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

Our NEW Daily Schedule!

Metaylim campers learning in greenhouse
Metaylim Chalutzim experiencing our greenhouse

The most common question heard by summer camp professionals is:  What do you do during the rest of the year?  And, while we like to joke that we twiddle our thumbs and wait for June, the truth is that our nine months of “off season” are full and busy.  Lots of planning goes into making camp the fun, magical, kehillah kedoshah we create each summer, including camper recruitment, program planning, masa permitting, and staff hiring.  We are eager to give you a glimpse into our winter office through a series of upcoming blog posts. 

As mentioned, one aspect of our off-season revolves around program development.  We examine the previous summer: what worked really well, what was a flop, and what could use some revision.  Each year, right after the summer has ended, we read through hundreds of pages of feedback collected from our chalutzim, parents, and tzevet.  Our annual “You Shared, We Listened” email delivers the results of what we have learned and explains how we are moving forward towards the following summer.

For Kayitz 2019, we are excited to share our new daily schedule, which you can view here.  Three highlights from this are – breakfast before tefillah, an extra daily perek, and a scheduled afternoon snack time. Our hope for these changes is to provide our campers the opportunities for more active engagement in tefillot and to experience either more base camp activities or dive deeper into their favorites. 

Program changes like these seem simple and straightforward, but there are many factors which impact the flow of a day at camp.  Some of our considerations are:

  • Is there enough time to prepare breakfast without requiring our kitchen staff to wake up exceptionally early?
  • What do our mumchim (specialists) need time-wise within a perek to allow our chalutzim to really dive into an activity?  If we adjust the length or number of prakim during the day, does this allow us to offer more double prakim to our older chalutzim?
  • How does switching breakfast and tefillah first thing in the morning impact nikayon (cleaning)? 
  • When should each edah (age group) have their z’man edah (edah-based learning time)? 

We are eager to try out this new schedule with our 2019 chalutzim and tzevet, and appreciate your feedback in helping us to continually improve our program!  If you would like to learn more about our new schedule or other program changes, give us a call or an email – we are always happy to discuss.  

-Rabbi Eliav and Julia

Ramah Community:

Below is a letter that we sent out to all of our current 9th grade chalutzim and families.  We are proud to share the details of our new 10th grade Edah, and are availible to answer questions via phone or email.

Dear 9th grade chalutzim (campers) and parents:

Originally we had intended to share this letter with our community while our summer session was still in full swing.  However, after the events of the fire on August 7th, we spent the last weeks of camp planning and implementing our “Plan B” at the JCC Ranch Camp.  Our kehillah (community) shared a remarkable eight days at our adopted home, and we are so grateful for the support and generosity that allowed us to finish the summer on such a positive and hopeful note.

On Wednesday, September 6th, you will be receiving an official announcement about the opening of our 2018 registration. This announcement will include information about our newest edah (age group). It will also explain that beginning next summer, we will only be admitting chaluztim entering grades 9-12 for four weeks. Before sending out this announcement, we wanted share with our 9th grade families more details about our newest edah and explain why we decided to move forward with these changes.

 

