A Harlam@60 Feature
The Leaders Who Brought Us Here
By Aaron Selkow, Executive Director
Barry Levy, onetime Reform congregation religious school teacher and eventual Hollywood screenwriter, wrote and sold a script in 2004 that would become the movie Vantage Point (2008.) The story was inspired by Levy’s fascination with the President Kennedy assassination in 1963 and the evolution of the storytelling behind that seminal and much-discussed event. He imagined what it would be like if there was film evidence taken from the perspective of each relevant person present near Dealey Plaza that day. He ultimately created a parallel tale that was placed in the present day regarding a fictional Presidential assassination attempt in Spain. The details of the film are unimportant, but the way that a movie from ten years ago could tell a complex story through the eyes of multiple perspectives felt reminiscent of what we’re poised to do as part of our Harlam@60 effort. I realize this may seem to be a bit of a stretch, but over the last year I have had the experience of deeper learning about URJ Camp Harlam’s past and the complexity and nuance of its development are astounding.
The subject of Camp Harlam is joyous and much-celebrated, set amid the rolling hills of the Mahoning Valley. For sixty years, Harlam has thrived as a place for campers and staff to come together and enjoy extraordinary opportunities for connection, Jewish identity and culture, programs and traditions, skill development and learning, and personal growth. If a film was to be made of Harlam, it would be full of color, humor, love, ritual, and spirit. The formation of our camp in 1958 and its evolution since then has many story lines. We sing about being “Joe and Betty [Harlam’s] children,” but the narrative about the establishment and growth of our camp has so much more depth in need of understanding. It’s on this anniversary – as we continue to bring together our successful past and present with a commitment to a bright future – that we introduce this series of perspectives to explore the leaders and key characters that made this all possible.