By Hannah Saiger & Martha Lieberman
The Weinstein Leadership Institute, a staff training conference led by the National Ramah Commission, is usually held at Ramah Ojai. This year, as incoming first year Tzevet members, we attended the event on Zoom. Although we would have loved to join Ramah staff from every camp in sunny California, we still found our virtual experience to be incredibly valuable. Talking about camp on Zoom only made us more excited to be at the ranch in person for Kayitz 2021!
As we attended various sessions at Weinstein, one thing we focused on was incorporating anti-racist education into every-day programming at camp. From the Black Lives Matter movement to the events at The Capitol two weeks ago, it is clear that race and power are, and will continue to be relevant topics that we need to discuss. We had the honor of learning from Yavilah McCoy, the CEO and Executive Director of Dimensions Inc. We discussed the difficulty of addressing identity in the often homogeneous, ‘ashkenortmative’ atmosphere of the Ramah camps. McCoy stressed the importance of making space to have conversations about identity, race, religion, and intersectionality on a regular basis. Whether in a spontaneous discussion or a preprogrammed Peulah, it is our responsibility as Tzevet members not to know all the answers, but to encourage respectful and honest dialogue and learning.
McCoy suggested activities that might encourage older Chalutzim to journal about and discuss intersectionality, while Hanoch Piven, an Israeli artist, showed us a more playful way to explore identity with kids of any age. Piven creates portraits by strategically placing both random and purposeful objects on different backgrounds. He challenged us to create self portraits from objects we collected in our own homes. Although we had never met most of our fellow Weinstein participants, we learned bits and pieces of their identities from the portraits they created and shared with us. At Rockies, we hope to implement creative activities like this one to help Chalutzim explore and share their identities with one another.
Another main focus of Weinstein was the impact Covid-19 will have on the Ramah experience. Although camp will not be on Zoom, it is important to acknowledge that it will not feel like every other summer. We know that campers will be coming from many different situations. Adjusting to a camp where we cannot always be close to each other will be difficult for some, while adjusting to constant social interaction after online learning will be difficult for others.
Talking to Tzevet members from many different camps inspired us to think of innovative ways to make this adjustment a little bit easier. For example, one Weinstein participant suggested a mail system within camp to help Chalutzim interact with siblings or friends that they may have to distance from. We are excited to continue working on ideas to enhance the camper experience. Throughout our five years at Ramah in the Rockies, we have both found a home, and a space that has opened many opportunities for Tzmicha Ishit (personal growth). Although this year will be an adjustment for Tzevet and Chalutzim alike, we can’t wait to continue our work to create a space for Chalutzim where they feel comfortable, and are challenged to grow.