Dear Ramah in the Rockies Kehillah,

We are excited to share “Kavanot Ramah l’Yamim Noraim,” a collection of resources to help enhance the meaning of the upcoming High Holidays. Ramah leaders from throughout our camps and Israel programs have created short videos—songs, prayers, and reflections. We hope that these resources will help inspire greater kavanah—meaning and introspection during these upcoming ten days of repentance. 

Check out all the wonderful videos, including these from our Rockies Tzevet.

Rabbi Eliav on Listening
Michael Harlow sings Or Zarua

May we all have a sweet new year!

Rabbi Eliav and the whole Ramah in the Rockies team

August 25, 2020

Dear Families:

As most of our Colorado families return to school this week, it is hard to believe that Summer 2020 has come to a close. We are so grateful to everyone who has joined us virtually to bring our Kehillah Kedosha together – from the nearly 100 Chalutzim who joined us for virtual camp, to the faces we saw at Kabbalat Shabbat, and the families that shared how much simcha our Ramah music or challah recipe brought to their homes.

Today, we turn the page and focus our attention towards the “next normal,”– reopening our camp for the 2021 season and ensuring that we have the resources to make this happen!

We plan to operate our camp in person in kayitz 2021 with the same unique blend of outdoor education, open-air environmental living, and joyful Jewish expression that has been the hallmark of our community.

Registration for 2021 will open on September 1st. All campers who enroll before October 31 will receive a limited edition Ramah in the Rockies hoodie sweatshirt. If you rolled over your child’s tuition from 2020 to 2021, then of course they will receive a hoodie too!
You can see our 2021 Dates & Rates on our website. We are freezing tuition at our 2020 Rates!

None of us know what our world will look like in 2021. We have convened a planning group of experts in public health, medicine, education, and risk assessment to examine trends and data and to advise our board and staff on the safest way to reopen camp in-person next summer. This group will base its recommendations on the latest science, government regulations and best practices implemented across the Ramah movement, the broader summer camp community, and schools that are reopening for in-person activities.

As we plan for the summer over the next ten months, we make the following promises to you:

Full transparency and regular communications. While we plan for a full reopening next summer, we are also realistic and know that this pandemic is rapidly evolving. We know we will have to adapt aspects of our program based on new information. We will keep you informed of any decisions that will materially affect the camp experience. We are also happy to speak via phone, video or email. Just be in touch.

Full Refunds. All deposits and tuition will be 100% refundable for ANY REASON until March 1, 2021. Entrusting your child to us is an awesome responsibility that we do not take for granted. We are in relationship with each family who registers for camp, and want to ensure that money is not a driving factor.

Additional Assistance. In the eleven years our camp has been in operation, we have never turned away a child who applies before March 1 for financial reasons. We know that many of our families are struggling financially due to the economic instability of the past few months. We are committed to raising additional scholarship dollars to ensure that we can help support any Jewish child who would like to come to our camp.

The health and safety of our community is always our #1 concern. We will not make any decisions that would imperil the health of our campers, staff, or families.

A THANK YOU. . .
We have been blown away by the love we felt from our community this summer. Over 100 campers participated in our virtual programs, and were joined by over 25 tzevet members who took the leap with them. Over 175 families (or 57%) donated portions of their 2020 tuition to camp and 115 families (or 42%) rolled over their tuition to next summer. Many donors have already invested in our “Next Normal” campaign too. Thank you to all who have already come along on our journey.

Two Requests
Over the coming months, we hope that you will help us pivot to the Next Normal. Here’s how you can help:

For those who know families that would benefit from sending their children to Ramah in the Rockies, please tell them about our community and encourage them to be in touch. If you would like to host a virtual information session, we will help arrange logistics. We are continuing with our refer-a-friend program this year too. Word of mouth is our best recruitment strategy.

For those in the position to help us financially, we welcome any and all support. We have a long journey ahead. We continue to take on financial risk as we prepare our camp for next summer but are confident that with the help of our dedicated community, we will emerge stronger at the end of the trail.

covid19, 2021, enrollment, registration, summer camp

Thank you for believing in our mission and we look forward to continuing this journey together.

The Ramah in the Rockies Team

Rabbi Eliav Bock, Executive Director
Julia Chatinover, Assistant Director
Gil Rosenthal, Board Chair

To our Ramah in the Rockies kehillah kedosha,

This year, as we prepare for our seders, we are thinking about numbers. We are thinking of the traditional Passover numbers – the eight days of Passover, four cups of wine, three matzot, and one Elijah’s cup. We are also thinking about the tragic numbers linked to the pandemic we are all living through – the number of people who have fallen ill with COVID-19, those who have recovered, and those who have tragically succumbed to the disease. We are thinking about the millions who are now unemployed and the devastating economic toll this virus is taking on families, businesses, and non-profits alike. With this in mind, we offer the following look inside our organization as we prepare for our 11th kayitz and the possibility that we will need to alter our summer plans based on the trajectory of the virus.

Ramah in the Rockies by the Numbers:

$890,000

Cost of opening our expanded Waster Water Treatment
plant in 2020 – bringing our total to $1.6 million spent
on our existing waste-water infrastructure for the chava.

$105,000

Need-based financial assistance awarded – thank you to our generous donors.

9,000

Gallons of drinking water available in our year-round water storage tank at any one time.

500+

Number of chalutzim and tzevet who call our kehillah kedosha home each summer.

70

Days until Kayitz 2020 is scheduled to begin!

43

JOLI chalutzim registered for 2020 – our most ever!

30+

Number of chalutzim who will receive their 5th-year shirts this kayitz.

28

Number of different states from which chalutzim are coming in 2020.

25

New masa tents purchased.

24

Days until we will make an announcement about our summer schedule

23

Ta’am Ramah (Taste of Ramah) chalutzim currently registered for 2020.

21

Horses under contract to come to camp – from two different herds!

16

Beds in our new Mirpa’ah (Health & Wellness Center).

12

New bikes purchased for Ilanot & Metaylim chalutzim.

5

Stalls in the new bathrooms across from the Chadar Ochel (Dining Hall).

3

The number of raised beds to be built in our kitchen’s new garden.

1

New Mercaz Gan-Teva (Garden and Nature Center opening this kayitz).

0

Dogs currently planning to be with us at camp for the whole summer.
Help us “adopt” a calm, kid-friendly camp dog this summer!

To our Ramah in the Rockies kehillah kedosha,

I write this email having just returned from a week of winter camping on the chava (ranch) where the Ramah year-round team met to work on some preparations for Kayitz 2020. We are having a fantastically snowy winter (30 feet and counting), which we hope will make for a very wet and green spring. With camp right around the corner, we are pleased to finally be able to announce a few major changes to our camp program.

Exciting Changes to our Masa Program.

Let’s face it – for many kids, Ramah in the Rockies is too rustic! We hear from so many parents that they love the values of Ramah in the Rockies, but wish their children were more pampered. This summer we are pleased to announce our very first glamping masa (backcountry excursions). Inspired by the five days our senior staff recently spent in Tulum, Mexico in an overpriced yurt – where warm bathing water was brought to our doors each morning and our days were filled with yoga and fine vegetarian raw meals – we decided that we need to expose our chalutzim (campers) to this sort of luxury camping. After some research, we partnered with a private outdoors camping company called Less Rocky: Rockies Camping Inc. (LRRC). LRRC has designed an incredibly unique glamping experience for our campers: chalutzim will experience the magic of the Rocky Mountains during the day, and enjoy the comfort of high-count Egyptian cotton sheets by night! 

On our masa’ot this summer, chalutzim will be treated to long meals, featuring some of the best vegan food available West of the Mississippi. One of the most significant reasons for partnering with this specific backcountry company, beyond the array of LRRC’s dietary options, was their beverage service. Each masa group will have a company employee who will carry 45 liters of crisp Fiji water insulated by a top-of-the-line YETI cooler backpack. Breakfast will include a variety of cold brew coffee options, while at lunch and dinner chalutzim can choose from two types of kombucha and San Pellegrino. 

After Kayitz 2019, we heard that a particular source of contention for our campers was the uncomfortable camping mats they slept on during masa. Well, at the request of our camp kehillah kedosha (holy community), we have made sure that LRRC provides individual memory foam cots that sit at least 18 inches off the ground to everyone on masa

In addition to the food and sleeping arrangements, the company has assured us that every desire or need our campers may have during masa will be met. No requests will be declined. For Kayitz 2020, our hope is that chalutzim realize that to experience nature means to find a place that costs more than a five-star hotel where one has the views and smells of the great outdoors without having to deal with the annoying elements like dirt, rain, or bugs.

Unveiling Our New Chadar Ochel and New Food Options!

For ten summers, we focused our attention on serving sustainable and healthy food. This kayitz, however, we have decided that while the healthy diet was fun in theory, in reality, our chalutzim and tzevet (staff) just want pizza, hamburgers, and diet soda. And so, I am excited to share our new camp motto – “Frozen is the new fresh.” 

