Saturday, August 3, 2013

So Not the Journey I Packed For

This is so not the journey I packed for
I tear apart my luggage of years
looking for that one triviality I think will change it all
The detritus of my gear grows about my knees
and nothing I find could have prepared me for this
the reality of living in a statistic's legend
set ajar in a present skewed by fractions of slivers
I tear it all apart, still looking
already knowing nothing I find can fix anything
what I need is buried deep within
grown slowly in the universe of my soul
silent strength
that may never be enough
but it's all I have.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

No Answers

I have no answers
this man of God
who kneels before the mountain
bruised but not broken, battered but still not beaten
Questions fill every pocket of my soul, as I crawl across the floor 
Trying blindly to match the right answers to their mates
Neither straight edges nor middle pieces find their beshert
So I breathe in the comfort of the blessings I know
And count them diligently 
like grains of sand I'm adding gently to a worn down shore 
one piece of silica at a time
Wishing I could melt them all into looking glasses
that would let me see what time has in store
for my dreams and prayers yet to come. 

I Love OSRUI!

With updates of my son, Sam, having an amazing time at the Zoo, at the Children's Museum and running around the Ron Mac House I can breathe easy while working in one of my favorite places on earth, Olin Sang Ruby Camp Institute, in Oconomowoc, WI. Not only does my presence here let my camp family know that Sam is doing so well that I can be here, but it also gives me a chance to be in one of the safest spaces in my world.

I grew up going to summer camp in Cheshire, MA knowing nothing about Reform Movement camps at that time. But since my family and I moved to Chicago a decade ago, every summer since 2004 we've lived at OSRUI for at least two weeks. Last summer was the first summer we missed at OSRUI as Sam started chemotherapy to battle his leukemia. And yet in the whirlwind of our lives OSRUI and our camp family always hold a place in our hearts and I feel most blessed to be here as part of the Segel, part of the staff of Rabbis, Cantors and educators, dedicated to lending our professional expertise and love of camp and Judaism to this incredible place.

For over 60 years OSRUI has been engaging, educating and challenging Jewish youth during their summer vacations to explore their outdoor self as well as their Jewish identity. From the daily limudim (lessons) taught by the Segel, tefillot (services) twice a day to weekly Shabbat services, Shabbat Dinners and Shabbat Shirah (song sessions) OSRUI feeds our Jewish souls that need to return to be BaMidbar (in the wilderness) once a year.

I work in the unit Moshavah, where campers not only gain a camp experience, but also go on hiking, canoeing, biking and rock climbing trips. Not only do the campers get to study their Judaism with their old and new camp friends, but they also get to challenge themselves and go on adventures they might not otherwise have gotten the opportunity to do if they were at home. The Chanikeem (like Chanukah with an eem meaning Campers) live in tents both at camp and on their trips. The counselors who choose Mosh as their home are dedicated to providing the best and safest camp and adventure experiences they can to their campers. Whether encouraging them to scale the highest rock face or leading them through the woods, down the rivers or on the road, the staff guide our youth through the times of their lives while giving them space to grow and get to know one another.

This camp not only inspired and  raised a rabbi in my wife, Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, but has nurtured the young lives of numerous other rabbis, cantors, educators and Jewish professionals in its six decades of existence. Many counselors meet their true loves here, marry and raise Jewish families due to the positive influence of this magnificent place.

So I am honored to be counted as part of this year's Segel. I am blessed to have my Sam be so healthy that I can be away from him for two weeks to take my part in the magic of this year's camp season. Just as the campers are surrounded by their camp family so too am I blessed to be surrounded by my camp family, new friends and old, who help support me professionally, personally and spiritually.

Each day I walk these hallowed grounds I feel my spirit uplifted and my soul replenished. OSRUI is a magical place where my Jewish soul is revived every time I am here. I only hope I can share the inspiration I feel here with all the staff, counselors and campers who inspire me year after year.

If I am not in the arms of my family there is no place on earth I'd rather be, but here at OSRUI.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Long and Winding Road...

It has been forever since I've posted a blog post on this site. Of course I spent 6 months blogging about my son, Sam's, battle against Leukemia on Superman Sam with my wife, Phyllis. But it is ten weeks since then and I haven't written a word. 

Sam is doing great. He's grumpy like a crotchety 70 year old man, but for him, that is normal. He is a middle's middle. His life is so half empty you would think it is all empty for a kid who battled himself into remission, received an iPad early on as a gift to focus on instead of his cancer, who lives in a nice home, with a loving family. He feels the world has wronged him because someone else always has more than him. 

Example:
Two weeks ago, 7:30am
Sam: I wish I lived when David was born!
Me: What!? Why?
Sam: He lived in a big house! He had a cat! AND, AND he had a CAR BED!!!
Sam and Yael: (with their arms folded across their chests said with attitude) We hate our beds. We want car beds. 
Me: Your bunk beds are in great shape. Where are you getting all this information?
Sam and Yael: The picture books from when David was a baby.
Me: Give me those. Those are clearly not age appropriate. You are now banned from looking at them until you are 18. 

Now let me be very clear. When David was born we lived in Cincinnati, OH where we could buy four large homes for what it costs to live in a duplex in Chicago. My wife wasn't allergic to cats and we didn't live near her father who is deathly allergic to cats back then. And David was TWO when we received a hand me down car bed (Thanks Solomon Family!). 
I hadn't even had my coffee yet, and I don't drink coffee, but that seemed like a good morning to be convinced to take up coffee drinking. 

My life is a comedy. It makes me laugh except for the moments when it makes me cry. 

And as for me, well I've been working hard in congregational life and struggling to get my fledgling company off the ground. For years I've been figuring out ways to digitize Hebrew learning tools and get them in the hands of my students to make their lives easier. When I showed a friend last spring he asked if I'd ever thought of marketing my learning tools. Six months, incorporation fees, two artists and one computer later I am ready to publish my first digital Alef-Bet book, my second Alef-Bet book is almost in post-production and my learning tools have had a major facelift. 
My website, www.DigitalJudaism.com is still a work in progress but you can go see some of the beautiful artwork that Sekana Radovic and Eric Winter have created for our books and request some free samples of my products (who doesn't love a free sample!). 
I'm tweeting @DigitalJudaism too and can be reached at michael@digitaljudaism.com

I've been told by my digital media savy wife that I have to blog more than once an eon too. 

Thank you for all your love and support, m