Five years ago, when I first applied for the position of Sr. Rabbi at Temple Emanuel and was invited to come for a visit, I remember looking at the Shwayder Camp plaque in the hallway and seeing the words:
“ A Summer to Build Your Life On…”
I thought to myself—hmmmm, that sentence is grammatically incorrect! It should say, “A Summer on which to Build Your Life.”
But sentence-ending prepositions notwithstanding, that slogan will not be changing any time in the near future because Shwayder Camp values its traditions and legacies. And I can live with that. As a matter of fact, I can do more than live with it – I celebrate not only the grammatically incorrect slogan, but also its truth.
Shwayder camp is place where lives are built, friendships are made, God is found – in the music, the mountains, the moments of prayer and the many traditions and cherished spaces that have forged so many incredible memories over the past 65 years.
Yes, lives are built during Shwayder Summers. Character is strengthened and Judaism and Jewish life are brought to new heights – not only because of the close proximity of the heavens at 10,200 feet, but because of that “Shwayder Magic” that is infused through ever experience and memory that thousands of campers have been blessed to receive.
Shwayder Camp is also a place where we teach our children to strengthen their relationship to Judaism and the State of Israel. In a time when Israel is being attacked – physically, economically and existentially -- we desperately need places where we can expose our Jewish children to Israeli counselors and campers as well as providing them with multiple opportunities to learn to love and celebrate the Jewish State.
Temple Emanuel is uniquely blessed by this bequest of the estate of Maurice B. Shwayder. Every summer, we are entrusted with the precious souls of our campers, SIT’s, senior staff and everyone and anyone who survives the drive up the camp road and enters into our sacred space in the mountains. We do not take that responsibility lightly. We should never take Shwayder for granted. There are only 3 other congregations in the country that have their own summer camps. The legacy of the past 65 summers truly sets Temple Emanuel apart. Tonight we begin our anniversary celebration but the work of strengthening Shwayder will continue long after this weekend is concluded – through the support of everyone here, through the dedication of our Shwayder staff, the parents who send their children to camp and the donors to our Shwayder Capital Campaign who will make it possible for future generations to experience Shwayder magic.
Tonight we will try to capture and encapsulate the love that Shwayder has generated. At the end of our service, we should feel a profound sense of gratitude and amazement that we have been privileged to have a place to build our lives on……