Ruben Arquilevich, executive director of URJ Camp Newman, with his new good luck charm: a hamsa from the ashes of the fire-ravaged summer camp. (Photo/Courtesy URJ Camp Newman)
Ruben Arquilevich, executive director of URJ Camp Newman, with his new good luck charm: a hamsa from the ashes of the fire-ravaged summer camp. (Photo/Courtesy URJ Camp Newman)

I found my good luck charm in the ashes of Camp Newman

I was 13 years old, standing with my arms draped around my campmates. We had just completed a two-week Jewish backpacking trip, and were doing siyum (a concluding program), when our counselor, Rick, reached down and picked up a rock. Passing it to his left, he asked whoever held it to share a reflection on our transformative weeks together.

At the close of the night, Rick tossed the rock to the ground. But I picked up that rock and kept it for over 40 years, telling and retelling its story about camp’s impact. Sadly, my rock was lost in the Oct. 9 fire that damaged Camp Newman’s Santa Rosa home.

Vaquilevitch-hamsa
Ruben Arquilevich, executive director of URJ Camp Newman, with his new good luck charm: a hamsa from the ashes of the fire-ravaged summer camp. (Photo/Courtesy URJ Camp Newman)

A few weeks ago, following a rainstorm, I was walking around camp when I came upon a hamsa that had risen from the ashes. In Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths, the hamsa (a stylized emblem of a hand, often with an eye in the middle of the palm) is traditionally seen as a sign of blessings and strength, as well as a protective charm against the “evil eye” or bad things. And yet, this hamsa didn’t protect camp from the fires.

While we as parents, leaders, community builders and educators strive to protect our children and our communities from bad things, we know that the inevitable, and sometimes the unimaginable, happens.

So how do we provide the protection, strength and blessings symbolized by the hamsa?

We do so by modeling what the global camp and faith community did after hearing of the fires — by embracing one another. Like the protective hand of the hamsa, our community gave us love, support and a shoulder to cry on.


Related: ‘Miracles’ in the rubble as Newman officials visit burnt camp

Ruben Arquilevich

Ruben Arquilevich is the executive director of URJ Camp Newman in Santa Rosa.