2024 Weinstein Reflections

In early January, several of our returning staff members attended the Ramah Weinstein Leadership Institute at Camp Ramah in Ojai. We reunited with each other, learned from various Ramah professionals, connected with staff from different Ramah camps, and participated in fun and engaging peulot (programs) that we will bring home to Ramah in the Rockies. Read our staff’s reflections on their Weinstein experience below. To our current & future staff, keep in mind that you too will have the opportunity to participate in this leadership conference:

Sheindl Spitzer-Tilchin’s Reflections:

Ramah has made a tremendous impact on my Jewish identity and upbringing since I was in elementary school.  I will always cherish the memories and personal growth I experienced throughout my time at Ramah Rockies as a camper.  As a returning madricha (counselor), this has been no different and having the opportunity to attend Weinstein where I was able to network with other Ramah participants and hear about their experiences at their camps was truly motivating and uplifting.  I received many takeaways from this experience, one being how to enhance Ramah programming at Rockies, specifically relating to t’filah and Judaism.  Participating in the t’filah program at Weinstein with Alli Moses allowed me to think more critically about how to make t’filah at camp more joyful and spiritually impactful for campers.  I was able to build off of ideas of other Ramah tzevet (staff) and use my creative instincts for discovering new ways of finding those “Mah Rabu” moments.  

Since I am hoping to return to camp as a Rosh Edah (unit head), another tremendously impactful takeaway for me from Weinstein was listening to and participating in the Rashei Edah panel, led by Amy Skopp Cooper.  After listening to the different Rashei Edah talk about their experiences in this leadership role, I felt more empowered to take on this position in the future.  Lastly, discussing the power and vulnerability of the Jewish people in relationship to Israel during this particular moment and time with Jonathan Golden was extremely educational and meaningful.  There are no words to express the current horror the people of Israel and Jewish diasporic communities are facing, but having Ramah as my community to listen and discuss these issues is what makes me hopeful for long lasting change.  I am looking forward to returning to my home, Ramah Rockies, as a second year tzevet, and I look forward to continuing the process of impacting the next generation of Jewish youth. 

Maya Friedberg’s Reflections:

Weinstein was such an incredible experience, and I am beyond glad to have been part of such a wonderful group of Rockies leaders. There’s so much I have taken away from this conference, whether just sharing our camp experiences with other Ramah staff, hearing from year-round professionals, or singing our favorite zmirot. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the limmudim I attended, but one of my favorites was with Rabbi Joe Menashe, director of Ramah California, where he shared his insights on the paradox of power, derived from a book he had previously read. His session really encouraged me to reflect on my role as a rising senior counselor and how I can be a better role model and mentor to the first-year staff members, a position I was in just last kayitz. 

Attending Weinstein also demonstrated how truly different Rockies is from our peer camps. Although it was so meaningful to spend a shabbat with leaders from across the Ramah movement and discuss how many of us face similar challenges, I am ever-so grateful for our Rockies community. When we rolled into camp on the bus, all of us were struck by the sheer amount of hard-sided buildings and how many mezuzot, doors, and showers they can have. During torah service or limmudim, we stood in the back because our hyperactivity simply didn’t allow us to sit in real chairs, a commodity we were so shocked to have even had. While davening, we couldn’t fathom that other camps didn’t sing through every bracha – including our camp staples such as Halleluyah or Ashrei. For shabbos shacharit, we even moved outside to sit on the ground and recite our own tunes. We undoubtedly received some funny looks when we, in classic Rockies fashion, went for a sunrise hike over the breathtaking Ojai valley, walked around barefoot, screamed “ulezaroh” during Birkat, shared crazy masa stories, showed off our scrapes and scars, or told our peers that we like to “triple crown” on our days off and shower twice per week, but never have I felt such strong ksharim (see what I did there?) to the shtick that is Ramah in the Rockies.

Martha Lieberman’s Reflections: 

Weinstein 2024 was truly an inspiring weekend and gave me so much to be grateful for. It allowed me to connect with friends from across our movement as well as reconnect with Rockies friends and it also gave me so much to think about for kayitz 2024. I came away with more ideas than ever for programs to implement and leadership strategies. While I’m taking so much away, I was inspired by participating in “tefillot afloat”, a Ramah Galim tradition, to rethink and enhance the way we incorporate nature into the tefillah experience at Ramah in the Rockies. I also really valued the time I spent with other returning Rashei Edah exchanging stories and strategies for being the best Rashei Edah we can be! 

It was inspiring to experience a joyful shabbat with so many people who care as deeply about Ramah as I do. In these hard times, one of the best things we can do for each other is be together, which is exactly what Weinstein did! 🙂 

Natalie Ryba’s Reflections:

This past weekend, I had the privilege of participating in the Ramah Bert B. Weinstein Leadership Institute. The recent shock of the harrowing war in the Middle East over the past semester led to unprecedented antisemitic incidents across college campuses in the United States, leaving me feeling lonely and unmotivated. Being at the Weinstein Leadership Institute proved to be a transformative experience, allowing me to reconnect with dear friends from camp and establish connections with other staff members across the National Ramah network. During our truly memorable Shabbat, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in the magical rituals that make camp special, such as Kabbalat Shabbat, Havdallah, and Rikkud. Throughout the weekend, I attended sessions that both helped me better develop my camp leadership goals and sessions helped me process my thoughts since October 7th. In Jonathan Golden’s session, “Heart, Head, and Hand,” I was able to separate my thoughts, feelings, and ideas, engaging in discussions with fellow Ramahniks about productive and safe approaches to tackling Israel education. I can confidently say that as a bunk counselor of 2024, I will take initiative to construct programming to expand my Chalutzim’s understanding and love of Israel.

On the extra day I participated in an alternative Tefillah form on a picturesque beach in Santa Barbara. Marci Greenberg from Ramah Galim came and led Tefilot Afloat in which all the participants shared what they were thanking G-d for that morning and then concluded with a Boogie-Board Amida. I had a wonderful time connecting with such a staple relgious practice of Judaism in such a creative way. I felt inspired and a newfound sense of gratitude for my health and the community around me. Our alternative Tefillah has inspired me to think of ways to implement elements of Shmirat Haguf (caring for the body) into our religious programming at camp.

Benj Rosen’s Reflections:

On the last day of Masa, we will take whatever good ingredients we have left, including any leftover spices, pasta, rice, and everything else good, and mix it all together to create a “highlight reel” meal, that allows us to reflect on everything we experienced (and ate!) over the past Masa week. This is the exact experience that comes to mind when I think of the conference this weekend. We got to experience a mixture of all of the highlights from all over ramah, mixed into one special place. 

It was incredible to be able to learn from other Ramah counselors all about what life is like at their camps, and what kind of unique traditions and activities they all have to offer. We got to hear all about how Ramah contributes to all of their everyday lives. Specifically, we had an activity where we had the opportunity to discuss role models in all of our lives. I got to hear from others how the counselors they had as campers have inspired their methodology of being counselors, and how they chose to live their everyday lives. 

This is such a unique experience that truly puts the magic of Ramah on full display.

Learn more about the Ramah Weinstein Leadership Institute here.