amA Final Note from Rabbi Eliav
I am writing these words from the steps of the old lodge – the only vestige of the building that was once the beating heart of our machane (camp). A year ago, I stood in this same spot, the smell of smoke in the air, and I prayed. Surrounded by the rubble left in the wake of last summer’s devastating fire, I felt fear and uncertainty about the future of Ramah in the Rockies. Today, at the end of an incredible summer season, I feel nothing but optimism and confidence.
As I waved goodbye to our last group of chalutzim (campers) yesterday morning, I was overcome with a deep sense of gratitude and pride. Ours is a community of resilience, and TOGETHER we succeeded in facilitating an unforgettable summer experience for more than 425 chalutzim. While it is impossible to summarize an entire summer in just a few paragraphs, I wanted to highlight some aspects of our program that helped to make Kayitz 2018 so special.
Music has always been a vital part of our kehillah (community) here at Ramah in the Rockies, but this year we made an extra effort to incorporate music into each and every day, and the results have been truly remarkable. Israeli pop music pounded through the speakers before every meal, and campers and staff danced as they set the tables. Music also became the cornerstone of each edah’s (age group’s) daily prayers, and the melody of ‘Hallelujah’ could be heard reverberating across the ranch. Click here to listen! Each morning, we awoke to the sound of a bugle, and oftentimes the incessant mooing of the cows who came to visit from the neighboring Lost Valley Ranch.
In addition to interspersing music throughout our daily schedule, this summer we offered a music chug (activity block) for campers, and I was blown away by the creativity they demonstrated. Together, chalutzim wrote original music and set prayers to new tunes, some of which we have incorporated into our t’fillot(prayers). These campers also led shira (song session) after meals in front of our entire machane, and joined the musical team for our Kabbalat Shabbat celebration. It was amazing to watch chalutzim confidently strum a guitar alongside our most seasoned songleaders, and I can’t wait to watch as these campers continue to grow and bring music to our kehillah for summers to come.
This summer, our machane’s love for music culminated in our first annual Kol Edah– a musical celebration often referred to as a “Zimriya” by our fellow Ramah camps. Each edah spent weeks practicing and preparing a different Israeli song with Rosh Shira Michael Harlow, and on Monday our entire community gathered together for an evening of ruach (spirit) and beautiful music. As Sayarim performed “Od Yiyeh Li,” clapping, dancing, and smiling all the while, I was reminded of the way in which music connects our community through time and space. I am sure that years from now, when those chalutzim hear that song once more, they will be transported back to their time at Ramah in the Rockies, and will remember the sense of joy and community they experienced at camp.
When we dedicated Ohel Koby – our new game tent erected in honor of former camper Koby Gruenwald – Rabbi Solomon Gruenwald reminded us all about the importance of play. Click here to listen to his speech! In our lives beyond camp, we are so preoccupied by work, school, and extracurricular activities that we often forget to make time just to play and to enjoy life. This summer, we emphasized the importance of creative play and of unbridled simcha (joy) throughout every facet of our program.
Ohel Koby remains the prime example of this ethic in action. Stocked with Ping Pong tables, Foosball, Cornhole, Hula Hoops, and a plethora of board games, this tent provided campers with a space to relax, to connect with friends of all ages, and most importantly, to just have fun! Our youngest chalutzim expanded the spirit of Ohel Koby far beyond the translucent walls of the tent by constructing intricate forts in the woods behind their ohelim (tents). These amazing structures became the stage for lots of imaginative play as they defended their forts from intruders – usually their madrichim (counselors) – during free time each day.
This summer, we also reemphasized our core value of simcha through our edah programming. Our phenomenal tzevet (staff) planned carnivals and Iron Chef competitions. They organized an Israeli Shuk and a ‘Bark Mitzvah’ for one of our beloved camp dogs. They made sushi, braided challot for Shabbat, hosted talent shows, planned scavenger hunts, and went above and beyond to ensure that their chalutzim had as much fun as possible. Everytime I had the chance to attend one of these amazing programs, I was blown away by the silliness, the laughter, and the smiles on everyone’s faces. It was truly simcha exemplified
This summer, I was reminded of the the vital importance of our extended community each and every day. Every time I walk past our ohelim I remember the families who joined us for our annual Volunteer Day and helped to prepare our physical site for the arrival of campers. When I eat a bowl of cereal and pour in a splash of milk, I think about our friends at Aurora Dairy who generously donated more than 700 gallons milk to our kitchen this summer. When I read from one of our two beautiful Torah scrolls, I recall the generosity of Ramah Day Camp in Nyack and Temple Beth Am in Los Angeles, who donated these Torot to our machane after the fire last summer.
I am also excited to announce that we have a very special plan for one of these Torah scrolls, which has been dressed and protected in a beautiful cover and a custom Pelican Case donated by the Kut Family! In an effort to keep our community connected throughout the year, we’d like to offer use of this Torah to anyone in our extended community who is celebrating a simcha. It can be FedExed anywhere in the country! If you would like to have a piece of Ramah in the Rockies with your family as you celebrate a B’nai Mitzvah, wedding, or other simcha, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for an amazing summer!
Last summer’s fire taught us a valuable lesson: Ramah in the Rockies is so much more than the physical spaces we occupy. We are the music that reminds us of the friendships formed and memories made throughout the summer. We are the time spent playing, connecting with one another, and embracing the simcha and silliness that is at the heart of our mission. We are the community that transcends each summer and extends far beyond the Colorado Rocky Mountains – a community that shows up in times of need and provides support, encouragement, and love from all around the world.
Throughout this summer, we had the opportunity to reexamine what defines our kehillah, and have found myriad ways to honor those values every day. Through music, play, joy, and community, our machane has been able to rebuild, to heal, and to grow stronger than ever before. Thank you for an incredible Kayitz 2018 – I can’t wait to see you back on the ranch next summer.
We want to hear your feedback!
Over the next few weeks, and in summers to come, we have the opportunity to improve upon the foundation we have established here at Ramah in the Rockies. In order to continue to provide our chalutzim with impactful experiences year after year, we ask that if your child attended camp this summer, you please take a moment to fill out a brief survey about their experience. Click here to take our 2018 Summer Feedback Survey.
We are already registering campers for our 2019 season, and we’d love to have you join us for another adventure. Click here to register today! Spaces fill fast, so register early to reserve your spot. Deposits are 100% refundable for any reason until March 1st, 2019. Register before October 31st, 2018 to receive a free Ramah in the Rockies gift, as well as our early bird discount! Questions? Contact us at email@example.com or call (303) 261-8214.