Gut shabes alemen. Gut shabes.
My name is Nettie Spiwack; and in that secret code understood only by Boiberikaner, and as proudly displayed as any educational degree, I carry the letters after my name: EE '71
I believe in miracles. I have always believed in miracles. But tonight is a miracle of a special order. For I'll daresay that no one in this auditorium tonight ever thought, over the past 2 decades, that they would gather, dressed in whites (or almost whites) to once again sing through a shabes service, ale tzusamen.
Mir geyen, mir kumen fun barg un fun tol....to paraphrase, we have come, haven't we, from hill and dale, a long, long way, from New York and Pennsylvania, from Connecticut and Massachusetts, New Hampshire and from Florida, from New Mexico, from Michigan, from California, from all over the USA, and even from across the ocean from Israel.
But no matter what physical distance we traveled, we have all made another journey to be here as well... a journey of the heart. And I suspect that for a great many it has been a more difficult journey than perhaps they expected, one of mixed emotions, of great joy and remembered sorrow, of celebration and of loss, of excitement and trepidation. For rarely in life do you get the opportunity to cross a bridge that spans directly from middle age (or more) straight back to your childhood; to your teen years, to a time and place that shaped you, perhaps in a way and to a degree that only in retrospect, in the recounting of the experience against the backdrop of your life unfolded, have you come to fully know and appreciate. Along the journey to this re-union, we have walked again past old friends, some of whom are gone, past the selves that we were, and the walking awakens a wealth of memory and emotion, that have been brought here to be taken out, held and treasured once more.
I can't tell you how many times over the past five years I scanned the WWW thinking SOMEONE would have to have started a web page. In the beginning, as a neophyte nethead, oblivious to search engines, I would type in every possible url I could imagine. boiberik.net. boiberik.org boiberikaner.com, campboiberik.net.org com hello is there anyone out there?
Then, nes gadol hayo shom...a great miracle happened there. One day word came my way to search Yahoo, and, thanks to Mitch Resnick, (also EE'71), Cyberboib sprang to life. And when it did, it was like A Bas Kol fun Himlem—a call from—.......a spark set to dry grass and gathered momentum so quickly that no one was prepared for the onslaught of emails that flooded our mailboxes. For those of you who have not been part of the online forum it's been like this: After several decades of the occassional contact with someone ("guess who I ran into?), or with the small group of people with whom we maintained relationships (or married)...suddenly we were in the midst of several hundred people from our past, boom, all at once. In the past few months we have collectively hauled our favorite memories out of storage and have dusted off some we didn't even know we had. I, for one, had forgotten such things as the friday night counselor guest exchange and the ceremonial entrance of the waiters with the fully loaded chicken trays
While there has been a lot of fun and "remember when," Cyberboib has also offered a much greater opportunity: Unlike a reunion where you meet at, say, the Marc Ballroom for two hours of "what are you doing now", this forum opened a door for reflection; a chance to surface thoughts, experiences and emotions that had long been laid to perhaps an uncomfortable rest, because it was the sleep of isolation. When the camp closed, and in the years between then and now, we were disconnected from something that was powerful, powerful enough to draw us all here today from ridiculous distances. For many of us, Boiberik was a fundamental organizing influence on our identity and how we relate to community. In its absence, our experiences take on the illusion of individual memory. "My memories, My experience."
To quote a recent email from Mike Golub; "We know from this discussion group that memory is a communal event -- that our recollections are one vast interwoven tapestry...that one shared memory from yesteryear evokes another, and so on down the line. Mention one name from camp, like "Kolko" for instance, and it’s like tossing a pebble into a pond. An expanding series of waves radiate from that central point -- in this case, spreading warmth and smiles in every direction."
So, re-examined in the web of a large community, there has been the chance to generate collective meaning for our individual experiences.
So much about the Boiberik experience across many generations of Boiberikaner has already been so beautifully expressed online by so many people, that I wonder what else can possibly be added.
Let me try to bring it together like this:
We are standing on hallowed ground. We are here, 77 years after its founding, still living reflections of the vision of Leibush Lehrer, whose life fulfilled the purpose expressed in his name: beloved teacher. For any Boiberikaner who made the long journey to be here this weekend, I'll take the risk of saying that the combination of Yiddishkeit, ritual, ceremony and love in which we were all immersed formed the seminal positive experience of our Judaism, no matter which avenue that expression later took. The people who contributed so much to that experience and who are gone, people like Fishl Kolko, Rita Schwartz & Danny Berg, I wish they and their families could know how vividly and lovingly they are remembered; after all these years, and what an enormous difference they made.
For me, this collective memory has been more three dimensional, more authentic, Because while each of us had our own individual Boiberik experience, it all took place within the context of the entire Boiberik community. In sharing as a large community once again, we have gotten to see ourselves magnified by the lens of the greater community; our best memories have taken on new detail and dimension, and at least as important, we have also at last had a chance to mourn and complete as a community; a chance we did not have when the camp closed suddenly. And completion leaves the opening for new experiences, and to celebrate and savor the moment from a different place.
Like the mythical Brigadoon, we are here again. and that is the other big miracle. I am very grateful to Omega that "undzer camp" has been so lovingly taken care of, that it is here to come back to, and that we have been so fully welcomed. As Joy Harris said, I shudder to think that we could now be standing and looking at a condo development. That we can come here after all these years, and participate in this auditorium, on these beautiful grounds, is not something I take lightly. Personally, I don't think it is an accident that the founders of Omega recognized its spiritual beauty and have loved this place with a fervor that matches our own. They should only know!
Many small miracles happened in putting this event together. First, raise your hand if in 1972 you thought it possible that it would be Mike Golub who would get us all back here. I thought so. And to Renee & Amy, to Josh and to all—(whom I've been warned will be acknowledged again tomorrow, so I shouldn't overdue it)—we are all so indebted.
In the past few years, I have traveled to many cultures and places other than my own; from Native American Pow Wows to African dance festivals, to world gatherings in India. And I've always been welcomed as a member of those communitie and felt right at home. Why? Because deep in my heart, mir zaynen di felker, mir zaynen di velt. Leibush Lehrer's commitment to the prophet's vision sent its roots deep and strong. So if we aren't gathered here yearly in front of the Felker flats, we can still carry our piece of our culture out among the nations of the world. In that way, the spirit of Boiberik goes on.
Lastly, it is in participating in our conversations as a community that we come to realize that indeed yes, Boiberik Lives. And as long as there are people to share the music and the conversation as a community, that wonderful, intangible, unique expression that is Boiberik will continue to live.
So...kumt, lomir zingen, ale in eyenem: come, let us sing, let us sing out together! Come, let us lift up our voices once more. If you can't hold it together tonight hey, it's ok. It's great to be here, you're among friends.
Welcome to everyone. Welcome home!
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