With the annual HASC Concert celebrating a quarter of a century (25 years) of truly amazing performances, I thought it was important for people to know how the first HASC concert was conceived. The show was the brainchild of producer extraordinaire Sheya Mendlowitz after spending a shabbos in the camp. Below you will find a article that was featured in the Jewish Press in the Friday July 31st, 1987 issue.
Just One “Special Shabbos”
by Sheya Mendlowitz
Shabbos, Parshas Pinchas, I visited a camp in the mountains with my family, a place where most people wouldn’t think of visiting. Camp HASC (Hebrew Academy from Special Children) is geared to mentally and physically disabled children. I agree with the choice of the name of the camp indeed they are special children but not for the reasons you may think.
Our first encounter with Camp HASC was on the Sunday prior to the beginning of the three weeks. Mordechai Ben David called to invite us to come and participate in a mitzvah he does every year, singing for these special children. We must admit, at first we were reluctant to go. After spending a short period of time with the children, my mind was made up. There was no reason for any reluctance, just the opposite.
As I am in the music business I have arranged and attended many concerts. None have ever been so unique and special. I was left in total awe and amazement. The response was overwhelming.
When we pulled into the driveway the whole camp was waiting in the parking lot. As Mordechai got out of the car, the children erupted with excitement with eagerness, which word can’t describe. We proceeded to the dining room where the concert was to take place. As the music started Mordechai began to sing, the room started to shake. The energy which emanated from the room was great. At the end of the evening, I approached Mr. Moishe Kahn, the director of Camp HASC. I told him how much I had enjoyed the experience and asked if I could come to camp for a shabbos. His response was “Yes, of course, come any time.”
I decided to go the following shabbos.
Davening Kabolas Shabbos, I was amazed to see and hear the ruach of Lecha Dodi, the clarity of Shema, and the togetherness of Adon Olam. Each was said, word for word out loud. Many of the children cannot speak, yet they can daven in their own way. The staff’s love and devotion to the children is apparent. It is more then any trained medical professional can give. They establish a bond with the children learn a great deal and are able to accomplish things which otherwise would seem to be the impossible.
Shabbos was filled with amazement, from Shalom Aleichem to Havdalah. These children exhibited a tremendous joy and love for Shabbos. The Ruach while singing Zemiros was more than you would find in all the camps in the Catskill Mountains combined. A Dvar Torah is said by a different child each meal. They are not Divrei Torah as we know them to be. This past Friday night the Dvar Torah was said by a young man who isn’t able to speak. Yet he was able to communicate and share his knowledge with all in the dining room just by uttering a few sounds. How proud everyone was of his accomplishment.
Shabbos afternoon was spent talking and relating with the children and their counselors. The stories of some were sad, yet most always ended happily.
Shabbos is the end of a long and hard week for these children, filled with academics and activities. Shabbos is their time to relax and enjoy life to its fullest.
Camp HASC is filled with people who have optimistic views and goals, to make life for these children a happier and healthier one.
The children at Camp HASC are filled with a very special love, warmth and innocence. Only they can give this special warmth because they are who they are.
I was swept up in all this. Not only because of the children, but because of the staff as well.
I had a very special Shabbos which will never be forgotten.
Camp HASC is filled with children who came from broken homes or homes where their families cannot cope with their situation. At Camp HASC the children have a second chance at living “Kol Hakovod” to you all.