THE WHY

Moving to Four Weeks
For our younger chalutzim, our two-week program is a great way for campers to try out Ramah in the Rockies and see if the program fits their needs. As chalutzim mature, however, our two-week program becomes less effective. Since our older edot participate in longer, more intensive masa’ot (backcountry excursions), they spend less time at base camp. We want to ensure that each and every camper has time to form the deep interpersonal relationships that are at the core of our program. Indeed, over the past few years we’ve found that less than 30% of our older two-week campers return to camp. On the other hand, almost 85% of our older four-week campers return to Ramah in the Rockies year after year.
We believe that in the long run, our community and the lives of those affected by it will be stronger if we foster stronger relationships between its members.  Sadly, this will mean that some of our chautzim who have split their time between multiple camps and programs will have to decide where to spend their full month. We are committed to raising additional funds for those families who have been coming for two weeks out of a financial necessity.
Creating a New 10th Grade Edah   
Bogrim has become so big that it is difficult for all of the chalutzim to form deep connections with each other. With larger enrollments, we have seen cliques emerge in Bogrim – something we are fortunate to have rarely seen at Ramah in the Rockies. Additionally, while combining age groups works very well for most ages, the one age group where we see a tremendous distinction in just one year is Bogrim, where some campers are entering high school and others already have completed a year of high school.  Campers with a year of high school under their belt often are more mature than those without, and our rising 10th graders deserve a summer experience that reflects their growth and independence.
Reframing the High School Experience
Over the past year, we have been busy reexamining the educational and experiential aims of Ramah in the Rockies, especially when it comes to our high school programs. While JOLI has been (and will remain) the pinnacle of the Ramah in the Rockies experience, we realized that much of the outdoor skill development currently taught in JOLI should be emphasized earlier. We know our rising 10th graders are ready to take on greater challenges, therefore our newest edah will focus on developing outdoors skills, which campers will have the opportunity to practice and perfect on their masa’ot. 
In 2018, our JOLI program will continue to function like it did during second session of 2017.  This means there will be equal emphasis on backcountry skills and counselor-in-training skills. In 2018, we will continue to accept new applicants to JOLI who have not come through the Ramah in the Rockies community.  However, beginning in 2019 we expect JOLI to focus far more on leadership skills at our base camp.  JOLI’ers will continue to do an intensive 5-day masa for the first masa, but will then spend the second part of camp as “ozrim” (helpers) in a specific program area. They will have the opportunity to co-lead on a masa for one of our younger edot.  Starting in 2019, admission to JOLI will be contingent on successful completion of our new 10thgrade edah.

 

 

 
THE WHAT

Additional Skills Training
Starting in 2018, our rising 10th graders will choose a “major” for each session. In the first year, the four majors will be: farming, biking, survival, and climbing. 10th graders will spend half the day in their major, and half the day working on backcountry skills development and Jewish environmental learning.  Chalutzim will also go out on their first masa with their major, led by the same people who have been teaching them at the base camp. This model will allow campers to form close relationships with madrichim(counselors), and find Jewish outdoor role models to learn from and look up to. For the second masa, all chalutzim will go out on an intensive hiking experience in the backcountry, where they will practice the skills they have developed at base camp. Chalutzim will also have a chance to experience their first six-hour solo!
Additional Privileges at the Chava (Ranch)
We will be constructing a new meeting tent with lights and walls behind the upper bathhouse.  This will be a place where our 10th grade edah will be allowed to hang out until 9:30 each evening (an hour later than other campers).  Additionally, we expect to add a 10th grade oneg on Friday nights, where chalutzim will be able to celebrate Shabbat with some sweet treats after the rest of the campers have gone to bed.

 

THE HOW

Register now
When registration opens, please register for our new edah for rising 10th graders! In the spring, we will send out more specific explanations of the different majors. Once at camp, we will ask each rising 10th grader to rank their choices in order of preference.
Naming Contest!
Stay tuned for our upcoming Naming Contest – all that our new edah is missing is its name, and you can help us chose! This fall, we will be posting a poll and sending out a survey so that every member of our community can make their voice heard and vote for their favorite name. Don’t miss out on your chance to influence the future of Ramah in the Rockies for years to come!
Share your Feedback 
We are happy to answer any questions you may have! We’d also love to hear your feedback. In summers to come, we have the opportunity to improve upon the foundation we have established here at Ramah in the Rockies. In order to continue to provide our chalutzim with impactful experiences year after year, we ask that you please take a moment to fill out a brief survey about your child’s experience at camp. Click here to take our 2017 Summer Feedback Survey!

We are so excited about our newest edah – we hope you are too!

Eliav Bock, Executive Director
Julia Snyder, Program Director

This year, we are so excited to welcome to Ramah in the Rockies a delegation of fourteen chalutzim (campers) and three madrichim (counselors) from Mexico City! Here, the head Rabbi of the Beit El Conservative Congregation in Mexico City, Rabbi Leonel Levy, shares a bit about the Mexican experience at Ramah in the Rockies.

