Southern & Jewish
Southern & Jewish celebrates the stories, people, and experiences – past and present – of Jewish life in the American South. Hosted by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, posts come from educators, students, rabbis, parents, artists, and many other “visitors-to and daily-livers-of” the Southern Jewish experience. From road trips to recipes to reflections, we’ll explore a little bit of everything – well, at least all things Southern and/or Jewish. Shalom, y’all!
Growing up in Texas, I started attending Greene Family Camp in 1980. I was one of those camp kids: Greene was my home, my community, the place where I found what I wanted to do with my life. I wasn’t the only one, either — my Greene friends were also all Jewish kids who counted the days throughout the school year until they could be back home at camp.
In the summer of 1988, I went to Israel for the first time. I went with my camp group. It was the summer before my junior year in high school, so by the time we went to Israel, my camp crew were already a tight bunch (but of course, anyone new was quickly welcomed into the fold). It was the adventure of a lifetime — certainly, of my life up to that point. Being 16 and getting to travel overseas for six weeks is an unbelievable privilege and experience. Each day of the trip was filled with memories and marvels. All of us fell deeply in love with our Jewish homeland and with the sacred community we created. We headed home changed forever.
The years passed and life presented us with many new adventures: marriages, children, careers. But somehow our minds always found a space to reflect on our Israel trip and on each other. Some of us have stayed in close touch and others have bumped into each other in all kinds of places. My favorite is running into people as we are now dropping off our own kids at camp, wanting our children to capture the camp magic that we so cherished. But still, we were scattered, and had not come together as a group in more than two decades.
And then one of us sent an email last year saying hey, let’s all get together.
It was such a strange time to decide to have a reunion. Our trip had been 27 years earlier — no significance to the number. Three years shy of an even 30. It made so sense at all. Who has a 27-year-reunion?
Well, turns out that we do.
After the suggestion had been made, the thought of waiting for an even year or a year with a Jewish meaning or something seemed too far away. We wanted to be together now. And just like that, the reunion was in motion. We decided on Vegas as our meeting point, because we were all spread out anyway, and why not go to Vegas?
I decided to bring my husband along, despite the fact that he’s a non-camp person. He asked all kinds of questions leading up to the weekend about the people who would be there, and for the most part I didn’t know the answers. We’d been in sporadic touch, enjoyed the occasional run-ins, but mostly weren’t up on each other’s day-to-day lives.
“So… we’re headed on a trip for you to see people you haven’t spent any real time with in 27 years?” My husband asked.
Yup, I confirmed. That’s exactly what we are doing.
The Vegas weekend arrived. One by one or two by two, the former Greene campers and Israel travelers arrived. And one by one we fell back into sync with each other. There was so much to talk about, so much looking each other up and down to see how we had changed from kids to adults, and so much joy. It was easy. It was fun. It was us.
The weekend came to a close and we vowed to make it happen again soon and to get more people there. We had to do our best to continue to access what we had tapped into, way back in that summer of ’88.
On the plane ride home my husband shared that he “got it.” To watch us all and to see that we were still connected after all this time, was all he needed to see. Camp is magic. Israel is magic. Being a part of the Jewish community is magic. Make it happen for your own kids and for any Jewish kids you know.
They just might have their own special 27-year reunion.