'When you're a Jew: the essence of Jew power'
by Rachel Rampino

     I'd like to start out my little talk this evening with the chorus to a song that we've heard at camp from one of our rabbis. I'm just giving you a heads up so you aren't curious as to why I break out in song.
     
     Wherever you go, there's always someone Jewish.
     You're never alone when you say you're a Jew.
     So when you're not home and you're somewhere kind of "newish" -
     The odds are, don't look far, 'cause they're Jewish too.

     
     Larry Milder - or Rabbi Milder to us - wrote the words that I just read as well as the whole lyrics to this song. If you ever want to look it up, it's called "Wherever you go," and it's both funny and true at the same time. Now, obviously I'm not here to advertise the song-writing talents of Rabbi Milder, so I'll get to the point.
     All though the song's upbeat tempo and light-hearted attempts at rhyming keep it a fun song, the meaning to it, or at least the way it makes me feel, is somewhat deeper. Because that is really the way it is when you're a Jew. That is the way I feel each year I cross the gates with anticipation to Eisner Camp, or each time I step into this synagogue. It's the feeling you get, or rather the lack of feeling or pressure you feel, when you are in a place where you feel like you belong.
      That is what we look for in life, a connection. Whether it be with a friend or a spouse, you want that common ground, a person who thinks like you or who shares the things you feel are important in life. Whenever you meet a new person, there's that distinct feeling you get when a comment leads to finding out you have something in common. Your stomach sort of flutters with the thought of a future, and each of you laughs the slightest, like you are thinking - imagine that. When you find out the person you're talking with is Jewish, it kind of warms you to them and them to you. Your guard settles a little, and you feel as if you know in that one moment.
     This one time over the summer, I was practicing one of many hobbies - purchasing shoes, and all the while having a fun conversation with the girl who worked there who was a few years my senior. I told her of my Jewish summer camp, and right away she startled me by pulling a Star of David from her neck and replying "Jew Power!" As she went into the back to retrieve the correct size shoe, I thought about Rabbi Milder's song and how we really are everywhere. It seems funny to me that the one store clerk I chose to have a friendly chat with would share my religion. This is probably why we had that slight connection; we had that common ground - even if we did not know it until she whisked the gold chain from her shirt.
     Although we will probably never meet again, I walked away from a more enjoyed shopping trip, and she remained with something that had brightened her day. We were each touched in the slightest by the feeling we had someone just like us standing amidst the sea of people we don't know and sometimes fear. And that is really what Jew Power means, the power to connect with other Jews.
     Jew Power is the feeling I get each year at camp. You are in a place where you know everyone is just like you, even in the slightest bit. Sure, there is every kind of person, but there is really every kind of Jew. That sense of familiarness gives way to a comfort, a comfort in which you feel as if you can really be yourself and be accepted by everyone. There is no truly awkward first conversation, and no need to anticipate your stomach fluttering for the future. You get that feeling each and everyday, walking through the beautiful landscape with people you love and love you back. Each and every second you have a sense of belonging.
     You obviously can't feel this feeling all over the world, especially when we live in a place where our comrades are few. That is why we get in our cars from the East End and our boats and make the way across to synagogue, because although the trip can sometimes prove a hassle or cause anxiety, it all goes away when we walk through those big doors.
     You are enveloped into the atmosphere where all you feel is you, your prayers, and not only the connection with God but with everyone else in the room. For an hour we all share that feeling of peace and, of course, belonging. And the only feeling of anticipation we feel is for after services when we all go to Oneg Shabbat and ask how each other is and of work and of home and of mothers and of fathers and do you need me to walk you down to your car? For the time we spend each Friday night is a time when we are surrounded by fellow Jews who really care. And that, in all its essence, is truly what Jew Power is.
     
     Shabbat Shalom.
     
     As delivered by Rachel Hannah Rampino on Erev Shabbat service Friday, August 26, 2005, conducted by Rachel and her mother, Agnes Rampino.