While we will continue to cook meals in our main kitchen, we have decided to outfit our new Chadar Ochel (Dining Hall) with a bank of microwaves and three glassdoor freezers. This new addition will house a wide selection of packaged and pre-cooked dinners imported from a Brooklyn kosher food distributor. Campers will be welcome to leave their seats at any point of a meal, take a pre-packaged meal and warm it up for themselves. We want our campers to realize that they can have whatever they want whenever they want it.

We are also excited to announce a new special day at camp, Yom Fleish (Meat Day). Yom Fleish will be once a session (i.e. once every two weeks), and we will serve meat, and only meat, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We are so excited to spend this day teaching our chalutzim that their actions will have absolutely no effect on the environment. Our educational goal is to provide them with the foundational understanding that no matter what they do in the world, it is not possible to make any change, so we might as well just live life and let someone else worry about the big issues (like climate change). 

Our Newest Chug Option!

Since the beginning of time, humans have wondered what it would feel like for a person to fly through the air. Well, thanks to innovative fabrics, it is now possible with commercial flight wingsuits! We have watched each year as the sport of BASEjumping has taken off around the globe. For the past two years, we have worked with our licensing agencies, in both Jefferson County and the State of Colorado, to become the first summer camp in the world to offer children the opportunity to fly.  

Before Kayitz 2020 we will receive our first-ever shipment of Ramah flight wingsuits. Our Ramah wingsuits weigh under 20 pounds apiece and can withstand speeds of over 200 MPH. BASEjumping, or as it will be called at camp “Alef Beis Jumping” or just “Beis,” will be offered to all of our chalutzim as a chug (elective) option. Campers who choose Beis, will hike up Prospector Mountain on the backside of our property – it is the perfect cliff for a long-running start. Chalutzim will perform deep-dives off the edge and land safely in Ramah valley. Campers who successfully complete jumping from Prospector will have the opportunity to do four more jumps from different mountain tops throughout Pike National Forest.  

We have arrived at the halfway point of the Hebrew month of Adar, and as such, Purim has undoubtedly brought out our sillier side. It is with this, that we hope we can share many more laughs with you throughout the year(s) to come! We cannot wait to welcome your children back to the chava in less than 100 days and we will have more updates coming soon.

Chag Purim same’ach! Happy Purim!

– Rabbi Eliav

(P.S. Yes, 99% of what is written above is a joke.)

Over the past six weeks we heard from hundreds of parents, chalutzim (campers), and tzevet (staff) about their experiences at Ramah in the Rockies during Kayitz 2019.  We asked for honest feedback and thank everyone for sharing so that we may learn about what went well and where we need to improve. Below are some of the highlights from Kayitz 2019, and some of the areas for growth going forward into our 11th summer. 

Two Thumbs Up: Successes of Kayitz 2019

New Schedule

Our new camp schedule was widely celebrated. We moved breakfast earlier, added a fifth program time, and switched Nikayon (cleaning time) to after lunch. Lunch and dinner times were shortened, which ensured that our younger campers ended their days close to 8:00  PM. The Kibbutz and Kfar tent areas were quieter on most nights than in years past, giving chalutzim better nights of sleep because campers were going to bed earlier. While there were some unintended consequences as part of this new schedule – for example, some chalutzim only had a 45-minute biking activity, which was way too short – overall it was a welcome change to Ramah in the Rockies. Additionally, our new Sunday Yom Meyuchad (special day) schedule was well received. Chalutzim liked the ability to choose their Sunday activities, and they took full advantage of the opportunities for larger edah (age group) and camp-wide programs as well. 

Connections

We know that Jewish summer camp works best as an educational enterprise when children are making deep and lasting connections not just between themselves, but also with their madrichim (counselors). This past summer, we placed a greater emphasis on facilitating these connections and provided more opportunities for group bonding. In general, we heard that chalutzim felt closer connections to others – both chalutzim and tzevet – in their ohelim (tents) than in years past.

Shabbat: 

As Jewish educators, it is awesome to hear the sheer number of people, tzevet and chalutzim, who said that Shabbat is their favorite time at camp. We pride ourselves on providing young people a space where they can both live in concert with nature and the world around them, and have joyful Jewish experiences. As we have heard following our previous summers, a highlight for many of our chalutzim has been the ruach (spirit) of shira (singing) and rikkud (dancing) during Shabbat. Although both happen during our regular weekly programming, during Shabbat these activities are especially meaningful. So much so, that often hear that these experiences continue to resonate with campers weeks and even months after leaving the chava (ranch). In addition to adjusting our Shabbat schedule, we added more Shabbat afternoon options, and changed a number of tunes in tefillah (prayers). All of these were welcome enhancements, and, as one nine year old told us, “I wish every day at camp could be Shabbat.”

Mixed Reviews: Where we Have the Opportunity to Grow

Communications: 

We continue to pursue a better balance between allowing chalutzim to be independent at camp and keeping our parents and families in the loop about their daily and weekly activities. We received overwhelmingly positive responses to our weekly Friday emails. Yet, there was also a desire to hear more, especially about our younger chalutzim and their activities during the week. You also appreciated the twice-weekly photo uploads, but asked that we instead have more group snapshots over individual portrait ones. For next year, we plan to implement a system that will allow madrichim of our younger edot to regularly update parents, at least once every session, via written communication with specific updates on their child(ren). That being said, we continue to encourage parents to email or call us directly with questions about their children. If you do not receive an answer within 24 hours, then we are not living up to our commitment, and ask that you escalate your request to Rabbi Eliav, Julia Chatinover, and/or Stacy Wasserman. We also know that letters continue to take too long to reach you at home. While we cannot solve USPS issues, we plan to add our own dated stamp to letters placed in our outgoing mailbox so parents can see when a letter leaves camp.

Masa:

The cornerstone of what makes Ramah in the Rockies unique is our masa (backcountry excursion) program. It is a time for chalutzim to challenge themselves, form deep connections with each other, and gain a new appreciation for nature and the environment around them. It is also a time to learn how to be safe in the backcountry, how to step up and lead, and how to encourage others in times of adversity. You told us that the masa experience is not uniform, and that we need to work on improving the areas that we do control, such as gear, programmatic expectations, and logistics and route planning.

Over the next few months, we will examine all of our masa systems and programs in an effort to further refine what has worked and implement solutions for what has not worked. We plan to invest in new gear to ensure that there is enough for every group and that our chalutzim all have the correct sized packs. We will evaluate the training for our trip leaders and make sure that they are prepared to implement the educational goals of our masa’ot. We are fortunate that we have a very strong safety record from which we can build, and while this is laudable, it is certainly not something we take for granted. Regardless of how we improve the masa experience, safety will always be our number one concern.   

Food: 

We received more positive feedback on our food – its quality, quantity, and variety than in any previous year. That being said, we continued to struggle to deliver a consistent product throughout the second session. For a variety of reasons, we changed our menu midway through the summer and while our first session chalutzim gave our food rave reviews, the same was not the case during the second session. As we look towards next summer, we will take a critical look at our menus and ensuring that we are offering balanced meals throughout the summer, including enough traditional and alternative protein options. Additionally, some families were voiced concerns about our kitchen running out of food at various meals and we want to reassure you of our commitment to not run out of the main course at any meal throughout the summer. We plan to continue providing robust salad bars at lunch and dinner and breakfast bars in the morning. We will also be continuing our efforts in moving towards a “less seasoning, more sauce” philosophy, where campers can choose the flavors they would like to add to their meals, rather than have food that is too spicy or seasoned. While we will continue to serve meat weekly (except for the first nine days of the Hebrew month of Av), we also hope to add additional non-soy plant-based protein meals such as Beyond Meat, which was recently certified kosher. We also hope to refocus on our camp values by utilizing locally sourced produce and products as much as possible. For our masa menu options, we will continue to tweak our new food system to ensure that all trips have enough food, regardless of the length of trip or the number of people on the trip.

Thank you for being a part of our kehillah kedoshah (holy community) and for taking the time to share your feedback with us so that we may continue to improve. As always, please be in touch with any specific questions, comments, or concerns. All of us on the year-round team are available to speak via phone, email, or in person.

During our ten summers on the chava (ranch), Ramah in the Rockies has been the site of hail and wind storms, a fire, and even a helicopter landing, but now, after Kayitz 2019, we can also say that we have hosted peace talks. 

As a camp and a community, we place a great deal of value on individual identity and self expression. Outside of camp, many chalutzim (campers) do not have the opportunity to physically build things and take calculated risks. At camp, they are not only allowed but encouraged, to explore and test their creative boundaries. These values can easily be seen in one of camp’s guiding principles, “challenge by choice.” As a result, many chalutzim have been naturally drawn to the construction of, and gameplay surrounding, what we at camp call “tree-forts.”         

While Ramah in the Rockies strongly encourages free play and independent pursuits, sometimes conflict arises that requires a helping hand. This kayitz, the tree-forts were extremely popular, and when conflict did arise within the gameplay our tzevet (staff) was prepared to help ease the tension.    

In one such situation, Jacob Chatinover from Camper Care cleverly helped chalutzim establish some basic ground rules within the realm of tree-fort building instead of merely policing a conflict between two fort “nations.” Jacob was able to successfully facilitate, “the Camp Jacob Accords,” allowing all of our tree-fort-building chalutzim to continue in the fun and creativity of tree-fort building. 

