Dear Family and Friends:
Our Indianapolis community and The Goldman Union Camp Institute lost a good friend last week. From the time our kids Jer and Mike attended the Hasten Hebrew Academy we knew the Batelman family. Our kids were friends and the Klotz family shared our neighborhood, Greenbriar, with the Batelman family. Gideon, who passed away last week, and I worked together all the years I directed the camp. He sold the camp paper goods, kitchen supplies and a variety of other things over the years. But our relationship was unlike any other vendor and customer. I think the camp reminded Gideon of his birthplace, Israel. He didn't just sell to the camp, he took care of the camp. I'll give a few examples. Before each summer I would order the entire summer's worth of paper goods. Gideon knew that the camp had very limited storage space. He would bring half of the items and keep the other half in his garage. Then throughout the summer he would come to camp, take inventories and replace whatever needed replacing (it's possible he also liked seeing his kids who were campers and camp staff members).
I remember one time he showed up with an industrial fan. If you visited the camp’s dining hall today, you would see two dozen ceiling fans, two big warehouse fans and several wall mounted fans. It gets hot at camp. But in those days we didn't have those fans and Gideon thought we could use one. He just showed up with it; and it was great. Whenever he found anything at a good price that he thought the camp could use, he would call me, and we would have it.
But here's the best Gideon story. I am reminded of one of my favorite movies, "The Great Escape." In that prisoner of war movie James Garner plays the part of "The Scrounger." The prisoners are, of course planning an escape. Whatever they need The Scrounger finds. Need a camera? What size lens? They tell the Scrounger and he'd somehow find it.
Well one July we were studying the history of Jerusalem in our camp's educational program. That summer Jerusalem was celebrating its 3000th anniversary. We came up with the bright idea to culminate the program on the last night of camp by floating 3000 candles on Styrofoam boards in the pool and have a birthday party for Jerusalem. Not only that, we wanted to use Jewish candles, so we decided Hanukkah candles would be perfect. One problem. Hanukkah is in December and this was July. Enter our James Garner. I called Gideon with this wild idea. I expected him to say that it is impossible to find any Hanukkah candles at that time of the year let alone 3000. But no. Gideon tells me that he knows someone in Brooklyn and let him make a couple calls to see what he can do. No lie; the next week 3000 Hanukkah candles arrive at camp. I still do not know how Gideon did it, but I certainly remember it well all these years later. By the way, the Jerusalem culmination program was a complete disaster, but we did get all of the candles lit.
Susan Dill will testify to the fact that our great G.U.C.I was lucky to have many people who helped us over the years and were completely in the background, unrecognized. We were lucky to have Gideon Batelman on our side. Gideon and I had great talks whenever he came into the office. He was one of the really good ones.
That's the way I see it.