An Interview with Rabbi Leo

This year, we are so excited to welcome to Ramah in the Rockies a delegation of fourteen chalutzim (campers) and three madrichim (counselors) from Mexico City! Here, the head Rabbi of the Beit El Conservative Congregation in Mexico City, Rabbi Leonel Levy, shares a bit about the Mexican experience at Ramah in the Rockies.

How did you learn about Ramah in the Rockies?
I met Rabbi Eliav; we have a friend in common that connected us. Rabbi Eliav came to Mexico in order to advertise the camp. We really enjoyed his enthusiasm and his great personality and his leadership, and decided to come [to camp]! At the beginning, we the group was only a few chalutzim and we sent them alone. This year we are fourteen chalutzim, plus three madrichim, so now that we have a larger group I decided to come and share this wonderful experience with them. This is my second year at camp.

How is American-Jewish culture different from Mexican-Jewish culture?
For us it’s very important to be an egalitarian community and a Kehillah Kedoshah (holy community). Mexico City is not so egalitarian. In Mexico, most of the Jews of the city belong to an Orthodox community, but they are not Orthodox; they belong because it is the tradition of their families. We don’t have a Reform [synagogues] in Mexico City, we only have two Conservative synagogues, and Beit El is the larger Conservative synagogue in the city: it has 1,000 families. So I think it’s really good to have this [egalitarian] experience. Also, we don’t have these kinds of camps in Mexico City, and I think it’s very important, in a time when we are discussing walls… to build bridges instead of walls.

What do your chalutzim get from this experience?
One of the things that our chalutzim get from this experience is an understanding that we are all the Jewish people and we all share links and connections. We have the same traditions here in the states and in Mexico and in Israel. Seeing the diversity of the Jewish people is very important to their experience. Also the connection with nature. Mexico City is a very urban place, and being here with nature and connecting with G-d and the tradition and the custom of the Jewish people in this environment is something that enriches their lives a lot.

What keeps you coming back?
It’s a wonderful experience. The t’fillot here are something very special. We don’t have the same kind t’fillot in Mexico, and I hope that our chalutzim will take advantage of this opportunity and will bring to Mexico some of this spirit. And I am looking forward to encouraging this spirit in our congregation in Beit El.

Last thoughts?
Thank you! Thank you to Ramah, to Reshet Ramah, to Mitch Cohen, to Rabbi Eliav. It’s such a privilege to be here in the Rockies at Camp Ramah and to meet the staff… it’s something so unique. I hope to have more chalutzim from our community come next year to strengthen the links with American-Jewry and with Camp Ramah.

Compiled by Rachel Blau

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