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Wednesday, October 28, 2015


                                                                                             October, 2015
Dear Family and Friends:

Working with Jewish college students on a big campus is always interesting. Or, maybe I just find things interesting...as they say: “Whatever.” I am fortunate to advise a group that leads a once-a-month all music Shabbat service. Like so many other Jewish outfits we call it “Shabbat Rocks.” Our leader couldn’t be with us so I filled in the other night when the group got together to plan this Friday's musical service. As most know, I'm no song leader and certainly not that kind of musician, but I've worked with a lot of great ones and have a sense of what's good and what may not be. So I led the meeting but the group made all of the musical decisions. It was a good meeting.

Michelle Bennett, Jim and Amy's youngest was great.  She stepped up to the plate to suggest tunes and put together the program. She's a freshman here at IU. At one point toward the end of the evening as we discussed the final prayers of the Shabbat service, she told us that she had learned a new melody, call and response, for the Aleynu. She began, “LET US ADORE,” we responded, “Let us adore,” she, “THE EVER LIVING GOD,” us, “The ever living God,” she “AND RENDER PRAISE...” us, “And render praise...” and so on. I was floored. When I asked Michelle where she learned this new tune she replied that Dan(ny) Nichols had taught it to the campers and staff at Goldman Union Camp Institute last summer. I could only smile.

You old timers in the crowd may be able to put the melody to the call and response Aleynu Michelle taught the other students. It is the one we all grew up with in our classically Reform synagogues. Here it was again. Now it was new.

Thinking back on it, it seems to me that Dan Nichols, phenomenal Jewish songwriter, performer and (always) song leader, one of the greats at creating new and exciting Jewish music, is taking our camps, synagogues, teens, college students and adults back to the future (I wonder if he has a musical flux capacitor), creating new music and remembering the music that was. Evidently, some of that music may be again. He's guiding our Jewish communities toward new musical experiences with two eyes looking forward and one looking back. I loved that the group thought it was a cool version of the prayer. Am I reading more into this than I should? Probably.

When we actually had the Erev Shabbat service a nice crowd gathered and sang with gusto.  I was assigned the D’var Torah (short sermon) which came just before the old/new Aleynu.  Since it was a music service I decided to lead a few folk songs instead of talking about the Torah portion of the week.  I explained that it seemed to me that our world is in quite a bit of turmoil what with situations in the Middle East, Europe, and here.  I said that when I sat in those college student seats the world unfortunately was also in great turmoil and we sang songs that expressed certain hopes for peace, solidarity and equality.  Civil rights, Vietnam, poverty etc. were our themes.  Then we sang.  First it was for solidarity, “We Shall Not Be Moved,” Then for peace, “Michael Row the Boat Ashore,” Then for hope, “This Little Light of Mine.”  I’m happy to say that, once again we sang with gusto…and the banjo sounded pretty good as well.

Then came Michelle to teach the Aleynu.  I was transported back even farther than the time of “We Shall Not Be Moved,” when I was a youngster and, at least for me, there was no turmoil; just my family and me in our little B’nai Jehoshua synagogue on 20th and Ashland, standing and singing the prayer together.

 Now it’s new.  Thanks, Michelle. 

When Friday rolls around, have a rockin' good Shabbat.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The waves roll and so does G.U.C.I.

                                                                                                            October, 2015

Dear Family and Friends:

“The waves roll out and the waves roll in.”  Bob Gibson sang it and I’ve been thinking about it lately.  You old folk music fans out there may well remember the late, great Chicago folk singer Bob Gibson.  His voice rings clear in my memory and this sea chanty speaks to me.
Last week I attended the retirement luncheon for Susan Dill.  Susan just completed her 37th year as Secretary/Registrar at our beloved Goldman Union Camp Institute.  She wondered into my office in January, 1978 looking for a job.  I was desperate to find help.  In those days Union Camp Institute (that was our name back then) was a two person operation; Director and Secretary.  My secretary had retired leaving me on my own to run the office, recruit campers etc.  I needed help, badly.  Susan had never been a secretary before and I had hardly been a camp director.  She began that January and we worked side-by-side for the next 34 years.  We grew into the jobs together.

1978 was a time pre-computer when we actually dictated, typed, proofed, re-typed with carbon paper and finally mailed letters.  It was a time consuming process but one that demanded attention to language, punctuation, spelling etc.  Mass mailings went out after stamping each envelope with an addressograph metal plate, each with the name and address of a family on the mailing list.  It often took two or three days to stamp the envelopes, stuff them with letters run off on the mimeograph machine and then stamp each in the post office’s electric postage machine which sat out in the outer office (we had to take that machine in to the post office each month to deposit funds into it so it could stamp postage onto envelopes).  In this time of emails and blogs, can you imagine that it could take a week to send a mailing to a few hundred families?  What about packing and shipping several thousand camp brochures to the synagogues in Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri and Kansas?  We did it all, sometimes hoodwinking family members to come in and help stuff envelopes or pack up brochures. 

Susan quickly became much more than a secretary.  She was my sounding board for ideas and programs.  She has the ability to react just as any mother might to a new policy or program.  If Susan frowned at an idea (I had plenty of them and she frowned many, many times) I immediately knew that parents around the region would as well.  In those days camp was small, simple and broke.  We squeezed every dollar and stretched every budget line.  We made it work.  Together we built Union Camp Institute into the Myron S. Goldman Union Camp Institute.  Susan was the voice of reason and confidence on our end of the phone.  She helped calm countless worried, Jewish parents who had dropped children off at camp and received their first “homesick-come-and-get-me” letter.  She was a friend and mom to countless staff people over the years.
We also became part of each other’s families.  We celebrated together and even did some mourning together.  When I retired Susan spearheaded a great retirement party for me.  I was very grateful.  When Susan retired all I could do was go up to Indianapolis, declare October 1st Susan Dill Day and say thank you for all she has done for me, for us, and for our camp.  Not much in comparison, but heartfelt.

So eras come and eras go.  Susan marks the end of the pioneer spirit of Union camping.  She served with great dedication and love.  And it didn’t hurt that she had a great sense of humor to boot.  We often talk about making the world a better place.  Few have done as much as Susan, in her quiet way, to make that a reality.  Decades of campers and staff are better for having worked with, learned from, and laughed with Susan Dill.

Man, the waves certainly do roll out, but thankfully they also roll in.  G.U.C.I. rolls on. From strength to strength.
That’s the way I see it,