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Tuesday, December 1, 1992

Be Your Own Best Friend



Here is an old post .  I put it up again in response to a conversation I had with a student here at IU.  Still a good thought, I think.

Dear Family and Friends:                                                               March, 2017


Here's a question I'm pretty sure you haven't been asked before, "What's your
ace in the hole?"  An ace in the  hole, you know?  That's the one thing that
bails you out when all else fails.  The one thing that only you know, that is
sure, that you can always count on.  What is your personal ace in the hole? 
Let me give you a couple of tips.  ONE:  everyone needs one, and TWO:  if you
haven't thought about this, you should.

The real point here is that life is hard and often filled with disappointments.  What do we do when things fall apart?  What is our last line of defense when the blitz is on and there are no more blockers (sorry for the football analogy, but I'm still grieving over this Bears' season)? 

I think it is crucial that we all realize how important we are to ourselves.  That's
right!  No matter what happens, I am going to continue to be my own best
friend.  I like me.  And even at those times when I don't like me that much
because I have screwed something up (impossible, not the great Ron Klotz?), I
try to pep myself up, regroup, so to speak, and inevitably I regain my
friendship with myself.  I'm not talking about being conceited, cock-sure, full
of myself, or anything like that.  This is a personal thing - no one else knows
about it (until now).  It's strictly between me and myself, and it certainly is
my ace in the hole.

If you're interested, find a copy of Paul Simon's recording of "One Trick
Pony."  It is not a very well known album, actually the soundtrack from the
movie he starred in (I digress).  You will find a song there called, "Ace In
The Hole."  I have been thinking about that song and this idea for a long
time.  Paul Simon always asks important questions - you won't be disappointed
in this record.  He says, "Ace in the hole - lean on me - don't you know me,
I'm your guarantee."  And that is just what we all need, a guarantee.

We all know another great songwriter's work, Rabbi Hillel, who wrote, "Im Ain
Ani Li Mi?"  If I am not for myself who am I for?  The rest of the song is
important too, but without this first statement we are lost.  I think it is
good for a person to talk to him/herself (not out loud or people will start
looking at you funny).  Remind yourself of just how good you are, when things
are bad.  Be good to yourself.  Be a friend.  Do for yourself what you would do
to help someone else who is down in the dumps.  It's a private thing, and it
helps.

If this all sounds silly to you, well you can just toss this letter.  After
all, it's a private thing.  It's about MY ace in the hole - what's yours?

Ron

Sunday, November 1, 1992

A Best Friend

  
                                                                                                     

                                                                                          November, 1992


Dear G.U.C.I. Staff:


I must confess that delivering my son to Indiana University has had a profound
affect on me.  Along with all of the normal feelings of "I can't believe he's
going away" (read: "I can't believe I'm old enough to actually have a son old
enough for college")  that this occasion brings to the forefront, come a whole
host of memories.  Lately I've been remembering the unique relationship I had
with my roommate, Gerry Fink.  Gerry (pronounced Gary, his mother didn't have
Spellcheck when he was born) and I were best friends all the way through high
school and roomed together for our first three years in college.  Many great
friendships meet a jagged end when the friends devolve into "roommate-ness." 
Not so with Gerry and me.  We were the most opposite two-of-a-kind in
captivity.


As I think back on how we managed to stay best friends, even grow closer during
our college years, I am struck by how different, yet alike we were.  Where
Gerry was meticulous with his clothes and supplies, I used to say, "The world
is my closet;" where Gerry studied accounting (the class that ultimately put me
on the 4 1/2 year plan) and was a wiz, I labored through any class that
involved numbers; where Gerry was a peripheral Christian, I was a pretty-
involved Jew; where Gerry lived his summers in the city, I lived for my summers
at camp.  But we had two incredible things in common, one was our senses of
humor.  We were so equally caustic in our outlooks, so sarcastic, and I believe
so funny that we never ceased to amuse each other.  At times we were like a
comedy team, knowing what the other was thinking, finishing each other's
thoughts and sentences, and always laughing.  This all started in high school. 
We loved to look at the world from unusual angles.  We renamed things and so
developed our own dialogues.  I'm sure other people thought we were strange at
best, but we had great fun. 