Jacob Chatinover with Chalutzim this summer

During the Camp Jacob Accords, topics discussed and voted on included the guidelines for inter-tree-fort trading, the establishment of a “neutral zone” and a “non-aggression pact,” and the continued use of the “Zetley Border” – a fallen nearby tree that had been introduced as a border with the help of tzevet member David Zetley earlier in the summer. Additionally, a new rule was instituted known as the “Tourism Rule,” which allowed for chalutzim and tzevet to visit tree-forts, providing they identified themselves as a “tourist.”  

Looking back on the Camp Jacob Accords, the Tourism Rule stands out for Jacob, not only because of its progressive and forward-thinking take on the situation, but also because of how it connects to the upcoming holiday of Sukkot.

An integral part of Sukkot is the experience of shared personal and communal spaces. As the Talmud explains, “All of Israel are fit to live in one sukkah,” Sukkot 27B. Many scholars take from this that it would be appropriate for every Jew in the world to dwell in one sukkah, and from this we learn that every individual sukkah is part of the “larger Jewish collective sukkah.” This idea, of a shared space, seems especially relevant considering the conflict Jacob helped settle.  

On an even deeper level, the value of “challenge by choice,” which every chalutz and chalutzah experiences at camp, can also be linked to the celebration of Sukkot. Just as Ramah allows campers the space to explore and create, so too does Sukkot provide children and adults the opportunity to take a risk-sharing in the vulnerability of constructing a temporary structure that is exposed to the elements.

Wishing you a Sukkot filled with joy, vulnerability, and healthy risks.

Chag same’ach!

We kicked off the final full week of the Kayitz (Summer) 2019 with Yom Sport. Everyone in camp was decked-out in kachol (blue), adom (red), or yarok (green), and the atmosphere on the chava (ranch) shifted to intense competition and fun which progressed throughout the day. The day was filled with a lot of sweat and a lot of smiles. Following a win by kevutzah (team) kachol, things at camp again shifted to anticipation as a majority of chalutzim (pioneers/campers) prepared for their masa’ot (backcountry excursions).

While masa weeks at basecamp are relatively quiet, this masa week we welcomed our Ta’am Ramah (2nd to 4th graders), “taste of Ramah” program, to the chava for four days, where they briefly experienced what being chalutzim at Ramah in the Rockies is like. They all had a wonderful time and we are looking forward to welcoming them back here at camp next summer for a full two or four weeks.   

Personally, my favorite part of masa week is Friday mornings. The excitement for this morning is more and more palpable as the week progresses, reaching its peak as the stream of white 12-passenger vans return to the chava. As each masa unloads their van, I have a first-row seat to one of the greatest spectacles Ramah in the Rockies has to offer – huge smiles, loud laughter, joyful reunions, and, of course, epic masa stories. This morning was no different, and this round of masa’ot featured some awesome experiences that I would like to share. 

In particular, what makes our second round of masa’ot so special is that our JOLI (11th and 12th graders) chalutzim begin their final transition from campers to CIT (Counselor In Training). After JOLI chalutzim had a chance to learn with current tzevet (staff) in the Moadon Tzevet (Staff Lounge), they were split up amongst the edot (age groups), and put everything they have worked on throughout this kayitz to the test with actual hands-on experience.

The JOLI chalutzim who worked with Ilanot (3rd and 4th graders) were treated to one of Ramah in the Rockies best (and most awesome) kept secrets – the twice-a-kayitz “Rocktion” (rock auction). Tzevet members, JOLI, and Ta’am Ramah all dressed up in their finest attire and perused their options before the bidding began. Once rocks were purchased, Ilanot chalutzim had the opportunity to trade in their profits for prizes like an ice cream party with Rabbi Eliav or being Rosh Edah (age group Unit Head) for a day.

On masa, Metaylim (5th and 6th graders) left our ranch for three days, with gear on their backs. For many, this was the first time that they had experienced a multi-day hike. While all of our masa’ot were within 15 miles of our camp, most reached the peaks of local mountains which provided unforgettable vistas of Pike National Forest. Additionally, a highlight for many of the chalutzim, was learning about wild vegetation and actually getting to snack on some wild raspberries, strawberries, and onions. 

Solelim (7th and 8th graders) had incredible masa experiences to share from all their masa’ot, including omanut (Art), tipus (climbing), and backpacking. All three of the Solelim masa’ot went significantly challenging hikes, but ever group said it was worth it in the end as every day included at least one beautiful vista. Our Bogrim (9th graders) chalutzim chose between kayaking and a dual tipus (climbing) and ofanayim (biking) masa. Many of the Bogrim chalutzim on kayaking masa had never been kayaking before, and despite being a little hesitant at first, everyone had an amazing time.       

As the second oldest edah, Sayarim (10th graders) got to choose from four different masa’ot chava (farming), tipus (climbing), ofanayim (biking), and a challenging backpacking masa. Some highlights from these masa’ot included chava masa’s new best friends – goats, a “bottomless” cooler of food and snacks in the back of ofanayim masa’s bike-truck, and the special guest who accompanied backpacking masa – Ash, one of our tzevet’s dogs.   

As we pack away our gear, shower, and put on our finest white outfits, everyone is excited about our final Shabbat together. As a result of the gathering clouds, we will be moving our tefillot to the Ohel Mo’ed, where the sound is incredible, and where we will be safe from rain. We have so many more peulot (activities), games, and conversations to be had before we say goodbye to our chalutzim, and we will be in full “camp mode” until Tuesday afternoon. Tonight, as we gather in our pre-Shabbat circle, I will address our community urging them to take the values that permeate our kehillah kedosha (holy community) home with them and integrate them into their own families and communities. In this week’s Torah portion, we read about Moses gathering the Israelites for a final retelling of our national narrative. Similarly, on our final Shabbat together this summer, we will all be crafting our own masa and camp stories, and weaving them into a narrative that can be shared with our friends and family for weeks, months, and years to come.

We look forward to seeing our chalutzim back on the chava again in the Kayitz of 2020!

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Eliav Bock

As we finish the second full week of Session 2, I have enjoyed watching the rhythm of camp life kick in as our chalutzim (campers/pioneers) have had days of exciting “regularly” scheduled activities. As they skip to chugim (activities), and enjoy a variety of tefillot (prayer) options each morning, I see them building kesharim (connections) jumping into new and challenging experiences. 

On Sunday, chalutzim chose from a variety of special sessions organized by our tzevet (staff). Choices included ofanayim (biking), mining for stones on Givat Ilanot, a hill overlooking camp, playing a camp-wide game of Embassy (ask your child about the complicated rules!), and a shechita (kosher preparation of meat) demonstration for our older chalutzim. JOLI (11th and 12th graders) spent the day in Wilderness First Aid (WFA) training with Cliff Stockton, who also trains our tzevet Wilderness First Responders (WFRs). Luckily, JOLI didn’t need to use their new medical training on their hike up the fourteener Mount Bierstadt! The group camped out the night before their ascent at the base of the mountain, and woke up at 5:30 AM to make it up and down the mountain before the afternoon rain swept through the mountainside. 

On Sunday evening JOLI and Sayarim (10th graders) participated in a “simulation of exile.” The peulah (activity) began when madrichim (counselors) escorted their chalutzim out from their ohelim (tents) and brought them to another area of camp. Once the chalutzim settled into the new space, the madrichim then changed chalutzim’s names to be “less Jewish,” put out the fire JOLI and Sayarim had built to cook on, and forced them to again move to another location. Throughout program they learned about different times in history when Jewish communities were forced to leave their homes.  In Ramah Valley, at the conclusion of the peulah, after some marshmallows, hugs, and a campfire, the group processed the experience, and both edot (age groups) then slept out under the stars.

Ilanot (3rd and 4th graders) and Metaylim (5th and 6th graders) had special programming to mark the end of Session 2A, as we said goodbye to some of our chalutzim. Ilanot held a bingo night in the Chadar Ochel (dining room). Everyone walked with “aching” backs dressed up like the elderly – complete with white unibrows, walking sticks, and clothing stuffed undershirts. Midway through the rousing rounds of bingo, a “special” snack of mushy food was even served. 

For peulat erev (evening activity) one night, Metaylim held a mock bar mitzvah party in Ohel Shachar for their madrich Jarred, complete with backstories for all costumed characters involved – “Jarred,” the bar mitzvah boy, “Rachele,” the mother, “Giardina,” the grandmother, and “Moishe,” the best friend. The group danced the hora and played games like Coke & Pepsi. And finally, as the sun faded behind the mountains, the group had a “candle lighting ceremony” with paper printouts of candles. 

On Wednesday, we said farewell to our two-week chalutzim and were equally excited to meet our new friends who arrived for Session 2B, who quickly unpacked their bags and jumped right into our special programming for Yom Yisrael (Israel Day). Our Chadar Ochel was decked out in Israel flags, and Israeli tunes blared over the speakers.  In a departure from our usual scheduled camp meals, our Israeli tzevet served falafel, hummus, Israeli salad, and pita. Individual edot led Israel-focused activities throughout the day. Bogrim (9th graders) analyzed bumper stickers in Israel as a way of exploring different aspects of Israeli identity. The camp-wide peulat erev was a tour of our “Israel Museum,” which included exhibits about Israeli arts, politics, and a special display of photos of our Israeli tzevet from when they served in the military.  

