Celebrating Joe Heinecke!

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Celebrating Joe Heinecke

Joe Heinecke, our longtime Physical Plant Manager, was recently honored by the URJ on the 40th anniversary of working at OSRUI. Everyone who has set foot on our campgrounds in Oconomowoc, has benefited from Joe’s hard work and commitment to camp. Below are remarks that Solly, our camp director, shared in celebration of Joe.

If you want to reach out to Joe to offer your congratulations, you can send him a letter at our Oconomowoc office:

Joe Heinecke 
600 Lac La Belle Drive 
Oconomowoc, WI 53066

We are so grateful to Joe and look forward to many more years of Joe’s leadership and dedication to camp!

Remarks from Solly shared in celebration of Joe:

“It is my honor to celebrate Joe Heinecke for his 40 years of service to OSRUI as our Physical Plant Manager. As Physical Plant Manager, Joe is responsible for overseeing our entire site, maintaining all of our buildings, keeping camp clean and beautiful, and managing construction projects. Joe approaches all of these roles with a deep love and commitment to camp, and his work for 4 decades has made it possible for thousands of young people to call OSRUI home.

While Joe did not grow up at OSRUI as a camper he literally grew up at camp. His family lived down the street from our gates and Joe has shared stories with me of memories of planting trees at some of the far back parts of our property as a kid. The saplings that Joe planted decades ago are now beautiful tall evergreens.

Since 1980, Joe has worked full-time at camp, and throughout that time he has embodied the values that we strive to instill in our young people.

First, Joe is a lover of Torah. Though he may not be Jewish, Joe is a man of deep faith – I know I can call him anytime there is an issue during the summer, except Sunday mornings, though even then he usually stops by camp on his way home from Church! But, I say Joe is a lover of Torah because he is the keeper of the Torah scrolls at camp. We are fortunate at OSRUI to have a number of scrolls – each of our different units at camp has their own scroll. At the end of the summer, Joe collects and inventories the Torahs, he stores them safely through the winter, and he can tell you the history of each of the scrolls and who it is named in honor of. At camp we strive to instill a love of Torah and Judaism in all of our kids, and Joe is our partner in this sacred work.

A second value of Joe’s is that he is welcoming to everyone. Like many of our other URJ camps, in recent years we have affirmed the gender identity of transgender campers by having campers live in the cabins with the gender they identify with. When we went through a process as a community a few years ago to prepare for this important change, Joe was a vocal champion of it. He came up with plans on how to make cabins and bathrooms have more privacy, he thought through many details related to our physical camp, and he repeatedly said to me that all kids deserve to have a camp experience like what we give at OSRUI. To Joe, it wasn’t ever a question that camp should be welcoming to everyone – because that’s exactly who he is.

A final value of Joe’s is a love of family. While Joe has been on our team for 40 years, it isn’t just Joe. His wife, Katie, has worked at camp, his brothers have worked at camp, his grandkids will come and play on the beach on a warm sunny day, and on the 4th of July when we have fireworks at camp, Joe and his entire family join us to watch the show. Nothing brings a smile to Joe’s face like sharing about what his grandkids are up to or plans of something he is building for them over the weekend. We are fortunate that for over 40 years Joe has shared his family with us, but more so we are fortunate that the Heinecke family has been at the core of our OSRUI family.

For Joe, camp is a second home, and for 40 years he has made that home a home to so many more people. Like the saplings that grew into strong trees under Joe’s watch, so too has camp grown under his watch and care.

On behalf of all of the campers, and staff members at OSRUI over the last four decades, and on behalf of my predecessor Jerry Kaye, who Joe worked alongside for 35+ years, I extend my thanks and congratulations to Joe.

Joe, I look forward to seeing what the next 40 years bring for you and for all of us at OSRUI!”