Over the next few weeks, we will be highlighting the writings of some of our former chalutzim and some of our own staff members.  This week, I will share a write-up from one of our counselors, Hannah Samet who, along with Jordan Anderson, attended a weeklong training for over Ramah staff members (from all our camps) that takes place annually in Ojai CA.  Hannah is returning to Ramah Outdoor Adventure this summer as a counselor and Rosh Edah for our youngest Chalutzim.

At the beginning of January, I ventured to Ramah California in Ojai, along with Jordan Anderson, for the Weinstein Institute. Attendees of the institute were comprised of a number of different cohorts within the national Ramah movement. Each camp sent delegates of second year counselors to help broaden their range of skills and knowledge and prepare them to be superb counselors this coming summer. There were interns for the Ramah Service Corps, a fairly new national program that is working with synagogues and day schools around the country, trying to incorporate Ramah style teaching into year round learning environments. A number of Daber fellows were in attendance, expanding their abilities to incorporate conversational Hebrew into camp life, as well as teaching a few fun chants, songs, and tricks to the rest of us. The Reshet cohort was comprised of delegates from each camp’s special needs programs, in attendance to discuss each program’s unique qualities and to learn from one another. Jordan was in attendance as both a second year counselor as well as a part of Reshet. There was also a small group of Roshei Edah present in order to help facilitate some of the programming, which is where I fit in.

Each of the four days was filled with programs designed to empower each and every attendee in his or her skills as a counselor. There were three different sessions over the course of the institute that offered lecture options lead by national Ramah leaders, including Rabbi Mitch Cohen, the director of the National Ramah Commission.   For the first of these options I assisted a few of the other Roshei Edah in leading a program about the differences between team building and icebreaker activities, and the goals behind each. For the second of these options, I attended a lecture lead by the director of Ramah Poconos on incorporating life skills into every day activities at camp. It was extremely enlightening and I can’t wait to share some of the wise things he taught with Tzevet this summer. During the third and final lecture session, the group of Roshei Edah met separately to chat about troubleshooting and problem solving in our eidot and out tzevets through out the summer.

I was in a unique position as an attendee of Weinstein. Although I am Rosh Ilanot/Metayelim for this upcoming summer, I am also a second year counselor. The other Roshei Edah that were in attendance had all been Roshim previously, and had also worked at least three or four summers at their respective camps before becoming Roshes. Needless to say, they were pretty surprised by my situation, but they were wonderfully supportive and lent me a great deal of guidance over the course of the institute, making me feel secure and prepared for the summer ahead.

There were three program share sessions over the course of the institute, in which counselors were split up by age-of-campers and Rashei edah lead them in discussions of peulot, those that work and those that don’t, as well as the goals and intentions behind each program. In addition, over the course of the institute, every camp had a chance to present something to the institute that was unique to their camp. Poconos lead a great program about teamwork in the form of a great game that Jordan and I fully intend to bring to ROA. Ramah Darom taught us a song from the album their music staff produced last year! Since Jordan and I had been regarded with much curiosity as counselors from the newest (most amazing) Ramah, we decided to walk everyone through a day in the life at ROA and a typical masa. Then we elaborated on our unique practice of shmirat hagoof (morning exercise) and taught one of our favorites, Clam Tag! It was a total hit, everyone loved it.

In addition, we ate wonderful food, hiked during our free time, and met some really fantastic people from Ramahs all over the country. Personally, I was most impressed by the Reshet cohort of counselors for kids with special needs. These people are knowledgeable and passionate about the work that they do, as well as devoted to improving the tikvah program so that it can serve a range of special needs children and provide them with everything they need to have an amazing time, summer after summer. It made me even more excited about the steps we are taking towards starting our own special needs program at ROA. If you want more specific information on Tikvah or Reshet, I’m sure Jordan would be happy to elaborate.

All in all, being exposed to the cultures of other Ramahs made me realize how unique and special our camp truly is. We have a kehilah kedosha (holy community) that simply cannot exist at other camps the way it does in the Rockies.