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Saturday, November 10, 2018

Saying Goodbye to Gert




November, 2018

         Dear Family and Friends:

         Usually a trip up to Indianapolis from Bloomington is an extremely happy occasion.  Usually those are family visits.  Today’s visit was a sort of family visit in a completely different way, bittersweet.  I went to attend Gert Cannon Beeler’s funeral.  

    You UCI old timers will remember Gert as the  commander-in-chief (or should I say chef) of our kitchen.  Gert ran camp’s food service for over thirty years.  My family met her when we first came to camp in 1975.  She and her uncle Earl Beeler had already worked for the camp for many years.  We spent the next twenty or so years working together.  I came to the camp to be its Director, but never really felt that Gert actually worked for me.  I ran the camp and Gert directed her domain, the kitchen.  She bought the food, hired the staff, cooked, etc.  She’d call me in if someone needed to be fired.  I could go on and on about her baking; rolls, breads, 7 layer cookies, Congo bars, chess pie, sweet potato pie.  Friday night Gert’s fried chicken was the best of the best.

         My experience today at the funeral was remarkable.  I was asked to speak.  I talked about all of the above but also told of Gert’s love of children.  Over 800 Jewish kids each summer knew Gert and many gravitated to her.  Those who worked in the kitchen became her children, especially if there was a teenager who was a bit lost, or unhappy.  There was always room under her wing.  She loved our boys Jeremy and Michael, always making special things for them.  She married Harrison Beeler, Earl’s nephew.  Harrison and I shared two things, our birthdays and our love of Count Basie.   Earl was a legend in his own right. All of them taught me, their 29 year old Director, so many life lessons along with the practical things a camp director needs to know…how to run a commercial kitchen, how to mow 50 acres of grass, what kind of side-view mirrors are best on a pickup truck, how to run a swimming pool, and much, much more.

         But during and after the funeral today it was impressed upon me over and over just how much the camp meant to the extended Beeler family.  There’s an entire community of African-American folks in Indianapolis who have deeply warm feelings for Goldman Union Camp.  Neecy (Gert’s niece whose name is Denice) even told the congregation that she spent so much time at the camp that she learned many of the Hebrew songs we sang, and a few Israeli dances.  She said that her family referred to her as their Black Jew.

 After the service ten or so older family members lined up to each give me a hug, thank me for coming, and tell me how much the camp meant to them.   Some of them (Iyeva) worked at the camp, many of them, as did I, attended the yearly Beeler family reunions held on the athletic field, and all came often to Uncle Earl’s and Aunt Hazel’s home at the camp on Sundays to schmooze, play Tonk, and, of course, eat.  I was blown away by their warmth.  Even the woman who ran the nursing home where Gert lived her last nine years told everyone that she had grown up at UCI and was there during Gert’s time at camp, and that now her grandchildren attend GUCI.

Gert will always have a huge place in GUCI’s history.  Today’s event was a celebration of Gert Beeler’s life and an expression of love between the Beeler family and our camp.  It was indeed a family affair.

Ron


     

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Rosh Ha Shannah Sermon Notes

Dear Friends and Family:

I never completely write out a sermon word for word.  Here are the notes I used for the Rosh Ha Shannah sermon I gave here at Indiana University this year (typos and all).  You'll get the general idea from these notes.   Wishing you all a Shannah Tovah, a good year.

Ron


Rosh Ha Shannah 2018, 5779


I think Judaism is a smart religion.  How wise is it?  Once a year we are given to opportunity to wipe the slate clean, repent for our wrong doings.  Once a year.  Not monthly or weekly.  Repentance is not a regular thing for us.  It is special.  We prepare for it during the month of Elul, think about it during the ten days of awe between R.H. and Y.K. and then seriously try to change the direction of our lives toward the good.  As a sailor I liken this process to changing the direction of a sailboat.  That’s called “Coming about.”  Coming about is literally taking a new tack, turning around; and since it is a dramatic maneuver, the captain must warn the crew of what he or she is about to do.  The captain says, “Prepare to come about,” and crew knows to watch out and be ready.  On this holiday of R.H we are preparing to come about.  We will strive to change the direction of our lives in ten days, on Y.K. 

