In her beautiful new podcast, Ha’Iggeret, former Jacobs camper, Shira Kaplan (of Alexandria, LA) raises a question I’d never considered and provides an inspiring answer that applies to the miracle of Jacobs Camp as well as it does to Hanukkah.
You know the story. In 168 B.C.E., a small band of Jews (the Maccabees) revolted against the powerful Syrians, who had enacted laws forbidding Jewish practice. The Maccabees were victorious and returned to rededicate the desecrated Temple. Of course, they wanted to light the ner tamid, but found only enough oil to last one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted for 8 days. It follows, then, that we should celebrate 7 days of Hanukkah for the 7 miraculous additional days of light, right? So why 8 days? Shira shares the teaching that it was also miraculous that the Jews still wanted to rededicate the Temple after all they’d been through. The fact that they cared enough to search for the bit of oil in the first place made the one day’s worth of “non-miracle oil” miraculous, as well.
And so it is with the miracle of Jacobs Camp. My predecessors have written that the very existence of our beloved camp is a miracle. The work our founders did to raise those CAST funds to build the camp, the dedication of our present and past directors and lay leaders, the commitment of our summer staff and the trust of parents year in and year out … all seem miraculous. Those many extraordinary and selfless acts make it possible for generations of young people in the deep south to share Jewish joy and grow up as knowledgeable and committed Jews. Like Danny (and most of the former chairs, now that I think of it …), I met the love of my life in Utica, Mississippi and have experienced the joy of seeing the camp’s impact on our children. But, of course, the strength of our camp community is not a miracle. Rather, it is the result of hard work and determination – dedication and rededication – the very essence of Hanukkah. Perhaps the miracle is that our founders cared enough about the Jewish future – about us and our children – to build this camp in the first place. And that our children love it enough to keep that flame burning. Kein Yehi Ratzon. May it always be so.
Happy Hanukkah and love from all the Posners!
Linda Posner served as the Chair of the Camp Committee from 2015-2020. She lives with her husband, Mark, in Baton Rouge, LA.