Camp is not just for campers

By Elyssa Hammerman, Tikvah Director

Ramah Outdoor Adventure has contributed so much to my semester in Israel.  While I work at Ramah during the summers, and part time throughout the year, I am a full time second and third grade teacher at Denver Academy of Torah (DAT).  I am currently taking a semester off from teaching to study at The Pardes Institute in Jerusalem.  Despite my relative lack of formal Jewish learning, my summers at Ramah in Colorado have made this semester much more impactful.

I started my journey in August by taking two weeks of ulpan[intensive Hebrew Study].  I focused on grammar and vocabulary: the things I would need in order to have a basic conversation.  At one point my teacher asked if I knew the word L’hishaer.  “Lhishaer!!! I know that from camp: “Meltzarim Nalahishaer [waiters please remain]!”  I was so excited.  Yes, you guessed it — Next linakot… “na linkakot et ha shulcahnot”[please clean the tables ].   I was thrilled that I could apply my camp Hebrew to some of my basic conversations here.  As I’m being introduced to new words I continue to be able to connect them to words and phrases that I’ve heard over and over at camp!

Next, I was sitting in services and listening to the Torah reading.  I heard the man who was laining (reading Torah) say “Machaneh” I turned toward my friend who was next to me and said, “that’s camp.  We’re talking about something having to do with camp!”

In my Chumash (Bible) class my teacher asked if anyone knew the word Ohel [tent].  Again, a smile came across my face as I threw my hand up!

It’s not just vocabulary with which Ramah has provided me.  On another occasion, I was sitting in a class on Tefillah [prayer].  The teacher asked if anyone knew the three sections of which the Amidah is comprised.  Yes!  Adam, our Rosh Bogrim in 2013, taught this to his campers one morning when he brought hot chocolate to teffilot as a demonstration.  First the chalutzim [campers] asked for a drink, and he said “no.”  Then they praised him, hoping to “butter him up,” and asked him again, at which point he gave it to them.  Afterwards, they said thank you.  Remembering this demonstration from camp, I was able to answer my teacher about the structure of the Amidah.

Camp even comes into play in my Modern Jewish Thought class.  The teacher gave us a very difficult article on the philosophy of Martin Buber:  I-It, I-thou.  How can one evenunderstand this!?   And then I remembered a Limmud [lesson] one day when I went and bonded with a tree.  I related to the tree in a new way.  And back in our class, I was able to relate to the material in a new way as well.

Later in my Chumash [Bible] class we were translating a verse and came to the word Yirah.  People were struggling to translate it.   But I learned this four years ago on top of Givat Ilanot (Ilanot hill) with Sarah Shulman.  I remembered the lesson where we learned that Yirah means awe and fear.  I remembered studying about Abraham Joshua Heschel on top of the mountain overlooking Ramah Valley.  I knew it was something that wasn’t easy to define, but was able to go back to my conversation and remember talking about loving God, and fearing God at the same time.

Heschel’s idea of Radical Amazement came to me just as easily in the classroom, because of the numerous times we talk about this concept as “Wow Moments” at camp.

And it goes on and on!

Besides all of the knowledge I have learned from Ramah, camp has also helped me socially.  There is someone from almost every Ramah camp on my program.  Almost every Shabbat I celebrate Shabbat with other Ramahnicks.  This provides for really easy conversation  even if others think it’s the only thing we talk about.  Singing after meals is incredible because I learned all of the songs at our Ongai  Shabbat (Shabbat evening singing).

I continue to feel so lucky to be part of the Ramah movement in general and Ramah Outdoor Adventure in particular; everyone I talk to here is fascinated with Rockies.  They’re always telling me about the amazing things they’ve heard.

Miss you all and thanks for everything you’ve taught me.

Elyssa

PS.  If you are above camper age and want to participate in our camp program, check out our new Adult Camp.

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