First of all congratulations to the winners of a free week of camp for February:  Ariel from New Rochelle  & Rose from California.

And now the blog post:  On Thursday night, I had the pleasure of holding a toast to Ramah Outdoor Adventure at a local bar in Midtown.  A fellow staff member from Camp Ramah in Canada, Sharon Zinns, who currently works as a lawyer in New York City was instrumental in helping to arrange the evening.

Originally, Sharon and I thought that we would use this gathering as a chance to reconnect with our Ramah friends from our years at camp and perhaps raise a few dollars to help campers afford to attend Ramah Outdoor Adventure in Colorado.  As it turned out, many of the people who came on Thursday were not people whom either of us knew from our time at camp, but rather, Ramahniks who wanted an excuse to come and meet their other camp friends and hear more about this exciting project.

It was a wonderful evening with loads of excitement in the air.  The evening also demonstrated to me the power of the Ramah experience on people long after they have graduated from camp and are working full time in the professional world.  20 and 30 somethings continue to feel an unbelievable connection to their camp program and to the community of which they were a part.   Even those who are not actively involved in the Jewish community today, still felt a connection to the greater Ramah community.

When campers are in their camping years, it makes sense that they have enormous allegiance to their home camp.  When I worked at Ramah in New England, everyone there thought that they had the best camp.  When I moved to Ramah in Canada, the campers there thought that their camp was the best.  And at Ramah Berkshires in, 2007, the campers there thought their camp was the best.  And in some ways they were all right.  Because for every camper, there is a “best” place.

One of the goals of Ramah Outdoor Adventure is to create a forum for campers from the seven regional Ramah camps to continue their Ramah experience if they decide to leave their regional camp.  It is also a place where older campers can join a Ramah community at an age when most would not typically begin in one of the regional camps.  Although we do not set out to recruit campers from other Ramah Camps, I am delighted to learn that some of our campers are campers who were former Ramah campers who had been planning to attend a secular program this summer and instead have chosen to come to Ramah Outdoor Adventure.

Ramah Outdoor Adventure is the first camp to be started not by a regional board of lay people, but by the National Ramah Commission who understand that Ramah is not just about influencing the Jewish life in one region.  Yes, we are attracting many campers from Texas, Colorado and New Mexico, and have local support for this project.  But we also know that Ramah Outdoor Adventure is part of a much broader movement attracting campers from all over the country who want to be a part of one of the only Jewish outdoor adventure camps in the United States.

On Thursday night, alumni from most of the Ramah camps gathered, not to promote their camps, but to support a movement-wide initiative that will positively influence the next generation of Ramah campers.  Once one leaves the “Ramah world and enters the “real world”, it does not matter which camp one attended.  The core values of each camp are the same and are forever engrained in the identities or Ramah alumni. Each alum goes in a different direction in their personal and religious lives, but the shared memories bond them to every other Ramahnik who has gone through our network of camps.