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Friday, July 22, 2011

Unchartered Waters

Dear Friends and Family:

Several years ago our son Michael turned left on I-80 and headed west to San Francisco.  While waiting the few months it took the California State Bar to let him know that he passed the exam, he decided to volunteer on Kibbutz Keturah in the Negev.  When he returned he told me that to his chagrin, when he was assigned to work “Mitbach,” kitchen duty, the crew chief asked if anyone knew how to operate the dishwashing machine.  Michael observed that it was a Hobart, something close to the hearts of any who have worked in Avodah at camp, or been an Avodah Unit Head, or run camp as Resident Director on weekends in the winter; all jobs Michael and his brother Jeremy held over the years.  When Michael confessed that he could indeed operate all of the kitchen machines in the kibbutz, he became the crew chief.  The “honor” of the appointment did not please Michael at all.

Now that Juca and I have moved to Bloomington, we are confronted with all things new in our lives.  We live in a new house (new for us) in a new town, with a new lifestyle (meaning we are retired and, for the most part, unemployed).  Adjusting to these new surroundings, not working, learning streets, new cable TV service, etc. has not been easy.  So, we have been looking at ways to get involved and even use some of our newfound free time to do some good.

Yesterday we met Pat over at the Shalom Community Center.  This is not a Jewish outfit; it was established by a Methodist church to help the homeless.  The Shalom Center’s philosophy is to welcome all and comfort those who have no place to be during the daytime hours (most live in shelters open only at night), hence the name “Shalom,” for “Welcome and Peace.”  We took a two hour orientation and signed up to work a few hours each week in their kitchen.  At the end of our time with Pat yesterday, she took us down to the kitchen to show us where to report next Monday for our shifts.  I was immediately drawn to the three-compartment pot sink.  Even Juca commentated on how many hours I spent over the years bent over the pot sink at camp on days and nights when the Avodah unit was cavorting in town or traveling to King’s Island for a day off.  The sink was definitely a reminiscence of those sweaty but very happy times.

Then I turned to my right and there she was, standing proudly in all of her glory, my long lost buddy, the Hobart.  I actually had a close relationship with three Hobarts during my time at camp.  The first was in the old kitchen in the area of the Beit Am that became the dark room thanks to Rabbi Bruce Lustig’s ingenuity, after we built the new Chadar Ochel.  Later that space became storage (paper goods, I believe).  When we built the new kitchen in 1977, I installed a new Hobart.  Then, as the camp grew we replaced that Hobart with a new-fangled track-driven, larger capacity machine.  Earl, our long-time custodian took the old Hobart and made it into a BBQ, down at his farm.  He’d lower the drop-down doors to smoke meat.  Very tasty.

So here I am in unchartered waters and suddenly I run into an old friend, soon to be my partner again in transforming dirty dishes into clean ones.  I have to admit that seeing that Hobart was a comfort.  I was, like, excited to, like, see it (I use the word “like” a bit to remind me of the language patterns of my Machonikim in the past.  I once forbade anyone from using the word as it was interjected so frequently in their speech…several were not able to express themselves without, like, using it.   But I digress).

Now here is my plan.  On Monday, my first day “on the job,” I am going to play dumb (not much acting needed for that role) and let the kitchen manager teach me how to run that Hobart.  That’s the lesson I learned from Michael and his kibbutz experience.  I’m aspiring to be the dishwasher.  I’ll leave the crew chief-ing to someone who really knows the territory.

Thanks for the heads up, Michael.

Ron

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