1.       Like coming about, repentance is a dramatic act. But, Sin sounds so…well, sinister.  I mean,  How guilty actually are we?  Rabbi Brian Besser of our local synagogue, Beth Shalom teaches that there are actually 3 levels of sin in Judaism.  The first is called Chet…as in the prayer Al Chet Shechatanu Lifanecha…”For the sin that we have sinned before you. Chet is unintentional sin.  Chet is a mistake, a slight, a word we wish we could take back.

2.       A deeper level of sin is Avon.  Avon is an impulsive wrongdoing.  Since we all possess a Yetzer Ha Tov, The inclination to good along with a Yetzer Ha Ra, an evil inclination, sometimes the Ra, evil overtakes the Tov, good.  Our human weakness shows when we think or say, “I just can’t resist….”

3.       And then there’s the highest or rather lowest level of sin, called Pesha.  Pesha is a sin done with intent, a pre-meditated wrongful act…the most dramatic of all sins. 

All of us can hang our respective hats on one or more of these Jewish concepts of sin.  Our coming about, changing direction on Y.K. is called in Hebrew, Teshuvah.  Teshuvah literally means “ return.”  But to what are we aiming to return?  The answer is in the basic core Jewish concept of the nature of Human beings.  Judaism maintains that humans are born pure, without sin, righteous.  We aim to return as well as we can to that state of purity, understanding that we are imperfect, will always make mistakes and so yearly have to adjust our aim.  The goal is to increase our personal righteousness quotient.  To move toward right…  by eliminating wrong.

A professor of mine used to liken Teshuvah, repentance,  to shooting arrows at a bull’s eye.  The center of the target is pure righteousness.  During the year we miss the target by varying degrees according to our behavior.  R.H. and Y.K. give us the opportunity to adjust our aim and set out once again to hit the righteousness target.

Tzedek is the Hebrew word for righteousness.  From it we get the word Tzedakah which we translate incorrectly as “charity,” when it actually means doing the right thing.  A few weeks ago we read in the Torah portion, Shoftim” a phrase we often see written above the Ark in synagogues, “Tzedik, Tzedik Tirdof,” righteousness, righteousness you shall pursue.  The rabbis, who believed that every word of Torah was put there for a reason, ask, “Why repeat the word Tzedek…why not just Tzedek Tirdof…you shall pursue righteousness?”  

Perhaps it is repeated to tell us that seeking righteousness is multi- directional.    Perhaps the first Tzedek directs us to pursue righteousness outwardly, in the world.  And the second Tzedek reminds us to seek righteousness inwardly, in our own lives…Pursue righteousness outwardly, AND  inwardly.   
                                                                               
The Hebrew dictionary defines being righteous as being:  just, straight, correct, precise, and repairing as in Tikkun Olam, repairing the world.  English language dictionary adds:  showing mercy, being virtuous, kind, fair and upright.

These definitions may help us pursue righteousness outwardly and inwardly.  Outwardly, how can we promote goodness in the world?  When we think of Tikkun Olam, repairing the word we list, ecology, charity, acts of kindness, and much more.  But let me suggest that our country is in great need of righteousness right now.  Without making any political comment here, one great step we can all take toward increasing the USA’s righteousness quotient is to make sure we are all registered to vote and to actually vote on Nov 6th.  Repainting the world begins at home, in our cities, states and country.  We can help by voting.

Now pursuing righteousness inwardly.  Consider this…the definitions I listed are also adjectives we use in our prayer books when referring to God…Mercy, just, kind, true, fair.     STORY…boy to father,  If God is all powerful and invisible, how does god see god’s self?   Mirror, reflection…we are god’s mirror…god sees god’s reflection through us and especially through the kindness we show to each other. 

Our Teshuvah, our returning is to the realization that we are created in God’s image and we strive for righteousness by letting those god adjectives shine through us and direct our acts.  Mercy, justice, kindness, truth, fairness.  We have ten days to hone our aim toward the righteousness target, to change our direction, to prepare to come about. 

There is one other nautical definition given for the word Tzedek in its verb form…to RIGHT one’s self,  as a boat rights itself after being hit by a wave.  During this period of reflection, may we return to purity, to godliness, and on Y.K., may we, like that boat, right ourselves.

AMEN



Thursday, August 2, 2018

Girls With Guitars



I know.  You don't hear from me in months and then three times in a week.  Well, Goldman Union Camp Institute's 60th anniversary reunion is coming up in a week.  400 people will be coming to Zionsville to celebrate.  People are excited.  People are talking. People are writing blogs...great blogs.  I wanted to share this one, written by one of G.U.C.I.'s great song leaders, Dawn Bernstein. 


