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(You Gotta) Accentuate the Positive and Eliminate the negative...

Pay no attention to the number by the month.  Here's a good thought for the New Year.  Shannah Tovah. Ron                        ...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Eppes Essen.

No mention of Shapiro's or Corky and Lenny's or The Rascal House...but here's a great little video.  Our People are something else!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012


I wrote this article seventeen years ago.  I'm sorry that it still has meaning today.

                                                                                                            January, 1995

Dear G.U.C.I. Staff:

The day before yesterday we delivered our son, Jeremy, to the airport as he began
a great adventure, five months of study and travel at Tel Aviv University.  It
was with mixed feelings that I said my good-byes to him.  As any parent would,
I shared his excitement, yet I couldn't deny my feelings of sadness at seeing
him leave for so long a time at so great a distance.

That night, I heard the news of the suicide bombing at an intersection north of
Netanya.  Nineteen Israeli soldiers murdered and many others injured.  Jeremy,
along with several other camp kids landed in Israel amidst another tragedy, at
a time that I'm sure will temper their excitement and feelings of freedom and
adventure with the harsh realities of life and death in our Jewish State.  Many
years ago, I traveled to Israel to study at the Hebrew Union College.  It was
actually my second year of study there.  I was at the Machon Hayim Greemberg
for the '69-'70 school year and was returning to begin my rabbinic studies in
September, 1972.  A few weeks after we arrived, my class took a trip south into
the Negev.  It was on that bus, with forty or so other rabbinic students that
we heard the news on the radio of the massacre of eleven Israeli Olympic
athletes in Munich, Germany.

My group of students, which had only just formed, was an energetic, boisterous,
good humored bunch.  But in an instant we were silenced and numbed by the
news.  It was like a scene from the Twilight Zone; Rod Serling would have taken
note of it.  We asked the driver to stop the bus.  Our tour guide translated
the Hebrew language news for us so that we were sure to understand what had
happened.  It was a very silent time.  Slowly we each got off the bus and stood
on the side of the road in the middle of that hot and stony desert thinking
about and feeling the "Alone-ness" of Israel.  As I think of that moment twenty-
two years later, I remember the quiet of it all.  As I recall, no one cried.   
No one spoke, either.  I stood together with my classmates, and after a few
minutes someone began reciting the Kaddish.  We all mumbled the ancient words. 
It was all that we could do.  It was not enough, but it was something.

After a little while, we boarded the bus and continued on our way.  It's what
we all do when tragedy strikes; we continue, we go on.  It is what Israel has
done time and time again; it survives, it learns, it grows stronger, as do we
all.  These experiences change us.  They certainly never leave us

Jeremy, Jeff Kuhr, Stacey Walter, Kareen Batelman, Stephanie Katz, Jessica
Stein, Julie Levinsky, join Josh Steinharter, Phil Jacobson, and others of our
camp family and our extended Jewish family in a trip back to the future; to rub
elbows with our ancient past, our tumultuous present, and to become the future
of our people.  They have gone to study in Israel.  I do believe that many of
their lessons will be learned outside of classroom.


Friday, November 9, 2012


                                                                                                                     March 1994

Dear Friends and Family:

I've been thinking a lot lately about my Uncle Roy Levy.  He wasn't really my uncle; I just called him that.  He was my father’s best friend.  Roy and Arnie (my dad) grew up together in Chicago and remained the closest of friends for over fifty years.  The two of them were like night and day, personality-wise, but so enjoyed each other’s sense of humor and companionship.  They were inseparable, and I might add, lucky to have each other. 

The Talmud teaches us that a good friend is a treasure more valuable than gold.  As time marches on, I have come to understand that thought more and more.  It is so easy to make friends and have friends when you are in school or in camp, when you’re a kid.  But it is much harder when life separates you from people, by filling your time with career and family.  The funny thing is that, as with most things, we don’t appreciate what’s happening to us and around us until we miss it.  How many of us take our friendships for granted, almost as if they were guaranteed to us?  Then life takes us away from each other and we realize a loss.

As art imitates life, I think about many of the famous pairs of friends I've come to know through my television set and movie screen.  Norton and Kramdon, Stan and Ollie, Lucy and Ethel, Butch and Sundance, Dobie and Maynard, Thelma and Louise, Letterman and Schaefer, even Rocky and Bullwinkle live on through the years because of their special relationships.  Sure these characters entertain us as we laugh or cry at their particular trials and tribulations.  We relate to the stories they tell us in their weekly episodes, their humor and pathos.  But these couples really live on in our hearts because above all else they remain friends.  Their friendship is always stronger than the plot.  When all is said and done, and the credits roll, we know that the friendships live on.

