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8
06/25/2010 02:57 PM Posted by: Rabbi Lyon

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon

This week, far from Jerusalem, I’m preparing for Shabbat in Bruceville, Texas. You read correctly. About midway between Dallas and Austin, off I-35, sits Greene Family Camp, Texas- Oklahoma region’s Reform Jewish summer camp. For the last 35 years, GFC, as it’s known to its fans, is the coolest (awesome) Jewish summer spot in the state. This summer, nearly 900 campers will fill the bunks in two sessions that run from early June through early August.

Every year, I come to GFC to serve as a faculty member along with many of my colleagues around the region. We have fun teaching, leading and singing with the campers and their counselors. In “Shiurim” or lessons, we integrate Jewish life with secular life and demonstrate how we bring our Judaism with us everywhere we go. At GFC, a mitzvah (good deed) is experienced everywhere everyday, even on the tennis courts, the gymnastics equipment, in the game room around the pool tables, ping-pong tables, and pinball machines, in the big new workout room and indoor basketball courts, around the gazebo, on the high and low ropes courses, down the zip line, at the camp zoo, at the archery range, on the soccer and baseball fields, in the art room, during photography activities, theater arts, at the huge pool, on the mountain bike trails, around the campfire, during bunk activities, in the lake and on the new lake play equipment, in the dining hall, during song session, and on Shabbat, when after all this and much more, we finally rest as a camp community.                

When I arrived at camp this past week, there were new and beautiful improvements all around camp. To begin with, the new sports complex is magnificent. A huge building filled with every imaginable sports activity awaits hundreds of eager campers. They run, jump, bounce, lift weights, and play games. Just outside the sports complex is a new gazebo surrounded by walkways that form a huge Jewish star (Magen David). The American and Israeli flags stand proudly at one end. Around the gazebo, you can imagine the whole community coming together for concerts, programs and special events. The outdoor chapel (beit knessest) has been renovated with new benches for everyone to be seated as services begin. In the evening, when the sun sets behind the hills, it’s a picture perfect place for prayers to find their deepest meaning.                

You might be wondering why I’m so excited about Greene Family Camp. Well, I’m not just a salesman; I’m also a user and donor. GFC has been a summer home-away-from-home and a veritable Israel for hundreds of Jewish kids from every synagogue in the region. Where else but Israel, can Jewish kids live on Jewish time everyday and spend informal time with their rabbis and Jewish counselors, morning, noon and night? That’s why I come here and spend time with our Temple kids and my own. It’s not Jerusalem, but you’d have to go a long way to find anything that compares to Israel. And, we do, in Bruceville, Texas. I give to GFC every year to be sure that in my own small way the camp has what it needs to provide our Jewish kids and future Jewish fathers and mothers everything they need to understand that it’s fun to do a mitzvah, to keep Shabbat, and to feel the power of being part of a Jewish community.                

On top of all that, it’s actually cooler in Bruceville than it is in Houston. So, as the song says, “Bring your Lexus to Bruceville, Texas; follow me to GFC!” See for yourself at www.greene.org.  

From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom.


7
06/18/2010 02:57 PM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon

by David Lyon

6-18-2010

When we arrived in Israel, May 30th, our eyes and ears were open to everything around us. Tel Aviv was far from Houston, and there was evidence of the fact everywhere around us. No humidity. No Texas accent. Just lots of Hebrew, falafel and Mediterranean air. When we boarded the bus to our destination, the guide began to prepare us for our first stop.

Along the way she pointed out lush fields where orchards of fruits and vegetables were growing. She explained that before Israeli pioneers began to work the land, there were nothing but marsh lands. Swamps. They drained the fields and controlled the water so that crops would grow. She also pointed to the tall buildings going up in the distance. They were apartment buildings that sold like condominiums. The growing population including immigrants required the new construction. She cautioned that among the new buildings were what they called “ghost communities.” In some cases, Americans bought up the apartments with intentions to visit Israel a few weeks each year. They thought they were doing the right thing by investing in Israel real estate, but their absence during the majority of the year didn’t sustain neighborhood stores, restaurants and businesses. So, in the absence of residents there was a dearth of business, thus a ghost community. We felt informed and forewarned.

