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Thursday, May 1, 1997

Kids Say the Darndest Things

                                                                                                                            May 1997


Dear GUCI Staff:


Art Linkletter wrote a book years back that was titled, “Kids Say the Darndest Things.”  Even if you’ve never heard of Art Linkletter or seen his TV show (a hit in the ‘50’s) on which he interviewed children and played to their cute answers, you have to relate to the title of that book.  It certainly speaks to a Camp Director.

A few weeks ago I was visiting Temple Israel in Columbus, Ohio.  It was to be a typical Sunday morning; Ron gets up very early, drives three hours to Sunday school, talks about camp, shows the video (no complaints from me about not having to lug around the slide show, tape player, etc), and hits the road for home.  But on this particular Sunday A.M. an interesting addition to the norm came up under the heading of. “Kids Say the Darndest Things.”

I arrived at Temple Israel a little early and met the Rabbi a while before the camp assembly was to begin.  He told me that they were about to start the morning T’fillot with the 5th, 6th, 7th graders and asked me if I’d care to lead them in prayer.  I said, “Sure,” not really thinking much about what that might involve.  In about two minutes we were in a small chapel and in marched the classes.  With the help of the songleader, we had a nice morning T’fillah.  I took the liberty (what the heck, I was the leader, right?) to ask some questions to the group as a means of introducing different portions of the service.  We talked about prayer as a way of saying “Thanks,” and as a way of expressing praise.  But, when we got to the idea of prayer as petition, asking for things, one of the 5th graders indeed said the darndest thing.  I asked, “If we use prayer to ask for things, what do we hope for?”  Many hands went up.  Some kids said we hope for health, or we hope for peace, etc.  All good answers.  But one little girl raised her hand and when I called on her, she taught us all the lesson of the day.  “What we hope for, “ she said, “Is hope.”

Could that 5th grader have understood the depth of her comment?  Did she realize that many of us turn to prayer as a source of encouragement; that just coming together as a faith community, singing, reading in unison, hearing words of Torah, gives us strength and hope.  I’ve thought about this a lot.  I think she knew exactly what she was saying.  We pray for emotional strength.  “We hope for hope.”

I’m glad I got up early that Sunday morning to learn this important lesson.  It has stuck in my mind.  The thought gives me comfort.  That a 5th grader had this idea and shared it made it even more special.  Well, kids do say the darndest thing.  It pays to listen to them.
Ron

Saturday, March 1, 1997

Reminder of Tarnov

                                                                                                            March 1997


Dear G.U.C.I. Staff:


At the recently held NFTY National Convention I had several reasons to be proud.  First of all the mere fact that the convention brought together 850 NFTY high school students was inspiring.  Singing, praying, just feeling their energy and spirit was great.  I had the opportunity to lead a few workshops during the convention.  One was on the Torah portion of the week and one was on the idea of spirituality.  In each, the kids knocked me for a loop with the depth and sincerity of many of their comments.  We compared the Israelites building the tabernacle with our own attempts to bring God into our lives.  We discussed how and where we feel holy, and what prayers bring out a sense of uplifted spirit in us.  These were personal revelations, no wrong answers here.  I found the groups to be eager to share their feelings, and anxious to encounter what the rabbi (that would be me) said Judaism said about X, Y, or Z.  I think, Jewishly speaking, I turned a few kids on.  I know that I myself walked away from the convention encouraged. 

I went on the bus with our Ohio Valley region kids to the Holocaust Museum.  Two dramatic things happened there.  As we entered the building our group was loud and happy, making the typical teenage tumult one would expect of them.  But, the instant we started on the tour of the exhibits the kids snapped into a serious and quiet demeanor.  I saw several helping each other at difficult times during the experience.  I most definitely felt the spirit of Goldman Camp working here.  Our NFTYites were full of “Ruach” one minute, then appropriately serious and even comforting to each other the next.  I was proud of them.

