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.