Saturday, July 8, 2017

50 years ago - A Jewish summer camper was "born"

I figure that I should post this at some point.   In late June of 1967, I left home (in Kansas City, Missouri) for the first time to spend 11 days away on my own...well, sort of on my own.  This non-boy scout actually agreed to attend the inaugural session of Tzofim at what was then Olin Sang Union Institute Camp 50 years ago.  After a visit to my congregation from camp director Irv Kaplan, I had tried to sign up for the regular cabin session, Kallah.  After I was notified that it was closed, I was disappointed, but soon a green post card came to my house.  It said that there was a possibility for a tent-based session to be created, which would have the same basic programming as the Kallah session.   I said yes, and so I had my opportunity to get a taste of Jewish summer camping. 
  Full disclosure - I am the one in the front row on the far left in the photo below, it's true.  They did try to teach me to swim, but that didn't take.  Still, it was a great experience. 
      During one of my years at the camp for the Hava Nashira Songleader workshop (around 2003, maybe) we were all sitting in the Bayit, the main building that was near Lac La Belle.    One of the faculty gave us this direction during a service: "Think about the first time you were away from home."   As I sat on my chair in the Bayit, I said to myself my answer to the question.  "Here.   This is THE place where I spent my first time away from home."   I have had contact over the years with a few people in this photo.  I would have never thought that I would have been a part of something like this that was a first.   Tzofim 1967 was full of real Tzofim, because we were the ones who helped the camp "scout out" whether this program would work. And did it ever!  I returned for Tzofim Bet in 1968, and didn't make it back to OSRUI until 1999 for my first Hava Nashira workshop.  The distant memories of Tzofim added very much to my Jewish foundation of learning and connections that have continued during my time at University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, at HUC-JIR, and throughout my rabbinate (of 36 years now).  So, thank you, what is now OSRUI, for adding an important dimension to my Jewish life!

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