Celebrating Friendship – A Tu B’shevat Story

30 Jan, 2023

Last fall, the ‘72 Ozrim returned to camp to celebrate their 50th reunion and honor the memory of member, Joel Toberman, who passed  during the pandemic. “It was the height of Covid and we couldn’t gather to celebrate Joel,” said Ozo Lenny. “As we talked and shared memories, we knew it was time to return to the place where it all started.”

The 72 Ozrim first returned as a group 10 years before for their 40th reunion. They have stayed in touch with each other and with camp throughout the last decade. At that gathering, they created the 72 Ozo Fund, inviting each other to send a child to camp in their name every year since. During Covid lockdowns, regular Zoom gatherings kept them close and entertained. Now the monthly gathering keeps their far flung group up to date on each other’s lives.

As life marched on, group members were there for each through the challenges – A member died, a spouse died, knees were replaced, retirements were planned – and it’s happinesses – a member remarries, a child gets married, a grandchild arrives. Through all of life’s joys and sorrows, in the eyes of these lifelong friends, the gray hair, the wrinkles, the pounds fade away, “because they see you. They see the you that you were and the you that you always will be,” said Ozo Elka.

On that beautiful fall day, the 72 Ozrim celebrated in sadness and in joy. They remembered Joel with stories and tributes and by planting an oak tree near the old Ozo Mo. Each Ozo added a shovel of dirt until the tree was firmly rooted in the spot where their lifelong friendship had begun. Looking around, Ozo Nancy mused that, “Joel shouldn’t be at camp alone; they should be there with him. Perhaps there should be a tree for every member…”

As we honor the trees this Tu Bishevat, we await the summer when 22 more trees will be planted. Starting out small, putting down roots and reaching up toward the sky, with their branches and roots intertwining over the years, silently connecting this group with each other in the place that it all began.

Please join the 72 Ozrim in blessing those trees. “We pray that the roots of this tree will take hold and spread deep, drawing nourishment from this fertile earth; ground we forever name as sacred. May thousands of carefree campers draw spiritual nourishment from this place and from one another. Here, as a tribute to Joel, let a new generation discover lifelong friendships, the power of unbroken circles, a love of Torah and the unique beauty of Jewish wisdom.”

To hear more on the power of camp friendship, click here for Rabbi Elka Abramhamson’s reflections.

As you reflect on camp friendships, consider that only 20% of Jewish kids go to Jewish camp. Sharing the magic of camp with the other 80% is a mitzvah. Please do your part to give every child this gift.

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