It felt like déjà vu, but it was real.
Just last summer, mere days before leaving for the Jewish summer camp I frequent each year, I received a call. After years of struggling with Alzheimer’s disease, my mother had died. Rather than heading to camp, my wife, kids, and I headed to Massachusetts for a funeral and the shivah that followed.
Flash forward to this summer – once again I was ready to head to camp. Once again, I received a call, only I knew this one was coming. My grandfather who had in May reached 108 years old had just died. Rather than packing the car for camp, Carol, my kids, and I gathered our things to head back to Massachusetts. Another funeral, another time to gather and share a sense of loss and grief.
Some may immediately think, “Perhaps Rabbi Jeff, you should consider retiring from camp before losing another family member.” But that thought would never cross my mind.
Being in camp was healing. Among the joy of being with campers and staff and the camaraderie of fellow rabbis, cantors, educators, and Jewish professionals who, like me, dedicate weeks in the summer to be at camp, I found a lot of strength and solace. I could carry my mom’s and my grandfather’s spirits and use them to propel me into each new day. And every now and then, I could share a story or a memory and know they were with me in spirit.
Around that same time, I began to hear from many of the TBE temple family. Some reached out by email, others sent beautiful cards and heartfelt wishes. From the office, I learned that many had made donations to various temple funds. Even 150 miles away, I felt a gentle stream of love from so many.
In the shadow of these two heartbreaking losses, I am reminded that I am so lucky. I have two incredible communities – Crane Lake Camp and my Temple Beth El family – who so readily wrap their arms around me, giving me a sense of hope and comfort.
I am thankful to everyone who has expressed sympathy and condolences (and I am working to get out those thank-you notes). And I hope that everyone who reads these words, all who are part of Temple Beth El, will know that love and support is ready for you, too. That is what it means to be part of a community – to give of our hearts and love as we can and then to receive the same when we need it. That is one of the core values I believe we embrace as a synagogue.
When you need, please reach out. We do not always know what is happening in the lives of our community members. However, there is a lot of love and kindness and support here. And it is here for you, too.