At one point in the Holocaust exhibit I saw something I had missed on my last visit to the museum.  It was a wrought iron gate standing behind a glass enclosure.  I read the explanation card, kind of amazed to see that it was the front gate from the synagogue/cemetery in what used to be the Jewish shtetle of Tarnow (pronounced Tarnov) Poland.  You see, my Grandfather, Max Klotz came to this country in 1906 from Tarnow, Poland.  And what’s more, it’s told in our family that his grandfather was a rabbi.  I looked at that gate and realized that it is certainly possible that  my great, great grandparents, their son, and grandson (my Grandpa Klotz) may very well have walked through that gate going to shul.  In my minds eye, I saw my great, great grandfather’s hand on the iron latch, opening that very gate so a small boy, my grandpa could enter the synagogue.  Talk about feeling connected!

I felt proud that America housed this unique tribute to our people, proud that our kids respected it so, and proud to find my great, great grandfather’s gate in the middle of it all.

Ron

Saturday, February 1, 1997

Sunsets

                                                                                                             February 1997

Dear GUCI Staff:

I’ve always had a special feeling, a fascination with sunsets.  For me, no matter what the day brings forth, a dramatic sunset is a sign of hope.  As I think about it, I realize that I’ve gone out of my way to watch sunsets wherever I’ve been.  Sunsets are glorious spectacles of elapsing time dramatically punctuated by their slowly changing color schemes.  They inspire me with their magnitude, make me feel small and part of something big, all at once.

When I was a Unit Head at Olin-Sang-Ruby up in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin I had a private Erev Shabbat ritual.  At a certain point during Shabbat dinner, I would quietly leave my unit and walk out back of the Chadar Ochel.  There I would take my seat, all alone, on a wooden storage box and watch the Western skies turn to fire as Shabbat descended. I liked to think that the colors in the sky were the train on Shabbat’s royal gown.  Later I’d think about the prayer in the evening service which credits God with causing the evening to fall and setting the stars in their heavenly courses.  It’s hard to feel Shabbat peace when you are a camp staff member with ongoing responsibilities, but those Shabbat sunsets out back of the Chadar Ochel were my fifteen minutes of Shabbat Shalom.  I was a Unit Head for six summers.  Every clear Erev Shabbat I managed to make it to my designated sunset spot.  I remember the calm and the beauty of it.

Last spring, Juca and I spent a week on the West coast of Florida.  We joined all the others in that beautiful place each evening quietly watching the sun touch down on the water.  We always thought and sometimes remarked at how quickly the sun went down.  It seemed to plunge into the Gulf and disappear.  One almost expected to hear it sizzle.  But what came next was the clincher.  After the sun was gone, a full half-hour of reds turning to purple turning to wisps of pastels.  Someone told me the colors are just the sun’s reflection off of the air pollution.  “Finally,” I thought, “something good from pollution.” 

Yesterday I spoke to my son Michael on the phone.  It was a big deal for me because he’s away, far away studying for the semester in Tel Aviv.  That was the first time we had spoken since he left.  It’s true that I hear his voice speaking the words he writes me on the e-mail, but in my heart, not my ears.  So it was great to actually hear him yesterday.  He had a lot to tell me, but one of the stories was about going to the beach to watch the sun set.  I think he told me this because he knows that I am moved by the thought of it.  And now I have these thoughts too; thoughts of my son in Israel, celebrating his independence, touching his Jewish roots, growing up, sitting on the beach taking it all in, in Technicolor.

Each evening we bless God for making the evening fall and setting the stars in their heavenly courses.  And in our hearts a special blessing for alowing us to witness this greatness; and living to hear our children tell of this majesty, from 8,000 miles away.

Ron

So now it's 2015, fifteen years later, and  I'm still looking at sunsets with awe.  As Thanksgiving approaches, being in the sunset years of my life, I can't help but be thankful for two wonderful and successful sons, two amazing daughters-in-law, two (I can't say enough about) granddaughters, and,  in all caps, JUCA .

Here's a sunset (a bit enhanced) from our porch in Bloomington...Awesome!