L’Dor v Dor: Words of Wisdom from Rabbi Elliot Goldberg
Farbman. Fish. Mendelson. Neusner. Pressman. These names may not mean anything to you, but they do to me. They’re the family names of friends that I grew up with at Camp Ramah in New England, my home away from home, the place where my Jewish identity was solidified, and where I began my career as a Jewish educator.
It’s been a long time since I spent the kayitz (summer) in Palmer, Massachusetts. My last full season at Ramah NE was in 1995. In the intervening years, many things have changed: the camp’s population has grown, new buildings have been built, and new traditions have emerged.
I’m excited to be back at Ramah and a part of the tzevet (staff) for kayitz 2017. And, although I have some new routines to learn, there is so much that is familiar. Including so many of the names.
Farbman. Fish-Bieler. Mendelson. Neusner. Sobel-Pressman. I’m here, working at Ramah with them again. This time however, it’s not my friends who are here with me at Ramah – it’s their children.
The Ramah Experience is a powerful thing – it can transform lives. I’ve experienced this myself as a chanich (camper) and chaver tzevet (staff member). Watching it carry on from one generation to the next is awe-inspiring.
The Psalmist says, “May you see your children’s children; May there be peace for Israel (129:6).” Midrash Tehillim (119:4) cites this verse as a proof text for the notion that the quintessential moment of peace is when you see your children’s children. Watching my parents interact with my children, I know this to be true.
Yet, on this day, I am moved to amend the verse. Don’t read “your children’s children,” rather read “your friends’ children.” As I am privileged to have front row seats as second (and third!) generation Ramah educators take on the roles of madrichim (counselors) and rashei edah (division heads) once held by their parents (and grandparents!), I am overwhelmed with feelings of happiness, pride and joy; and, by a deep sense of peace, knowing that Ramah and the Jewish future are in good hands, and will be for generations to come.