Featured Post

(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, March 29, 2013

Tribute to Debbie

  Dear Friends and Family:  

At our Seder this week we read (as always) from The Song of Songs, "Arise my love, my fair one, and come away; For lo, the winter is past.  Flowers appear on the earth."  Well that is exactly what's happening and we are delighted to see the snows melt.  

But this reading always reminds me of Debbie Freedman.  She put the words to music and her melodies are with me, always.  Here's a staff letter I wrote about her over twenty years ago.  I miss her.  We all do.  We've got her songs in our hearts.  

                                                                                                                January, 1992

Dear G.U.C.I. Staff:

Sometimes I marvel at the power of music.  In a very real sense it enhances and
helps us express our emotions.  We remember times in our lives by the songs of
the day.  Our music defines our generation.  And as we camp people all know,
music has a unique power to bring people together, to unite us, and help us
express our feelings of belonging to one community. 

Last night I took a magical mystery tour into a multi-generational musical
experience.  I joined about thirty other religious school teachers for a
rainy/snowy bus ride down to Indiana University to hear and participate in a
Debbie Freedman concert.  Multi-generational because most of the bus riders
were about my age, but waiting for us in the auditorium (unbeknownst to me)
were several camp staff members.  They greeted me warmly and I felt happy that
they had taken the trouble to come and hear someone whom I think has been so
important to our camps and our movement.

It was magical as well because Debbie Freedman, a musical pioneer in her own
right, was one of the first to write modern Jewish folk music.  She brought us
from "Hava Na Gila" to "Not By Might," from "Leaving On A Jetplane" to "Lechi
Lach."  I'd be the last to say that we shouldn't sing "The old songs."  But
Debbie Freedman writes the Jewish songs of our generation.  Her songs are sung
in every camp and Reform synagogue in North America.  What an impact she has

It was emotional for me as well.  At one point, last night, she stopped to
acknowledge my presence in the audience.  You see, in 1973 Debbie was a
counselor and song leader in my unit.  She told the audience that I had been
her boss.  I was indeed her Unit Head, but I'm not sure who was the boss. 
Debbie was just finishing the music for her first album.  She was quite a
phenomenon.  She was pioneering new areas of Jewish music, and boy was it
exciting!  She was a demanding songleader who knew exactly what she wanted.  I
remember vividly how one day she stopped a special rehearsal of the entire camp
(we were learning her songs with all the harmonies in order to perform them for
ourselves in a gala musical tochnit erev) and when it was absolutely dead quiet
said to the entire group, "Klotz is not singing."  She got my attention.

For me, it was very special that she would remember and remark about those
years we worked together in camp.  And it was heartening to realize that we
continue to work toward the same goals today as we did then; she still creates
incredibly moving and educational Jewish music, songs of faith and peace,
prayers and lessons.  And me?  Well I'm still plugging away at camp too.  The
evening was both nostalgic and inspirational.  We'll sing Debbie Freedman's
songs for many years to come.  And believe me, she'll never catch me with my
mouth shut at one of her song sessions again.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

https://sites.google.com/site/rabbironsblog/mp3    test

This is a test for putting audio files on the blog.  Check this banjo piece out (played by yours truly)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Zikron'o Livracha

Although my father, Arnold Klotz has been gone now twenty-three years, his memory is indeed a blessing for me.  Everyone knew him as Arnie.  He was a warm, loving and very funny person.  My dad and grandfather Max ran a small insurance business called, oddly enough, Klotz Insurance.  Their office was at the Insurance Exchange Building, 175 West Jackson Blvd, in Chicago, part of the Stewart, Keater,  Kessberger and Lederer agency.  They called themselves insurance brokers.  Whereas the agents in the office represented the insurance companies who wrote the policies, brokers represented the customers who bought the policies from the insurance companies.  Dad was always presenting claims to the companies and defending claims for his clients.  My dad sold his clients the insurance and then helped them collect (that's when they needed him the most).  He spent most of his days out making calls, seeing clients who had problems and helping them resolve issues regarding losses.

In those days the insurance industry had a somewhat bad reputation.  People who couldn't make it in other careers often wound up selling insurance.  Many were not exactly the most reliable.  Once when I was a little boy I visited the office.  I distinctly remember Mr. Lederer (the big boss of the agency) taking me aside and saying, "See all of the men working here (there must have been 200 at desks that filled an entire floor of the building), your father is the one everyone trusts.  He is number-one honest."  That was Arnie Klotz, avid golfer, Cubs fan, the guy who loved to sneak away with his buddy Roy Levy for an afternoon at Wrigley or at the Windy City pool hall on Cicero Avenue for a game of three cushion billiards.

Now, after almost two years of retirement in Bloomington, Indiana, Juca uncovered a small plastic bag in a box of stuff.  In the bag were five pencils.  No big deal, right?  Well, upon looking at the pencils I see the printing  Klotz Insurance, Wa 2-0173.  Wabash 2-0173, my father's business phone number; a number I had always remembered even though Klotz Insurance ceased to be, around 1975.

I remember so many things my father said to me over the years.  He loved Juca and her sister Helenita, adored Jeremy and Michael, his grandsons, but also loved the Israelis that I used to bring home from camp in Wisconsin on days off.  He loved most of the things I did in my life, my friends, my music (although he never owned a record or even a radio.  He used to say that if it didn't have four wheels, he wasn't interested...he absolutely loved automobiles).