I know that we are, for the most part, friendly people and, as such, cultivate many relationships.  But, how many really close friendships are we allotted in our lifetime?  Not too many.  I’m not talking about the “Hi, how are you, what’s new?” kind of friend.  I mean the person who really knows you, who you can count on, talk to about the real thinks, get mad at.  The person whose advice you listen to, whose opinion really counts.  How many of those never-ending, no-masks-needed-to-hide-behind friendships do we get in a lifetime?  We are lucky to have any, and indeed fortunate to have two or three.

So what’s this all about?  It’s about appreciating and going out of the way to continue cultivating that special friendship.  It’s about making that phone call or writing that letter, it’s about keeping the “Kesher,” the connection, it’s about being there for each other.  My dad and “uncle” were each, in their own way, a blessing to the other.  Hey, the greatest compliment anyone can give you is calling you their friend.  You can’t take that to the bank, but its value is beyond counting.  Be good to each other.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The High Holidays and G.U.C.I.

Here is an old article I just came across.  The High Holidays were over a month and a half ago, but I thought I'd share it anyway.  

      (or at least Ron’s)

Well, it’s that time of year again.  Looks like footballs are flyin’, leaves are about to change their clothes, the Cubbies are anticipating another long vacation…it must be fall.  Most importantly, as I write this little message to you, Jews around the world are about to celebrate Rosh Ha Shannah and Yom Kippur.  At first glance, we might not see much of a link between the High Holidays and GUCI.  But look again, because it’s there. 

We created a substantial link between these holidays and the 40 Avodanikim who cleaned out camp, shared their great Ruach, planned special programs, and lounged on their porch last summer.  Two weeks of their Limud program centered on the Torah portions we will be reading in each of our synagogues.  I hope these Torah readings will have added meaning and significance for Avodah 2005.

But even for those of us who were not in Avodah, the link between camp and the High Holidays is strong.  These ten days are all about helping us to become better people and making the world a better place.  Isn't that what GUCI is all about as well?  We learn to live together, solve our problems, help each other, and practice Tikkun Olam, improving our world. 

I hope the sound of the Shofar will stir all of those good thoughts in our minds and hearts.  Shannah Tovah U’Mitukah.  A happy and sweet new year to you all.

See you next summer.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Oh The Places You'll Go, and the People You'll Meet

                                                                                                            November, 2012

Dear Family and Friends:

I know its been a long time since I've written.  Retirement life can be quite busy.  I'm lucky to have the opportunity to work with, teach, and celebrate Shabbat with some pretty wonderful college students (I think they are starting to like me too).  I am teaching a class called "Storytelling and Torah-telling."  There are only a few students in the class, but they are great.  We started the semester with me telling them stories and then looking at stories in Genesis.  We talk about the structure, style, drama and characters in the stories.  Now we are beginning to create our own stories.  It's an interesting class.

One of the Storytelling students is from China.  Her name is Whu He, pronounced, "You He."  Indiana University has literally thousands of foreign students, many from Asia.  Whu is very quiet and thoughtful.  She asks questions but usually waits for me to ask her for her thoughts on anything we are discussing.

Last week we had a Shabbat Rocks Erev Shabbat service.  It is like a camp song session, six or seven guitarists ( two are G.U.C.I. kids...I boast), no readings, we just go from song to song to prayer, to song.  Very cool.  We get a lot of kids to each month's Shabbat Rocks.  There is a lot of spirit in the room and Shabbat dinner (and blessings) downstairs afterwards is always full and lively and ...well, wonderful.  I wasn't surprised to see Whu at Shabbat Rocks.  There are usually several non-Jewish students who attend.  Some may be boy or girlfriends of Jewish kids, some just come because they are interested.

Today, parents' weekend on campus, I was invited to do a Shabbat intro at a Fraternity house on campus.  After a welcome, a story, and leading the table blessings I returned to Hillel for dinner.  There was Whu.  I sat next to her so we had a chance to talk.  I asked her how she found Hillel at the beginning of the semester and she told me she looked up "Jewish life on campus," and there we were.  She enrolled in the class and started coming to services and Shabbat dinners.  "What made you interested in Jewish life on campus?" was my next question.

Sometimes a person or a sentence or a conversation can be so inspiring.  Whu told me that on her way home from school in China everyday she passed what she called an underground Jewish group.  She started to stop by to see what they were about.  She also told me that her father used to tell her bible stories and even knew some teachings from other Jewish books.  She said that all of this was outlawed in her country.  Then she very quietly, kind of turning down her face, said, in a quiet voice, "I couldn't believe how lucky I was to find out that I could participate in Jewish life here in Bloomington."  Whu He is not Jewish.  Well, maybe she is, in her heart.

I can't believe how lucky I am to be able to meet people like Whu He.  And ain't freedom grand!!  No joke.