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.