The Sands of Time and Transitions.

Forgive the personal riff. It is Sunday the 19th and I just returned home from a drive I have been making for some 55 years. In June of 1963 I got in my car to drive to be a cabin counselor at Camp Harlam in the Poconos. It is one of the camps affiliated with the Reform Movement. Who knew the impact! I was a naive kid in between his freshman and sophomore years who had been invited by people at the congregation that I grew up in to join the staff. Fast forward to today, as I drove my daughter and her husband (another camp couple) and my grandson to Harlam to pick up my granddaughter as her second summer ended. Three generations of our family have come to this place.  As my granddaughter was saying her good-byes and her parents were struggling to fit all the “stuff” into the car, I was able to visit some of the camp and just have some private time to remember the times and the people who have been such a part of this journey. (Was I really that young when I began here?)

This camp journey is shared by many in so many different camp venues. There is something about the memories and the people. A few people remarked on some of the people I was close to, whose funerals I have officiated at these past few years. I remembered, as a staff member, greeting the parents and the grandparents of campers; and in a blink of an eye, I became one. There really is not much to say of any great profound nature. I was aware that time is passing ever so quickly. I looked at my granddaughter and listened as she related camp stories on the drive back to her house, reliving these times when I drove her mom and her uncle (my kids) down the same roads. Do these kids really  know how lucky they are to be able to share weeks of a summer in such an environment? How wonderful to see the sheer expression of joy and happiness among people who , within a few hours, will have to return to “reality” of our daily life and the challenges of today. That is why it is so impossible to translate the camp experience to “back home”. The uniqueness of that experience, be it socializing in an activity or sitting with hundreds at camp Shabbat service, remains tied to the place. It is not translatable, as many of us who have tried have found out. There is something magical about sitting in an outdoor worship space on a summer Friday night, watching a full moon emerge over the mountains, joining hundreds of our people of all ages, from all over the world, dressed in their Shabbat whites, welcoming Shabbat in song and dance. Yet, while the experience may  not be portable, the relationships are and, in the end, this is the glue that binds generations of camp kids together, even when they become camp adults.

I many ways, I am grateful for having the opportunity to make this drive again and see the summer experience from the yes of a grandchild. I know many who will not have that chance. The gratitude is tinged still with a sense of nostalgia and a touch of wistfulness. Maybe it is the upcoming Holidays and the Yahrtzeit this coming week of one of my closest friends. We are at the age when time and transitions mean more. We are at the age when these little moments come to take on just a little more meaning, and part of us prays and hopes that we are granted many more such summer drives.

Shalom

Rabbi Richard Address

About Rabbi Richard 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.

3 Comments

  1. It was so nice to see the picture of your granddaughter leaving camp on Facebook . And then to read your post reflecting on your memories about your camp time. Though I did not go to camp, I have memories of my BBG/AZA experiences that was our LA Jewish summer fun. Those times were like yesterday and many of us remain friendly and reminisce on those hazy/lazy days of summer as some of the best times of our lives, and with heartfelt feelings that they were Jewish experiences.

    And though I understand that the facility, the surrounding views, the familiar sights add so much to the camp experience, I just want everyone to know that your comment “while the experience may not be portable” WAS portable this summer by our Jewish campers from Camp Newman which burned down last Fall in the Northern California fires! In a matter of months, Camp Newman was able to negotiate a contract and relocated to CAL Maritime College, in Vallejo, a suburb of the San Francisco Bay Area, on the shores of the Carquinez Strait at the southern end of the Napa River.

    My granddaughter just returned from a month at Camp Newman, and though it was not among the rolling hills of Santa Rosa, the shores of the river, where Shabbat Services were held, added a new and different experience to the memories for all the hundreds of kids that attended! They missed the familiar sights but did not let any of the past alter their summer fun, relationships and spirit bursting from their souls! In fact, it appears our Jewish way of being resilient, moving on, being strong in difficult times was the theme for campers and counselors. My granddaughter had a BLAST and loved every minute of it!! Camp Newman was able to transport all that it stands for to a different location without leaving the RUAH behind!! Check out Camp Newman videos on Facebook, you’ll kvell!

    And the best news is that our Governor Jerry Brown has approved a $5 Million grant to help rebuild Camp Newman!

  2. Yashar Koach Richie

  3. Thank you for this wonderful email. My family can relate to this because we recently picked up my granddaughter from Camp Coleman and my son went to Eisner many years ago.This was my granddaughter’s third summer at the camp and she is already signed up for next year! We soon will be celebrating Stephanie’s Bat Mitzvah at our Temple Beth El in Boca Raton! Again many thanks.

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