Abe Morris and his wife, Andi, have been supportive of URJ Camp Harlam for many years. We are excited to announce that Abe and Andi made a commitment to support the Harlam@60 efforts by becoming members of the 1958 Club at the Zimriah Judge level and another generous donation to establish the Abe & Andi Morris Scholarship Fund to provide financial assistance for children who have lost a parent to attend camp.
Abe, along with his mother and four siblings, spent many summers in the 1970s at Camp Harlam. For a few of those years, Abe was a member of the Harlam kitchen staff with Rita Ehrenpreis and Saul Arnold. His duties were washing dishes and operating the Hobart dishwasher, among other things.
Abe has been active in Jewish activities throughout his life. He was national NFTY President in 1977-78 and spent a lot of time at Harlam in his NFTY and PAFTY (now PAR) roles. Despite never being a camper at Harlam, Abe has long felt the impact from and connection to our camp and its community.
Harlam’s Development Director, Judith Friedman, wanted to learn more about Abe and what inspired him and Andi to make this extraordinary new commitment.
Judith Friedman: Why is Camp Harlam special to you?
Abe Morris: Camp Harlam holds a very special place in my heart and always will. It also holds a special place in the hearts of my brothers, Keith, Wayne, and David, as well as my sister, Debbie. However, I don’t need to tell that to the Harlam campers who come to embrace a meaningful Jewish camp experience each summer or the many Harlam alumni. They know that Camp Harlam is unique in building lifelong friendships, bolstering one’s Jewish identity, and learning to enjoy being Jewish.
More than 45 years ago, when I was in 9th grade, my father passed away suddenly. We no longer had any thought about going to camp – it was simply unaffordable. In addition to obviously being distraught, my mother’s thoughts focused on what to do with her five children and how they would deal with this unimaginable tragedy. My mother picked up the phone at some point and called Arie Gluck [who was the director of Harlam for more than 35 years], whom she did not know at the time, to let him know of our situation. My mother, a Registered Nurse, volunteered to be Camp Nurse (Arie told her he had one, but my mother simply told Arie that he now had two!). Camp was already full including all staff positions, but Arie had a good heart or middah lev tov. My mother became Camp Nurse and all her children were welcomed into Camp Harlam, the three youngest as campers and the two oldest began working in the kitchen. And, as they say, the rest is history!!
Judith: You have been supporting Harlam for many years, both through our Mitch Perlmeter Scholarship Fund and Arie Gluck Capital Fund. What is it about Camp that made you decide to invest as a donor?
Abe: Arie never asked for a dime from my mother. Through his selfless deeds, Arie helped to keep our family together. I will never forget what he did for us, how he made us feel welcomed, the love we found in Kunkletown, and the lifelong friendships we made at Camp Harlam.
Our religion teaches us that “charity is equal in importance to all other commandments combined.” My parents taught us about the virtues of tzedakah. A blue and white tin box for coins was ever-present growing up. Andi and I still have a tzedakah box – our current one is ceramic from Israel – in our home today as a constant reminder of the importance of charity to strengthen the Jewish and non-Jewish community. We believe that it is important to give back to the community and to do whatever we can to make a positive difference in other people’s lives.
Judith: At the same time that you and Andi became supporters of the Harlam@60 effort to fund capital improvements at Harlam, you also made a generous donation to establish the Abe & Andi Morris Scholarship Fund. Why is creating this scholarship resource important to you, and why is the commitment to campers who have lost a parent so critical to you?
Abe: I wish such scholarship funds were not needed. While we can never repay the generosity that was shown to all my family and to me 45 years ago when my father passed away, the least that we can do is to provide support for other families in their time of need and to enable them to experience the joys of this special place.
Judith: What are a few of your favorite camp memories?
Abe: Wow, there are many memories. I am hoping that current campers and alumni will enjoy these and will have a few laughs …
- Throwing out the dirty pots from the kitchen into the lake that were used by the cooks that we were supposed to clean, and pleading ignorance when the cooks were unable to find their pots the next day.
- Going on “strike” for higher kitchen wages and being told we would be fired if we did not get back to work. So much for worker’s rights at Camp Harlam under Arie Gluck.
- Danny Gold teaching my brother, Keith, and I how to drive when we rolled the mail truck into a ditch and Ralph Eckley (who was the Caretaker at the time) having to come and tow it out.
- On visiting day, standing outside the back of the kitchen with the entire kitchen staff (cooks and all) along with a huge trash can with big bold signs requesting tips from parents stating we were responsible for feeding their kids (this was our way of rebelling after losing our battle for higher wages).
- Marilyn Gordon (who passed away last year), my mother’s good friend and co-nurse from Hazelton, PA.
- Myrtle Zacharias, Ralph Eckley, and Sandy Knappenberger – the dynamic trio!
- Various people and families immediately come to mind…Sue Kittner Huntting (a special friendship that remains to this day – she encouraged me to run for NFTY President), Julie Gold, Anita Hochman, John Golomb, Danny Gold, the Gluck Family, the Prushan Family, Rabbi Richie Address, Leon Sher, Grace Lissauer, John Lyons, Saul Arnold (kitchen supervisor who eventually married my cousin, Rayna Morris), Freddie Berg, Rabbi Danny Zemel, the Kreshtool Family, the Ehrenpreis Family, Ian Gershman, and many more!
To learn more about the Abe & Andi Morris Scholarship Fund – or the many other vehicles for donors to support scholarship, capital and other needs at Harlam – you can click here.