URJ Henry S. Jacobs Camp recently kicked off its 43rd camping season with a new treasure to enhance their summer worship experience.
When the Jacobs Camp community gathered for Shabbat morning services on June 16, they were presented with a handcrafted ark, Torah stand and reading table to be used for worship in the camp’s new Performing Arts Center. The ceremonial items were made by Dr. Bob Cohan of Tallahassee, Fla., who after retiring from the medical profession turned his full attention to woodworking and Jewish study.
When the Museum for Southern Jewish Experience moved off of the camp property a few months ago, director Jonathan “JC” Cohen realized the need for a continuous worship space.
“When folks heard the Museum was moving, the question I was asked most often was ‘would we still have Shabbat services in there?’” said JC. “It was important that we continue to use the auditorium as a worship space, which made it a priority of mine to make sure we had the right ritual items to make that happen. My first call was to Bob Cohan.”
While Bob recited this week’s parsha with yad in hand, which of course he carved himself, campers and staff witnessed the artist’s selfless dedication to Southern Judaism’s future.
“As this building becomes the Jacobs Performing Arts Center and continues to be the place where we pray together, we turn a new page,” said Michael Danziger, Rosh T’fillah and education director. “It’s a celebration of our Jewish life now. It’s not from a place where there aren’t Jews left; it’s in a place where there are Jews—where Judaism is alive.”
Bob’s family and friends joined him at Jacobs Camp to dedicate the worship space and celebrate his achievement.
“This weekend at camp with the children, family, friends and staff is, without a doubt, the most meaningful time I have ever experienced,” said Bob. “The spirit was electric and will stay with me always.”
Now, with ark and lectern in their midst, the HSJ community sees the vitality in Bob’s hard work.
“Bob made this ark out of wood,” said Michael. “But I hope, as we move forward, as we pray in here each week—this summer, next summer, and summers to come—we can see in this wood our reflection, as though it’s a mirror. Not easy to do with wood. But, if we look at this and see our reflection, we can see ourselves in our Torah, in our story, in the words that tell us who we want to be.”
“Jacobs is an oasis of consistency of social order and great joy—a setting to truly build on the three legs of Judaism (God), Torah and community,” said Bob. “And I feel very honored to have been able to bring some of this together in helping to create the worship area.”