While our chalutzim have been filling up their days in their chugim including tipus (climbing), susim (horses), chetz v’keshet (archery), and omanut (arts), our peulot erev have been the highlight for many campers. Solelim (7th and 8th graders) had an “Iron Chef” cake-pop making competition in the mitbach (kitchen).  On Thursday, after aruchat erev (dinner), our chava (farm) team constructed a “Farmer’s Market” for Solelim, Bogrim, Sayarim, and JOLI.  Booths were set up with food grown at camp, including crackers and goat cheese made from milk from our goats, kombucha, pickles from the farm, and banana bread. Other highlights from the peulah include Rosh omanut’s (Head of the arts program, Hooper) booth of herbs and spices, and Summer Assistant Director, Achinoam Aldouby, dressing like a witch and giving out apples to chalutzim – all while speaking Hebrew of course! The “Farmer’s Market” was a ton of fun, and provided our whole kehilah (community) with a lot of laughs and memories. What a celebration to end the week and lead us into Shabbat!

As we head into our last two weeks of Kayitz (Summer) 2019, there are still so many more memories to be made! Ahead of us still lies, the arrival of our Ta’am Ramah (2nd to 4th graders) “taste of Ramah” program, the JOLI counselor-in-training (CIT) week, our final masa’ot (backcountry excursions), and everyone is eagerly anticipating Yom Sport coming up this Sunday. 

While our schedule is always packed with programming that is both fun and educational, it is still the unplanned moments of smicha (joy) and kesharim (connections) that make me smile most. It is seeing people walking into the Chadar Ochel and break out into song and dance as they set the tables. It is watching the chalutzim hanging out and playing games in Ohel Koby (our game tent), and it is seeing madrichim and chalutzim walking to-and-from chugim and meals engaged in conversation. These less-structured moments are often the most transformative at camp, and the ones that, coupled with our formal programming, come together to create the magic that is Ramah in the Rockies. 

As I conclude this email, we are wrapping up our formal peulot for Friday, and everyone is getting into their best white Shabbat attire. We hope to be davening in the Pardes Tefillah tonight, but based on our almost daily late afternoon showers, we will wait until the last minute to make that decision. Either way, along with our giant post of photos from today, we will post pictures Monday evening, which will include photos from both Shabbat and Yom Sport!

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Eliav Bock

As our session 2 kehillah (community) has settled into life on chava, it has been such a joy to get to know and learn from all of your children this past week. While it has been a quiet week at basecamp due to our masa’ot, today I was delighted to watch the stream of our white vans enter through the front gate, each filled with excited chalutzim returning to camp, eager to share their stories. 

But let me start at the beginning of the week. On Sunday, we took a break from our usual programming. While our chalutzim and tzevet (staff) that were participating in the Fast of Tammuz had limmudim (learning sessions) throughout the day, our other chalutzim had a choice of participating in a wide variety of activities, including fishing at nearby Cheesman Reservoir, learning about Israel from our Israeli tzevet (staff), making glass mosaics at Beit HaYitzeirah (the Art Pavilion), and playing capture the flag in Ramah Valley. 

Usually aruchat erev (dinner) lasts about an hour, but on Sunday camp experienced a major storm and as a safety precaution the whole camp stayed in the ohel ochel (dining room) for an extra two hours! Halfway through dinner, we felt a rumble through the canvas walls, and the sky opened up, demonstrating the truly spectacular power of nature and Hashem. Rain and hail fell like waterfalls, and white flashes of lightning filled the sky. I took this opportunity to lead our kehillah kedosha (holy community) in two brachot (blessings), as all of camp is rarely in the same location during a thunder and lightning. The first bracha on hearing thunder (a blessing that praises God’s power and might), and the second bracha on seeing lightning (a blessing that celebrates God as The creator).   

As we kept warm and dry inside the ohel (tent), we passed the time by cleaning up our plates and tables as usual, and then took part in an epic session of rikud (dancing). Then, with members of our kehillah linked arm in arm, Michael Harlow, our Racaz Shira (Camp Song Leader and Music Coordinator) brought out his guitar and led the camp in more shirim (songs). Our voices, contained only by the four walls of ohel, drowned out the thunder. The simcha (joy) I felt in that room was inspiring. I was impressed to see our chalutzim making the best of a less-than ideal situation. 

The next morning, camp was quiet as the older chalutzim left on their masa’ot, and all of our trails and streams became the domain of our youngest edot (age groups), Ilanot (3rd and 4th graders) and Metaylim (5th and 6th graders). Both edot went horseback riding with our susim (horse staff) tzevet, spent time on the archery range with our chetz v’keshet (archery) tzevet, and in the afternoon Ilanot went on a masa to the aquatics center while Metaylim went whitewater rafting. 

Solelim (7th and 8th graders) spent their week on a variety of masa’ot including omanut (art), chetz v’keshet (archery), rafting/ofanayim (biking), chava (farming), and backpacking. Some highlights from the masa’ot include playing with goats, making homemade pizza with fresh-picked herbs, gorgeous sunrise hikes, and intense (and in tents) card games during some lengthy storms.   

Bogrim (9th graders) set out on two different trips – a backpacking masa to Great Sand Dunes National Park and the other a kayaking masa. For Bogrim masa’ot, many chalutzim had opportunities to face their fears. Whether it was fear of heights or fear of flipping over in their kayak, everyone embraced the Ramah in the Rockies mantra of “Challenge by Choice,” and they all had an incredible time!

Not to be outdone by the adventures had by our younger edot, all of Sayarim (10th graders) went on challenging backpacking masa’ot. Some of these chalutzim not only had to deal with minor hailstorms, but also hat-stealing marmots (think large squirrel, but cuter). Unfortunately, the marmots bested our chalutzim, as some of them did have their hats taken for good.  

Finally, JOLI (11th and 12th graders), our oldest edah, split into two groups, both spending their week in Carson National Forest in New Mexico, marking only the second time that Ramah in the Rockies has had a masa cross state lines! The highlight of this masa was, without a doubt, the incredible 360-degree views encountered at the top of several peaks. 

Last Shabbat, Assistant Director Julia Chatinover gave a d’var torah on the power of kesharim (connections), and encouraged our chalutzim to go into their individual masa’ot with the active intention of creating kesharim. Our chalutzim did not disappoint! The kesharim that they formed between each other, nature, and within themselves flooded out (no pun intended) as they returned to the chava. It could be seen and heard through their smiles and laughter as they rejoined camp. They shed their mud-encrusted hiking boots, washed their sweat-soaked hair, and prepared their minds and bodies to join the rest of the kehilah kedosha in the Pardes Tefillah for the beginning of Shabbat. 

After a “stormy” start, our kehillah spent this week embarking on individual and group masa’ot to return home to a peaceful Shabbat where we can reflect and come together. I am continuously reminded of the power of nature, both at basecamp and bamidbar (in the wilderness), to make memories and friendships that last a lifetime. I am excited for the week to come at Machaneh Ramah as we continue to build our kehillah.

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Eliav Bock 

Session 2 of our 10th year at Ramah in the Rockies has officially arrived! The hot July day did not dampen the excitement felt by all as we welcomed our chalutzim (pioneers/campers) to the chava (ranch). Returning chalutzim happily reunited with friends and tzevet (staff) from past years, and new campers quickly experienced the warmth of camp’s kehillah (community) as they danced and sang with their madrichim (counselors).

At our welcome medurah (bonfire) Thursday night, Michael Harlow, our Racaz Shira (Camp Song Leader and Music Coordinator) taught our chalutzim some of this summer’s new camp songs, and he went over a few classics from past summers to make sure that everyone was on the same page. Before bed, each ohel (tent) spent time creating an ohel brit – a communal contract outlining expectations by which they should treat each other. By nightfall, chalutzim eagerly fell into their beds after a long day of travel and excitement, getting some much needed rest before we jumped right into regular base camp activities Friday morning. 

This session I can’t wait to see our four midot (values) continue to play a central role in the experience of camp and in the hearts of our chalutzim

Machaneh (camp) is a community, and the kesharim (connections) we make with each other have the potential to make a real impact on the lives of our chalutzim. I have full confidence that they will make many kesharim with each other, with tzevet, and with Judaism, both intellectually and spiritually. 

Tzmicha ishit (personal growth), is a goal that is realized every single day of camp. Chalutzim have the opportunity to challenge themselves in regular base camp activities, whether it be making it up a particularly grueling hill on a mountain bike, volunteering to lead tefillah (prayer), or learning to work as a team on the Migrash Cadorsol (basketball court). Masa (backcountry excursions) weeks provide even more of a chance to grow as the chalutzim tackle the unique experience of being in the backcountry. We want our chalutzim to stretch beyond the limits they have previously set for themselves, and take pride in their accomplishments. 