Girls With Guitars




By: Dawn Bernstein
I learned to play guitar on my Dad's twenty-dollar, bargain purchase from Eaton's.
It was collecting dust in his closet and I thought I would give it a go. I really just wanted to play some of the old Peter, Paul, and Mary songs that he was so fond of so that we could sing together. I never thought of the possibilities or where that old six-string might take me.
When I was growing up, Jewish music was the sole purvey of men. Even in my Reform congregation, I had never seen a woman sing on the bimah with the exception of a choir solo or two on Yom Kippur. Men were the cantors. Young men were the song leaders.
And then one day, my parents gifted me with the first NFTY album, Songs NFTY Sings, and I heard her voice. Debbie Friedman z"l opened up the world to me. Here was a woman unapologetically singing, writing, and song leading in a way that moved people to think about Jewish music in a whole different way. Through that album, she told me that I could do it too.
When I first attended UCI (GUCI came later) in 1975 as a Gezah camper, I was enthralled by the music and the young men who were leading it. I heard Debbie's songs but I couldn't see Debbie in their faces and I couldn't hear her voice. I loved each and every one of them who became my guides and my teachers but I had to ask,
"Where are the women?" "Where are the girls?" "Can I do that, too?"
It was Ron who encouraged that simmering Jewish musician in me. He mentored me, pushed me, and set me up with a line of teachers whom I will carry with me forever. I will admit that he had some initial reservations about my small stature and whether or not I could be seen during a Shabbat song-session in the Chadar Ochel or if my voice could carry, but together we proved that girls with guitars could rock GUCI. In 1983 I became the first female head song leader in GUCI history and the pride and joy that I feel when I see young women today lead in the Chadar or the Beit T'fillah is overwhelming.
Music at GUCI is a defining core value. When we sing as a camp community we open ourselves up to the depths of our Jewishness. We find common ground in our spirituality, our language, and our love of the Divine Spirit. I never set out to be a trailblazer but watching and hearing all of those girls with guitars who lifted up their voices after me and found inclusion in the music, is something that I will always cherish.
Shiru L'Adonai Shir Chadash.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Ain't That America

Dear Family and Friends:                                                                       July, 2018

Last night, even though I arrived early, I found the parking lot completely full.  The police waved me on to another lot over a block away.  For a person who patrols the lot at Kroger looking for the closest space, you’d think I would have been upset.  I drove into the lot with over a hundred other cars, walked across a roughly mowed meadow only to find the venue packed.  Standing room only.  I was not upset.  I was inspired.  You see, this wasn’t a Bruce Springsteen concert, or a playoff game at Wrigley Field.  No, this was a gathering at Congregation Sha’are T’fillah in Carmel, Indiana and over 1,000 people showed up.  A gathering of folks showing their support, their solidarity, their concern for members of their faith community attacked over the weekend by Nazi thugs.  A synagogue desecrated with obscene Nazi symbols painted on an outside wall.

We lived in Indianapolis for over thirty-five years, so, of course, I saw a lot of familiar faces in the crowd.  But those in attendance were from all groups in the community.  That’s what was so inspiring.  I expected the Jewish community of Indy to show up.  It was heartwarming to see all the others who cared.  The speakers at the rally last night included rabbis, priests, a mayor, leaders of the Hindu, Muslim, and Buddhist communities.  We heard from the Anti-defamation League, the Jewish Community Relations Council , gay rights groups, Urban League reps.  All said about the same thing.  We will not sit quietly while such hateful acts take place in our community.  The standing room only crowd interrupted each speaker with rounds of applause. 

Here in Bloomington Rabbi Sue Silberberg and others resurrected an organization originally formed to combat racism and hate, in response to last year’s Virginia debacle.  Bloomington United is dedicated to countering such racism.  It is a completely diverse organization.  Not a Jewish nor a Christian, black or white, Hispanic or Asian group, but all of the above.  And that’s what I saw last night on the Northside of Indianapolis.  Jews and Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists, gays and straights, young and old, people of all colors.  Like the old folk song says, we were “Like a tree that’s standing by the water…we shall not be moved.” 

And like John Mellencamp sang, “Ain’t that America.”  I sure hope so.

Ron



Sunday, July 29, 2018

“I’ve lived two lives at camp”



Long-time Goldman Union Camp staff member (camper too), Judy Silver has written a beautiful piece about her camp experiences.  Hope you like it.  Thank you, Judy.

