I know that we are all heartbroken that we couldn’t be physically together – and at home – in Utica for Gary Lazarus’s installation, but one of the few benefits of the remote format was that it allowed our tent to be even larger. What a blessing for us to have been led by two of our homegrown rabbis; Michael Danziger and Judith Lazarus Siegel, and to be joined by so many of Gary’s friends and family as we welcomed him as our new Camp Chair.
No volunteer position I have ever held has brought me more joy than this one, partially because the work is so important, of course, but also, I think because – for me – and indeed for most of us — Jacobs Camp is a family affair.
I remember well when my parents drove me to the middle of nowhere for the dedication of some camp in the summer of 1970. They drove me back the following summer when I was old enough to be a camper, and countless times after that. And I remember the butterflies in my stomach when we turned onto Morrison Road. Every. Single. Time. STILL. I met the love of my life in Utica, and Jacobs Camp has been central in the lives of all three of our children. My role as Camp Chair gave me yet another opportunity to try to reach the high bar my brothers set for me (as you all can witness in this beautiful video!), and it gave Mark and me both the rare opportunity to witness – and sometimes even share – the formation of friendships and experiences that shaped our children. I am so grateful to Mark, Joshua, Aaron, and Rachel, who never begrudged the amount of time I spent on camp business, because they love Jacobs at least as much as I do.
I now pass the “torch” Becca Ashner made in 2007 for her mother, Joel, when she became Camp Chair, to Gary, and with it, I pass a gift most lay leaders can only dream of: the finest professional leadership of any camp anywhere – ever. It is hard for me to part with Anna Herman because she is the perfect partner. Anna is smart, funny, uber-organized and SUPER competitive on our behalf. Jacobs Camp has always been her home, too. She and Nadav love this community, and all of their children and it just couldn’t be more obvious to us all.
All of us connected to this extraordinary institution have seen the ripple effect of what we do at camp. We create Jews – or more passionate Jews – out of the young people who come to Utica each summer. They make friends; sometimes they become families, and almost always they become active members of and leaders in their own communities. By creating Jewish community at camp every summer, our campers and staff come to value Jewish community and they take it with them – or create it – wherever they go. That includes some of the least likely places – like Greenville, MS, Opelousas, LA or Dothan, AL. In my view, that makes Jacobs Camp the most important Jewish institution on earth. And it’s all yours, Gary. We know you will continue to lead us from strength to strength.
Thank you for the privilege of serving you , Jacobs Camp. It has been one of the greatest joys of my life!