Simcha (joy), is so prevalent throughout camp. I have already seen chalutzim eagerly running to their chugim (electives), singing at the top of their lungs during musical tefillah , and jumping around during pre-dinner rikkud (dance). I know this joyous atmosphere will continue to permeate the chava over the next four weeks. 

Lastly, we hope to cultivate a culture of kavod (respect) at camp – for others, for ourselves, and for the environment. This midah plays out in so many ways here at camp, including mindfulness of what we put into our bodies, the words we use to speak to each other, and the way we take advantage of what the earth has to offer us. 

Right now, the normal hustle and bustle of camp is beginning to subside as everyone prepares for Shabbat. Our bathhouses are full and everyone is changing into their finest white clothing. Chalutzim and tzevet alike are eagerly anticipating dancing in our Pardes Tefillah, and welcoming in Shabbat with our ruach-filled (spirited) Ramah in the Rockies style Kabbalat Shabbat service.

I am so inspired by the kehillah kedoshah (holy community) that I experience at camp each summer, and this summer is no different. I cannot wait to gather with the entire machaneh, as we raise our voices to welcome the first of many wonderful Shabbatot here at camp this kayitz (summer). 

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Eliav Bock

We kicked off the final week of Session 1 2019 with Yom Sport. Everyone in camp was decked-out in kachol (blue), adom (red), or yarok (green), and the atmosphere on the chava (ranch) shifted to intense competition and fun which progressed throughout the day. The day was filled with a lot of sweat and a lot of smiles. Following a win by kevutzah (team) yarok, things at camp again shifted to anticipation as a majority of chalutzim (pioneers/campers) prepared for their masa’ot.

While masa weeks at basecamp are relatively quiet, this masa week we welcomed our Ta’am Ramah (2nd to 4th graders) “taste of Ramah” program to the chava for four days, where they briefly experienced what being chalutzim at Ramah in the Rockies is like. They all had a wonderful time and we are looking forward to welcoming them back here at camp next summer for a full two or four weeks.   

Personally, my favorite part of masa week is Friday mornings. The excitement for this morning is more and more palpable as the week progresses, reaching its peak as the stream of white 12-passenger vans return to the chava. As each masa unloads their van, I have a first-row seat to one of the greatest spectacles Ramah in the Rockies has to offer – huge smiles, loud laughter, joyful reunions, and, of course, epic masa stories. This morning was no different, and this round of masa’ot featured some awesome experiences that I would like to share. 

In particular, what makes our second round of masa’ot so special is that our JOLI (11th and 12th graders) chalutzim begin their final transition from campers to CIT (Counselor In Training). After JOLIchalutzim had a chance to learn with current tzevet (staff) in the Moadon Tzevet (Staff Lounge), they were split up amongst the edot(age groups), and put everything they have worked on throughout this kayitz (summer) to the test with actual hands-on experience.

The JOLI chalutzim who worked with Ilanot (3rd and 4th graders) were treated to one of Ramah in the Rockies best (and most awesome) kept secrets – the twice-a-kayitz “Rocktion” (rock auction). JOLI, tzevet members, and Ta’am Ramah all dressed up in their finest attire and purused their options before the bidding began. Once rocks were purchased, Ilanot chalutzim had the opportunity to trade in their profits for prizes like an ice cream party with Rabbi Eliav or being Rosh Edah (age group Unit Head) for a day.

On masa, Metaylim (5th and 6th graders) left our ranch for three days, with gear on their backs. For many, this was the first time that they had experienced a multi-day hike. While all of our masa’ot were within 15 miles of our camp, most reached the peaks of local mountains which provided unforgettable vistas of Pike National Forest.

Solelim (7th and 8th graders) had incredible masa experiences to share from all their masa’ot, including: omanut (Art), ofanayim (biking), tipus (climbing), and backpacking. The Solelim omanut masa ate s’mores at the American Continental Divide, saw a double rainbow, and the cherry on top of it all – saw a moose taking an early morning dip in a lake. One masa also went on Ramah in the Rockies’ first ever fly fishing masa. While the group caught several fish, unfortunately, no one caught fish large enough to cook in the evening, which was going to be an option for dinner for those who wanted. Our Bogrim (9th graders) chalutzim chose from an array of masa’ot as well, including: farm masa, backpacking masa, kayaking masa, and the first ever tipus (climbing) and ofanayim (biking) masa. The group that went on this masa had an amazing time that included a tough multi-pitch climb and a cheese fondue birthday celebration for one of their chalutzim.        

In preparation for their JOLI summer, when they will return as CITs and help to lead their first masa’ot, our Sayarim (10th graders) went on challenging backpacking masa’ot. These masa’ot are the best way to hone backcountry wilderness skills. Besides running into some moose and elk, Sayarim chose to challenge themselves on masa while partaking in individual, six-hour, solo wilderness experiences. These solo exercises serve as the culmination of the Camp Ramah in the Rockies experience for our oldest chalutzim before they return as CITs the following summer.  

As we pack away our gear, shower, and put on our finest white outfits, everyone is excited about our final Shabbat together. We have so many more peulot (activities), games, and conversations to be had before we say goodbye to our chalutzim, and we will be in full “camp mode” until Monday afternoon. Tonight, as we gather in our pre-Shabbat circle, I will address our community urging them to take the values that permeate our kehillah kedosha (holy community) home with them, and integrate them into their own families and communities.  

We look forward to seeing our chalutzim back on the chavain the Kayitz of 2020!

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Eliav Bock

As we wrap up the third week of Session 1, I sense that the simcha (joy) of our chalutzim (pioneers/campers) is as strong as ever! I can’t help but smile when I see them eagerly running to their chugim (activities), singing at the top of their lungs during musical tefillah (prayer), and jumping around during pre-dinner rikkud (dance).

This week we said, “le’hitraot!” (“see you later!”) to our Session 1A chalutzim as they returned home following an action-packed, growth-oriented two weeks. While we will miss their contribution to our kehillah (community), we also gave a warm welcome to our Session 1B chalutzim as they arrived to camp. Arriving on Tuesday, they jumped right into basecamp activities and preparing for the upcoming masa’ot (backcountry excursions).

This week was full of exciting and memorable peulot erev (evening activities). Ilanot (3rd and 4th graders) prepped for their upcoming Harry Potter Day with a relaxed movie night. Metaylim (5th and 6th graders) competed between ohelim (tents) in minute-to-win-it activities and excitedly made welcome signs for arriving new campers. Solelim (7th and 8th graders) had a tie-dye night and learned the 1978 Israeli Eurovision song, “A-Ba-Ni-Bi” in preparation for camp’s edah (age group) against edah sing-off, Kol Edah. Bogrim (9th graders) spent a peulat erev around the medurah (campfire) playing guitar, singing, and eating s’mores. Sayarim (10th graders) played bar and bat mitzvah games with Bogrim, which evolved into their own “Saya-rave.” They also did a community mapping activity in which they used natural resources to construct a physical map of camp.

This week JOLI (11th and 12th graders) had a chance to intimately experience one of Ramah in the Rockies’ core values, tzmicha ishit (personal growth), or as we like to say at camp, “challenge by choice.” JOLI chalutzim laced up their hiking boots and tackled Mount Bierstadt, a peak of over 14,000 feet! They also began CIT training, preparing to work with tzevet (staff) to run omanut (art), lead ofanayim (biking), attend activities with the younger edot (age groups), and more!

As we do each week, we had Israeli-themed activities throughout camp, including a blue and white contest at dinner, a Shulchan Ivrit (Hebrew only table) at lunch, and some Israeli tunes added to our always-growing song repertoire. We also had a terrific 4th of July celebration here at camp yesterday. Throughout the day, we danced and sang American folk songs. We said the prayer for our country, recited blessings in Hebrew, English, and Spanish, and also spoke about the values that make America the country it is. We ended the day with a 4th of July bar-b-que.

In true Ramah in the Rockies style, the weather has been keeping us on our toes! This week the chalutzim have been donning hats, slathering on sunscreen, and refilling water bottles as the sun shines strong in the mornings. By late afternoon, the sky sometimes darkens as the chava (ranch) has often been washed with much-welcomed rain, cooling off camp in time for a good night’s sleep. An added benefit of the weather patterns has been that the flowers this year are more vibrant than ever. Many chalutzim have noticed the bluish purple columbine flowers that have bloomed for the first time in recent memory. Our Ramah Valley is awash with hues of purple and orange mixed with the vibrant green of the grass.

There is something about the hours leading up to Shabbat that brings a palpable energy to the chava. I feel the buzz and excitement of chalutzim as they wash off the sweat and dirt that marks a successful day here at camp, and prepare to refocus their minds and hearts to the change of pace that Shabbat brings. 

Next week the chalutzim will go off on various masa’ot and take on the outdoor adventures that makes Ramah in the Rockies so special. For now, the approaching calm of Shabbat awaits us. 

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Eliav Bock

As I write this, our chalutzim (campers/ pioneers) are returning from their masa’ot. There is a shrill of excited gabbing and laughter emanating from our packout area as vans unload and chalutzim arrive back into camp. The weather here at the chava(ranch) is finally beginning to resemble summer, and our chalutzim are shedding their jackets and knit hats for t-shirts and bucket hats.

