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What Works - Ideas & Initiatives

GoldmanGUCI Weekend Working Warriors
One spring weekend for the last three decades, about twenty men of Congregation Shomer Eunim in Sylvania, Ohio and other local congregations pack up their bags and head to Zionsville, Indiana to spruce up Goldman Union Camp Institute, a Reform Jewish camp now celebrating its 50th year, before the campers arrive.

The eclectic group of volunteers—electricians, mechanics, rabbis, lawyers, doctors, a court reporter—become “jacks of all trades,” splitting wood, fixing floor joists, painting bathrooms, installing fans, repairing screens, adjusting basketball hoops, repairing holes in siding, and much more. Most recently they put down a floor, lifted the rafters, added a roof, and completed the remaining work on GUCI’s new outdoor, covered theatre pavilion, named Teyatron. “There isn’t a building or area in camp that these men have not worked on or improved during the Work Weekend,” says Bernie Solomon, founder of what he jokingly calls GUCI Director Rabbi Ron Klotz’s Slave Labor Weekend. “We do whatever it takes to make camp a better place for our children, and now our grandchildren.”


A Chevra Kaddisha for All
In 2004, Dr. Patricia Cluss, a member of her local Chevra Kaddisha (Jewish burial society), wanted to perform the mitzvah of taharah, ritual purification of a body after death. But in her hometown of Pittsburgh, non-Orthodox Jews were not permitted to perform taharah, according to the Orthodox organization running the society. It was at that point, she says, “three like-minded friends and I met with my rabbi, James Gibson of Temple Sinai, started networking, and created the New Community Chevra Kaddisha,” a burial society by and for the entire Jewish community.

Now, four years later, the New Community Chevra Kaddisha, comprised of Jews from Reform (Temple Sinai and Temple Emanuel), Conservative, and Reconstructionist congregations, has performed six taharah ceremonies.

“It is so rewarding to be part of a team of Jews that comes together, anonymously,” says Dr. Cluss, “giving the mourning family the reassurance that their community is taking care of their loved one at this important time—and that any Jew they see on the street could be one of the people who cared.”



Union for Reform Judaism.