Welcome to Episode 36 with Michael Soberman, a Jewish community leader, a serious camp guy, a lover of Israel and a supreme storyteller. This folks, is one fascinating schmooze!
Michael is a riveting character. The volume of his speech is loud, his words pour out quickly with very few ums, he says he has an opinion about everything, and he craves being in the spotlight (but once there he performs very well). Michael’s very bright yet still does not view himself as an adult (neither do I. Do you?). Michael studied law and teaching, but never really practiced either much to the chagrin of his parents. We all know guys like that, right?
Our time together was enlightening and exciting. Here are some of the highlights:
1) At the 30:00 minutes mark, Michael states categorically his biggest fear was being a parent of kids who didn’t like camp. Happily, that is not the case. His two kids love Camp Kadimah just as Michael does. At 30:55 Michael quotes the sociologist, Erving Goffman, who says camp represents the ultimate dependent independence. Campers enjoy a sense of freedom for being on their own, but the environment is a secure one. He explains how camp is an immersive environment as reflected through four categories: a) there is one central control; b) it’s a communal setting; c) camp has a tight schedule; d) everyone is there for a common purpose. Interestingly, Goffman uses these same categories for jail.
Michael talks about his camp buddies like Little Bubbs, Curly, Meathead and Squish. He concludes the camp piece saying, ““people have fierce loyalty for their camp…there is something about Kadimah that is so unique and special.”
2) At 15:17, I asked Michael if he ever misses strangers. In response, Michael tells a beautiful story about becoming friends with a stranger, a member of Air Canada concierge service. His name was Paul. Unfortunately, Paul died at 49. Michael went to his funeral. The concierge crew couldn’t believe Michael came. Later, at the airport he was upgraded to business class because Paul’s friends and colleagues were so impressed Michael had honored Paul through that act of kindness. Michael is a good man.
3) Michael talks about Israel a lot. He’s been there 80 times. At 38:05 he says: “I have an entire infrastructure in Israel. I could pick my life up here, move to Israel and not be lonely…. I’m definitely a Tel- Aviv Jew. I don’t like going in the ocean, but I like being by the ocean.”
4) Okay, here’s a great one. Go to 52:24 and hear Michael’s story about his son’s foreskin. In short, the mo’el handed Michael the little foreskin in a plastic bag and said ‘as father of this boy you have one more task. You have to bury it, anywhere you like.’ Michael stuff the foreskin in his pocket, took it home and put it in his passport for safe-keeping. One day, flying to Israel, he shocked the woman at an airport check-in counter as the foreskin fell out of this important document. She said, ‘sir you cannot transport fruit over international borders.’ She then adjusted and stated, ‘you are not able to transport organs. “ Anyway, the foreskin got through. Michael looked for a tree in Israel to bury the foreskin under, as his spiritual leader told him, that fable has it, burying it under a tree means your son will grow tall. He found a suitable tree, buried the foreskin and called it the Joshua tree. One day, he saw an enormous Sephardic family picnicking under the Joshua tree……well have a listen. It’s a delightful story
5) 1:03:34: Putting on tefillin at Birkenau is one of the most touching points of this episode. Michael and I read a piece he wrote, about the actual time when he was on one of his many March of the Living trips and stood shivering in a Birkenau bunker, putting on his phylacteries. All this time he was memorializing Hugo Lowey. Hugo Lowey was beaten to death by a Nazi on the Birkenau platform for refusing to give up his tallit and tefillin. This story is terribly sad. It is also hopeful. (Howard Pasternack, HatRadio!’s production guy, did a wonderful job of producing this piece. Take a moment to hear it. Grow.)
Episode 36 is bursting with Michael’s stories, memories and colorful thoughts. He does indeed have an opinion about everything and shares them freely. A couple of things to thing about when you listen to the show: Do you know someone like Michael who absolutely swears by the camp experience? Have you ever performed an act of kindness for someone dead or alive like Michael did for Paul? What did you do with your son’s foreskin?
Have a listen. Share the link. Take some time to learn through and from Michael Soberman, and then please share the link.
HatRadio! The show that schmoozes.
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