Our youngest edah, Ilanot (3rd and 4th graders), spent their masa week visiting the local aquatic center, camping under the stars in Ramah Valley, and hiking Prospector, a local peak. Metaylim campers (5th and 6th graders) enjoyed their own campout in Ramah Valley after an exciting whitewater rafting trip on the Arkansas River. They returned from their rafting trip raving about the incredible white water, undeterred by the mountain runoff that kept river temperatures in the 40s and rapids at the maximum intensity permitted for their age group. During tefillot (prayers) throughout the week, they also worked on personalizing their siddurim (prayer books).

Solelim (7th and 8th graders) spent their week on a variety of masa’ot including omanut (art), chetz v’keshet (archery), rafting/ofanayim (biking), and backpacking. I heard from the omanut masaa bout their tasty food, and the archery masa about using compound bows at the nearby Scouts BSA camp plus the miles of epic uphill and downhill runs on their two-day journey back to camp. Bogrim (9th graders) had two different backpacking trips – Great Sand Dunes National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, and kayaking and tipus (climbing) for their masa’ot options. Although we changed the routes of both hiking trips late last week because of snow, both groups still got to hike through the white stuff and had to adjust their route during the week because of the poor (summer) trail conditions.

Not to be outdone by the adventures had by our younger edot, Sayarim (10th graders) went on their masa’ot according to their megamot (majors).They continued to develop their basecamp skills on masa for backpacking, tipus, and ofanayim. Earlier this afternoon, I spoke to some Sayarim chalutzim in the chadar ochel (dining tent) as they were discussing how their masa group could have made an aruchat tzohorayim (lunch) that was far superior to our “normal” camp lunch. They explained to me that one of their masa tzevet was a master at cooking in the backcountry and taught the group all kinds of tips and tricks they could use to make some seriously elegant outdoor meals.

JOLI (11th and 12th graders), our oldest edah, split into two groups, both spending their week in Carson National Forest in New Mexico, marking the first time that Ramah in the Rockies has had a masa cross state lines! Unique to this masa was the variety of terrain encountered – from desert to dense forest to wide open meadows. And, yes, there was still lots of snow, even in June!

With most of camp relatively quiet, our remaining tzevet (staff) had several opportunities to partake in their own programming, including, new for this kayitz – Spanish 101, led by our Mexicantzevet who are part of the national Camp Leaders program.

As we enter our second Shabbat with chalutzim, I am so excited to finally return to rikkud (dancing) and Kabbalat Shabbat in our Pardes Tefillah after an almost two-year break. Last week, we were hunkered down and bundled in jackets and hats in our Ohel Moed where the energy was palpable and the rain coming down. Last year we experimented with moving Friday night services to Ramah Valley, one of the most beautiful places in camp, but the logistics of moving everyone out there and the lack of shade made it challenging most weeks. Tonight we return to our original Friday night location, which many consider to be their inspirational place of prayer at Ramah.

Finally, an anecdote. Just yesterday, during lunch with one of our new nurses, she mentioned how much and how quickly she felt herself a part of our community compared to her previous sleepaway camp experiences. Every kayitz sees new faces join returning ones, and every summer they are welcomed with open arms. The comment by our nurse speaks to one of the things that makes me proud to be director of Ramah in the Rockies – welcoming new faces not just into our community, but embracing them as part of our kehillah kedoshah (holy community) so that they call our chava home. We are so lucky to have over 300 people calling our chava home this Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom, 

Rabbi Eliav Bock

Our 10th year at Ramah in the Rockies is officially a-go! The rain that greeted our chalutzim (pioneers/campers) as they arrived at the ranch on Tuesday had little effect on the joy of opening day. Returning chalutzim happily reunited with friends and tzevet (staff) from past years, and new campers quickly experienced the warmth of camp’s kehillah(community).

Getting off the van's on the first day!

While the rain made it impossible to have a welcome medurah (bonfire), it gave the chalutzim an opportunity to bond with everyone in their ohelim (tents). Each ohel spent time before bed creating an ohel brit – a communal contract outlining expectations by which they should treat each other. By nightfall, chalutzim eagerly fell into their beds after a long day of travel and excitement.

Wednesday morning, camp was in full swing! Ilanot (rising 3rd and 4th graders) went biking and climbing, and were assigned a Bogrim (rising 9th graders) buddy who they will get to know through shared Shabbat meals and other activities. Metayalim (rising 5th and 6th graders) created their own tefillah (prayer) journals in which they can reflect on the Shacharit (morning) prayers. Solelim (rising 7th and 8th graders) jumped right into picking their masa’ot (backcountry excursions) as well as their chugim(electives) which include: chavah (farm), ofanayim (biking), susim (horseback riding), and more! Bogrim took in the picturesque landscape of Ramah Valley as they created an edah (age group) banner with paint balloons. Lastly, Sayarim (rising 10th graders) hiked up Givat Ilanot (Ilanot Hill), while JOLI (rising 11th and 12th graders) spent the day in a wilderness first aid training course to prepare them for medical situations in the backcountry.

New and old camp friends

If there is one word to describe the atmosphere at camp, it would be “simcha” (joy). Since the first night, we have been dancing in the chadar ochel (dining room) before every meal, having incredible shira (singing) sessions, and enjoying the spirit felt throughout camp. I have loved walking through the ohalim areas listening to the chatter of the chalutzim and watching the constant games of ping-pong, foosball, and spike ball.

Shira in the ohel ochel

Right now the normal hustle and bustle of camp is beginning to subside as everyone prepares for Shabbat. Our bathhouses are full and everyone is changing into their best white outfits. Chalutzim and tzevet alike are eagerly anticipating dancing in our Pardes Tefillah and welcoming in Shabbat with our ruach-filled, Ramah in the Rockies style Kaballat Shabbat service (although the weather might make us move our services undercover into the Ohel Moed).  

I am so inspired by our kehillah kedoshah (holy community) that I experience at camp each summer, and this summer is no different. I cannot wait to gather with all of our machaneh (camp), as we raise our voices to welcome the first of many wonderful Shabbatot here on the ranch.

Shabbat shalom

Rabbi Eliav Bock

Shavua tov! Our staff Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course feels as if it happened months ago, Shavuot has come and gone, our Shavuah Hachanah (Week of Preparation) is ending, and all of our staff are eagerly awaiting their chalutzim (pioneers/campers). Our tzevet (staff) have just celebrated their second Shabbat at camp, and while things have been incredibly enjoyable, we are missing the most important people – our chalutzim.

Thankfully, within about 24 hours, our first chalutzim arrive! After months of planning, our 10th kayitz at Ramah in the Rockies will officially begin. We are looking forward to a summer filled with adventure, personal growth, and loads of fun. New for this summer are some updates to our property including adding campsites for ohel (tent) overnights, adjusting our daily schedule, and bringing the biking and masa (excursion) programs into the center of camp. The tzevet we have assembled this summer is our best yet, and I am thrilled for them to become teachers and role models for your children.

Things at Ramah in the Rockies have changed quite a bit since our inaugural summer when we had nine tents, eight showers, and a toilet trailer. Every year since has brought new challenges and opportunities, and this summer is no different. As we put the final touches on our preparations for this season, I would like to share how grateful I am for the opportunity to guide and support this amazing kehillah kedoshah (holy community) that we have nurtured over the last ten years. Thank you for choosing to send your children to Ramah in the Rockies.

As our chalutzim arrive, our focus turns to providing an incredible, fun, and safe experience for all of them. Please feel free to email or call with any questions, and know that we will continue to communicate via email, social media, and phone as needed.

I look forward to greeting your children on the chavah (ranch) this summer.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Eliav Bock
Camp Director

Today marks 65 days until we welcome our first chalutzim (campers) to the chava (ranch).  Just as we reflect on the various numbers mentioned during the seder – 3 matzot, 4 sons, and 10 plagues – I want to share some of the key numbers we think about as we prepare for summer.   

Happy Passover from Ramah in the Rockies
Chag Sameach! Happy Passover!

27,000 Gallons of clean drinking water available at any moment in our four above-ground tanks

6,065   Gallons of wastewater influent flowing daily into our system (Ever wonder how much is from showers versus flushing toilets?)

363      Campers currently registered for Kayitz 2019

105      Staff members working at camp this summer

104      Campers coming to Ramah in the Rockies for the first time!

70        Masa’ot (excursions) going out over four masa weeks (or 17-18masa’ot per week!!!)

40        New mountain bikes ordered

35        More campers we hope to enroll before opening day

20        Israeli mishlachat (emissary) staff joining our mishpacha (family)

18        Hens laying eggs at camp this summer

12        12-passenger vans on site at any one time during the summer

9.1       Acre feet of water owned by Ramah in the Rockies, of which we use .22 annually.  (Under the laws governing water use in the west, we need to build a pond by 2024 to access the unused amount or lose almost all of it.)