How did you learn about Ramah in the Rockies?
I met Rabbi Eliav; we have a friend in common that connected us. Rabbi Eliav came to Mexico in order to advertise the camp. We really enjoyed his enthusiasm and his great personality and his leadership, and decided to come [to camp]! At the beginning, we the group was only a few chalutzim and we sent them alone. This year we are fourteen chalutzim, plus three madrichim, so now that we have a larger group I decided to come and share this wonderful experience with them. This is my second year at camp.

How is American-Jewish culture different from Mexican-Jewish culture?
For us it’s very important to be an egalitarian community and a Kehillah Kedoshah (holy community). Mexico City is not so egalitarian. In Mexico, most of the Jews of the city belong to an Orthodox community, but they are not Orthodox; they belong because it is the tradition of their families. We don’t have a Reform [synagogues] in Mexico City, we only have two Conservative synagogues, and Beit El is the larger Conservative synagogue in the city: it has 1,000 families. So I think it’s really good to have this [egalitarian] experience. Also, we don’t have these kinds of camps in Mexico City, and I think it’s very important, in a time when we are discussing walls… to build bridges instead of walls.

What do your chalutzim get from this experience?
One of the things that our chalutzim get from this experience is an understanding that we are all the Jewish people and we all share links and connections. We have the same traditions here in the states and in Mexico and in Israel. Seeing the diversity of the Jewish people is very important to their experience. Also the connection with nature. Mexico City is a very urban place, and being here with nature and connecting with G-d and the tradition and the custom of the Jewish people in this environment is something that enriches their lives a lot.

What keeps you coming back?
It’s a wonderful experience. The t’fillot here are something very special. We don’t have the same kind t’fillot in Mexico, and I hope that our chalutzim will take advantage of this opportunity and will bring to Mexico some of this spirit. And I am looking forward to encouraging this spirit in our congregation in Beit El.

Last thoughts?
Thank you! Thank you to Ramah, to Reshet Ramah, to Mitch Cohen, to Rabbi Eliav. It’s such a privilege to be here in the Rockies at Camp Ramah and to meet the staff… it’s something so unique. I hope to have more chalutzim from our community come next year to strengthen the links with American-Jewry and with Camp Ramah.

Compiled by Rachel Blau

This past session was incredible! The energy was high throughout as chalutzim (campers) learned new skills, made new connections, and challenged themselves in new ways. This week, as our campers arrive from all over the country, as well as from Israel, Mexico, and Canada for session 2A, our rashei edot, (division heads) reflect on the past four weeks and share their hopes for the rest of the summer.

Lexi, Rosh Ilanot:

Looking Back:
“The great thing about Ilanot is that you can be whimsical and imaginative, and it makes this place so exciting. You can use the woods and pretend there are fairies. It’s just so fun. I read a story from the Torah about the wrongs of stealing, and I told them that at the end of the story if they were good listeners they would get cookies. And at the end, I opened the box and the cookies were gone because the ‘jabberwockeys’ took them. Staff from all over were dressed up as jabberwockys and [the kids] had to answer the riddles in order to get the cookies back.”

Looking Forward:
“We’re doing more food peulot erevs, which I think is great because this age group loves to experiment with food, and so we’re gonna play that up and really explore that more. We’re also doing a camper- counselor switch day, which I think will be really exciting. I’m also really excited to bring more outside backpacking skills to masa, (Backcountry excursions).”

Liza, Rosh Metayalim:

Looking Back:
“This past session, t’fillah was incredible. We learned early on that our kids love song, and they love to sing, and they had great things to say about what they’re thankful for during birkot hashachar, and they take it really seriously; it’s really beautiful. They also love hitbodedut; they go and they sit in the trees and they talk about the kind of pine cones they found… it’s awesome.”

Looking Forward:
“This coming session I’m really looking forward to making Shabbat really special for them. Since they’re young, the magic around Shabbat is still new to them, and I’m really looking forward to making our peulat Shabbat (Shabbat activity) and our ‘sikum shavua,’ (the review of the week) a really special time for them to reflect and connect with each other.”

Ronni, Rosh Solelim:

Looking Back:
“One of my favorite memories from last session was having the wonderful opportunity to go on masa with the chalutzim and do t’fillot in the morning. It was very relaxed- every day we prayed on the river bank while watching the water rush by. Singing songs in a less formal setting was really special for the chalutzim.”

