For better or for worse, Jewish educators like to say that the year really begins once the chagim are over.  From the end of the summer until the end of Sukoth/ simchat Torah the weeks fly by as we are either planning for a holiday or barely recovered from one when it is time to begin the next one.  As is often the case, the fall holidays never occur at the “right” time, either happening too early, or too late, on the weekends or in the middle of the week.  Sure enough, this year was true to form, and here I am on the 12th of October ready to begin the year!

Since our site went live a few weeks ago, I have been very pleased with the response we have gotten to the program.  I have spoken to many parents of prospective campers who are delighted to know that there is going to be a rustic Jewish camp entering the community of Ramah Camps.  At the end of the day, I think it is fair to say that we will be one of the only camps in America that couples rustic outdoor living with intense Jewish education and community building. Only the Quakers and the Boy Scouts will offer anything on par with Ramah Outdoors (minus the Jewish educations elements).

In my conversations with prospective families/ campers a few things have become clear to me:

  1. This camp is not for everyone.  I have spoken with some parents who want their kids to play basketball and tennis and frankly, this camp will not provide a forum for either of these.
  2. This camp is for those who want to take on new physical and intellectual challenges.  I have spoken with a few parents who have kids in 9th grade who say that their kids do not want to return to their regular camps because they are tired of doing the same activities.  At least one family told me of the 10th grade program at their camp that consists of going on many trips to cities and “places of interest.”  Her daughter is not interested in going places where she will have to blow dry her hair during the summer.  I said, “perfect, we have a camp for you.”
  3. There is a broader network of people interested in Jewish camps in the Northeast than anywhere else in the country.  For better or for worse, most inquiries about the program are coming from people who live in the Washington, DC to Boston corridor.  Going into this project, I knew that this would be the case, and knew that there would be huge demand from these communities.  Starting this week, I will be focusing far more effort on recruiting kids from the Denver & Texas communities in order to ensure that there is a good mix of kids coming from the Southwest as well as the East coast.
  4. The people who are most interested in this camp are those who are excited that this is a new venture and they have the chance to get in on the ground floor.  Rather than our newness being a liability, so far it has proven to be an asset.  How often can a kid in 8th grade actually have a major impact on how a new Jewish institution develops?!  Because our community is going to be so small in our opening summer (40-60 chalutzim and 20-25 madrichim) everyone will have a voice in how this camp ultimately develops.  I dream of sitting down with the first year chalutzim 15 years from now and looking back on what we helped to create in those opening summers.

In the spirit of helping to create this new camp, I just launched our first Ramah wide naming competition.  For the next month, everyone will be able to vote (about once a day if you wish) on the names for the new edot for Ramah Outdoors.  Go to this link and try it out.  Feel free to pass along the word to anyone else who has ever attended a Ramah camp in the past 63 years.