3          New primitive campsites being built

2          Dogs of camp living with us this summer – Welcome, Murphy and DovBer!

1          Camper coming from each of these states this summer:  Louisiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, Utah, Wyoming, Kansas, and Alabama

!!!חג שמח

– Rabbi Eliav and the Ramah in the Rockies Team

Focusing on קשרים – Connections

Chalutzim and Tzevet dancing in our Chadar Ochel

As we shared in our last Off-Season Insights blog, Summer 2019 has a number of program updates as a result of the feedback from our parents, tzevet, and chalutzim.   Year after year, we hear about the power of relationships our chalutzim develop while on their masa’ot, how important the friendships made each summer are, and the role our madrichim (counselors) play in being positive influencers.  Yet, we also learn that some chalutzim occasionally struggle to develop these strong relationships with all the excitement and activity going on in base camp programs.

Our addition of Ohel Koby last summer gave our chalutzim a new space in which to grow friendships.  Whether over games of ping pong, foosball, or cards, campers engaged with each other and found ways to make connections both within and across all our edot.

Continuing this trend, we are putting an additional emphasis this year on the relationships developed within our ohel and edah communities.  A former member of our tzevet, Sky Yardeni, brought the idea of “radical tzchokim” (laughter) as an important tool in group bonding.  In an effort to help facilitate radical tzchokim in all our edot, we are planning specific bonding programs for all this summer. 

These classic camp activities will give our campers the chance to bond through both laughter and silliness as edot and within their ohelim.  Some of the activities our chalutzim will enjoy include tie dying, backcountry pizza making, carnival nights, and capture the flag!  We hope these classic activities will complement the wonderful adventure experiences our chalutzim already have, while giving all a chance to relax and laugh at the end of the day.

As with all our programs and activities at camp, we reflect on how these changes align with our core values of kavod (respect), simcha (joy), s’micha ishit (personal growth), and k’sharim (connections), and we hope these opportunities for edot to develop k’sharim through simcha will permeate through the whole camp experience.

We look forward to seeing our chalutzim connect and laugh together and want to know, what activities do you want to see for edah and ohel bonding? 

A Purim Letter from Rabbi Eliav

Rabbi Eliav Bock

I write this letter having just returned from our ranch where we enjoyed the opportunity to meet as a leadership team and go over some changes we are implementing for this summer. As we look forward to opening our tenth summer, we want to ensure that our program remains successful for the next ten decades to come. We know that change is always hard, but are very excited to introduce these improvements to our camp.

CAMP TV

Being a screen-free environment simply does not make sense in today’s wired world! Our campers and parents rely on screens of all types to communicate with each other and too many of both our staff and camper populations have withdrawal-like symptoms when camp starts. Seeking a solution to this problem, we were delighted to learn of the new cable channel launching this summer called Camp TV. Executives from this channel were searching for five camps to pilot their reality TV program and, of course, we signed the contract!Over the past month, Camp TV has installed cameras and microphones throughout our chava (ranch) so that crews can televise our children at all times. All conversations (other than those in the bathroom or showers) will be recorded and beamed to parents (and producers) in real time. This way, our parents will know what is happening with their child(ren) at camp without ever having to ask our camper care team to check in on them or reading any of our weekly emails. Producers are bound to put together the events of the summer in an amazingly compelling narrative.But, we did not want to stop there. We also wanted our campers to get in on the

The new scene in the Chadar Ochel

action, and this summer we are issuing smart phones to each so that they can communicate in real time with those at home. No longer will meals be marked by animated conversations across tabletops. Campers will keep a steady view of their screens and text/Whatsapp/Instagram (whatever) with those who are not present.

A Loon internet balloon

Clearly, the lack of high-speed internet is an issue in making all of this technological change come together. Here, too, we have found a solution by working with our friends at Alphabet (Google’s parent company). Their moonshot company, Loon, is putting balloons in the air to beam high-speed internet to the masses. While their focus is linking the African continent, we convinced them that campers at Colorado summer camps are in even greater need of high-speed internet. We have agreed to serve as their trial case in North America and expect to have their balloons floating above our camp beaming a high-speed signal to all.

FREE SOLOING

We pride ourselves in running one of the most amazing rock climbing programs in the Jewish summer camp movement, teaching it on both an artificial bouldering wall and a real granite cliff. To ensure that safety always comes first, we purchase top-level gear and maintain impeccable logs. A few years ago we made this video to highlight our “hard core” program, anchored by our climbing program. But for our chalutzim (campers) and climbers, ropes always seem to get in the way.This summer, our climbing program moves to the next level. Alex Honnold introduced the world to Free Soloing in his Oscar-winning documentary, Free Solo. For those who missed it, Alex spent about four hours  

Alex Honnold in Free Solo

climbing a 3,000 foot cliff with no ropes and, at one point, dangling 2,500 feet above the ground while holding a grip the size of a matchbox. Ever since seeing this, we have wondered whether our Challenge by Choice mantra means that we are inspiring the next Alex Honnold and what we can do to prepare them for this experience?! We know that we need to be more HARD CORE! This summer, therefore, we are proud to announce the country’s first free solo program! Working closely with two of our certifying agencies, the American Camp Association (ACA) and the Colorado Department of Human Services, we have devised a system whereby we will take campers with the most rudimentary climbing ability and put them directly on a granite slab. Brain researchers have told us that by changing a child’s amygdala (the part of the brain that creates the “fight or flight” response) at a young age, an entire generation of free soloists may be nurtured. Under the careful guidance of our lead rock climbers, campers will climb up a vertical surface of 1,000 feet or more with no ropes. By starting this process with our youngest campers, we believe we can train our kids to overcome their inherent fear of falling.The Free Soloing program will absolutely make our camp stand out, and is one step along the way to creating the next generation of Jewish

On a climbing masa.

daredevils. Future growth of this initiative will include wing suit jumping (where campers jump off cliffs with wings attached), hang gliding, bungee jumping, and possibly even a winter expedition to K2. (Everest is too easy, and WAY too commercialized at this point and we know that K2 will provide our community with a real challenge.)Like all masa’ot (excursion) activities at Ramah, parents will be asked to sign a waiver.

ADDED CALORIES

Our chalutzim burn thousands of calories each day! In addition to the three meals and two snacks we currently serve, we are concerned that our campers are not getting the needed calories to see them through the day. We thought of adding more protein-based nutrients (meat, tofu, etc.), and perhaps even more fruits and vegetables, but then looked at our society out there in the “real world”. This made us realize that we were ignoring all those empty calories our campers rely upon in their regular lives. Seeking a solution to this problem, our culinary staff and nutritionist recently went on a group outing to some of the local grocery stores to view their products and the answer hit us like a ton of bricks! We need more candy, soda, and sugary drinks! We reached out to the American Beverage Association, and they were happy to help sponsor our latest project. At each meal (especially breakfast), we will now serve a curated line of products made by the Coca Cola Company, 

Our new beverage selection.

including Coke, Sprite, and Fanta. For those who want a non-fizzy alternative, we expect to have Hi-C and Capri-Sun available also. Plus, we plan to install candy machines throughout camp. We are excited to work with a local Boulder company to make sure that the sugar provided in these products gives the illusion of being healthy by adding organic food coloring. We know that our efforts are successful if children are bouncing off the walls after meals and have so much built up energy that they yell while racing pell-mell from one peulah (activity) to another. We realize that bed time might become a challenge, but have heard that a cup of warm milk, with plenty of natural sugar to rot their teeth, helps calm things down. So starting this summer, in the evening outside the bathhouses, our rashei edah (unit heads) will give out hand-crafted cups of steamed milk to anyone needing it to unwind. Our success is the added trips to the dentist for our campers.

CONCLUSION

We know that change can be challenging and that some will wonder whether these improvements will affect our camp community and the values that we have nurtured since our founding. Only time will tell. But for now, know that it is Purim and we wish everyone a VERY HAPPY PURIM, ONE FILLED WITH LAUGHTER AND NONSENSE! (And a real camp update will be forthcoming next week.)
– Rabbi Eliav and the entire Ramah in the Rockies team

February 25th, 2019

Below is a note from Moss Herberholz, our Director of Inclusion, regarding the expansion of our vocational education program. To learn more about this program, visit the Program page on our website!


Moss Herberholz, Director of Inclusion

As we expand our vocational education program, we hope to provide Jewish young adults with special needs an opportunity to receive job training, learn life skills, improve social skills, and engage in Jewish learning with peers, all while enjoying time in the beautiful Rocky Mountains.

We hope that expanding our program will allow our inclusion campers to continue being a part of our kehilah kedoshah (holy community) even after they have aged out of our inclusion program. Unlike our neurotypical campers, who we often welcome back as staff members, up until now this kind of opportunity has been inaccessible to many of our inclusion campers.

We also hope that expanding our program will open our kehilah kedoshah (holy community) to new faces. We are excited to provide the opportunity to spend an extended period of time living and engaging in meaningful work while in an outdoor environment to Jewish young adults who were not campers at Ramah in the Rockies.

