My Name is Ethan Fine, from Dallas Texas. I was fortunate to know the whole Weiss family. From my visits to Tampa and many FaceTime calls, Mitch and Leslie became almost like second parents to me and through my best friend Ari, I got to know Hannah too.
I first met Ari when we were both 9 years old, in Nitzanim the youngest division, at Camp Ramah Darom in Clayton, Georgia.
This past summer was our 7th, and normally second to last summer together at camp and we were in Nivonim, in Bunk 7. We spent 8 weeks together, nearly inseparable.
In the middle of the 8 weeks, between the two sessions, we have a 2-day break. Because Leslie and Mitch couldn’t take off work, Ari stayed with my family during the break–we had a great time shopping, sleeping, and hanging out with family and camp friends.
ARI BUNK QUOTE
On the last day of camp this past summer, Ari wrote a message on his bunk bed that perfectly captures the type of person he was:
“To the next members of Bunk 7:
More importantly make connections.
Take every moment and be active and present in all things you do here.
Be nice to everyone, for we are all part of one beautiful community.
Talk to someone new everyday.
Have a positive attitude, even if you hate the activity.
Make memories, but make memories that count.
By the end, all you’ll have are memories.
In memory of Nivo ’17. It was a good one.
Ari loved people and valued human connections, living in the moment, and being present in everything he did and in every conversation he was in, even if you were over a thousand miles away and on FaceTime.
At camp, Ari was known for his musical talent; people refer to him as a superstar and they talk about his version of “Little Lion Man.”
2 summers ago, in Nachsho Live, a performance for the 4 oldest age groups at camp, Ari was in the band, and he debuted his version of Little Lion Man. It was so good, that the next night, Geoff, our camp director, called the band up to play in front of the whole camp at closing ceremonies.
This past summer, Ari was a part of the Nivo U band that performed multiple times, again in front of the oldest 4 age groups. Ari was only in the band for the first session of camp, but the second session band asked him to return for several encore performances and each time he had the crowd rocking.
As I mentioned, this upcoming summer is our last summer as campers and is called Gesher. We will be Gesher 18, or Gesher Chai. Gesher is an 8-week program at Ramah Darom, dedicated to leadership–it is the summer we have been looking forward to and it is the culmination of our time at camp over the past 7 years.
Ari and I had recently created a list of a few things that we both thought would be very funny and interesting to bring to camp this summer. Ari wanted to bring dog cones and reflective jackets and we had a lot of funny things we planned to use them for. We had ideas on themes and activities for color war, which Gesher is in charge of planning, along with many ideas for the rest of our time at camp.
The number 18 is important in Judaism as it represents “life,” or “Chai”. It is fitting that our Gesher summer is Gesher chai or the Gesher of life. This summer, we will honor Ari’s memory and celebrate his life. Ari played such a big role in so many people lives, and he will be with us during everything we do.
I was really looking forward to spending this summer, our Gesher summer, with Ari. It brings me great pain and sadness knowing that I won’t be able to. I know that this summer without him will be incredibly hard. We lost a very loud voice, a very strong leader, and a good friend. But, we will be louder and more powerful than ever because we have our Little Lion Man in our hearts and in our thoughts.
About a month after camp had ended, Ari and I were talking on FaceTime and our conversation led to our regrets from this past summer. We came to the agreement that without a doubt this summer was the best one yet, and that next summer, Gesher, would be even better in an indescribable way.
Ari told me he regretted not going up all the way up to the waterfall at camp and it was the first thing he wanted to do this summer after we arrived. In our 4th year at camp, we started going up the waterfall through the water, instead of the safer, more traditional dry path. This past summer we were on our way up to the waterfall through the water path when Ari and Ayden got stung. They stayed back to help each other out and get help and didn’t make it to the top with the rest of us. I was looking forward to going to the waterfall this summer with Ari, and I know it will be one of the first things the boys and I do.
For those of you who don’t know, Ari had a fear of heights. He panicked when we did the high ropes course this summer and did not like to be up high. On December 27th Ari and I had been texting and he was telling me about his trip in Costa Rica and said “Today we went on a bike ride to a waterfall then we hiked down it and back up. Then I went repelling down a different waterfall.” He had conquered his fear of heights in Costa Rica and I was very very proud of him. He finally made it to the top of the waterfall, just not the one at camp.
Many people talk about what a special place camp is. When you spend 24 hours a day together with a group of kids for 56 days, you form unbreakable bonds. The bonds grow throughout the year as we all stay in touch. For me and every other member of our Aidah, we consider each other family. There is nobody I would rather be with, spend time with, talk to, or spend my summers with than the people in my aidah and Ari felt the same way–in a speech about camp, he said,
“My aidah was the best family I could ever ask for.
At camp, I always feel supported by my friends, even if I am in an uncomfortable situation.
We are tight-knit, and stay in touch throughout the year and I love my aidah so much.”
ARI THE LOVER
One night in our bunk last summer, our counselor, Joey Spellberg shared some of his favorite verses from PIRKEI AVOT. He compared PIRKEI AVOT to the Bro Code. In English, PIRKEI AVOT refers to “The Ethics of our fathers.” and Fathers are dudes. And Dudes are bro’s.
This quote from PIRKEI AVOT that Ari found this past summer is one of his favorites.
.כָּל אַהֲבָה שֶׁהִיא תְלוּיָה בְדָבָר, בָּטֵל דָּבָר, בְּטֵלָה אַהֲבָה. וְשֶׁאֵינָהּ תְּלוּיָה בְדָבָר, אֵינָהּ בְּטֵלָה לְעוֹלָם
The translation is — “Any love that is dependent on something–when the thing ceases, the love also ceases. But a love that is not dependent on anything never ceases.”
Compared to the talented Ari Weiss, I have very few if any talents, which is a clear example that he loved me even though I have nothing to offer–his love for me was not dependent on anything.
The love that we have for Ari is not dependent on anything and it will never cease and never fade, even if he is no longer here.
Ari was a lover of many things–
A lover of people.
A lover of music.
A lover of his family.
A lover of his friends.
A lover of Judaism.
And a lover of camp.
Ari was quick to love and quick to forgive. He loved everything he did and everyone he came into contact with.
As we approach our final summer as campers, I want to share with you something that Ari wrote:
“Dear Banim and Banot of Gesher חי,
Next summer is going to be better than we can possibly imagine.
What we put in is what we get out, and if I know the spirit and energy of this aidah, we will be putting a lot in.
I’m sad to start the end, but I’m so excited for the many ways we will influence Camp Ramah Darom, Gesher, each other and ourselves.
Even if I haven’t spent the time I would have liked to with all of you,
I love each and every one of you and I can’t wait to spend the best 56 days of my life with you.”
Gesher 18, it is on us now, to create new memories honoring Ari and his memory and to have the best summer while doing everything for Ari.