Looking Forward:
“Very excited to incorporate the kids’ own talents into things much more, so whether that’s a talent show, or hearing what the kids have to say for limmud (Jewish learning). From the start of next session, we’re going to start allowing chalutzim who want to speak on a topic of their choice to do so.”

Eliana, Rosh Bogrim:

Looking Back:
“Last session, Bogrim got really into this game called slack jaw dance off where you have to make your jaw slack and not laugh while the other person dances. It was really silly and a lot of fun.”

Looking Forward:
“I’m really excited for next session to be exploring the idea of machloket bshem shamyim in limmud; how do we have an argument that’s for the sake of heaven, and how do we disagree constructively and respectively with each other.”

Eli, Rosh JOLI:

Looking Back:
“One thing that went really well the last session was really handing over adventure masa to the group and letting them run with it and plan their program. Watching them go about trying to figure out how to divide the work and really facilitating each and every person’s growth…. it was really inspiring.”

Looking Forward:
“I wrote a new t’fillah curriculum for this year, I’m excited about doing it this session. It’s a spiraling curriculum that starts with the Shema and Amidah, and every day we add a new t’fillah and we start by picking it apart. And some of them we learn a niggun (melody) for it, and some of them we start by translating it and figuring out what it means for us, and some of them we learn a piece of halacha about it; really a different way to connect for each person every day. Hopefully, by the end of the summer, we’ll have the whole service, and there’s at least one gem in each prayer for each kid to hold on to.”

By Rachel Blau

With the help of a most supremely generous gift of $20k from the OREG Foundation and an anonymous donor, we are excited to announce the completion of our newest addition to our farm: an 18-by-26-foot Farmtek hard sided polycarbonate greenhouse! Over the past week, our chalutzim (campers) have been able to witness the construction of the greenhouse, from the first steel poles that went into the ground, to the hard shell outside to the final product with planter boxes. Finally, we are SO excited to be able to elevate our farm with new planting grounds in order to continue to promote organic food options, sustainability, and consumer awareness amongst chalutzim.

One of the amazing benefits of this greenhouse is that it will lengthen our farming season. Right now, most of our growing takes place over the summer, as the cold winters present rather challenging planting circumstances. But with the introduction of our new greenhouse, we will be able to harness the energy from the sun to sustain warm crops all year around. We are especially grateful to the BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy program, the program that will take place over the 9-month off-season at the Ramah in the Rockies ranch, which is committed to “incorporating horticulture therapy into the[ir] program and maintaining the greenhouse through the winter months.”

We are also incredibly thankful for this gift, as the greenhouse will diversify our harvesting crops! Right now, our garden predominantly grows cold crops: kale, cauliflower, broccoli, herbs, etc. But by April of next year, we hope to have our greenhouse fully green and bursting with warm crops such as eggplant, tomatoes, strawberries, corn, beans, squash, cucumbers and more! These crops will serve as supplements to our organic produce that we use in the kitchen, making Ramah in the Rockies even more of a farm-to-table operation!

The expansion of our crop production will also enable us to broaden our consumption and garden education.”Because this is a three season greenhouse, we will be able to start planting earlier in the season, which will allow chalutzim see different stages of growth.” says Sammy Schwartz, part of our tzevet chava (farm staff) here at camp. By doing so, chalutzim will have the opportunity to expand their knowledge and understanding about the process of food production.

At Ramah in the Rockies, we believe that it’s so important to think and talk about where our ingredients come from, the conditions under which they were produced and harvested, and what happens to the organic waste. Our motto of “ain bizbuz,” or “no waste,” our commitment to eating organic wherever we can, and our food education program all aim to contribute to a culture that is intentional and environmentally conscious. It is our mission to raise awareness about the importance of these issues; the addition of our new greenhouse to our chava will play a major role in helping to ensure that this mission is reinforced in our community.
If you have a vision for how you can tangibly and practically improve the Ramah in the Rockies experience, CLICK HERE to donate, or contact Rabbi Eliav Bock at eliavb@ramahoutdoors.org

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By Rachel Blau

I had the chance to sit down with Michael Harlow, musician, performer, and Rosh Shira at Ramah in the Rockies. With his signature afro in braids, his feet bare, and his head spinning with new ideas, Harlow was the image of the next generation of musical creativity. How did he get here? I wondered the same thing.