This past summer it was a joy to watch our returning vocational educational participant as he pushed passed his comfort level and grew. He spent the summer effectively and independently completing tasks in pack-out and on the farm. In pack-out he helped prepare food and other materials for masa’ot (backpacking trips). On the farm he took care of the animals, helped cultivate crops, and independently lead campers in activities for the first time. It is my hope to see many more vocational education participants learning and growing just as this vocational education participant continues to do.


Douglas Wolf, our Business Manager, will be leaving Ramah in the Rockies at the end of February to pursue new challenges and to spend time with his family full time in Chicago. Thank you, Douglas, for all you have done for Ramah in the Rockies!

Rabbi Eliav Bock
Rabbi Eliav Bock

It was the winter of 2009 and I had recently been hired to be the Founding Director of Ramah Outdoor Adventure, when I met Douglas Wolf at a gathering in Denver. A Ramah alum, with a passion for the outdoors, biking, and all things Ramah, he offered his help, as a volunteer, to do whatever was needed to launch our new Camp Ramah in Colorado. In the late summer of that year, after he and his family had returned from a four-day family camp experience at the Ramah in the Rockies ranch, I again ran into him one night at Home Depot while trying to load a picnic table into my sedan. He offered to drive it home for me in his SUV. I thanked him and mentioned that I was looking to hire someone to help with some administrative tasks, wondering whether he knew of anyone looking. The next day, I received the call that changed my life, his life, and the trajectory of our camp forever. Douglas said that if I was willing to hire someone with no formal staff experience, who had been out of the full time labor force for 6+ years as a primary caregiver, but was eager for his next adventure, then he was the person I wanted.

As a partner in starting Ramah Outdoor Adventure, Douglas did whatever was needed to make camp a success. In the off-season, he helped with recruiting, hiring, and registration. He figured out which state licenses were needed to operate a child-care facility, how to respond to emergencies, and the logistics of getting both campers and staff to camp. There was never a task from which Douglas shied away.

I will never forget that first summer when Douglas came to camp for a month with his kids in tow, both too young to be campers yet. They each had walkie-talkies with them so that they could communicate with their dad while he was at work, allowing them to run around the ranch unattended. In that first year, we did not have running water at the sinks outside our dining hall, instead using hand pumped portable sinks. One of our many issues was not having anyone whose responsibility it was to fill and empty the sinks. Enter Douglas! He took it upon himself, sometimes radioing his kids for help, to pull the plugs on the sinks, allowing them to drain on the ground, and then refilling them with water.

After our first summer, Douglas and I began to formalize our organizational structure. He took over all business and operational functions, effectively becoming business manager (although he spent a few weeks as Assistant Director and then Associate Director before we settled on business manager). In this role, he has helped grow and sustain Ramah in the Rockies from our ragtag group in 2009 to a more formal, but equally passionate, team in 2019. Douglas has overseen our accounting, liaising with our eight(!) licensing agencies, while continuing to maintain an excellent attitude and appreciation for how his behind-the-scenes work affects hundreds of young people each summer. All the while he insists that no task is below him and that he will help with whatever is needed to make camp a success. A Friday night this past summer suddenly comes to mind, when in the middle of Shabbat dinner the toilet trailer clogged; it was Douglas who donned his Wellies, took a deep inhale and ventured into the muck with gloves and plunger in hand.

Douglas never seeks the spotlight. Indeed many of our campers probably do not know who he is or what he does for camp. But the rest of us know how Douglas has been the invisible force keeping us moving forward and ensuring that money is collected, bills are paid, and camp remains safe.

After our 2018 season, Douglas told me he was looking to retire, and asked how he could do so without jeopardizing the future of the organization that he had helped build. His heart remains with Ramah in the Rockies, but physically, he needed to move on. We agreed that he would remain with us through the end of February, which would allow for a seamless transition to the person following in his footsteps. Over the past few months, we reworked our organizational chart, better integrating our BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy program into our year round team, and relooking at how we operate our summer camp. Douglas has remained a vital part of our team, though we know that in a few short weeks he will begin a much more relaxing, probably slower paced, adventure. (Indeed, two people will replacing what Douglas accomplished alone; Matt Levitt will be taking over as COO and Avram Pachter as Director of Operations).

As Douglas’s tenure with Ramah in the Rockies comes to an end, I know that I speak for the 1000+ families and the 800+ staff who have been part of our community and whose lives have been made better by Ramah in saying THANK YOU!! While I, personally, have received many accolades for the successes of our camp, I know that without Douglas guiding us, Ramah in the Rockies would not be where it is today as the premier Jewish outdoor adventure camp in the country.

Douglas, I will miss working with you each day. The energy, system, and vision you bring and have brought to our organization have made me a better director and our camp a better community. THANK YOU!

Below is a note that Douglas wrote about his impending transition.

With gratitude,
Rabbi Eliav Bock


Douglas Wolf
Douglas Wolf

Dear Ramah Community
As many of you have heard, my adventure as the Business Manager for Ramah in the Rockies is drawing to a close. I have chosen to leave Ramah at the end of February and will transfer my responsibilities into the capable hands of Matt, Sandra and Avram. I am very proud to have helped successfully bring Ramah camping to the Rocky Mountains and am confident about the direction and future of Ramah in the Rockies and BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy. 

My primary goal has been to help build Ramah in the Rockies into a thriving Jewish camp, and along the way I have been fortunate to work with committed, engaged colleagues who have made the journey special. I would like to thank the year-round staff for their incredible energy and work, and the board of directors for their leadership and support over the years. We would not be where we are without everyone on this team. And I would like to particularly acknowledge Rabbi Eliav for his partnership since he and I first began working together in 2009 to make this dream a reality. 

My family has literally grown up with Ramah in the Rockies. When camp opened, my sons Ben and David were staff kids, too young to be among the first Chalutzim. My wife Jennifer was camp’s first medical director. Ben is now touring colleges and David is eager to return for Sayarim, his 8th summer as a camper. 

I am looking forward to new challenges and to being in Chicago full time with my family. I will continue to support Ramah as a parent and BaMidbar board member. From the moment the first campers arrived in 2010 until today, I always knew that we were and are part of something very special. It has been my privilege to have played a part in building this kehillah kedoshah (holy community), over the past 10 years. Thank you. 

If you would like to keep in touch after my time with Ramah please email douglasramah@gmail.com

Best wishes, Douglas

Morah Nehamah Liebowitz, the late Torah commentator, is said to have hated the concept of Mother’s Day; she thought it crazy that we would take one day to be nice to mothers— according to her, every day should be a celebration of mothers! When thinking about Tu B’Shevat, what has become Judaism’s annual version of Earth Day, I sometimes feel the same as Morah Liebowitz. 

Ilanot campers planting plants in our greenhouse.
Ilanot Chalutzim planting in our greenhouse.

Tu B’Shevat began as a fringe Kabalistic tradition celebrated by mystics. In the past few decades, through a number of Jewish communal initiatives, it has become a mainstream holiday; a time for all of us to take meaningful actions to incorporate Jewish environmental values into our lives.  And let’s be clear, it’s a good thing that the Jewish community has days like Tu B’Shevat where we can think about how our actions affect the environment. But, to echo Morah Liebowitz, one day is not enough! 

For us to fully commit ourselves to changing the way in which we interact with the natural world, we are going to need more than a day to make these changes. We are going to need to see how our lives, most of which are lived in urban environments, affect the natural world around us.

At Ramah in the Rockies, our community comes together each summer to spend ten weeks living consciously with nature, although our campers rotate in and out every two to four weeks.  Yes, we use many of the modern conveniences found in our urban lives – electricity, fossil fuels, and satellite phones. Yet, at the same time, we go out of our way to be intentional about our relationship with the natural world.  Our campers live in bunks with no power. We use a method of fermenting garbage, called Bokashi, for most food scraps that are composted for our garden. We pre-heat our shower water using the sun’s rays.

Most importantly, each camper spends time during camp experiencing nature up close. There is no better way to appreciate the great outdoors, than to surround oneself with the phenomena of our living world. On a multi-day backpacking trip, campers view incredible vistas, drink in the warmth of sun on their faces, and encounter the thirty-degree temperature swings common in the Rockies in July. We often see our younger campers playing with rocks, sticks, and dirt, and building forts using fallen branches. 

Illanot Campers looking at Ponderosa pine tree
Ponderosa pine trees smell like butterscotch!

An activity I love to lead is part of our morning t’fillah, where we take ten minutes for campers to stop, explore a single tree, and its surrounding area. I ask the campers to hug, smell, and stare at the tree. I ask them to reach down to the ground and grab a handful of dirt, smelling, feeling, and sometimes even tasting it. We do this as part of our morning prayers, because it helps raise our awareness of just how alive the world around us is, and how magnificent and complicated nature can be. We do this as part of our t’fillot because, as a Jewish educator, I believe our Torah has a role in answering many of the issues facing our people and society.

I see Ramah in the Rockies serving as a lab for young people to develop a Jewish love and appreciation for the natural world around us, creating a society living in concert with nature and helping it continue sustaining human life for the next ten thousand years – answering an acute challenge of our time. Having our campers and staff translate their summer experiences into lifetime engagements with others working to protect, grow, and sustain our living world, that is our goal.

-Rabbi Eliav