Blog  What We Learned About Ourselves Through the Love of a Turkey

What We Learned About Ourselves Through the Love of a Turkey

by Kallah Bet faculty members Mandy Herlich, Director of Lifelong Learning at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, IL, and Rabbi Alan Cook of Sinai Temple in Champaign, IL.

A wonderful benefit of camp is the opportunity to experience the beauty of nature that surrounds us on the grounds of OSRUI (in fact, the theme of Kallah Bet last summer was teva, nature). Our setting in Wisconsin allows us to see many flora and fauna all around us. So, it was not terribly surprising when a small flock of wild turkeys showed up in Kallah (Wisconsin is one of the top five states for wild turkeys).

One of the turkeys was particularly persistent in trying to make Kallah his home. The madrichim and chanichim (counselors and campers) bestowed the name “Felix” upon him, and he became a beloved mascot of the eidah (unit).

But wild turkeys are, of course, wild. Eventually, for the sake of safety, Felix had to be removed from camp and resettled in a more turkey-friendly environment. He is sorely missed by all of us in Kallah. Here are some lessons that we learned from Felix’s time with us, and the legacy he has left behind:

1. Love all creatures. The Hebrew word for “turkey” is “hodu,” short for “tarn’gol hodu” (colloquially, “thankful chicken”). Just by being who he was, Felix indirectly taught us about gratitude. In Kallah, we have discussed the important roles we each play in taking care of the earth and its inhabitants. We believe that creating a strong camp community where others are treated with respect, regardless of how different your madrich or fellow chanich may be from you, helps to build mensches.

2. It’s cool to be wild (occasionally). Sometimes you just need to let loose and enjoy. Kallah Bet chanichim are experts in bringing on the fun. The madrichim even sang a song (to the tune of “Uptown Funk”) that included the refrain, “Kallah Bet gonna pump you up/ Kallah pump you up!”
3. Don’t let your feathers get ruffled over small things. At camp, we have plenty of opportunities to see the forest for the trees (literally). Sometimes, we need to remember to take a step back and appreciate the beauty of the forest. Living among 8-10 other chanichim also teaches real-life lessons in cooperation and conflict resolution.

4. Even if you can’t fly, you can soar. Wild turkeys like Felix are mostly flightless, but they can reportedly jump/ fly to heights of up to 55 feet when frightened. Similarly, our Kallah chanichim are the youngest in camp, yet in many ways their might should not be underestimated. They are learning how to be heroes, and how to make the world a better place.

5. Labels are fine for food, but not for people (or turkeys). Just as people might look at Felix and make certain assumptions about him because he’s a turkey, so too does our society tend to try to put people into neat little boxes. In Kallah, as in all eidot in OSRUI, we are proud of our strong community where everyone is loved and accepted. All participants are encouraged to realize their true selves and to feel comfortable in their own skin.

6. A simple visit can put a much-needed smile on someone’s face. Kallah chanichim never knew when or where Felix might show up, but they always appreciated his presence when he visited. As our chanichim learn about being heroes, they are discovering that heroism comes in many guises. Sometimes all it takes to be a hero is a kind word or a friendly interaction.

7. Gobble, gobble, gobble – make your voice heard. What you have to say is important. Felix would sometimes show up—and make his presence known at inopportune times. But Kallah chanichim are always encouraged to engage in lively discussions during limmudim. They always have unique and thoughtful viewpoints.

8. Remember your friends, even when they are not nearby. Though Felix is now with his fellow Melleagris gallopavo, he will always be treasured as an honorary member of the OSRUI 2016 community. There was even a tribute to him during our Shabbat shtick. Kallah campers have also spent the past week making an impact on one another, and they have begun to build lifelong friendships. We know that they will look forward to returning next summer to see one another again.

felix 3
felix 5

felix 7

We will always remember you, Felix!

felix at nihgt

Felix is a wild turkey, who has been safely relocated to a more rural area of Oconomowoc, where he will live out his days with his turkey friends.