the security of the weeks at camp will somehow create a type of post summer “sukkat shalom” to keep from these children all types of evil, harm and fears. Would that we were able to make it so!
Rabbi Richard F Address