Another week has gone by on the ranch, and here we are at our very last day of waiting for our chalutzim (campers) to return from their masa’ot (excursions).  Our Adult Campers (who have been given the nickname of “Chachamim”- Wise Ones) went out on masa, returned to the chava (ranch), and departed for their homes after a small taste of the Ramah experience. As we mentioned in last week’s email, we celebrated Yom Sport (Color War) on Sunday. The theme, naturally, was the Olympics. We chose countries with 5 or fewer representatives in the games: Djibouti, Andorra, Jamaica, and Uzbekistan. While we did have a bit of rain on Sunday, the day was surely a highlight for all despite having to cancel our epic Maccabi Relay due to the rain.

One of my favorite aspects of Yom Sport is the JOLI (Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute – our 11th and 12th graders) participation as captains and judges.  It was inspiring to see the camp unite around their JOLI captains as they engaged in the final challenge: the rope burn. During this competition, with music blaring, our JOLI captains must put their outdoor skills to use and build a fire high enough to burn a rope strung between two chairs before the other teams can.  Yom Sport is always an exciting time at camp and the day is charged with ruach (spirit) and energy that is unparalleled.

After Yom Sport, we moved into Masa Week.

Ilanot spent yesterday horseback riding and hiking parts of the Wigwam trail right outside our property. Our Rosh Masa, Zack, taught some basic outdoor skills and plant identification on the trail. Last night, they experienced a real treat – the Perseids meteor shower. They slept out in Ramah Valley under the stars, with almost zero light pollution, and a stunningly clear view of the night sky. This morning, they visited the Woodland Park Farmers Market and got to taste the delicious local produce.

One of our Metaylim groups came in early this morning to “camp out” on the migrash and prepare breakfast while pretending they were not yet back in camp.  All our Metaylim chalutzim spent time in the Lost Creek Wilderness hiking and camping.  Over the past few days, while the majority of the time was mainly bright and sunny, there were a number of storms where the groups sought cover under their tarps and in their tents.  Yesterday evening many saw an incredible double rainbow as the sky turned from grey and rainy to a beautiful evening sunset.

The Sollelim groups spent time hiking in Pike National Forest, shooting archery at the Cheyenne Mountain park, biking for miles, and hiking and climbing in Boulder Canyon.  When they came back this afternoon, they were filled with stories of their adventures and many had battle wounds from various falls and scrapes, which are signs of them having really pushed themselves hard.  While most of the trips stayed exclusively focused on camping and their adventure-based activity, our Archery masa took advantage of a rain storm (when they had a camp van with them) to visit the US Air Force Academy’s Jewish Chapel and hear from Chaplain (Maj) Sarah Schechter.

One Sollelim group, who actually hiked back to camp from Payne Creek, came in loudly cheering for their edah rather than their specific masa group as is custom. It was inspiring to see the boisterousness with which Nachum, a chalutz, led the group in their cheers!

The Bogrim biking group just pulled up, 3:12 in the afternoon, all smiles. They were especially proud to share that they successfully, on bike, ascended Mt. Evans, a “fourteener”. I asked them if any of them had to walk their bikes up any part of it, and they all shouted me down “NOOOO”, as if even the idea of it was insulting!

Most of our JOLI chalutzim participated in the adventure masa. This masa, which is a JOLI tradition, combines rock climbing, mountain biking, and hiking.  The highlight of the experience was when the group summited Mt. Bierstadt, which is another one of the Colorado “fourteeners” (peaks over 14,000 feet)! Throughout this masa, the participants are pushed and tested – in their outdoor skills, their Wilderness First Aid training, and their group management abilities.  They are in charge of the daily routine, menu, and activities, and have to adjust to whatever circumstances might arise.  It is a challenging but rewarding experience.   In addition to the adventure masa, four JOLI participants stayed back to be CITS working with our younger campers.

We look forward to a peaceful and relaxing Shabbat with our kehillah (community) one last time this kayitz (summer). It is hard to imagine that some of our kehillah members are spending their 4th, 6th, 9th, 10th, or even 11th Shabbat here on the chava (ranch).  This Shabbat will definitely be bittersweet as it is our last one together until 2017.

Additionally, Saturday night begins the Jewish observance of Tisha B’av (9th of Av), in which we commemorate the destruction of the 1st and 2nd Temples in Jerusalem as well as other Jewish tragedies in history.  Each summer we struggle to find the right balance of observance, reflection, and celebration of current Jewish life.  Yes, our people have suffered many tragedies. How do we teach that and reflect upon it, while acknowledging the position of strength enjoyed by American Jewry? How does the State of Israel fit in? These are the conversations we will be having with each other on Sunday.

I know that it has become my routine on Thursdays and Fridays to write this email each week and I hope you, too, have enjoyed reading these updates.  Just as we say when completing a chapter of Torah, it seems fitting to repeat also about the end of our weekly Friday emails– “Chazak Chazak V’ Nitchazek! Strength, Strength, we will be strengthened!”

I will be writing a final reflection on the end of the summer that will be sent out early next week, along with a survey, and a link to register for 2017.  We hope that you, your family, and your camper(s) have enjoyed this summer’s experience as much as I have.

Thank you and Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Eliav Bock, Douglas, Julia, Ari, Lisa, Rafi, Elyssa, Jake
and the entire Summer 2016 Tzevet!