Their Own Name

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By Rabbi Moshe Dov Heber

It was a beautiful Shabbos morning in Camp Romimu where I spent my summers as a division head. The grass was glistening in the sunlit sky after an overnight thunderstorm. There was barely a sound besides a few chirping birds as I made my way to the dining room for a pre-shacharis coffee.

As I entered the empty dining room, there were but a few boys from the special needs bunk hanging out while the rest of the camp enjoyed their last few minutes of sleep. I approached the coffee station laden with all the coffee needs and noticed that one of the boys from that bunk, Yanky*, had his own coffee. It seemed odd as he had a Costco size Taster’s Choice while right behind him camp was fully stocked with the same coffee. “Yanky,” I asked “why do you have your own coffee, if camp has coffee right here?”. He answered “But this one has my name on it,” pointing to his name written in large block letters on the face of the coffee jar.

We may never know what he actually meant, but the message to me was clear. “But this one has my name on it” was reminding me that each boy has his own name, each boy is an individual. It reminded me of an email I had received on erev Shabbos. I have received dozens of emails over the years from parents, but that email stood out with this message and as a great way to advocate for one’s child.

Hi Rabbi Heber,

I first wanted to thank you for sending out the introduction email and an update email. It’s so great as parents to be able to hear about what’s going on and see a few pics.

I’m reaching out in regard to my son, Eli Schwartz* (bunk lamed tes). He really is a fantastic kid, and I’m not just saying that as a biased mother. There is zero expectation of a behavioral issue or any issue for that matter IY”H. Eli loves his friends, sports and having fun. However, he is on the shy side and a more introverted type of child, at least at the beginning. His Rebbe this year, Rabbi Schon*, did an amazing job seeing his strengths in learning and helped bring out his ability to be outspoken in the classroom and in learning. Camp is a great opportunity to connect with people and develop oneself on a personal level and shine. That might be harder to do during the school year. I know there are many many kids in your division, but if you or the counselor or his learning Rebbe have time to get to know Eli, and help bring out his personal strengths so camp is of one of growth and not coasting – that would be most meaningful to us, and to Eli I’m sure, as well.

Wishing you a wonderful Shabbos,

Chaya Schwartz

Needless to say, when I made my rounds during the next league game I made a special effort to interact yet again with Eli. We had a great conversation and in the few minutes interaction I picked up on different nuances about him. The email was another reminder that each boy has his own name, each boy is an individual.

That Shabbos afternoon, I noticed a group of boys gathered around legendary mechanech and head counselor, Rabbi Armo Kuessous, as he was getting to know some new campers. Before he left the group of about twenty boys assembled, Rabbi Kuessous, challenged himself and was able to say the name of each and every boy that was there! The boys were awed by the connection they felt at that moment.

Camp is an opportunity for children to have fun but also to grow from connections that they could make in this more “relaxed” environment. As staff in any position we need to remember that each child has his own name, each child is a world of his own waiting for that opportunity to connect.

The story is told of my great grandfather Rabbi Leib Heber z’l who traveled hundreds of miles throughout western Pennsylvania each week to various institutions, jails and hospitals, to share yiddishkeit, love, Jewish Heritage, sensitivity and a cold cut sandwich or two. When he arrived at each facility and approached the reception desk, the names of the two or three individuals he came to see would be announced over the public-address system and they would come to see him in the designated area. One Sunday, he arrived at a facility, where there happened to be only one Jewish resident left from the original four or five he’d once visited. As luck would have it, that day the public-address system was not working. The rabbi sent someone to get Charlene. She refused. She cried. Charlene was only on the second floor, in fact, in a place where the rabbi could see her from the lobby. He patiently called to her to come down. She refused again. The elderly rabbi went upstairs to her. “I’m here for you,” he assured her. “I have a delicious kosher salami sandwich for you.” But still, she refused to come down. After continued cajoling, she burst out sobbing, “My name, my name. You didn’t call my name… you didn’t announce my name!”

For some it may be just their names, but everyone likes to be noticed as an individual. These stories remind me of the responsibility and opportunity I am lucky to wake up to each morning!

Rabbi Moshe Dov Heber is presently a Middle School Rebbi in Yeshiva K’tana of Waterbury, the Director of the Mishmar Evening Program in Waterbury and Division Head in Camp Romimu. He is a frequent contributor to various publications on areas related to education as well as speaks publicly on various topics. Rabbi Heber can be reached via email at [email protected].

{Matzav.com}


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