Fredi: I drove to Ramah that summer with my rabbi’s family (from Phoenix), Moshe and Margie Tutnauer and their boys. The summer before was my first summer ever at Ramah, when at age 16, I was in Machon. It was such a great Jewish experience for me that it didn’t take much convincing to get my parents to okay my going back as a counselor in training, called then The Ozrim program, but my mother cautioned me to “not fall in love with a rabbi.” That first Friday night during staff week when I was sitting with the Tutnauers, one of Moshe’s students from the Mador program three years prior, came to sit next to us so that Moshe would introduce us. He was a rosh edah so I was very impressed. He later claimed he had an “in” with Moshe and was eager to meet the new girl, a blonde from Phoenix.
We talked for hours that night and by the end of the summer, we were in love.
I called my mom to tell her I had met this great guy, who was a rabbinical student, and my mom said, “I told you not to fall in love with a rabbi!” That was the beginning of a lifetime of connection with Ramah for us, our four children who grew up at Ramah and our first grandchild who attended Gesher last summer.
Joel: We met at Seudah Shlisheet during staff week at Ramah in California in Summer 1963. Fredi’s experience at camp had begun the previous summer, when she was a Machon camper. In ’63 she worked as a CIT. Joel was among the pioneering campers at Ramah California during the years 1955-59. Following a summer in the Ramah National Mador (in Ramah Poconos) in 1960, Joel returned to California and served as a counselor in 1961-62, and became a rosh edah in 1963. In the days that followed that first meeting on Shabbat, the “chemistry” worked and we became an “item.” Fredi was entering her senior year in high school and Joel his senior year in college, so our relationship raised a few eyebrows.
In fact we are less than three years apart in age, but, as we all know, at that point in one’s life, where one is in school makes all the difference – except for us. In fact, we had much in common.
Both of our families were active in Conservative shuls (Fredi at Beth El in Phoenix and Joel at Beth Am in Los Angeles), and our fathers had been leaders in the Zionist Movement in their respective communities. And, Rabbi Moshe Tutnauer had touched our lives in a very special way: Fredi, as her congregational rabbi; Joel, as his counselor and teacher at Ramah. We became engaged in spring 1964, and we were married in June 1965. We worked as counselor and rosh edah in 1964 and 1966. After finishing college (Fredi went to NYU) and rabbinical school (Joel studied at JTS) we moved back to Los Angeles, began working, spent summers on staff at California Ramah, and raised four children who began their tenure at camp as staff brats, graduated to campers and then took their places as counselors. In summer 2006, our oldest grandchild spent his first summer at California Ramah, marking the third generation in our family to become part of the Ramah community.