I want to share one of my favorite stories with you: A young rabbi stood on the bima delivering his Yom Kippur sermon. Wanting to make a strong impression he banged on the lectern as he loudly delivered the line, “Every member of this congregation will someday die!” He paused and looked around at the somber look he had put on everyone’s face, his eyes settling on one man in the front row grinning back at him. Certain the man had not heard him, the rabbi again thundered, “I tell you that everyone in this congregation will one day die!” He looked down at the front row and saw that the man was still smiling. One last time the rabbi shouted, “True it is that eventually everyone in this congregation must die!” Seeing that the man’s grin had only grown larger, the rabbi paused and angrily asked, “Excuse me sir, are you amused by that idea?” “Oh no,” replied the man, “I’m not amused. I’m relieved. You see, I don’t belong to this congregation.”
There are times, even when surrounded by hundreds of others, when it is easy to feel alone and separate from the community. I have been very fortunate this week, as I have been confined to my room with chicken pox, that my connection to the camp community has not been permitted to break. I’ve received emails of support from parents daily, cards from campers, and even a “Lox for Pox” breakfast from staff. But nothing has reminded me that even sitting by myself I belong to this “congregation” as much as listening to evening song session through my window each night.
I listen to the strength, joy, and togetherness of the voices, and I know that our community has continued to flourish in this final week of camp. I know that in my absence our excellent Assistant Director, Max Klaben, has done a beautiful job of keeping the community together. And I know that this summer our campers have gotten the most important lesson out of camp, the lesson that the man in the story never learned, that we are all a part of something bigger than ourselves, something beautiful. My hope is that they carry this home with them and always know that they belong – not just to the camp community, but to the Jewish community.
Last Shabbat I recalled that this final week of camp would be a delicious treat that each would savor in their own way. For much of this week I felt that for my treat, in the immortal words of Charlie Brown, “I got a rock”. But Friday it was a great treat to sit by my window and listen to the 400 voices of our community sing Shabbat blessings and join together in a classic G.U.C.I. Shabbat Song Session. I am truly privileged to be a part of this community. I know that your children will come home feeling the same way. I hope that they, and you, always feel a part of our family here in Zionsville.
–Mark Covitz, Director, Goldman Union Camp Institute