2010-07-14 / Local News

Pioneer helped build Israel and Jewish camping movement

By DAVID PORTNOE Voice staff

Late wife Elaine; children
Roni, Ruth, and
Gill; 7 grandchildren
Temple Emanuel &
Cong. M’kor Shalom
Travel and photography
Hungarian Goulash
“For Whom the Bell
Tolls” with Gary Cooper
& Ingrid Bergman

When Voorhees resident Arie Gluck tells you that he has led an eventful life, he’s not exaggerating. He has not just watched history go by. He has made it.

Born in Czechoslovakia, his Zionist parents brought him to Palestine in 1933 at the age of three. At the age of 15, he was in the Haganah, Israel’s pre-state army. At the age of 17, he was in the Palmach, the Haganah’s special forces unit. He was wounded in Israel’s War of Independence. He met David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, and knew those who led the modern state of Israel at the time of its birth.

Gluck was also present at another seminal moment in Israel’s early history when he became a member of Israel’s first Olympic team. Gluck ran the 400 and 800 meters at the 1952 Helsinki Games.

“We were glad that we represented the nation of Israel for the first time and that the Israeli flag flew with the flags of other nations,” said Gluck. He recalled the emotion of the moment when the Finnish army played Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem, when the Israeli flag was raised at the Olympic Village. “Jews on teams from other countries came just to see the ceremony. Many people cried when they heard Hatikvah played and saw the flag of Israel,” he said.

It was Gluck’s participation in the Olympics that ultimately brought him to the United States. His athletic prowess led him to be recruited by Adelphi University on Long Island. He competed in venues ranging from Madison Square Garden to the famed Penn Relays.

A job as physical education director at the JCC brought Gluck to Southern New Jersey in 1959. In 1966, he became director of the Reform movement’s Camp Harlam in the Poconos. Ultimately, Gluck oversaw all 12 of the Reform movement’s camps. He retired in 2002, but still serves as a consultant to the camp directors. He also stays fit by working out at the Katz JCC, where his daughter Ruth serves as associate director. Earlier in her career, Ruth Gluck served as the JCC’s phys ed director, following in her father’s footsteps.

Gluck is a great believer in Jewish camping, having witnessed the impact it has on young Jews. “All the organizational Jewish camps instill pride in being a Jew and knowledge of Jewish heritage and history,” he said. Gluck noted that many Jewish leaders are products of Jewish camps.

One of Gluck’s particular points of pride is the connection to Israel that he helped create for his campers. He initiated trips to Israel for the campers as well as created programs that brought Israelis to camp. One program brought to Camp Harlam 35 Israeli children whose fathers were Israeli pilots killed defending the country.

Although he said that he lives “quietly,” Gluck does not seem to be the retiring type. In addition to working out and spending time with family, he travels to Israel often. A film lover, he serves on the Katz JCC’s Israeli Film Festival Committee. He also continues to be involved in Jewish camping.

Quite an eventful life indeed. .

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