In late June, I had the privilege of spending some time with the members of the Israeli Mishlachat (Delegation) who are serving on the staff at the Eisner Camp this summer. As I have explained on previous occasions, I always find this time to be time well spent. While my ostensible task is to help them prepare for life in an American Refiorm Jewish summer camp, I always find my own Jewish identity and beliefs challenged by their questions. For example, it was their challenges a few summers ago which led me to speak about and suggest a change in the version of the Aleynu prayer we use in our worship (more about that another time.) As we went around the circle introducing ourselves — who are you? Where are you from? What are you doing at camp this summer? Is this your first time in the US or at camp? I learned a bit about the 40 or so Israelis with whom I was sitting. As we finished our “rounds” they asked me, and you? So I started to explain, I am a Rabbi who serves a congregation near Boston. I explained my connection to Eisner Camp, and to various other members of the Gurvis clan at camp this summer (Laura — Senior Assistant Director; Sarah – Unit Head for the 13 year olds; Aaron – a counselor for the 15 year olds; and Jacob a camper in the 14 year old unit). I also explained that I would be leaving for Israel in a few days to spend a month studying in Jerusalem (which is where I am as I write these words.) They were fascinated that I was headed to their country while they would spend the summer in mine. At one point, someone asked, “where do you feel at home?” This question caught me up short. I found myself sitting in silence for a few moments, before I replied: “I guess I can say that I have three homes. My main home is in Newton — and I love my home, my life, and my community in Newton — and in the greater Boston area. My second home is, in many ways, at Eisner Camp. Having begun my relationship with Eisner as a staff member in 1973, I find that each summer, as the community builds itself anew, that I am at ease, renewed, and so often inspired by the time I spend in the Eisner community during the summer months. There is a comfort that spreads through my physical being as I drive through the gates — be it in the summer, or for one of our congregation’s many retreats during the year. As I sat at Shabbat services at camp that last Shabbat before I left for Israel, I was so at peace, and so open that I knew that this home was preparing me to bridge between my time at home in Newton (and at Temple Shalom) and what was then in store for me during this summer’s time in Israel.
A few days later I left for Israel — for a visit to friends in Haifa and at our sister-congregation, Or Hadash; and especially for my time at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. It’s now three weeks since I left Logan Airport. As always, my time in Israel has been filled with inspiration (More about that in a separate post), with challenge (more about that later too– For example: yesterday we traveled to Hebron, a place I have not visited in about 30 years); and with a profound feeling of being at home — with the Hebrew, with the many friends I have here, and with my friends and colleagues with whom I study at Hartman, and those I encounter unexpectedly on the street, and more. In a bit over a week I reverse my transition as I return home to Newton, to my family (families?) at Eisner camp, and to Temple Shalom.
Many in our community have second homes — on the Cape, in New Hampshire and elsewhere. Our family “owns” but one home in Newton. Yet, I feel profoundly blessed to have three homes in which I can live, learn, build meaningful relationships, and face life’s challenges as I journey along life’s path. And I feel profoundly blessed to live in a serve a community which affords me these opportunities to inhabit different “homes” at different points in my year. Each enriches me; each grounds me; each challenges; and each is critical to to person I am. Where is home? Not such a singular nor simple question nor answer! In the meantime — Shalom from my home in Jerusalem!