This summer, we doubled the size of our JOLI (Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute) program for rising 11th and 12th graders.  From the feedback we have received thus far from the JOLI participants, it was a terrific success.  In the coming weeks we will share a few of the letters/ write ups we received about this program.  We are expanding our 2013 JOLI program to include up to 20 participants each session (we capped it at 11 last summer) and are expecting the program to fill.  JOLI participants will become certified in Wilderness First aid, have the option to apprentice in specialty areas at camp and have the option to go on  6 day massaot, and spend each shabbat in camp. The second masa, which is optional, is an extended adventure race that will require participants to use the skills obtained throughout their Ramah Outdoor Adventure experience to complete daily challenges that range from evacuating an “injured” hiker to navigating for a few miles off trail.  This past year, the six day JOLI adventure challenge was a highlight of the program!

Written by Janine Moses: Session I JOLI 2012

First and foremost, I miss camp!  This was by far the best summer of my life- JOLI Sesion I was absolutely incredible. My fellow JOLites agree that we could not have asked for better JOLeaders than Nate, Dalya, and Stevo!  They made a lasting impact on all of our lives because they were so fun and adventurous.  Dalya, Nate, and Stevo encouraged us to engage in tough discussions about Judaism, God, nature, morals, humanity, etc, while still playing silly and ridiculous games with us that kept up the laughter and smiles and made tons of memories.

We all loved the JOLI curriculum because we learned by example and through real-life scenarios that required both group and individual decision-making.  The curriculum, which centered on leadership, taught us a wide variety of skills required as person in the back country and “front” country, as a leader for younger chalutzim, as a Jew, as a global citizen, and as a Ramahnik.

During the first week, getting WFA certified was really rewarding and I’m constantly referring back to my WFA knowledge and quick-thinking skills to deal with front-country situations.  I also loved getting to CIT for the younger chalutzim.  JOLI helped me feel very well prepared for situations that arose when I was CIT-ing chalutzim during their perakim.  Thinking back, I now appreciate what an impact older chalutaim have on the younger ones- we JOLites were always trying to be better examples for the younger chalutzim.

Some of my favorite parts of camp were the masaot.  Not only did I get to backpack, mountain bike, and rock climb in beautiful settings, but I created bonds with every single member of JOLI that were especially strong because we worked together in situations during which we had to solve real-life problems for our survival and well-being.

Whether it was solving team-challenges, building shelters, navigating, hiking off-trail, back country cooking, bear-bagging, planning logistics, or learning weather patterns and emergency wilderness skills, I was always learning new things, growing closer to my fellow JOLites, having tons of fun, and developing as an individual and as a Jewish wilderness-woman (aka, a Ramakies rep!).

The atmosphere at camp was that of a true kehillah kedosha- not a day went by without experiencing something new, learn something new, eat something new, or meeting new people!

Of course, Shabbos at camp is truly the most magical time! It is inspiring to be able to spend time with all the chalutzim in such a beautiful place in nature!  During Shabbos, JOLI got to connect with other edot–I loved looking out for the Metayalimers, meeting new Sollelimers, and talking to the Bogrimers about the JOLI experience.  Also, it was especially inspiring to get to talk to all of the wonderful madrichim at camp- each of them are so passionate about what they do, both during and outside of camp.  I appreciate their openness, knowledge, and fun-loving attitudes and I look up to them as I imagine myself as a madricha one day, too!

JOLI, which stands for Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute, isn’t just an Outdoors thing; it’s also an “indoor” adventure.  For my culminating year as a chalutzah at camp, I grew internally and spiritually more than ever before.  The other JOLites and I were able to take an introspective look at ourselves during our solo day on the first masa.  I was never a motivated creative writer, but that day when we soloed I felt so inspired by the setting and the people with whom I was backpacking  that I ended up writing 5 pages of thoughts!

This year at camp, I upheld and embodied the values of ROA: Kehillah Kedosha, Challenge by Choice, Leave no Trace, etc.  I was exposed to the perfect balance of seriousness and fun, of learning and teaching, and of struggling and succeeding.

Thank you, Rabbi Eliav, for helping to create such a unique and rewarding experience.  I look forward to returning soon!