Real Life

We are back from our travels and settling in to real life. Vacations seem more important than I can remember, with the news of the world being so difficult to stomach, as they can provide a good excuse to check the web less frequently, not have a newspaper, and worry about which ice cream flavor will be that day’s highlight. And now that we are back, and all the problems are solved, we can look forward to a new year with unbridled optimism. I wish. But let us wait one more blogpost to get into real life; in the meantime hopefully you will indulge my self-indulgence.

Summer for me is a lot about the bike. There were several extended bike ride locations – Bethany, Maine, Wisconsin – and they were a highlight. The beach is always good. It was my first time in Maine, on an organized ride with Marc. It’s pretty hilly, always uphill or downhill. Lobster and lobster rolls and lobster whatever were constantly on the radar if not the Rudolph stomachs. Not a very diverse population, which was true in Door County Wisconsin as well. It’s hard to know what is America these days – is it Bethesda? Bar Harbor ME? Egg Harbor WI? For sure, there are many different America’s and it’s good to get out and see that firsthand, living as we do in a particular bubble that doesn’t reflect very much on what is going on in this fair land. Wisconsin was mostly to visit my daughter Sara, whose family on her husband’s side always summers in Door County. Best ice cream. Wonderfully flat roads. Another sailing misadventure but Gail and I were good in the kayaks.

Wisconsin was a road trip, passing through Michigan. Memorable for me in many ways was my little journey back to the earlier days of my rabbi life, there in Michigan. You may remember Michigan from my high holiday sermons, started on the way back from dropping my eldest son Dan at school. Before that, I lived there, from 1969 to 1980 when we moved to Washington. The first real job in my life was Hillel Rabbi at Michigan State University. The building, an old house, is still standing, looking none the better. Hillel has moved twice since I was there, always into nicer facilities for which I can take no credit. The house I lived in is also still standing, and looked even better than we were there. I will never forget the days before settling on that house. It cost $29,900, and I couldn’t sleep worrying about taking on that much debt. Funny how things change! The MSU campus looks great, much expanded but with good taste. It was fun to see all that.

Ann Arbor has a bigger place in my heart. We moved there after three years in East Lansing. The Hillel was a bigger operation and there was more room for me to grow. That facility has also been replaced, but the house we lived in is looking good. We walked around taking pictures to share with my kids, and the current owner rushed out to discern what terrorist group we were affiliated with. She was happy to meet a former owner, had tons of questions about how the house (a tudor home built around WWI) had been in our days, and showed us each and every room. That house had much more character than any before or since, and still does. But it was more than 35 years ago that we lived in it, and it’s hard to remember what life was like then.

Once moved to Washington, I worked in the Hillel headquarters till 1996 when my part-time gig at Beth El morphed into a full-time one. And then I retired, or semi-retired. One of the other joys of the summer was running out almost every week to our new Ramah Day Camp, located in Germantown, which I helped a little to create. Enrollment is over 200 in only its third summer, and the vibrations are really beyond description.

It is nice to look back on important parts of life, especially when there are current sequels. Hopefully you all have both too. And I hope your summer has been good.

Best, Bill Rudolph

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