STORIES FROM THE REUNION
This is where I want to include stories from other campers too. I will start it off with my detailed overview of the week. But I expect to expand it to include other's stories, such as Debbie Seaman to fill in the gaps about the sporting events, and someone who made the pilgrimage to Fleischmanns to write about that too.
HOW DID THE WEBSITE & IDEA OF A REUNION HAPPEN?
Back in 1997, I was taking a course at NYU in learning "HTML" to make a website for the International Association of Lesbian and Gay Children of Holocaust Survivors (we now have over 150 members in 10 countries). When I got hooked on the internet, I discovered Yahoo's People Search and tried to think of a name where there was only a few possible names in the United States. I remembered the name of a boy who slept in my bunk at TARIGO named Michael Yoss. I figured how many Yoss's can there be in America? Sure enough, there was only one and he lived in Atlanta. I called up and asked to speak to Michael and asked he went to TARIGO. He did and he remembered me. So we started speaking and he thought, wouldn't it be great if TARIGO had a website? So I figured, who could sue me if I started one? So that night I made a simple page and linked it from www.infotrue.com (which was paid for by the L&G Children of Holocaust Survivors).
About a week later I noticed that I had about 20 hits on the TARIGO page, and asked Michael if you looked that many times at the site. He didn't. Then I realized that people were searching for "CAMP TARIGO" on their own and finding my site. So I included a GUESTBOOK with the site and found out who they were. After that I posted the idea about a REUNION for the last weekend in August 2000 with 3 possible venues. The first being a one day event in Manhattan, or near TARIGO or at the Nevele. While I was hoping for a one day event in a Manhattan hotel, the emails kept on asking for a weekend in the mountains. The Brenda Liebowitz helped out with an unofficial poll to see how many people would want to come to the Nevele and about 50 of you emailed her of your desire. So in 1997, I signed a contract and left a deposit for 100 rooms for the weekend of August 25-27, 2000. It seemed that Jack Pinsky couldn't make it on the last weekend because of a camp WESTMONT reunion, and others had to drive their children to college. As luck would have it, Michael Yoss's niece later chose that date to get married, so he and Alan couldn't attend the reunion, even though the idea started with our conversation!
WEEK LEADING UP TO THE REUNION
On Monday I was so nauseous from my medicine and had lost about 15 pounds in the past two weeks, that the doctor wanted me to go the hospital for intravenous feeding. I told him that I had 250 people coming for dinner on Saturday and really needed to be there. So Dr. Bobby, my brother, took over and got me off the medicine and well enough to travel. I know that he was afraid that he would have to be the "Macher" if I didn't get well! So on Thursday I was strong enough to schlepp the stuff up on a bus and arrive at the Nevele by 2:00.
The first thing I noticed was that the place was full of Orthodox Jewish families. I think they use it as a day care center during the week. I was scared. Old men were sleeping in the lobby chairs under the skylight and thousands of kids were screaming. So I went to the "Convention Staff" and finalized our plans that we would be in a separate building with a separate cocktail party and the back section of the dining room. To my relief, most of the weekday people left by Friday morning.
I also noticed two gold frame pictures in the lobby on black clothed easels. I wanted a TARIGO presence as soon as people entered the lobby. So I took this gold framed picture off the wall in the Goldengate Auditorium and taped my flyer to the middle of it… added some balloons and crepe paper and brought it back to the main lobby. It looked perfect for our Reunion! You can see it in the group pictures. We used that picture throughout the weekend.
By Thursday night, the hospitality area and museum area were set up and went off to look for campers. I found Barbara Levin and Carolyn Cohen sitting in the coffee shop and my emotions instantly were lifted. It struck me that the Reunion was really going to happen. At 10:00 pm I went to the Nevele's Comedy Show, but left at 10:10 to get some sleep. I figured that I was funnier than the comedian that they had on stage anyway!
In the morning I started decorating our space with balloons and more crepe paper and flyers, etc. Michael Lewis showed up with his "museum" of TARIGO memoriabilia so we had an instant exhibition. When the other campers brought in their pictures and artifacts it just filled in a really interesting collection.
I was relieved to see that the delivery of the trophies and plaque was on time, and Jack Pinsky showed up with all the T-shirts in plenty of time. By 4 o'clock we were ready to open! Then came the screaming or "who are you?'s". Robyn Alper, Ellen Schlissel, Carolyn Cohen, Barbara Levin, Warren Strickoff, Brenda Liebowitz, Jeffrey Tabak, (if I left you out please tell me) and I greeted everyone and made sure that all had name tags on to prevent further embarrassments. Once the name tag is on, it became easy to recognize old campers!
