by Rabbi Mark Covitz
One of the greatest successes of this past summer at Goldman Union Camp Institute is, very simply, that the summer was a great success. The challenges presented by the June 29th lightning strike were many, and were daunting. Of course, the most important challenge was securing the physical health and emotional well-being of all campers, staff, and faculty.
Secondary to that, but also of great importance, was the challenge of ensuring that not only would the summer at GUCI continue, but that it would continue in a healthy, strong, normal way, allowing campers and staff to return home with memories of a summer defined by things other than a lightning strike. I believe that we did this, and that it was one of our greatest achievements. Summer continued. Camp continued. Campers swam, sang, climbed, and played, canoed, camped, painted, danced, acted, and cooked-out. They made friends, and they learned to live with people who might not be their friends. Our home for Living Judaism in Zionsville, Indiana continued to thrive in its usual way.
And yet, none of this success came by way of sweeping anything under the rug. As a camp, we shared with each other our feelings about what had happened, we prayed Mi Shebeirach for our wounded friends, and we put arms around each other and found the opportunities for spiritual growth following tragedy.
Through these efforts, so many significant and meaningful moments have presented themselves. For me, perhaps the most poignant moment came a few weeks ago when I was joined by Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Senior Vice President of the URJ, and Paul Reichenbach, URJ Director of Camping and Youth, on a visit to Ethan Kadish at the Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati. On that visit, during the festival of Sukkot, as we sat with Ethan and his family in the hospital’s sukkah, it occurred to me that I was in a sukkah with the living embodiment of what the holiday is all about.
Sukkot is meant to remind us that life is filled with uncertainty, and that it is our faith in God that carries us through those times of doubt. What happened to Ethan, Lily, and Noah on a clear, Shabbat afternoon at Goldman Union Camp is the essence of the unpredictability of nature. The manner in which their families responded, the support they have all received, and the strength that the Kadish family has continued to show during Ethan’s recovery are the epitome of keeping faith that God and goodness win out.
It seems beshert that two years ago, Ethan’s musical hero, Dan Nichols, took his band on an 8-day Sukkot Tour through the South. The tour, which concluded at Goldman Union Camp, was filmed by another GUCI alum and documentary film-maker, Doug Passon. At the start of Sukkot this year, Doug released the film “Road to Eden: Rock and Roll Sukkot,” highlighting the music of Dan Nichols and E18hteen, teaching about an often-overlooked holiday, and bringing to the surface ideas and issues that Dan discovered on his tour.
On the evening of December 7th, Ethan’s plight, Dan’s music, and the underlying theme of Sukkot will all converge during one event at Goldman Union Camp. Partnering with HelpHOPELive, an organization that guides fundraising for victims of traumatic injury, Goldman Union Camp is proud to present a very unique opportunity … a screening of “Road to Eden,” followed by a coffee-house style musical performance by Dan Nichols and Doug Passon. All proceeds will go to HelpHOPELive to assist the Kadish family with mounting medical bills.
Tickets for the event, billed as “Road to Ethan,” are $36. The movie begins at 7 pm. Please go to http://bit.ly/RoadToEthan in order to purchase tickets or to make a donation. While we expect large attendance from the Indianapolis community, we also know that many will want to attend from Cincinnati and other GUCI communities. If you are coming from out of town, please make reservations soon, as Indianapolis also hosts the BigTen Championship Football game that evening. A block of rooms has been reserved at the Fairfield Inn near camp for $84 per night (317-228-9300).
We plan to pack the house for Ethan on December 7th, and hope that anyone who cannot make it will make a donation to Ethan through HelpHOPELive. The past few months have been filled with tears and miracles. Thank you to our entire extended community for working together to make sure that we have more miracles and fewer tears.