“I’ve lived two lives at camp”


By: Judy Silver
It’s not everyone that can say “I’ve lived two lives at camp”.  Well, I did.  The first time in the 70’s, the second time in the 90’s.  Two separate experiences and circumstances and each very important and life-changing in very different ways.
My first time at camp in 1976 would also mark the first time I was away from home longer than a weekend, first time separated from my younger brother and my first time attending any kind of camp whatsoever.  I was encouraged by one of my best friends, Dawn, to go.  She had gone the year before and figured out that UCI was the only camp for her and us.   “You have to be there!”  So, I won the camp scholarship at my synagogue, was dropped off at Pearson National airport with a handful of friends, our parents madly waving goodbye at the gate and tears flowing and off we flew to Indianapolis.  That day would lead to change the course of my life.  I was a quiet girl starting in first year Anaf, depending on Dawn to lead me through this first time at camp.  As soon as I got off the bus she immediately introduced me to her friends from her first year and that was all it took.  I fell in love.  I found my voice, my strength and my Judaism at camp.  This first summer in 1976 would lead me to become a CIT, Counselor, Dance and Tarboot specialist.  Unbeknownst to me I would be singing along with and making Anaf Project t-shirts with my future husband, Ian, sometime during those years.  Reform Judaism became central in my life. I made friends that have lasted to this day and would set my course to eventually live in Israel for three years, becoming fluent in Hebrew, majoring in Judaic studies and graduating with a teaching degree leading to 11 years in the Jewish school system in Toronto.  Dayeinu.
Fast forward a decade.  1996.  Single mom with two kids. Ron called me up and innocently asked “What do you do during the summers?”
“Not much, Ron.  Why?”
“Would you like to come back to camp to be the administrator?”
“What’s an administrator?”
“I’ll explain it to you when I’m in Toronto.”
How could I turn it down?  Ron was ready to fly me and the kids to camp, have them attend Camp K’ton, pay me in American $$ doing a job I had no experience in without an iota of understanding of what was expected.
So, I signed up for another kick at the can, this time with Toby (5) and Sharon (3) in tow.  Their first time at camp.  I still had no idea what an administrator did, but I did it well.
I stayed on as administrator for 5 more years, re-met the love of my life who happened to be travelling through and for some reason stopped by camp for a weekend visit.    I introduced GUCI and a love of Judaism to my kids.  They both continued on long after I hung up my GUCI shoes, each eventually becoming staff.  As for me, Ron married me and Ian under a chupah in the Beit T’fillah in the summer of 2000, which started a fresh chapter of my life.  Dayeinu. 
Back in 1996 I remember someone asking me, with a somewhat snarky tone when he heard I was going back to camp in my 30’s, “Why on earth would you go back to camp?” “Because I can”.
And now, almost 18 years later I can look back at the 90’s and shake my head in wonder at how GUCI once again changed the course of my life.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Government by Hypocrisy



I am ashamed of our Indiana Leadership.  Hypocrites and liars.  