From 4 pm to 7 pm most of the campers arrived and got their trophy, T-shirt, certificate, program and map. They would stroll the museum and try to find themselves on all the group photos that were once again posted on the wall. One small digression… Ira Zaratt was coincidentally staying at the Nevele that week, and noticed our sign in the lobby. He went to Camp TA-RI-GO in 1946! So he was able to really give a history of the old days.
Later on we all ate dinner together in the main dining room. I was so honored to have my two old bunkmates Michael Herskovits and Wayne Brauner sit with us and Paul Glick sat next to my brother Bobby. It was just like in camp except that we didn't have to stack the dishes. The first night we forgot to say the "HaMotzi" but Barbara Levin took care of that on Saturday night. Then we had all the table to table dedications and the honorary HaMotzi (with Jack Pinsky and I leading the prayer) just like at camp. After dinner we went back to our space at the Goldengate Auditorium for informal schmoozing and museum browsing. Some people went to the Nevele Comedy show and others went to bed.
I hear that Barbara, Beth and Linda Pinsky short-sheeted their mother's bed. Beverly grumbled under her breath about the uncomfortable bed at such a fancy place like the Nevele, until she heard her daughters hysterically laughing in the adjoining room.
Other stories overheard that night, were that one of our campers had their car stolen, the fire alarm went off twice on the 14th floor, and someone got the wrong key and walked into the room with a naked woman. Thank G-d it wasn't me! I'm still a virgin.
The big day finally arrived. Where we had about 150 people eating dinner on Friday night, we had 244 people eating there on Saturday. Many people decided to only stay over Saturday night instead of making it a two day weekend trip.
I staffed the hospitality table all day (some people did help out from to time), but there was a steady flow of new people coming through out the day. I am hoping that someone else writes about what happened during the day since I was stuck behind the table and never got out.
I know that Debbie Seaman organized a ball game and others went to play golf or tennis and the pool had a lot of people wearing TA-RI-GO T-shirts. Michael Lewis also lead a pilgrimage to Fleischmanns for people to walk up Little Red Kill Road and see what is left of the camp site. I guess they could daven by the stone chimney which is all that is left of the Rec Hall. Maybe we can start a tradition of leaving little paper notes stuck in the cracks of the chimney with a prayer on it!
At 5:00 pm we tried to take a group photo. Not an easy task for such an unruly group of campers. I wish that the photo taker would have gone up two more rungs on the ladder and that we all moved out of the shade…. but nothing is perfect in life. He also didn't say "Smile" so in all of the 14 pictures that he took, some people are looking away. I found 2 which together have everyone looking okay and put them on the website. I will try to find a way to get these pictures massed produced and make them available to everyone.
Then after the photo shoot we all changed out of our T-shirts and got ready for our Cocktail Hour. Thanks to Barry Schwartz who brought a wonderful bottle of champagne, everyone had one hour of free drinks with champagne toasts and enough hors d'oeuvres to fill one until dinner. Fifteen minutes after our cocktail party was the big dinner.
244 people filled every space in the dining room for our last time together. We did the HaMotzi together and ate. After the diner was our formal Program. It started out with Jack Pinsky's impersonation of Jackie Mason doing the history of what happened to TA-RI-GO and how it sort of became Camp Westmont. It is interesting to note, that Neg Nort Nud has survived and is now a tradition in that Camp. I had a strange feeling that night when they sung the Neg Nort Nud Alma Mater and I still remembered the words. I know I made the flag and flag pole for the group, but I wonder if I wrote the song too?
Then I got up and gave a better stand up routine than was going on in the Nevele Comedy Show. I will try to remember some of the stories and place it on another page in the website. It was followed by a lovely speech by Barbara Levin invoking the memory of Pacy and the 40 years that the Salzman/Lewis family ran the camp. Debbie Seaman handed out certificates to all the winners of the days games, and I handed out two certificates to TA-RI-Goites who were still married to other TA-RI-Goites. Jeffrey Tabak and Wayne Brauner then presented me with a beautiful plaque naming me a TA-RI-GO ALL AROUND CAMPER for organizing the Reunion and gave me a beautiful leather brief case (black messenger style) which matched my shoes. It was something nicer than I would have bought for myself and will always remember the Reunion by. It was one of the few times that I felt that warmth of the thanks from everyone. Then Jack showed a slide show of the past and we ended with singing the camp's Alma Mater.
I asked the Nevele if I could burn a large T on the lawn in front of our building, but they thought that the other Jewish guests may get the wrong impression. So we just ended the night with cookies and hot cocoa!
Sunday felt like the last day of camp. I felt like crying several times. Instead of getting attached over two months, it was only for two days; but we did rekindled those feelings of togetherness quite easily. I really wanted to get to know a lot of you better especially the post 1968 people who I only knew through the emails. But we all packed up and gave our last hugs and left.
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