By Jeff Green
These remarks were shared at the Harlam Golf & Tennis Outing on May 15, which was the kick-off event to the year-long celebration for Camp Harlam’s 60th anniversary.
Before I start, a quick story…
O’Keefe regularly plays golf on Sunday mornings with three Rabbis. Every Sunday, they break par while he shoots 90. At the end of the season, he asks for their secret. It’s their religion, they tell him. They go to synagogue, study, pray, and celebrate Shabbat, then play golf on Sundays and have great rounds.
Desperate to play well, over the winter O’Keefe converts, joins a synagogue, studies, prays, celebrates Shabbat, and looks forward to spring.
Come spring, he meets his friends and they tee it up. Again, they break par and he shoots 90. Frustrated, he explains that he converted, prayed, worshiped, and studied, but his golf game didn’t get any better.
One Rabbi asks, “Which synagogue did you join?”
“Beth Shalom,” O’Keefe replies.
The rabbis laugh, “That’s the synagogue for tennis.”
On behalf of the Camp Council, I’d like to thank you all for being here today to help support URJ Camp Harlam. As a past camper, staff member, supervisor, and now camp parent and Camp Council member, when Dan asked me to sponsor the hole in one today on behalf of Keystone Volvo, it was an absolute yes. We are proud to be a part of this event. And of course, we hope you had an amazing time.
I was recently talking to my parents about what camp means to me. The answer comes down to three things. Family, Faith, Community.
Family, that one is easy. I met my wife, Samantha at camp during the Summer of 1994. Those of you who know that back story know that, well, maybe we’ll just say it was an unconventional pairing. Sam is four years younger than me.
Now, many years later our daughter Sarah is a Galil camper who lives for camp, plays guitar and songleads at our synagogue. And our son Ben will be attending Rookie Day this summer and plans to attend camp for the first time next summer.
Faith, camp has long been at the center of my faith. It has shaped my belief and has empowered me to be a dedicated member of my synagogue board. When I worship, my mind instantly goes to Chapel in the Woods or Chapel on the Hill and the many summers I spent singing, laughing, praying, learning, and even crying with my friends at camp. Come on, have you never been there for Zimriah, the last night of camp, singing your color war team’s alma mater through the tears?
Community, for those of you that have experienced even one summer at Camp Harlam, you know the feeling of community I’m speaking of. Think about when you hear a song, a strum of the guitar, smell fried chicken on Shabbat, or see a candle or a white t-shirt. That connection to Camp Harlam is one that is unmistakable.
Thank you again for being here today, and for financially supporting Camp Harlam as we strive to continue to make it the best it can be. I want to leave you all with one final thought. Perhaps a clearer picture of what Camp Harlam is all about and what it creates. If you attended camp, or have family, or even friends that attended camp, when you hear something that matches your experience, or the experience of someone you know, please stand up. Camp Harlam creates Rabbis, Cantors, Synagogue Administrators, Jewish Educators, Congregational lay leaders, married couples, and lasting friendships. What more is there to say? You are all what Camp Harlam is truly about. Thank you.