The other thing we had in common was a love of jazz.  Gerry and I brought our
records to college and somehow managed to put together a decent stereo as
well.  We taught each other what little we knew, and shared an incredible
excitement for Count Basie, Dave Bruebeck and Paul Desmond, Oscar Peterson,
etc.  The years 1964 to 1968 were very difficult years to be in college. 
Friends were drafted right out of college and wound up in the jungles of
southeast Asia.  There was tremendous pressure to make grades in order to keep
one's student deferrment.  Being a good student was almost a matter of life and
death.  Along with the usual not knowing what in the hell we wanted to do with
our lives, the joys and heartaches of many affairs of the heart, and the
pressures of school, we managed to keep each other laughing and snapping our
fingers to the beat.  We had only two arguements in our three years together
(the subjects of which are so insignificant I won't mention them other than to
say that one had to do with the best way to get the beer cold).


I was Gerry's best man, and he was mine.  Our lives have grown apart, but I
certainly can't avoid thinking back warmly on those days at this time.  Thanks
for the memories, Ger.


Ron

Tuesday, September 1, 1992

Camp is Not Enough

                          
                                                                                       

                                                                                  September, 1992

Dear G.U.C.I. Staff:


I want to tell you all something that you already know.  This camp thing of
ours, it's not enough.  That may sound funny coming from me.  Don't get me
wrong, there is no one more committed to what we do here at camp, its long
range effects etc., than I am.  But I hear from so many of our staff people
that camp is their place to be Jewish, or that camp's the only place they
really feel Jewish, or like that.  Well I'm going on record here saying that
this is just not enough.


For many years I have lived my life from one summer to the next.  When I was a
college student I literally could not wait for each successive summer.  One
would end, and I would already be anticipating the next.  What about my Jewish
life between summers?  It was practically non-existent.  I didn't participate
in any Hillel activities, hardly ever showed my face at services or any other
Jewish functions.   Participating in family holiday celebrations, when I found
myself home from school, was about the extent of my Jewish life.  Now that I
think back on that time, I realize how Jewishly empty it was.  Those years
could have been much richer if I would have been involved more.   Also, think
about the things we teach our campers here at camp.  How can any of us feel
other than hypocritical if we put on our Jewish faces while we're at camp, 
play that part in front of our campers and fellow staff members, and then
remove the face when we leave in August?  No!  It is simply not enough.  If we
really love camp, if it is not just a bunch of words, then we are compelled to
live out camp's teachings throughout our lives.  That, to me, means reaching
out to others, joining the Jewish community, affiliating, teaching, joining in
prayer and celebration, social action, etc.  Do something, one thing that
ignites the fire you felt at camp.  Remember the difference you made in someone
else's life at camp?  Do the same thing for yourself.  That is the only way to
make camp real and not some sort of fantasy.


When I was a senior in college, for some reason I couldn't get home for
Pesach.  A couple of friends and I decided to do our own Seder.  We ended up
with 18 people, about half of them non-Jews, all pitching in with the cooking,
then the reading of the service, the explanations of the symbols, teaching the
songs.  It was a grand night.  One that I will never forget.  More experiences
like that would have made my college days more fulfilling, but I didn't see it
then.


The High Holidays are about to descend upon us.  Don't let them drift by
unnoticed.  It really is an important and emotional time for Jews everywhere. 
Be true to the spirit of camp.  Join the rest of the Jewish world as we marvel
at the passage of time, and once again dedicate our lives to all that is
honorable and good.  I bet it will make you feel good.  And it will make our
summer words ring true.


I wish you all a Shannah Tova U'Mitukah, a good and sweet year.  Happy 5753.

Ron

Saturday, August 1, 1992

Camp Nostalgia

                                                                                                          August 1992

Dear GUCI Staff:

Camp has come and camp has gone.  A great summer, but a whirlwind.  People often made mention of the fact that it was my eighteenth summer in Zionsville (the staff even threw a surprise Oneg Shabbat in my honor, and honoring Susan Dill’s fifteen years as our secretary, gave us gifts, special food, etc.; a gala and much appreciated occasion) but I didn’t dwell on this thought as the summer raced along.  Rather, it was a summer filled with the usual tumult of camp, complicated by terrible weather (rain and cold).  It was a “Regular” i.e. magnificent camp season.

