It is hard to believe that we have been at the Ramah Ranch for over a week. Last Thursday a large group of counselors from across the URJ (Reform) & Ramah camping movements arrived for Wilderness First Aid (WFA) and Wilderness First Responder (WFR) training. During this time, we switched off between intensive first aid training, eating delicious meals together and spending time engaged in ritual practice and Jewish learning. All in all, it has been a fantastic week. While almost thirty five individuals have been learning first aid, about ten others have been helping to physically prepare our site for the rest of the camp staff who arrive this Sunday for staff week.
While our first session campers do not arrive for another 12 days (!), if the past week is any indication, the dedication to living according to our core values and creating a wholesome atmosphere, which has been the hallmark of our community here in the Rockies, will once again define us as a summer camp and ensure that we all have a wonderful summer.
A few examples from this past week:
- On Sunday a group of volunteers arrived at our ranch from the Denver area ready to build tents, to weed the garden and to plant trees. These volunteers, most of whom will never come to camp as campers (sadly they are too “old”), worked throughout the morning and early afternoon for nothing more than a Thank You, and the knowledge that they were helping to build a Jewish community in the Rockies. While most of the volunteers were familiar with Ramah in the Rockies, one family joined us because they had heard from the Deputy Sheriff in the area that we are looking to borrow an alpaca for the summer. This family, who live about 25 miles from camp in the town of Pine, not only have an alpaca to lend, but also wanted to help ready camp for our campers. They had so much fun that they asked whether they could join us for a Friday night service and perhaps return on a future Sunday to help out again.
- This week, a group of our counselors have been at the ranch moving beds, erecting tents, and doing loads of manual labor to ensure that camp is ready to open on June 19th. One of the largest structures that they assembled was our white tent in front of the art room, which we call the Ohel Eshel (after Abraham’s tent that was also open on all four sides). At two different points in the construction process, we needed the help of about twenty other people to lift and move the tent. After a meal, I asked for volunteers, and almost everyone from the URJ camps AND the Ramah camps came to help out. While it is not surprising that people are willing to lend a hand, it is the positive and happy attitude that they have that ensures that tasks are not only completed, but are finished with a sense of pride and purpose. Once our Chalutzim (campers) arrive, we will continue to emphasize that communities are strengthened when people help each other.
- Just like we will do during the summer, we have awoken each morning to the booming voice of Juiceboxx and G‑baby (their parents named them Dan and Gabi, but chalutzim refer to them by their camp names) who yell Bo- Bo‑ Bo‑ Boker Tov! Some of our counselors have already been awake for forty five minutes practicing yoga by the time the shout it heard. Others have been for a run, and most are just beginning to stir. Each morning, thirty minutes after our ‘wakeup call’ we gather for teffilot. It is hard to describe the sense of awe that one feels here each morning. Because we have been mixed with the URJ participants, we have offered a variety of “alternative” teffilot, from meditation, to nature walks to yoga. We have also had some more traditional forms such as a musical teffilah yesterday and a traditional Torah reading service today. A personal highlight was our Reform lead service that took place in the hay loft on Sunday morning. Although the hour is early, and the temperature cool, we have had inspirational teffilot that I hope will become even more inspirational once the rest of our staff and chalutzim arrive.
Each summer in early June we all feel a sense of nervous excitement. Will this be a good summer? Will I like my counselors? Will I meet new friends? Will I like the food? As the camp director, I too am filled with nervous excitement, although my list includes items that campers might not worry about, such as: will the food truck arrive on time? Will the water pipe leak? Will the internet keep our phones running? Thankfully, one week into our summer season, I am pleased to report that almost everything has been running better than expected. If we can replicate nine more weeks like this past one, we will be in great shape!