If I had to choose one word to describe Shabbat at Ramah Outdoor Adventure, it would be “Kehillah” “[community]” One feels this sense of Kehillah, when we gather, all recently showered and wearing white clothing, in the Kfar (tent area) for Israeli dancing on erev Shabbat. One feels this sense of community, when we walk down to the pardes Teffilah for camp-wide services and everyone is singing together to the beat of the drum and the strumming of the guitar. One feels this sense of community at the singing after dinner on Friday night, which this past Friday night was some of the most spirited I have seen in my summers at Ramah Outdoor Adventure. One feels this sense of community during Shabbat day when chalutzim (campers) of different ages are hanging out with each other playing gaga. And one feels this sense of community at the end of Shabbat when the entire camp, gathers in one huge circle to sing Havdallah and bid farewell to Shabbat.
It is not a coincidence that this feeling of Kehillah is so strong at camp. One of our core religious values is that “Chalutzim [campers] will feel a sense of belonging to, and be enthusiastic members of, the camp community and the larger Jewish community.” Jewish camps, like Ramah, are so effective at influencing campers’ Jewish identities because we create intense and intentional Jewish communities. We create a Kehillah where everyone is “doing” Jewish and “being” Jewish. This goal is easily accomplished at camp because our chalutzim are not sidetracked by the distractions of the outside world. For example, there are no school events on Friday night with which we must compete, we always eat together in our Kosher dining hall and all the campers at Ramah are Jewish. Perhaps, most importantly, most of our program staff are not only Jewish, but are on active spiritual quests of their own. The enthusiasm of our staff and passion for their religion creates a contagious atmosphere for our campers who turn to these college and post college-age students as personal and religious role models.
While there is no doubt that Shabbat is a fundamental time for community building, it is only one part of the broader community building jigsaw. Today begins another equally important part, known as the masa’ot (excursions). This morning, our JOLI (11/12th grade) chalutzim left on their six day masa to the Indian Peaks Wilderness. On Monday & Tuesday the remainder of our chalutzim will leave for white water rafting trips, biking trips, hiking trips, service project trips and climbing trips. On these masa’ot, chalutzim will have a chance to bond with a small group of peers and dynamic counselors all passionate about their respective activities. While the younger chaltzim go on masa’ot with their bunk, the older ones choose their activities, and often leave camp as relative strangers, only to return two, four or five days later extremely close, having shared stories, challenges and experiences that can never be totally understood by those who were not with them.
Before the end of the week, we will likely write one more blog post, however, since chalutzim are mainly out of camp this week, we hope to have limited news to report. Please continue to check out our Facebook page where we will post any updates.