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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Sharing the Good News

Dear Friends and Family:                                                                      Dec. 2016

We like to start off each Shabbat (Friday evening) here at Hillel, before we light the candles, sharing any good news from the past week.  You can imagine that, with a sanctuary filled with IU students, people are somewhat reluctant to share.  But as soon as one student breaks the ice, the good news flows.  Last week one of our G.U.C.I. alums, Tony Satryan announced that he had been accepted to Johns Hopkins grad school.  That’s REALLY BIG news and great to hear.  Congrats to Tony. Tony’s sharing was followed by others telling that they would be studying abroad next semester, that one had landed a much-desired internship and on and on.  It’s a great way to end the week and a great way to begin Shabbat.  

My own good news was years in the making.  I shared a smidgen.  Last month I traveled to Atlanta to officiate at the Bar Mitzvah of Linda Ross Brenner’s son Josh.  I started rubbing elbows with the Ross family from West Virginia in the mid 70’s at what was then Union Camp Institute (good old UCI).  Linda was a camper, a member of camp’s first Avodah crew, staff member and finally my administrative assistant.  So she was mainstay at camp.  With a most dynamic personality, everyone knew Linda.  She was a force (or maybe I should say the force was with her…and maybe a bit intimidated by her).  Not only was it emotional for me to “rabbi” the Bar Mitzvah, but Ian Silver led the music.  Ian preceded me at camp.  He was already entrenched in UCI when the Klotz’s arrived in 1975.  Subsequently Ian spent many summers song leading and teaching drama.  Ian was a major player in the music of our camp.  Assistant song leader under Mike Weinberg and then mentor to Lee Freedman (In a musical way, Weinberg begot Silver, Silver begot Freedman, Freedman begot Cincinnatus, and on and on).  Ian helped lay the foundation for the great music and singing that has always been an integral part of G.U.C.I.  Years after he left camp he returned to visit and ended up marrying my then administrative assistant Judy Benjamin Abramson.  You see how connected all of these lives are.  I officiated at Ian and Judy’s wedding, which took place in the outdoor chapel at camp.  

So I am participating in the Bar Mitzvah of the son of a very long-time friend, standing next another very long-time friend (and his guitar).  How good is that?  I wouldn’t have been able to do it justice sharing it in a sentence or two at Hillel.

Last weekend I journeyed to Dallas to take part in the installation of long-time staff member and former program director, Rabbi Dan Utley.  Dan and I worked together for years, created programs, played music, solved problems, and always laughed a lot.

 It seemed to me that, just a minute ago, Dan was just a kid.  Now it’s Rabbi Dan Utley.  That’s another wow moment.  In addition Alan Goodis, who began coming to camp when he was just three (his mom was on faculty) did the music and Jacob Pactor was in the congregation.  I spoke that night about core values we learn at camp.  The service was followed by a song session complete with slides on a screen so all could sing along.  At one point Alan came up to me and asked if I was ready to tell a story.  Dan had asked in advance if I might do so.  When I told Alan it was a go, well, the next slide was a picture of a campfire.  Perfect.  By the way, Dan, Alan, and Jacob met in cabin 11, their first Shoresh session (Shoresh is the youngest unit at camp).  They were each eight years old.  That’s friendship.  

Wait, there’s more.

I left Dallas and flew to Chicago to meet up with Dr. Lee Freedman, Rabbi Jim Bennett, and Rabbi Sandford Kopnick for our yearly Chicago Bears celebration.  Sandford was also in that first Avodah group with Linda and Jim was their unit head (I’m talking 1979). Sandford and Jim were each multiple-year program directors; Lee was long-time song leader, unit head, and even returned years later to be camp doctor.  It is hard for me to remember a time when I didn’t know these fellows.  Our friendship is golden.  They are a treasure, period.

Watching kids grow up, working side by side with other staff members, bonding is all part of the magic of camp.  I’m sure this relationship building happens at every camp.  It is certainly a main course at G.U.C.I.  This month has been special for me to see my staff members grown, doing good work, being good for each other.   I was a part of each of their formative years.  Our joint camp staff experience cements the bond.   There are many more of you out there.  But these were the people that I met up with in just one month.  It means a lot to me to see our kids succeed and to see how they remain close friends over the years.  In Hebrew we call it Shomrim Al Ha Kesher; guarding the connection.  Makes me proud.

Starting off Shabbat by sharing good news is a nice thing to do.  I’m sure we will continue to do so.  This week I could have shared a lot more, but it would have taken me all the way to Havdalah (Saturday night) to tell the whole story.  

So let's all be “Shomrim Al Ha Kesher,” treasure these old friendships, and keep in touch.



  1. This made me smile up down and sideways! It was such a joy to work with you once more for just a little while, doing just a little of what we did all those years ago, that made me who I am today.

  2. אני שומר על הקשר כל יום

  3. Wonderful telling of what was obviously a great month for you! Everything truly is connected.