June 29th, just a few weeks from now, will mark one year since the tragic day at URJ Goldman Union Camp Institute (GUCI) that forever changed the lives of three of our families, deeply affected our entire camp family, and aroused the caring and compassion of the national and worldwide Jewish community. But in some ways, the more important anniversary was just this week, on June 10th, when GUCI opened its gates for its 56th summer of Reform Jewish camping in Zionsville, IN.
It’s been almost one year since Ethan Kadish and Noah Auerbach arrived at camp with smiles on their faces and hearts filled with anticipation for the memories to be created in the summer ahead. But on June 29th, as the two boys played Frisbee on a Shabbat afternoon with Lily Hoberman, a bolt of lightning out of a clear blue sky changed all that.
Noah left the hospital after a couple days and returned to camp for the final Shabbat weekend of his session. Lily left the next day and returned home to St. Louis. And camp continued at GUCI, as our campers and staff clung throughout the summer to our desire for normalcy, held tight to our will to play, pray, sing, and swim, even with broken hearts. Our prayers for Ethan’s recovery held us together and gave us communal purpose to complete the summer the way it began – with smiles and hope.
It is a testament to the courage and strength of all involved that on Tuesday, as we opened camp again, Noah, Lily, and Ethan’s sister Elyse all returned for another summer. What a joy for our community to see them laughing and smiling as they checked in. Yet, the joy is not complete, as Ethan remains at home, continuing his long recovery.
Ethan’s parents, Scott and Alexia Kadish, have inspired us all with a magnificence of spirit, thoughtfulness, and indomitability that most have never seen. In the letter below and at JoinTeamEthan.org, Scott details Ethan’s story, challenges, and recent successes. Here in Zionsville, prayers for Ethan will continue to be a part of our communal life.
Rabbi Mark Covitz
Director, URJ Goldman Union Camp Institute
As we approach one year since Ethan’s tragic injury, we are reminded daily of the love and assistance surrounding us not only from our local community, but also our larger Jewish community across North America. We appreciate all of the support provided to our family during this unexpected time of need. We welcome you to continue with us on our journey.
Ethan’s path of recovery has not been easy or straightforward. As Hanukkah 2013 came to an end, many within the Reform community celebrated Eighth Night for Ethan, a Movement-wide fundraiser, while Ethan entered the operating room for an emergency surgery to repair a perforated bowel. After a three-hour surgery, Ethan began a slow and prolonged recovery from surgery, even as he continued to deal with his other medical challenges. He was discharged from the hospital on January 31st, adding 60 days of hospitalization to the previous 149 days he spent hospitalized from June to November.
Ethan’s next challenge was adjusting to being home. After spending a total of 209 days in the hospital, being home was an adjustment for all of us, but our family began to develop a routine, working hard to accommodate Ethan’s needs. We began to celebrate each week Ethan was home, but unfortunately, our nine-week home streak ended in April, when Ethan was readmitted to the hospital with a bowel obstruction. Another surgery meant another round of recovery, though this recovery was easier and faster, with his hospitalization lasting only 13 days.
Since then, Ethan has continued on his path to recovery and has settled back into his pre-surgery routine. He now attends out-patient therapies on Tuesdays and Thursdays and is going to middle school on Mondays and Wednesdays for three hours a day. On Fridays, he goes to school for five hours and receives additional services from a vision specialist.
We recently welcomed one of the newest members of Team Ethan – President Barack Obama. A few weeks ago, we were surprised to receive a large envelope from The White House. In it, President Obama sent Ethan a letter offering his thoughts and prayers during this difficult time, along with a few photos. We’re not sure if the president has also signed up with the volunteer-based caregiving organization Lotsa Helping Hands, but if he wants to deliver a dinner or offer other help, he may need to wait in line. We have continued to be blessed with a warm and caring community that offers help wherever and whenever we need it.
Ethan’s journey is also being chronicled by our local news station (WCPO) who has written two great pieces on him, one at Thanksgiving and another in the spring. They also did a piece on his return to school, which is available on YouTube.
Since June 29, 2013, Ethan has spent a total of 222 days in the hospital, though we pray that he will spend more time at home than in the hospital from this point forward. Our son continues to teach us lessons of strength, hope, and compassion.