Dear 2014 Parents and Chalutzim,
In a few hours we will welcome Shabbat for the first time this summer at Ramah in the Rockies. While our chalutzim [campers] do not arrive for a few more weeks, the first group of tzevet [staff] arrived this past Sunday to begin summer preparations. Many of the tzevet are here for an intensive Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course. This course, administered by an outside mountaineering school, is designed to help prepare our tzevet to lead masa’ot [backcountry trips].
While we are here for WFR and to prepare the Ranch for the summer, the past 48 hours have truly been a gift. In the middle of the week, we collectively took a break to celebrate Shavuot. This is the holiday where we celebrate the Israelites receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, and also where the Israelites used to bring the first fruits to the Temple in Jerusalem.
As is the tradition on Shavuot, we had an “all-night” learning session, as well as other studying opportunities throughout the holiday. Various members of our year-round and summer teams led the sessions. Topics included Musar, how we relate to our Jewish identity, priorities in giving tzedakah, and perspectives on the revelation events described in Exodus 19. These sessions reflected our value of creating opportunities for continued growth for all of tzevet and chalutzim.
On the morning of Shavuot, we tried something new in a true Ramah in the Rockies style. We hiked up to Givat Ilanot [a hill at the ranch] with a Torah. There, atop the mountain, overlooking the valley that houses our camp, we davened [prayed] the morning service and read from the Torah. While the Israelites might have gathered at Mount Sinai to hear the Ten Commandments for the first time, we gathered atop our own mountain to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments a few thousand years later! What a powerful experience to share this holiday with staff of such a variety of backgrounds coming together in nature!
Several different tzevet members took turns leading, teaching, and explaining the service throughout our Shavuot davening. The meals, which included our own famous homemade vegan challah, were served throughout the holiday. What a delicious way to be welcomed back to the Ranch!
While Shavuot is a one of the three pilgrimage festivals featuring extra readings and prayers, we also shared lots of downtime together. Because one can transfer fire on Shavuot (unlike Shabbat), on the second night of the chag, we lit a medura [bonfire], sang songs, made smores, and hung out savoring the mountain air. During the afternoons, our tzevet enjoyed games of basketball and hikes to Prospector Mountain.
When we gather tonight in the Pardes Tefillah, this time dressed in white for Shabbat, we will be finishing our first terrific week at camp, and thinking about to the next few Shabbatot. Next week we are joined by Hanhallah [senior staff], the following week all of our tzevet, and finally, in three weeks, our chalutzim.
We look forward to seeing many of our local chalutzim, families, and supporters this Sunday for our Volunteer Day and wish you all a Shabbat Shalom!