But today, two weeks after the yippers have fled; I did something so utterly radical (for me) and as a result was transported back through my years as Director.  The experience was both emotional and somewhat overwhelming.  What was that radical act?  Was it rummaging through old staff contracts, or digging up a time capsule?  No. I simply, for the first time in all these years, cleaned out my desk.  More years ago than I can really remember, my friend, teacher, and employee (now that I look back on it I’m not sure who was working for whom), Earl Beeler presented me with an old wooden desk that he had sanded and refinished for me.  Earl was our camp’s caretaker for 37 years, and I was lucky enough to work with him his last 8.  I treasure the desk and have used it all these years.  Today, I tried to open the center drawer and couldn’t because it was so crammed with papers, photos, slides, letters, receipts, etc. etc.  So I decided to clean it out.  What a trip!

I cannot begin to describe the contents of that drawer.  I was blown away by the pictures I found, of my boys predating their Shoresh years (since I just this week delivered Jeremy to Indiana University to begin his college career, you can imagine how I was struck by seeing those pictures), of Earl on his tractor, Jim playing bass guitar in a rock band on the stage of the Oolam, of Gert in the kitchen.  Pictures I had “Put away” to look at later.  And what about those letters I found?  Letters signed Bruce, Linda, Joel (Moose), Sandford, Susan Malman, Alex Schindler, Paul Menitoff, etc.  Letters thanking me, letters asking for jobs, letters telling me jokes, letters alive with the joys and the struggles of other years at camp.

With each new envelope that I opened, and each slide I held up to the light to see, a memory jumped to mind.  The top deck wars of the late 70’s, the training and subsequent contributions of each new Program Director, Mike Weinberg and I designing the new Chadar Ochel in my study carol in the library at HUC.  The song leaders:  Lee and Ian and Dawn, David and Leslie and Joe, Elliot Strom and Steve Sher, Mike and Rob Weinberg.  Building the cabins, fixing the pool, coaxing another year out of the truck or the van.  Laughing with Amy, Shirley, the Vigrans, the Watermans, the Snyders, the Wolfs, the Rosses, Glickman, Schwartz, Hertzman, Kamin, Gottlieb, Cincinatus, Goodman, Gottlib, Freedman, Moskowitz, Bennett, Lerner.  Out of my drawer jumped the names Tzvika, and IshTov, and Barsade, and Ari Cohen.  The sudden swarm of years made me dizzy.  Each time I think of the desk, my own personal time capsule, more names march into my mind, more memories, more lives adding to camp and being touched by it.  Today I felt in my heart the whole of my eighteen years at camp.  It was a good feeling.

One other thing.  Father’s Day is always in June, while we are at camp.  Today I re-found years and years of Father’s Day cards, some handmade (by very small hands), given to me by Jeremy and Michael.  Yes, I had quite a trip today.

Ron

Sunday, March 1, 1992

Ani V'Atah

                                                                                                                      March, 1992

Dear G.U.C.I. Staff:


The weather's turned warm here and thoughts of the upcoming camp season are
inescapable.  As always, it is invigorating to think about the energy, the
involvement, the life of camp.  But it's a little scary as well.  Why, I have
often asked myself, would anyone put him/herself in a position to be
responsible for the well-being of almost eight hundred people during the course
of a summer?  Sounds crazy, no?  Like a Camp Director on the roof.


I find part of the answer to that question in the lyrics of two songs, one of
which I'm sure you'll recognize.  How many times either here at camp, or at
OVFTY events, or NFTY conventions have we sung, "Ani V'Atah Nishaney Et Ha Olam,
You And I Will Change The World?"  I really believe that in my own miniscule
way I am helping the world be a better place by being the Director of Goldman
Union Camp.  And I really believe that "You and I," you, our staff, and I, our
Director "Change The World" each summer in many small and many, many
significant ways.  I think you understand what I mean.


