This blog post was written by Zach Usmani, program director at Ramah Outdoor Adventure.

Yesterday, we said goodbye to 15 chalutzim (pioneers/campers) who came to camp for two weeks. Today, we welcomed 13 new chalutzim to our chava (ranch) for the next half of session I. We have 70 chalutzim who are staying for the first four weeks. Any time a community experiences sudden change, like we did this week, there is the possibility for the community to fracture. We knew we were taking a huge risk by splitting the session, and we were worried about a number of things. Like, how would chalutzim feel leaving camp while their friends would stay? On the flip side, how would chalutzim feel saying goodbye to their friends who were returning home? How do we, both chalutzim and tzevet (staff), welcome 13 new chalutzim into our kehilla kedosha (holy community)? How do we ensure that new chalutzim are integrating well and feeling at home?

I think my favorite thing about Etgar B’Ramah is that we are not about talk – we’re about doing. We have 8 core Jewish values, but they are not just on paper. They are real things that we live by. One of our stated goals relating to Jewish Community and Identity is that every chalutz or chalutza (pioneer/camper) feels a strong connection to the Jewish community at large. Although new chalutzim have been here for less than a day, what I have seen so far has been promising.

We talk about our kehilla kedosha to our chalutzim and tzevet when they arrive, when they leave, and constantly in between. Our camp song includes the line “Here in the Rocky Mountains we’re building a holy community” (b’ivrit, in Hebrew, of course). As soon as new chalutzim began arriving yesterday, our veterans (two weeks is a long time in camp years!) immediately began welcoming and helping them. I saw chalutzim helping to carry luggage of newcomers, showing them around, and explaining the ways of Etgar B’Ramah. At dinner Metayalim chalutzim laughed together with their newfound friends, and at their peulot erev (evening activity), Solelim chalutzim immediately bonded over some impersonations of our Camp Ima (mom). Overall, I can say that our new chalutzim are settling in quite well to our kehilla kedosha. This is largely in thanks to the efforts made by the veteran chalutzim in receiving 13 new members of the kehilla.

I, along with the rest of the tzevet, look forward to seeing how our kehilla kedosha grows and strengthens over the next two weeks, both at the chava and while on masa’ot (excursions).