Our first Shabbat post-camp has come and gone.  Like each Shabbat at camp, it started with the lighting of the candles and ended with the recitation of Havdallah.  But unlike the nine at camp, this past Shabbat was lacking the hours of singing, the active learning and hanging out with friends that defined each of our Shabbatot at Ramah.

Over Shabbat I had a chance to reflect on the summer that has passed.  However, in this final blog post of the summer, I have decided not to attempt to recap an entire summer’s worth of stories, but instead focus on three vignettes that capture the spirit of Ramah Outdoor Adventure.

Vignette #1:

For those of us present during our first session, we will never forget Josh’s Bar Mitzvah.  Having arrived at camp only hours after his family moved from their house, Josh was going to be returning to a new city on the last day of camp.  Because his parents were in a new city, they had decided to postpone celebrating Josh’s Bar Mitzvah until they had found a home community.  When we learned about this at camp, we asked Josh and his parents whether they wanted us to mark his Bar Mitzvah at camp.  The answer was a resounding YES.  And celebrate we did!  This was one of the finest examples I have seen of a community coming together to celebrate one of its own.  Members of our staff worked with Josh in the two weeks before his Bar Mitzvah to help him learn all of his parts. The entire camp came to our 6:30 Shacharit service to see Josh called to the Torah, and to also join in the festivities and dance together as a community.  Josh’s bunk mates dressed in their finest (clean) clothes for the occasion, and presented him with a piece of topaz that they had found on the “chava,” or “ranch.”  His counselors then spoke to him about what this moment meant for them and hopefully for him.

As I have written numerous times, Ramah at its core is a place to experience intense and intentional Jewish community.  Josh’s Bar Mitzvah celebration was an unforgettable way to experience the transformative power of this community.

Vignette #2

Ask any of our chalutzim, and most will tell you that the highlight of their camp experience was going on their “masa,” or excursion.  These masa’ot were a chance for a small group of chalutzim to go out into the backcountry and experience the magic of the outdoors and the bonds that one makes with peers when one is on the trail.  As the director, I was not able to go on any of these masa’ot as I needed to stay back at the Chava to work on administrative matters and to stand ready should any of the masa’ot need help.  But remaining at base camp did not mean that I was not able to experience the sheer excitement present on these masa’ot.  On Fridays around 11:30 am, I would begin to hear singing and cheering.  As each group arrived back at the chadar ohel, they would march into camp singing the song that they learned on the trail or cheering as a group for having made it back to camp.  I loved listening to these sounds – these were the sounds of happy chalutzim who had just completed one of the most intense and challenging weeks of their lives.  Each time, I would run out and greet them, and ask them about their trips.  Invariably, the chalutzim would say “amazing” or “incredible” and then start talking at 5000 words per minute about all that had happened.  Their excitement was palpable, and almost contagious, even if I could barely make out a single word of what they were saying!!

Vignette #3

Our summer was successful for many reasons:  the program, the campers, the site, etc.  But above all, it was our staff that made our first camp season a success.    From the trainings that we began via phone months before camp started, to the last hug goodbye on Wednesday morning, our staff never ceased to amaze me!  Comprised almost entirely of upper class college students and professional educators, our staff worked tirelessly to ensure that our chalutzim had a transformative experiences both at base camp and on the trail.  While I could write pages about our staff, I will mention just two comments I heard at the staff banquet that I believe encapsulate the spirit of our team.

We ended the staff banquet by sitting in a circle and sharing one lesson we learned during our summer.  One counselor commented that this summer was the first time she had been a member of a “community of individuals.”  I understood her comment to mean that at our camp, each person was encouraged to express his or her own individuality in such a way that was supported by the broader mission of the community.  We all were working for a common purpose, but we remained at our core strong individuals with unique personalities.    The second comment was made by one of our first time counselors (entering junior year of college).  She said that this was one of the only times she has been so completely dedicated to the mission of an organization that she was able to put her entire self into making it a success.  She was willing to work the crazy hours and continue to give 110% because she so wanted to see our community succeed.  As I listened to these two counselors, I smiled inside knowing that we had achieved one of the main goals of our camp: creating intense and intentional community where each person is valued for their contributions to the greater good.

In short, our inaugural summer was a wonderful success!  We are already hard at work planning our 2011 season.  Registration is open (we already have a number of  chalutzim registered for next year!)  If you’d like to register now, please click here.

The dates for 2011 are: 

n Session I: Tuesday, June 21st -Monday July 4

  • This session is open to Chalutzim entering grades 5-11

n Session II: Wednesday, July 6th – Monday, August 1st

  • This session is open to chalutzim entering grades 5-11.

n Session III: Wednesday August 3rd – Monday, August 15th

  • This session is open chalutzim entering grades 3-8.  In the fall we are likely to be adding additional programs during these two weeks, so please check back soon or call the camp office for more information