It is important for all of us to consider what we are doing or going to do to
make this world a better place.  It is simply not enough to aim for a career,
for money, fame, etc.  If we are not contributing to the betterment of the
human experience, then ultimately, many of the things we accomplish in our
lives will leave a sour taste in our mouths.  I'm not saying that material
things are unimportant, but how can they compare to giving of yourself,
striving with others, teaching, building, learning, and laughing?  The longer I
live the more I come to realize that it is not the car you drive but the
direction you point it in that really matters.  I hope those of you who are
about to begin your college careers will chew on this for a while.

 
I am not so idealistic as to think that what I've suggested is enough for us. 
You should be asking, "What's the payoff?"  The second song I've been thinking
about is a little more obscure.  Some of you may have heard the old Zionist
song that proclaims "We will build the land (of Israel) and so be rebuilt by
it."  And this is the secret payoff of a summer or many summers at camp.  The
more we strive to create a better (even perfect) world here at camp, the harder
we work, the better the program, the more we give our campers...the more we are
rebuilt by the experience.  The more we teach the more we learn.  The more we
help others, the more we are helped.  The more we strive together, the more we
feel a sense of community, of family, of Klal Yisrael.  I can't escape an
uplifting feeling of pride in this Movement of ours, our camp, our NFTY
regions. 


So bring on the summer of 1992!  Let's do it again.  Let's make that
difference, no matter how small.  And, by the way, let's have some fun doing it
together.    

Ron

Monday, January 20, 1992

Debbie Freedman

   Dear Friends and Family:  

At our Seder this week we read (as always) from The Song of Songs, "Arise my love, my fair one, and come away; For lo, the winter is past.  Flowers appear on the earth."  Well that is exactly what's happening and we are delighted to see the snows melt.  

But this reading always reminds me of Debbie Freedman.  She put the words to music and her melodies are with me, always.  Here's a staff letter I wrote about her over twenty years ago.  I miss her.  We all do.  We've got her songs in our hearts.  


                                                                                                                January, 1992


Dear G.U.C.I. Staff:


Sometimes I marvel at the power of music.  In a very real sense it enhances and
helps us express our emotions.  We remember times in our lives by the songs of
the day.  Our music defines our generation.  And as we camp people all know,
music has a unique power to bring people together, to unite us, and help us
express our feelings of belonging to one community. 


Last night I took a magical mystery tour into a multi-generational musical
experience.  I joined about thirty other religious school teachers for a
rainy/snowy bus ride down to Indiana University to hear and participate in a
Debbie Freedman concert.  Multi-generational because most of the bus riders
were about my age, but waiting for us in the auditorium (unbeknownst to me)
were several camp staff members.  They greeted me warmly and I felt happy that
they had taken the trouble to come and hear someone whom I think has been so
important to our camps and our movement.

 
It was magical as well because Debbie Freedman, a musical pioneer in her own
right, was one of the first to write modern Jewish folk music.  She brought us
from "Hava Na Gila" to "Not By Might," from "Leaving On A Jetplane" to "Lechi
Lach."  I'd be the last to say that we shouldn't sing "The old songs."  But
Debbie Freedman writes the Jewish songs of our generation.  Her songs are sung
in every camp and Reform synagogue in North America.  What an impact she has
had.


It was emotional for me as well.  At one point, last night, she stopped to
acknowledge my presence in the audience.  You see, in 1973 Debbie was a
counselor and song leader in my unit.  She told the audience that I had been
her boss.  I was indeed her Unit Head, but I'm not sure who was the boss. 
Debbie was just finishing the music for her first album.  She was quite a
phenomenon.  She was pioneering new areas of Jewish music, and boy was it
exciting!  She was a demanding songleader who knew exactly what she wanted.  I
remember vividly how one day she stopped a special rehearsal of the entire camp
(we were learning her songs with all the harmonies in order to perform them for
ourselves in a gala musical tochnit erev) and when it was absolutely dead quiet
said to the entire group, "Klotz is not singing."  She got my attention.


For me, it was very special that she would remember and remark about those
years we worked together in camp.  And it was heartening to realize that we
continue to work toward the same goals today as we did then; she still creates
incredibly moving and educational Jewish music, songs of faith and peace,
prayers and lessons.  And me?  Well I'm still plugging away at camp too.  The
evening was both nostalgic and inspirational.  We'll sing Debbie Freedman's
songs for many years to come.  And believe me, she'll never catch me with my
mouth shut at one of her song sessions again.


Ron