This is from today's Bloomington Herald Times.  June, 19, 2018

Sen. Young and Rep. Hollingsworth: How can you justify splitting families

To Sen. Todd Young and Rep. Trey Hollingsworth:
You both talk a lot about your families and your family values. You seem very sincere when you do. We hope you got to spend time with your kids on Father’s Day.
We have to wonder, though. How can you not be outraged by the new Trump stance that has resulted in 2,000 children being taken from their parents in the past six weeks?
How can you not denounce that President Trump is essentially using children as a negotiating chip in order to get things from the Democrats on immigration?
How can you not speak out boldly and directly against “weaponizing” children, as Archbishop of Miami Thomas Wenski said on National Public Radio Saturday?
How can you not support evangelical leader Franklin Graham, son of the late Billy Graham, when he says that what’s happening because of this policy position is “disgraceful, and it’s terrible to see families ripped apart and I don’t support that one bit”?
How can you ignore, because of politics, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and archbishop of Galveston-Houston in Texas, when he says that “Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral”?
How can you not hear, really hear, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, when he says “Those at the highest levels of the Trump administration are responsible and must provide the public a clear explanation of how this happened and how these families will be reunited”?
Don’t you agree with former First Lady Laura Bush, a member of your party, when she writes for the Washington Post that the actions brought about by this administration remind her of the heinous practice of isolating Japanese-Americans in internment camps: “I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart”?
Where in your family values do these things fall?
It’s not simply hyperbole to say children are screaming and crying for their parents when our government takes them away. Or that the parents are left to wonder if they will ever see their children again. How can you not be incensed by that?
There’s been a lot of noise about what is and isn’t going on with this new immigration policy. PolitiFact, a Pulitzer Prize-winning organization that gets to the facts of many matters, can help cut through some of it. According to PolitiFact’s research:
Contrary to Trump’s claims that this is the fault of Democratic policy, there is no law mandating the separation of families. The Trump Administration has called for a “zero-tolerance” policy demanding that all individuals who illegally enter the United States to be prosecuted. No discretion allowed.
Previously, families were detained together, sent back immediately or allowed to enter the country on parole.
In addition, many of the families apprehended at the border have been fleeing gang violence and poverty and seeking political asylum. The United Nations addresses this issue with its position that “asylum seekers should not be criminally prosecuted for entering without documentation because those fleeing persecution often do not have time/ability to get proper authorization before they are forced to flee.”
Sen. Young and Rep. Hollingsworth, you can stand behind your president and his simplistic, play-to-his-base message that he’s simply following the laws and protecting the nation’s security. Or you can recognize that’s all just a political ruse based in mind-numbing cruelty.
Is there no room in your politics for empathy? Can you, two fathers, put yourselves in the shoes of parents who are trying to make better lives for their children? Can you feel what it would be like to have government officials take your children away?
You both might be able to find political reasons to toe the Trump line on this issue. If you do, though, we hope you won’t campaign on a platform of championing family values. That would be a bad, cynical, hypocritical joke.
And nothing about this separation of families is funny.
 



Sunday, June 10, 2018

Dick's House


                      

                                                                                                     June, 2018
Dear Family and Friends:

The house across the street has been empty since last February.  Juca and I refer to it as “Dick’s House.”  Prior to February, Dick Berry PhD, lived in that house for sixty years.  We celebrated Doctor Berry’s 99th birthday last December.   He passed away in February. 

I liked Dick…a lot.  We spoke often.  It is impossible to have a conversation with someone who is in their 90’s and not learn something about American history.  Dick’s stories spanned the 1920’s to the present.  He came to Bloomington to teach in IU’s psychology department with B.F.Skinner.  Some of you psych majors may remember that famous psychology researcher’s name.  Dick moved into the house when it was the only one on South Hawthorne Dr.  He watched all of our neighbor’s houses being built, and he had stories about many of them, including ours.  We talked about everything from farming to World War II (he was employed by the defense department during the war to give psychological tests to US Navy submarine applicants).  And like yours truly, Dick loved football.

Our front porch looks directly out on Dick’s front porch.  My wife Juca could tell by the position of Dick’s curtains, the lights in the house, the garage door if all was OK with our neighbor.  We had keys to his house so that if there was a problem we could get in and help.  This happened a few times.  Finally, Dick moved to an assisted care facility here in Bloomington.  That’s when our relationship really blossomed.  I use to go to visit Dick every Sunday.  We would schmooze…he knew the stock market backwards and forwards, loved to kid me about the Cubs, was always up to date with what was happening with the Indianapolis Colts, and on and on.  Sunday afternoons we would watch whatever NFL game was on and just…talk football.  Dick played the game in high school as did I.  We both shared the same number at least for one season.  That was number 40.  His season was in the 1930’s and mine in the ‘60s.  He liked to pull out the last remaining picture of his football team. 

Every time I visited Dick I asked some question about his life or about a particular time in America.  We talked about the McCarthy trials, campus rebellion in the 1960's, and the Great Depression; anything I could think of.  It was always interesting to hear firsthand about things that I had only read about.  Dick was a living American history. 

Dick also asked me a lot of questions.  He was interested in my camp work, what Judaism had to say about various things, and much, much more. 

Next month it seems a young couple will be moving into the house across the street.  That’s a good thing because time marches on.  GUCI’s old caretaker, our friend Earl Beeler once commented to me as we walked through the woods at camp and saw a tree that had fallen over, that, “Us old trees have move over to make room for the young ones coming up.”  That’s a true but hard lesson to take to heart. 

Dick has moved on to make room for the young ones coming up.  According to Earl, that's the way it has to be, and we all know he was right.  Nevertheless, I miss Dick (and Earl)... a lot.

Ron