In about 45 minutes I will officiate at two boys B'nai Mitzvah here in Greencastle, Indiana.  I serve as the rabbi at the Hillel here (DePauw University).  Just as my dad never missed one of my football games in high school (he often said to me after a game, "Man that defensive tackle gave you a hard time...but you handled him.") both my mom and dad often accompanied me to high holiday pulpits to watch me "play" on the Bima.  Dad loved to help me roll the Torah and find the holiday Torah portions.  Although his great grandfather in Poland had been The Rabbi of Tarnov, and his father, my grandfather, was one of the most learned Jews in our little Czech synagogue in Chicago, he knew absolutely no Hebrew.  I think he was impressed that I could spot the exact starting place in the Torah for that day's reading.  If he were here today, he would certainly have helped me find the boys' Torah portions and then taken his seat in the back row to watch his son go to work. 

As I was about to leave the motel room, Bible and prayer book in hand, I decided to grab a pencil in case I would need to note something down during the service.  There it was, Wa 2-0173.  Dad's always with me.  We unveil cemetery markers, tombstones,  and look at scrapbooks and snapshots to remember our parents.  Sometimes a word or a song or a restaurant they loved, or stories at the Seder bring them back to us.  All of that and more applies to my memories of my dad, Arnie Klotz.  But now, daily, I see his Klotz Insurance, Wa 2-0173 pencils on my desk, in my car, and now, in my prayerbook.  What smiles a pencil can bring on. 

Thinking of you, dad...


Saturday, March 9, 2013

A few years ago Max Klaben and I ventured to Snowy Moscow in February to speak at a week-long training session of the FSU's  Reform Movement summer camp Directors and many of its counselors.  Take a look at the video by scrolling to my 11/11/11 blog entry.  

Now another G.U.C.I. alum (soon to return to Zionsville to be this summer's Program Director) is about to spend his Passover in the FSU  serving that Jewish community.  We wish Chase Foster all the best for a Nisiya
Tovah (safe travels) and Chag Sameach (happy holiday).  You can help Chase out by sending a few dollars his way to support this wonderful act of Tikkun Olam, making the world a better place.  

Here's what Chase wrote about the project:

In about a month, I will be participating in the Former Soviet Union (FSU) Pesach Project. The FSU Pesach Project is an annual program through HUC and the WUPJ. This program will send me, and almost 20 classmates to Berlin and then to various cities in the FSU. I am travelling to Gomel, Minsk and Lida, Belarus to assist small Jewish communities that do not have the resources to provide for Jewish professionals during Passover. Last year’s FSU trip allowed approximately 5,500 people to join around the seder table with community for Passover. Information can be found here: http://fsupesachproject2013.wordpress.com.

In order for me to pursue my passion, I need your help! I have committed myself to fundraising $2500 for FSU out of the total $52,000(!) my classmates and I are dedicated to raise to make this experience successful.



Saturday, March 2, 2013

What's Your Ace In the Hole

I had a conversation with an IU student this week that made me think of this letter I wrote a while back.  I don't know if that student reads the blog, but here it is.  Not bad advice...something to think about...it works for me.


Here's a question I'm pretty sure you haven't been asked before, "What's your
ace in the hole?"  An ace in the  hole, you know?  That's the one thing that
bails you out when all else fails.  The one thing that only you know, that is
sure, that you can always count on.  What is your personal ace in the hole? 
Let me give you a couple of tips.  ONE:  everyone needs one, and TWO:  if you
haven't thought about this, you should.

The real point here is that life is hard and often filled with disappointments.  What do we do when things fall apart?  What is our last line of defense when the blitz is on and there are no more blockers (sorry for the football analogy, but I'm still grieving over this Bears' season)? 

I think it is crucial that we all realize how important we are to ourselves.  That's
right!  No matter what happens, I am going to continue to be my own best
friend.  I like me.  And even at those times when I don't like me that much
because I have screwed something up (impossible, not the great Ron Klotz?), I
try to pep myself up, regroup, so to speak, and inevitably I regain my
friendship with myself.  I'm not talking about being conceited, cock-sure, full
of myself, or anything like that.  This is a personal thing - no one else knows
about it (until now).  It's strictly between me and myself, and it certainly is
my ace in the hole.

If you're interested, find a copy of Paul Simon's recording of "One Trick
Pony."  It is not a very well known album, actually the soundtrack from the
movie he starred in (I digress).  You will find a song there called, "Ace In
The Hole."  I have been thinking about that song and this idea for a long
time.  Paul Simon always asks important questions - you won't be disappointed
in this record.  He says, "Ace in the hole - lean on me - don't you know me,
I'm your guarantee."  And that is just what we all need, a guarantee.

We all know another great songwriter's work, Rabbi Hillel, who wrote, "Im Ain
Ani Li Mi?"  If I am not for myself who am I for?  The rest of the song is
important too, but without this first statement we are lost.  I think it is
good for a person to talk to him/herself (not out loud or people will start
looking at you funny).  Remind yourself of just how good you are, when things
are bad.  Be good to yourself.  Be a friend.  Do for yourself what you would do
to help someone else who is down in the dumps.  It's a private thing, and it

If this all sounds silly to you, well you can just hit delete.  After
all, it's a private thing.  It's about MY ace in the hole - what's yours?