First, the winners of January’s “free week of camp” raffle are Amarissa from Colorado Springs and Emilie from Los Angeles.  Please note we attempt to contact winners by phone the day that their name is picked, but wait to send out the names to the rest of the community until the next blog posting.

And now onto the blog post. . .   I spend most of my time these days: recruiting, hiring, and working on other administrative aspects of our program for this summer.  On any given day I read and write about 100 work related emails & make about 10-20 phone calls.  While I still think I have one of the best jobs in the world, there are times when I am sitting in the office that I yearn to be at camp actually working with the counselors and campers.  After all, the reason I decided to dedicate my rabbinate to working with youth in a summer camp, is that I believe that if Jews want to lead meaningful Jewish lives they must connect with their Jewish identity in a deep, emotional, and passionate manner.  There is no better place to achieve this connection than at summer camp!

It is during the long days in the office and evenings on the phone, that I must remind myself of the greater purpose behind my work.

And then there are weeks like the one that just ended, where I need no reminder!  I recently returned from the Weinstein training seminar run by the National Ramah Commission at Ramah in Ojai, California.  For four days, 60 Ramah college age staff members joined 8 Ramah directors & assistant directors to work on program and leadership development.  Just like at camp, these days were spent in formal sessions, informal hanging out, & organized activities.

For those of us from cooler climates, just basking in the 75 degree Ojai sun was enough to put a smile on our faces.  But behind the relaxing in the sun, there was also serious work being done.  Counselors had a chance to share their best practices with each other.  Counselors shared their best peulot erev (evening activities) and best peulot edah (unit activities).  It was amazing to see how, even though each camp is geographically separated, there are many similar peulot that happen in each camp.

One of the highlights of this week was watching three of the Ramah Outdoor Adventure staff members integrate into the broader Ramah community.  Risa, AJ, and Stephen, all 2009 training participants and 2010 founding staff members of Ramah Outdoor Adventure, were present to represent the newest Ramah camp.  We had a chance to connect a few times to discuss plans for the summer.  The excitement in each of our meetings was palpable!  We really are creating an entirely new Ramah camp!

We were all also bombarded with questions about Ramah Outdoor Adventure from the other staff members.  It seems to me that there was both a level of intrigue and excitement by members of the broader Ramah community about what we are doing in the Rockies.  Counselors from some of the more “comfortable” camps were especially amazed to hear that we will be living in tents with no electricity and sharing a shower house and bath house.

We had a chance to model some of what will happen at Ramah Outdoor Adventure this summer.  After teffilot on the second day, we lead the whole group in a perek of shmirat hagoof—playing soccer with two balls and doing calisthenics using the siddur. As Risa noted afterwards, there is a reason why we say that Ramah Outdoor Adventure is not for everyone.  While many of the staff members got jazzed about the early morning workout, the feeling was not shared by all.  In addition, I lead a walk on the second day where I modeled how to teach theology in the woods.  We looked at the ideas of Heschel and Buber and how their ideas related to our natural surroundings.  These lessons were taken from a much broader unit on theology I am working towards implementing for this summer.

In short, it was a terrific & rejuvenating week.  It helped all of us keep our eye on the broader picture about what we are doing at Ramah Outdoor Adventure, and enabled us to come together with the best of the Ramah staff from all the other camps to share ideas and learn about each other’s best practices.  Summer is just around the corner, and I cannot wait to move from the theoretical, that I speak about on most days, to the actual that will take place 24/7 for eight weeks this summer!