This was written and sent out to all of our parents the day after camp:
Yesterday morning we said goodbye to the last of our 2014 chalutzim campers]. Our staff members spent the afternoon winterizing our tents, packing the tripping gear and cleaning camp for the long nine months until we reopen for our 2015 season. Our chalutzim have already arrived home,and many spent the day on airplanes heading to one of 27 states, Canada, Israel and Mexico from which they hail. Last night we will gathered as a Kehillah Kedosha [holy community] for the final time this summer to celebrate our invaluable tzevet [staff] at our annual staff banquet. These young men and woman have spent the past 9+ weeks providing the most incredible, educational and inspiring experiences possible for nearly 400 chalutzim who came to our camp this summer.
At our slide show Monday night, I began to tear up while watching the faces of the chalutzim who have spent time with us this summer. I saw pictures of smiling children climbing rocks, biking trails, building fires, throwing Frisbees and playing basketball. I saw pictures of children dressed in white swaying to the music on Friday night and then gathered around the havdallah candles on Saturday evening. I saw children perfecting old skills and acquiring new talents. I saw the faces of hundreds of youth being positively impacted in an intense and intentional Jewish environment.
A summer is made up countless moments, and no two people at camp have the exact same experience. Here are three vignettes from this past session that will forever stand out in my mind.
#1 The Rain: If there was one aspect of camp that we all experienced it was the rain. This summer has been one of the wettest in decades. Session IIA experienced the wettest two weeks of the summer, with almost 4 days of non-stop rain. Amazingly, the rain did little to dampen people’s spirits. Most Masa’ot continued as planned. The afternoon of Yom Sport turned into a two hour “sing down” and dance party in our dining tent. While most of the always epic apache relay was cancelled, we did manage to gather outside for the final rope burn. The most common question heard over the staff radios was, “are we still in lightning mode?” With the rain this summer, all of us were that much more appreciative when we had beautiful weather and blue skies. All of us played a little harder, climbed a little higher and rode a little stronger when we had the chance to be out in the sun. And at the end of the day, we all know that a wet summer in the West is a real blessing, as the region has suffered through too many scorching hot summers that have led to catastrophic fires and parched hillsides.
#2 Hearing reflections from a 5th year Chalutz: Each week at Havdallah, as we gather on our basketball court, I eagerly await the ritual of hearing one member of each edah [age group] reflect on the week that has passed. This past Saturday night, Aaron, one of our JOLI chalutzim who has been here since our inaugural summer, read a short speech that sums up what so many of us are thinking and feeling:
Aaron sums up what so many of us are feeling and struggling with as we re-enter our lives away from the ranch. How do we take the magic that exists here and apply it to our lives back home?
#3 60 Successful Masa’ot! One amazing aspect of our camp is the masa’ot [excursions]. This summer we sent out a record 60 masa’ot — from overnight horseback trips on our ranch with the Ilanot (3/4th graders) to 6 day intensive high alpine backpacking trips for our JOLI (11/12th grade) participants. Chalutzim return from masa with a contagious energy. Those of us who stay back at camp during masa week look forward to their return– beginning around noon on Fridays. As each group comes back to camp there are loud shrieks of delight as friends reconnect. Aside from the energy present when groups return, it is incredibly special to see how new bonds are created when a group must work together in the backcountry. People who left as near strangers come back as close friends.
Perhaps most importantly, our motto of “challenge by choice” is so clearly visible on these days, as each person feels that s/he achieved his/ her own personal goals during their time away from camp. Some might have climbed a hill faster or scaled a more difficult route or carried more weight, but at the end of the day, everyone returned to camp secure with their own personal triumph.
We spend most of the year planning for the summer, and while each day at camp feels like at least three days in the “real world”, the end of the summer still seems to creep up on us way too quickly. And just like that, we are set to close the curtain on Kayitz 2014.
This summer will go down as our best yet. Our staff, once again, went above and beyond to provide an incredible experience for the chalutzim. Our educational program was engaging and probing. Our schedule had few
er issues than in years past, and the masa’ot were more varied than they have ever been. From the youngest chalutz to the oldest tzevet member, we had an incredibly high caliber of people at camp this summer. So many chalutzim commented to me over the past eight weeks just how nice and genuine everyone was at camp. This is perhaps one of the greatest hallmarks of our unique community; a place that respects differences and celebrates diversity within our Jewish community.
Over the next few weeks, those of us that work year round for Ramah will be taking some time to sleep, relax, and reflect. While today we will say goodbye to the most incredible group of staff ever assembled at a Jewish summer camp, we know that the 2015 season is just around the corner. If you have not already registered your camper for 2015, you may do so here. Over 40 chalutzim have already registered for next year. While we will not be filled before the end of the month, we do expect to reach capacity once again in 2015 — so please do not wait too long to register. Deposits are 100% refundable until March 1, 2015 AND campers enrolled before October 31, 2014 will receive a complimentary Ramah soft shell jacket.
As always, we welcome your comments or suggestions via email and phone. Parents, we will also be sending a final customer satisfaction survey. Please complete it if you have not yet done so, as it helps us continue to improve our program each year.
And when we come back online, we look forward to reflecting more on kayitz 2014 and planning for an even better kayitz 2015.
Rabbi Eliav Bock