Our guides, Lyana Rotstein and David Leshnick, answered all of our questions with great care and depth. They were true fonts of information, historical, political, modern and cultural. We depended on them for the broadest and deepest views of the Land. And, when we stumped them only because our questions became more intricate, they were not embarrassed to admit, “Israel is complicated.” It became a mantra we began to repeat to ourselves. In America, we have our own pundits who slice and dice the news into bits of information. We look for conclusions we can bank on; but, in Israel, where answers are also sought, sometimes the answer is simply, “Israel is complicated.” What’s unique about Israeli culture is that it is perfectly normal to live with tension between opposing views, ideas and outlooks. Like the culture of Talmud study, the dialectic nature of conversations on many topics shaped and refined thoughts and opinions into sharply honed conclusions. And when it didn’t, sometimes it was the most authoritative or the loudest voice that prevailed. There was ample evidence of both in Israel.

At the end of each day, we were full of information. I can’t say that we always reached conclusions, but we learned to say on our own and without any prompting, “Israel is complicated.” To live with a bit of tension between competing ideas might be the key to peace. Israelis live with tension everyday and to look at them is to observe resolve and resilience.

The way to peace can’t be one way or the other, black and white with no gray areas; often times it has to be two ways that exist together at the same time. The rabbis used to teach, “Eilu va-eilu,” these and these; that is, both views have truth. How do we pursue peace in a contested region? We can take our cue from Israel, where life is complicated and it works.

From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom.

_________________________________________________

Contact Rabbi Lyon



9
06/08/2010 02:57 PM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon

by David Lyon

6-8-2010

           I wish I could retain every sensory feeling I enjoyed while on vacation this past month. I brought my camera. It’s not a complex one, but for its size it takes remarkably fine pictures. When I uploaded the pictures and edited them to highlight favorite segments, I was instantly transported back to places that were at once beautiful, restful and fun.

            This month, Lisa and I were in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and Canada. In Colorado, we hiked in places we had never been. We hiked up to Crater Lake at 10,000 feet. Still not out of breath, we had a picnic lunch and played Frisbee with friends. Another day, we went to the driving range and practiced our new golf swings. Whether we sliced or reached the target, we laughed together and created new memories we’ll always cherish. And, somehow, food in the mountains just tastes better. It couldn’t be the lack of oxygen; it must be the fresh air and surroundings that make burgers, ice-cream and farmer’s market samples taste so fine.

            In Canada, our eyes couldn’t adequately take in the magnificence of the Canadian Rockies. They were overwhelming to behold. They caused us to feel incredibly and insignificantly human. With respect for the nature surrounding us, we approached the trails that led us to new heights near Lake Louise. Reaching Lake Agnes and the Tea House above us, was a goal we found exhilarating. Near Fernie, fly-fishing in the Elk River and at Cataract Creek was a unique outdoor experience we had never known. We had lots of bites on our hooks and we landed a few, too. Catch and release meant all we kept were pictures and thrilling memories of the brook trout we caught. My favorite part was standing in waders in the middle of the river. I was spared the cold temperatures of the waters, but I loved the sweeping feeling of the river’s energy. On our way down the road, we saw a grizzly bear and her two cubs from the car (thankfully), and fresh bear tracks near where we were fishing (frightfully). In Cranbrook, we also played our first round of 18 holes of golf. It only felt like 36. Deer in the rough and a coyote running down the fairway made it a scenic game, as well.

            Lisa and I have fun, together; but, it was the company of friends from Houston, that added to our enjoyable vacation memories. Now, we trade emails, pictures, and special stories that take us back to places we shared for only a short time. The places are still there; the friends are still among us; and next summer will come. Now, when I want to “get away” all I have to do is think about that river, its energy, the slow graceful arc of the fly fishing rod, and the small fly dropping silently onto the water. Perfect.

            Now we’re home where life’s other obligations await us. I’m grateful that work and recreation can coexist. One makes the other seem so important and necessary. I didn’t always understand that. I used to think that my work was also my pleasure, which it can be, but now it doesn’t come at the expense of recreation for its own sake. I’m glad I understand its value now. I’m glad that my wife and friends could help me see it and feel it.

            As summer vacations come to an end, I know how you feel if you’re stepping off the plane, unpacking your shorts and t-shirts, and trading them in for rush hour and suits and ties. Ah, work and recreation are cycles that come and go. They remind us of the value of the other and how important are our friends, colleagues, and family every day.

            I look forward to seeing you soon. From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom.

_________________________________________________

Contact Rabbi Lyon


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