May 21, 2019

Three Reactions on Fires from Social Media

Wilshire Boulevard Temple Camp Chef John Bard holding one of three Torahs evacuated with him before the fire reached the camp. Bard's home on the camp property was destroyed.

As the fires continued to rage through Southern California, members of the Jewish community took to social media to share their thoughts and feelings. Below are three of those posts. 

(Editor’s note: Some posts have been edited for length and clarity.)

Our House
Zack Lodmer, Director, Silicon Beach Engagement at Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles

My dad taught me how to play baseball in the front yard. I taught my son how to play baseball on that same yard. 

Our basketball and soccer teams had epic pizza parties in the expansive back portion of the house. I practiced and practiced in every nook and cranny, transforming from a little 6-year-old, squeaking on the licorice stick a la Ferris Bueller, into an accomplished clarinetist. 

My sister dressed me up as Ms. Hannigan when I was 3 years old and we put on the entire play of “Annie” in the living room (she was the titular star of course). 

I invited droves of friends for Passovers, Shabbats, Yom Kippur Break Fasts, birthdays, and more. My son’s pidyon ha-ben took place on the magnificent, spacious porch. 

My sister and her husband danced on the lawn, their first day as husband and wife, only three months ago. A few years ago, my parents sprawled out on that lawn and gave an interview to the L.A. Times on the benefits of organic gardening. 

The sounds of Simon and Garfunkel and the Beatles filled the house, emanating from the stunning baby grand piano and echoing in every corner of this Cape Cod-style masterpiece. 

One time my dad represented Muhammad Ali’s sister in a legal matter. Muhammad graciously had lunch with us and gave us a signed pair of gloves as a token of his appreciation. We took a picture with him. And we framed it, with the signed gloves, and displayed it in the game room. My kids never really noticed the champ’s gloves because they were too busy playing Monopoly, making drawings, erecting entire cities out of Legos, and having pillow fights. I was always worried they’d knock over the framed Muhammad Ali stuff, but I’m proud to say they never did. We had hard talks around the kitchen counter. 

We learned, we grew, we supported each other, we cried, we held each other and we celebrated victories, big and small. Everyone who walked in those doors walked into a sanctuary of peace, love and prosperity. From the exquisite food to the warm hugs to the impressive-but-accessible artwork, to the cozy blankets, to the beachy vibes. 

This house was more than a house. This home was more than a home. It was a landing place for out of towners. It was a therapy couch for the downtrodden. It was a convening place for an entire community. It was a testament to how life could be, and it was an example of how life should be. It was literally the best place on earth. My parents started with nothing. And while a house is ultimately just some things, in some walls, I suppose … their living space was an expression of two beautiful souls living life beautifully, uniquely and inclusively. As this house is gone, a big part of me is gone, too.

Camp Hess Kramer
Rabbi Ken Chasen, Leo Baeck Temple

I know you will be rebuilt. I know you are the people and not the buildings.

But before I can get there, I have to linger in a lot of sweet memories created when you were as you used to be.

When I thought I would never again enjoy the great gift of working a full summer at Jewish camp, you gave me that gift twice … in my 30s, just before I became a rabbi.

Of all the camps I have been blessed to be a part of, the only one I was ever given the honor of serving as resident director is you.

The amazing young people on the CHK staff then are now grownups, so many of whom send their own kids to you, to discover their Jewish souls in the same places we once walked and sang and ate and laughed and cried.

They are now cherished friends, rabbinic colleagues, and congregants of mine. We have rejoiced together under the chuppah and mourned together at the grave. You gifted them all to me.

For 16 years, I have brought my congregation to you for Religious School Retreats and Confirmation Retreats, creating new memories with countless young people who have loved discovering your beauty and your joy.

Our temple’s Religious School was scheduled to return to you this past weekend. We were the first to lose the chance to re-meet you as we have always loved you, but there will now be so many more. I am so sad for all of them.

I know you will be rebuilt. I know you are the people and not the buildings — and I am more grateful for that today than ever. But before that rebirth begins, I need to say that I will miss you as you were — and will treasure the endless list of precious moments you helped us create and hold for the rest of my life.


Evan Rosenfeld
Staff member and camper of Camp JCA Shalom
The Jewish summer camp in the hills of Malibu where I spent 12 formative summers as a camper and 2 years as a staff member (@CampJCAShalom) has been damaged by the #WoolseyFire. No word on the severity of the damage, but it appears significant. I am heartbroken and without words.