Wednesday, August 23, 2006


The Great Erev Tisha b'Av 5766 Road Trip

[Hank Needle, Anshei Darom Regional President, reports on a special evening earlier this month...]

Last night the men of Anshei Darom and the FJMC made a difference. At our February 2006 regional retreat we raised money for a donation to Camp Ramah Darom: a hand-inscribed parchment scroll of Megillat Eichah (the Book of Lamentations). The ninth day of Av is a day of mourning and sorrow that commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples, both of which were destroyed on that day (the first by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E.; the second by the Romans in 70 C.E.) It is the saddest day of the Jewish calendar, a day that brings together remembrances of other tragedies that have befallen our community through the ages. It is observed by fasting from sundown to after sunset, and by reading Megillat Eichah at night.

What better time for a road trip?

Stan Schnitzer, FJMC Executive Board Member, and Matt Gottlieb, VP for Georgia, decided to join me for a road trip to Camp Ramah for the first reading of the new Eichah scroll. We left Atlanta in the evening and drove up to camp, arriving about an hour before services were to start.

Upon our arrival, we were warmly greeted by camp director Rabbi Loren Sykes in the dining hall. We all saw campers and congregants we knew from home who immediately greeted us. Paul Rovin, the camp woodworking instructor and artist, volunteered to give us a tour of the camp, presenting us with a preview of his ideas for the decorative case he will be constructing for the scroll. We then walked back to the covered basketball area and watched as the campers solemnly filed in and sat on the ground, awaiting the start of services.

Rabbi Sykes welcomed everyone and acknowledged our gift to the 500 campers and 200 staff in attendance. Services started with the oldest campers each reading a pasuk, the crowd listening by candlelight. The room was very quiet and the crowd somber in keeping with the spirit of the holiday. I read about Tisha b’Av and followed along in the siddur. The service was short but touched the whole camp community.

Reading Megillat Eichah

Afterward, many people came up to thank us for our donation. Rabbi Sykes said that the scroll had somehow had changed the mood of the evening by elevating the observance of the whole group. It was indeed a mystical evening in the North Georgia Mountains.

With services ended, we said our goodbyes and departed for home.

I thought about our gift for a long time. It is small in size. It has traveled many miles: from Israel to New York, back two times from New York to Nashville, Tennessee, and finally from Nashville to Camp Ramah in the hands of a camper. After a lengthy journey of six months and 10,000 miles, it was read in a candlelit service. But back when the Eichah scroll was an idea in the planning stages, we had no idea of the additional historic significance it would gain as a reminder of the current conflict in Israel and how the Jewish people still struggle for survival almost 2,000 years after the destruction of the Second temple.

Normally I have trouble driving at night after a long day, but last night I felt unbelievably awake and alive. Thank you all - the Men of the South, Anshei Darom - for your generosity in making this gift possible and for the honor of letting me represent you as your president.

Hank Needle
Thursday, August 3, 2006
9 Av 5766


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