by Amy Sherman Greenberg
Being from England, and having spent five summers (2001-2006) on staff at Jacobs, I was used to living in a place where no one had heard of Utica, Mississippi or HSJ. So moving to Los Angeles, with its massive Jewish population and expansive list of synagogues and communities to join, was no shock. Generally, people on the west side of Los Angeles are not familiar with many of the congregations in the Valley and vice versa, let alone having heard of a Jewish community of any kind outside of the state. Los Angeles may have the third largest Jewish population in the country, and more than half a million Jews may live here, but sometimes it can feel like the Los Angeles Jewish scene caters to the masses and not the individual, and can at times be somewhat uninviting. Therefore, beyond the small group of HSJ alumni who I know live in the Greater Los Angeles Metropolitan Area, I never expected to run into someone tied to Jacobs Camp, let alone at work. I think that is why this story is so special to me.
I am a teacher at a private school in a suburb outside of the city of Los Angeles. One day, I was covering a class for a colleague while she was on a field trip. The activity the students were assigned was to pick four personal stories from different times in their lives that really defined how they had become who they are today. After answering an onslaught of questions from the sixth graders eager to complete the assignment correctly, one boy raised his hand and told me he was having a hard time coming up with the four stories he needed to write about. I went over to the boy’s desk and sat down next to him, ready to help him brainstorm the events in his life that made him who he is today.
I looked at his paper and all he had written was the word “camp.” I smiled at the boy and responded in my usual teacher way: “Camp is a great place to start! You probably made a lot of friends. Did you have a lot of fun? Was it the first time you were away from home for such a long time?” The boy responded as follows: “well my camp is in Mississippi.” I didn’t see my own face, but I think, if I remember correctly, I began to smile from ear to ear. I said to the boy, “Jacobs Camp?” I can’t imagine what the boy was thinking, probably trying to work out how this random teacher at his school, with an English accent, knew about his camp! A little shell-shocked, the boy said, almost questioning, “Yeah? HSJ?” It then clicked.
I had heard from J.C. about an alumni family who lived out here, whose son is good friends with Gabriel Cohen, and who was hosting a dinner when J.C. was in town that I had planned to attend later that month. I asked the boy his name and he confirmed my suspicion: it was Eddie Wolfson. I must have begun talking very quickly and at an increased volume because Eddie’s and my discussion started to be picked up by other students. I told the wide eyed boy, Eddie, that I had been on staff for five years AT HSJ before he started to go to camp so I completely understood why the only thing he could think of to write about and the only thing written on his page was “camp.”.
While I had to pay attention to the rest of the students in the class, I did keep coming back to Eddie to discuss our new found connection. Eddie continued to tell me about all the new things that camp has gotten since I was last there – including a swimmable lake (!), the Blob, the Wet Willie Waterslide, and more things that, through all the excitement, I cannot even recall. Since that day Eddie and I always say hi to one another when we pass at school; I don’t know about him, but my smile is a little bigger every time our paths cross.
I don’t think words can really describe how excited I was after that class. I was so desperate to tell someone who would understand just how special that encounter had been for me. Seeing Eddie’s face light up when he discovered someone else knew about this special place that made him who he is today really was the best part of the whole experience.
It really is true, wherever you go, there’s always someone from Jacobs Camp!
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