I was both delighted and amused to see that the Museum of Jewish Heritage has a t-shirt for “Camp Dora Golding, Summer 2001” in its collection. I went to Dora Golding that summer. The fact this shirt is in the Museum’s collection doesn’t make me feel old; it just seems surprising that such a “recent” item in its archives. However, on second thought, summer camp is part and parcel of the Jewish experience: the learning, the activities, the trips.
If one looks through the Museum of Jewish Heritage, one will see that it not only memorializes the tragic events of the Holocaust, but also offers us a glimpse into pre-War Jewish life: Judaica, children’s toys, pictures, etc. Additionally, the Museum commemorates the reinvigoration of Jewish life after the War: tradition continues, we live and strengthen our faith every day. Whatever challenges we may face, we know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
The summer of 2001 was a wonderful time to be a camper at Dora Golding; we had an all-star lineup of staff, some of whom were “rookies” at the time: Rabbi Doniel Staum, Yehoshua Solomon, Rabbi Yitzy Erps, among others. Additionally, this was my bridge into teenhood. I would be starting high school that fall. The world at large would lose its innocence with the terrorist attacks of 9/11 occurring just one month later. However, that summer was a time for spiritual and physical growth. I am forever grateful for my time in Dora Golding, a summer which is now enshrined in a museum. (Of course, this is the most I have from the summer as I lost my yearbook).
Rabbi Doniel Staum eloquently wrote about today’s topsy-turvy world in a dvar Torah published on RabbiHorowitz.com for Parshas Vayechi 10 years ago. In his article, entitled “The Light at the End of the Tunnel,” Rabbi Staum describes how Klal Yisroel has shone brightest in the darkest of night. “Binyomin is a wolf, he will prey; in the morning he will devour plunder, and in the evening he will divide the spoil” (Bereishis 49:27). As Rabbi Staum writes, “The evening is a metaphor for when the sun of the nation’s glory has set, after the destruction of the first Bais Hamikdash at the behest of Nebuchadnezzar.” In the darkest days of gallus Bavel, Binyomin’s descendants, Mordechai and Esther, would divide the spoils of Haman (Rashi to Esther 8:7; Esther Rabbah 10:13). When times are hard is not the moment to resign to our “fate;” rather, we can learn from Binyomin the power of endurance so we can not only survive, but go on the offensive.
To that end, it is unhealthy to sit idle: children today, as in 2001, need learning programs, sports, and other activities. We need good people to do a good job: the national labor shortage has not skipped our community. The roles of counselors need to be filled in our camps. It takes the right people to make an amazing summer for Jewish children. I had a great time as a camper and counselor; I want to impart that experience to the next generations. It is a win-win situation that provides an outlet and opportunity for young kids and teens alike.
As Rabbi Yitzy Erps has said, “True shalom is having ahava for another Yid.” By giving to others, we are really helping ourselves. It is not too early to start thinking about camp. Let’s do our part and bring light to the world; may Yaakov’s blessings be imparted on all of us.