What Might Have Been
Reading Rabbi Josh Strom’s recent blog post about the URJ’s Camp Harlam Institute for Living Judaism made me mad.
No, I’m not mad at Rabbi Strom. I’m mad at the longtime rabbi of the congregation in which I grew up — where I was consecrated, became bat mitzvah, and was confirmed and married — and where my father is still a member and regular worshipper.
Although I’m quite sure his actions (or perhaps more properly, his inactions) weren’t intentional, this rabbi chose not to engage at all with the Union, the CCAR or the College-Institute or to share the vast riches of the Reform Movement with his members and their families during the 38 years he led the congregation. Had this now-retired rabbi done so, I and two generations of other kids from “my temple” might have had the same meaningful, powerful and transformative Reform Jewish camp experiences that so crucially shaped the lives of many of my friends and colleagues.
Like them, I would know the Hebrew names of places and activities.
Like them, I would know birkat ha-mazon from memory (complete with table-banging in all the right places).
Like them, I would have studied Torah from a young age, absorbing its values and traditions, and, early on, incorporating them into my life in a meaningful, Reform way.
Like them, for four weeks each summer, Jewish identity and pride would have permeated every aspect of my life, becoming part of my very being.
No, I wasn’t blessed with a Jewish camp experience, but I am fortunate that in spite of this omission, the person I’ve become — and continue to become — has learned to live Jewishly, a gift that transforms, strengthens and enriches me each and every day.
As I read daily on this blog of others’ camp experiences, I can’t help but wonder though, what might have been if I had been a camper just like them…