Gonna Try to Call it Home

Rabbi Adam Greenwald
February 14, 2014
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So don’t you ask me, what I’m thinking
If it makes you happy, I’ll keep on singing.
For I sing when I can’t talk,
And I dance when I can’t walk,
And, I’m going back to Splendor Bridge
Gonna try to call it home…

“Splendor Bridge,” music and lyrics by Sam Flesher

1383762_10102715489514066_894909841_nSitting in the cavernous dining hall at the Garrison Institute in the Hudson River Valley, at the Nathan Cummings Foundation’s ‘Faith in America 2030’ Summit, I found myself in one of those deep, rambling late-night conference conversations with Adi Flesher, one of the Institute’s full time staff members.

Our conversation turned to roots, and I asked him where he was born: “On a small kibbutz, called Gesher Haziv” he replied. I smiled, “I grew up singing a song about that kibbutz, at my summer camp, the song was called Splendor Bridge.” He smiled back, “My father wrote that song.” Together, we watched his father singing it on YouTube, both quietly mouthing the words along with him, each of us tearing up for different reasons. We embraced, took a quick picture together, and both left feeling as though we had received an unexpected gift.

Splendor Bridge is a song of longing for home— of feeling split between the place where you are and the place where your heart truly lives. Growing up in Labor Zionist summer camping, we were expected to understand that meant that while we were deep in Diaspora (doesn’t get much further than Southern California), our souls belonged in Israel. Before we most of us had ever set foot there, we were taught to identify with Sam, who was just nineteen when he penned a love letter to his kibbutz: “Once I had two loves, somewhere in my heart; now I have just one love, and we’re 10,000 miles apart. And she’s beckoning to me, from far across the sea, so I’m going back to Splendor Bridge.” My younger brother took the message to heart and eighteen months ago made aliyah in order to “try to call it home.”

I have stayed in Los Angeles— where I grew up and went to rabbinical school— have gotten a job that I love and have made my own effort to call this place home. And yet, in quiet moments, I miss my brother very much and wonder if I should have made a similar journey. Now, when I listen to that song, I admire his courage and am proud of his resolve to pursue a dream. Of course, when Adi listens to that song, he remembers his father, gone now four years, and his life-long love of making music.

Kurt Vonnegut, kabbalists, and quantum physicists all suggest that it may be that we occupy many different places and moments simultaneously, and it is only our lack of perspective that tells us that we are limited to the here and now. They say that physical distance is an illusion, and the space between life and death, even more so. Maybe. It certainly felt that way when Adi and I sat together and sang those beautiful words, written deep in both of our hearts, and thought of those from whom space and time can never really separate us.

Here is a video of the kids of Camp Gilboa, singing Splendor Bridge at the dedication of their new campsite in 2011:

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Rabbi Adam Greenwald is the Director of the Louis & Judith Miller Introduction to Judaism Program at American Jewish University, the largest preparatory program for those considering conversion to Judaism in North America. He also serves as an Lecturer in Education in the AJU’s Graduate School of Education. In 2014, Rabbi Greenwald was named one of “America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis” by the Jewish Daily Forward. He previously served as Revson Rabbinic Fellow at IKAR, a Los Angeles congregation often recognized as one of today's most innovative spiritual communities. His writings have also appeared in the Washington Post, and he is a regular contributor to the Ziegler School's widely distributed "Today's Torah" and Jewish Values Online. Rabbi Greenwald is a graduate of UCLA and was ordained at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in 2011.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I was in Habonim (the ken in Minneapolis) from 1961-1972 and well remember that particular song. I could swear we had a slightly different tune, but whatever….

    Posted by
    Elliot Sorkin
  2. I remember as a kid at Gesher Haziv in 1968 Sam teaching me to play “Splendor Bridge”…”The Happy Prince”…”Even in the Sunshine” etc. Every now and then I get nostalgic (especially after a couple of cocktails) and take out the guitar and play his songs. Amazing songs…amazing person.

    Posted by
    marc saidel
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