Wednesday, September 1, 1999
Being a Congregant
Dear G.U.C.I. Staff:
It’s been a long time since I’ve written. I hope this letter finds you enjoying the beginning of a wonderful New Year, number 5760. Shannah Tovah to you and your families. We are closing the books on another terrific summer here at camp. Even as those heavenly gates slammed shut and Yom Kippur sputtered into a break-the-fast, our Earlybird Applications were racing out to last summer’s campers while we all cried, “Here we go again!” Thank God!
I had a new experience this High Holiday; I went to Temple. I know, I’ve been in Temple for the Holidays every year since Abraham climbed the mountain with Isaac (it seems), but for the past twenty-seven or so years, I’ve been on the Bima. This year I went to Temple…as a congregant. I sat in the congregation with my family, I read the responses in Italics, I listened, I thought…a lot. I heard so many things in the services that I never heard before when I was reading them out loud. It surprised me. I was also moved by the absolute beauty of our liturgy, especially on Yom Kippur afternoon.
Being a congregant gave me more time. And I used that time to listen. What I heard was the blend of the words and moods of each service, mixed with my own thoughts, feelings, and memories. That recipe gave me a lot to chew on (pardon the poor fast-day metaphor). At times, I was transported back to my childhood days at B’nai Jehoshua in Chicago where I sat with my Mom and Dad, the other Klotz’s, Steiners, Garbers and Peaks. Sitting here in Indianapolis, I vividly remembered those days, when, as a youngster, I would run and play in the social hall downstairs until I was over-heated and red in the face. Or later as a teen, I’d sit in the balcony whispering with my friends during services, giggling and trying hard not to make too much noise.
But as important as was the time I had to listen and think, to pray and feel nostalgic, so was the emotional impact of being led in prayer by two of my campers who have become my Rabbis. We spent Rosh Ha Shannah with Sandford Kopnick and his family up in Ft. Wayne, and Yom Kippur here in our home congregation, Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation with Eric Bram. Sandford, as you know, started here at G.U.C.I. as a camper just after Abraham descended the mountain (so it seems) and stayed on through staff, program director, and faculty years. Eric was my camper back in Oconomowoc at Olin-Sang-Ruby, before I migrated south, and has served several summers on faculty here at G.U.C.I. Both now are my colleagues, both have become my teachers. Sitting in their congregations gave my High Holidays an added sense of depth and continuity. Through them I felt the connection between camp and the synagogue, and I must admit, I also felt a sense of pride for our movement at having produced two such accomplished and successful Rabbis. They each, “Made my day.”
Well, the years are rolling by, Jewish and otherwise. Here’s to a sweet one.Ron