the circled square
(originally published 1/28/2013)
Yes, it’s true. I wrote the whole thing just to end with something I had dreamt.
Camp Gold Israel sits about an hour north of the Poconos in northeast Pennsylvania and offers campers a fun and vibrant Jewish residential camp experience.
That’s what the brochure says.
What it doesn’t say but which is widely known throughout the Jewish community is that bullying and abuse run rampant throughout the entire summer. From the day the camp opens to the evening it pulls the gate closed for the last time there is a never ending stream of trash-talking. Why, I hear you asking yourself, would any camper want to attend a camp with such a reputation?
Because every slight, every offense and every disagreement is settled on the 88-foot long and 53-foot wide polished concrete oval that sits prominently right in the middle of Camp Gold Israel.
Why Jews have such a passion for roller derby nobody knows but every year the waiting list to get into Gold Israel seems to grow longer.
Into this maelstrom of roller skates and bruises stepped Ravid Cohen. A slight boy he was 16 but didn’t look a day over 12. He stepped from his parents’ car with a look of resignation on his face. It was clear he had been crying but any arguments he could offer against his attending camp this summer had long been exhausted. He pulled the heavy bag containing his clothes and toiletries from the back seat and watched his parents drive off.
It had begun.
You’ll notice, or at least I hope you noticed, that I didn’t bother to give you a long explanation of the car he arrived in. I realize that I missed an outstanding opportunity to clue you into a few details concerning his upbringing but it’s important to this story that you don’t give too much consideration to how expensive the car he arrived in was. I don’t want to do anything that might disturb your pre-existing stereotypes. I’ve found people enjoy stories much better if their preconceived notions remain intact.
The camp was co-ed so I hope I don’t have to explain that the yamakas were flying from the moment the campers skated onto the track. The kids were like so many reindeer trying to show off for Santa. Now I realize it might be insensitive to use a Santa metaphor when I’m talking about Jewish kids but it was the closest one I had at hand and it also allows me to transition right into another Rudolph reference when I say that the news that Ravid didn’t enjoy roller derby was greeted with the same type of enthusiasm that met Hermie when he told the other elves he didn’t like making toys. I do appreciate the irony that so many Jewish kids end up wanting to be dentists but as that doesn’t move the story along I will let it go.
The long and the short of it is this: it was a long summer for the wouldn’t-it-have-been-nice-if-he-were-short-to-make-the-previous-sentence-and-this-sentence-really-work-but-he’s-not-instead-he’s-a-bit-on-the-frail-side Ravid.
Do I dare make another Rudolph-related mention?
Just like our red-nosed hero, there was a certain girl amongst the rabble of roller-derbying queens that Ravid took a liking to. A girl he wanted to impress and would act as a catalyst for him to lace up the skates only a week before the camp was drawing to a close and do his best to join in the reindeer games. A girl named Yedida.
It was the eve of the last big game. His team was in the finals and his parents had driven up early to watch. He was nervous because his mother and father had met at the camp years back. They had been on the legendary Mazel Tov Cocktails squad which had won the summer tournament for three straight years. He felt the pressure of their expectations starting to weigh upon him.
That night Yedida had agreed to meet him by the lake. She was the pivot for the opposition team and such clandestine meetings were frowned upon but Ravid would have traded heaven and earth, let alone a few minutes playing a silly game, to be with her. To see her face under the moonlight.
She told him that he should stop being a coward and play the championship game for her. To be her lion. With a promise that if he were to play the jammer position in her honor she would reward him with a special treat she kissed him lightly on the forehead and retreated into the shadows and back to her cabin in the woods.
The next morning the entire camp, parents and counselors included, gathered around the oval to watch the match. Ravid was wearing stars on his helmet, signifying his role as jammer. True to her word Yedida gave him a little wink and discreetly removed her panties from under her short derby skirt and twirled them around her finger.
His heart began to race as he stepped onto the track. All the blood had rushed to his face and anyone looking on would have been under the assumption that he was midway through an aneurism.
But he played like a reindeer possessed. With one final dazzling leap he bounded through the opposing blockers in the jam and out into the clear. He looked back to see that Yedida had been knocked down and she lay on her back, legs splayed.
Then he heard his mom’s voice rise above the roar of the crowd.
“Stop staring at her tvat and score already!”