I stand before you as an alumnus of the URJ Goldman Union Camp Institute. GUCI, as it is affectionately known, is a sister camp to our very own Camp George which is located in Zionsville Indiana, just north of Indianapolis. GUCI was my home for 9 summers; as a camper, counselor, leadership staff, and songleader. It is the place where I learned to live and breathe Judaism, to find connection, to discover myself. It was where I chose to send my own children and it is where they too came into their own as active members of the Reform Jewish community. GUCI is a part of my soul, my lifeblood. The GUCI community and the extended URJ camping community are family.
And so it was that the news from GUCI this summer struck such a personal chord. On June 29th, the peace of a Shabbat afternoon was rocked by a lightning strike that left three young campers who were playing Ultimate Frisbee, injured on the athletic field. There were no storms forecasted for the area, nor was there a cloud in the sky. The lightning was truly a bolt out of the blue. Due to the quick response and heroic efforts of staff, all of whom are personally known to my own sons, the campers were rushed to area hospitals and all survived. Two of those children thankfully have recovered, with one even returning to camp for a visit.
The third camper, 13 year old Ethan Kadish, was hospitalized in his hometown of Cincinnati for 145 days and he and his family are in need of our help. His injuries have been catastrophic and the challenges that he faces are many. For these many months, Ethan has been working hard on his daily therapies in preparation for his discharge that finally occurred yesterday and saw him return home. But he and his family still face a long road ahead. There are mounting financial costs that are related to his ongoing care and therapies, and the accommodations that need to be made to their home.
Every morning at GUCI the camp gathers together to sing the song “L’takein” written by GUCI alum Dan Nichols and former director Rabbi Ron Klotz. The lyrics are as follows:
Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu melech ha’olam shenatan lanu hizdamnut l’takein et ha’olam.
Blessed are you, Adonai, our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has given us the opportunity to mend the world.
We have a chance to help mend Ethan’s world.
At the end of August, during the week that was to have seen Ethan called to the Torah as a Bar Mitzvah, a fundraising campaign was launched to help the Kadish family meet the immense financial challenges that lay ahead for uninsured therapies, home modifications, and other injury related expenses. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of The Union for Reform Judasim reminds us that our tradition teaches:
Kol Yisrael arevim zeh b’zeh...all Jews are responsible one for the other. I would like to think that maybe Kol ha-anashim arevim zen b'zeh...that all people are responsible one for the other.
In an effort to help the Kadish family, a series of fundraising events will be held this Chanukah. From the URJ.
In connection with the Union for Reform Judaism, and HelpHOPELive, URJ Camp George has organized a fundraising flashmob on the 8th Night of Hanukkah called 8th Night for Ethan. This campaign invites individuals and organizations to give donations (in multiples of 18 – a number that symbolizes good luck in the Jewish tradition) over an 18-hour period on the last night of Hanukkah. Donations will go directly to HelpHOPELive, which has set up a fundraising campaign to assist with Ethan’s ongoing medical expenses. Camp George’s Facebook page will include updates on the event beginning on November 27 (the first night of Hanukkah) and ending on Wednesday December 4 (the 8th Night of Hanukkah).On the eighth night this year, it is my fervent hope that every family who lights a Chanukiah will light a blue candle in Ethan's honour, and in lieu of gifts that evening to please make a donation to HelpHOPELive to help with his ongoing care.
The Talmud teaches that whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved the entire world. (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:9) Ethan's world needs our help. Together we can make it a little bit better.