Blog  A Tree for Maggie

A Tree for Maggie

By Rabbi Mark Covitz
Director, Goldman Union Camp Institute 

The tragic events that accompanied the arrival of Hurricane Sandy this past week have been a reminder of both the fragility of human life and the generosity of the human spirit.  Previously unimaginable destruction has been tempered with the life-affirming words and actions of our nation’s government, emergency personnel, and citizens.  At times like these I am always reminded of one of most beautifully poetic pieces of wisdom contained in the Torah, in idea found not in the biblical text, but in the biblical titles.

In the center of the Book of Leviticus, we find two Torah portions, one immediately after the other, which are often combined into one reading.  The name of the first is Acharei Mot, which means “After the death” and refers to the mysterious, tragic, and seemingly unnecessary deaths of Nadav and Abihu, the sons of Aaron.  The name of the second is Kedoshim, which means “holiness”.  When combined, the two titles could be read as Acharei Mot – Kedoshim…After the death, there is holiness.  I find the truth of this teaching to be one that is simple, pure, and easy to see in our own experiences.

Occasionally tragedy encroaches upon the usually uplifting world of Jewish camping.  And when it does, the response from our camp community involves people coming together to reaffirm the sanctity of life.

Last winter, the Goldman Union Camp (GUCI) family was devastated by the death of Maggie Harry, a camper whose laughter and artwork had become a part of the GUCI fabric.  The communal healing began immediately as members of the GUCI family, as well as the Jacobs Camp family, arrived in Indianapolis to support Maggie’s family during their time of grief.  Throughout the past year, those who wished to do something in Maggie’s memory were directed to staff member Lauren Cantor, and former staff member Adam Haber, who collected funds for a memorial.  Maggie's Lilac Tree

Yesterday, a lilac tree was planted on camp in memory of our friend Maggie.  In the Spring, Maggie’s family will join some friends and staff here at camp to place a plaque by the tree, and to reproduce a piece of Maggie’s artwork as a mural nearby.

The tree and the mural will be a tribute to the time that this unique and wonderful young lady spent at camp; but the generosity and loving spirit of her friends and family are what will ensure that as always, after death we find holiness.