My name is Dan Buonaiuto and I have the honor and pleasure of joining the Ramah Outdoor Adventure family as the program director of camp. Rabbi Eliav has graciously allowed me to take a little break from unpacking boxes full of miscellaneous camp “treasures” that are left over from this past summer to introduce myself to you.
So here are the facts:
I was born, raised and educated in the suburbs of Boston; first at the Gann Academy/ New Jewish High School followed by Tufts University where I received a degree in Geology. I grew up hiking, skiing and kayaking with my family, but it was on a dog-sledding and ice-climbing trip in high school that my love for the outdoors truly ignited, and it has been burning strong ever since.
I spent much of my time in college leading trips for the Tufts outing club that ranged from trail work and backpacking to a mid-January polar bear swim in New York’s Lake George. While at Tufts, I also played on the ultimate-Frisbee team.
I grew up summering at scenic Ramah in New England and went on to spend five years there on staff. I was both a bunk counselor and the Rosh of the Nature Program, but be forewarned- if you are looking to background check my Ramah career know that at camp I was exclusively (and I hope affectionately) known to all as “Dandan”.
After graduating, I spent six months living, working and studying on a ecological farm in Israel to earn a certificate in a system of agro-ecological design called permaculture. If you don’t know what permaculture is, be prepared to to hear A LOT about it and maybe learn some tricks of the trade at camp. And now, after a summer of leading groups of Jewish high school stduents on backpacking and community service trips on the Hopi Indian Reservation in Arizona, I am happy to once again be back in the Ramah community.
I only had the opportunity to spend one Shabbat at Ramah Outdoor Adventure this past summer, but what a Shabbat it was! In my short time there, the thing that struck me about this camp in particular were the connections I saw. Such rich connections between chalutzim, their madrichim, to the camp itself the beautiful forests and meadows surrounding camp, and to joyous and thoughtful Judaism. This brief taste of Ramah Outdoor Adventure life from last summer was enough to make me excited to dive in for Kayitz 2011.
In speaking with both staff members and chalutzim, I heard there was great enthusiasm for the service projects and farming chugim. I was struck by the amount of investment the chalutzim felt towards building and improving the space around them. When living outdoors, it is almost impossible to not start to incorporate the rhythms of nature into ourselves. Through this lens of observation, we see countless natural systems which link the world together in efficient harmony. Having this awareness infuses our own actions as seen in camp through the various construction projects as well as traditions that the chalutzim built this past summer. I have big dreams for an active ecological farm (hopefully with animals too) at camp next summer, a project that after seeing the ruach and dedication of last summer’s chalutzim, I now know will be possible with their contributions. Along with this, be prepared for expanded work projects, as well as new adventures, new masaot and that old feeling returning home to a place you love after a whole year of being away, and having it feel like you never left its awesomeness.
Whew…this was really a long post, and ourboxes aren’t going to unpack themselves so I better get back to work. So long for now everyone, I look forward to meeting you all over the coming year.