After decades of serving as the leader of Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, and in many fashions, the whole Ramah movement, Rabbi David Soloff was celebrated by over 500 people at Beth El at North Suburban in Highland Park, Illinois.
It was great to see so many familiar faces, including those much older and younger. Remember, when you are in Nivonim, the little pishers in Solelim hardly warrant a second glance. But once we all hit our 40’s and 50’s, that five year age gap is barely relevant.
Sadly, my aidah of Nivo 1981 didn’t even have 10 people in attendance but we still had fun reminiscing about some of the activities from the years at Camp.
But hearing the accolades for Rabbi Soloff from far and wide, it became apparent what a powerful force he was in raising the next generation of Jews, not only in Chicago, but really across the entire United States and also in Israel. His vision led the way to create programs that would grow with the times and would adapt to the changing requirements of the summer camp movements.
When I was at Ramah from 1979 to 1981, you were required to be there for the entire eight weeks. There were no other options. I went back to staff for three summers for Camp CHUSY, but those one week experiences, as great as they were, did not have the depth of a full Ramah summer experience.
One of the stories that resonated with me the most was my former Rosh Aidah Jeff Kopin telling the story of how Rabbi Soloff was stranded in Champaign, Illinois by a storm. He spent the evening at the college apartment of Kopin and a few of his chevre and told them that he had already identified them as the leaders of the next generation of young Jews.
One consistent theme throughout the evening was how energetic Rabbi Soloff was and how little he slept. If you have ever spent a week at summer camp, you know how much energy goes into it. So to be able to keep that pace up for 8 or 9 weeks and being the leader of everything going on throughout the compound, that energy is even more impressive.
Congratulations to Rabbi Soloff on his retirement, but for those of us that know him, that means he will probably just be cutting back to about 30 hours per week.
Rabbi, thank you for everything you have done for the Ramah community, the Chicago community and the Jewish community. We were lucky to have your leadership for such a long period of time.