“My parents started me on piano lessons in first grade,” he told me. Since then, he has learned to play the drums and the guitar as well. Furthermore, he has expanded his knowledge of music theory with the help of his parents and his older brother, all musically inclined by nature. “I grew up around music. My mom sang in the Zamir Chorale of Boston, a famous Jewish choir. My dad is also a singer and my brother is a jazz pianist who graduated from Oberlin Conservatory.”

Every day since those first piano lessons, Harlow has been practicing, learning “more and more songs, in order to learn more and more chords and more riffs and more notes to become more familiar with how notes interact with each other throughout the neck of the guitar.” His passion has taken him far. Right now, in the world beyond camp, his focus is on his musical duo with Brandeis University classmate Brian Rauch, called ‘Late Night Thoughts.’ The duo creates acoustic covers of pop songs, and right now they’re working on recording and releasing an EP comprised entirely of original music. A shameless self promoter (as any up-and-coming artist should be), Harlow encourages readers to “find us on Facebook and give us a like” (links below).

His passion for making music and spreading joy through music made him a natural fit for Rosh Shira at Ramah in the Rockies. This is his fifth summer at Ramah in the Rockies, his second summer as Rosh Shira. In the past, he told me, Harlow was essentially a one man band; the guy behind the ruach (spirit) of camp. This year, he’s interested in getting himself out of the equation. “I’m a born performer, and I know that about myself. But shira is not a performance; it’s a facilitation of musical exploration for all of our chalutzim (campers).” Ultimately, his goal is to “make it so that anyone with guitar skills and the ability to facilitate and organize humans could be Rosh Shira quite easily”

So, what drives Michael Harlow to keep going? How does he wake up early every morning with enough energy to share with our whole kehilah (community)? Why does he constantly strive to improve our musical experience at Ramah in the Rockies, working tirelessly every week to master new songs, melodies, and chords?

“Nothing brings me more joy in life than music. And if I can share that with others, if I can make just 10% of chalutzim realize that they love shira, or just two chalutzim realize that they absolutely love music, or change their thoughts on t’fillah, then I’ve accomplished my goal. I think there is nothing more powerful than humans singing together. And so if I can be a part of that, I’m happy.”

Click HERE for music from Harlow’s musical duo, Late Night Thoughts

Click HERE for camp songs written and recorded by Michael Harlow  

 

By Rachel Blau

You could feel the anticipation in the air as nearly 20 staff members departed the ranch at 6am and headed to Denver International Airport. Weeks of preparation had led us to this point. Everyone from our incredible kitchen staff to our camper care team to our counselors was prepared and excited. We were ready. It was go time.

Upon our arrival at the airport, the staff sprang into action unloading snacks, getting gate passes, going through security, and finding the gates. Flights began to touch down at 8am, and we were ready to receive each chalutz or chalutzah (camper) right off the plane as they came in. This was no small feat; flights were delayed, gates were changed, and baggage was misplaced. Moreover, this session alone, Ramah in the Rockies welcomed arriving chalutzim from nearly 40 separate flights. But our expert staff, armed with spreadsheets and group chats galore, handled it with ease. Every camper in a dark green “Ramah in the Rockies” tee was quickly spotted and welcomed.

Three buses, two 12-passenger vans, two trucks, and one Subaru pulled out of the airport that afternoon. Meanwhile, the bus from the Hebrew Educational Alliance (HEA) in Denver was well on its way, and local families packed up their cars and set off towards camp to drop off their campers in person. Bus rides from all over were full of laughs and songs, and soon chalutzim and tzevet (staff) alike were headed up the dirt road towards the ranch, approaching 8,000 foot elevation.

Each arriving vehicle was greeted with cheers, songs, and smiling madrichim (counselors), who swept up their chalutzim in a gust of energy and whisked them off to games, sports, and health checks. As the airport buses pulled up to the Ranch, those who had arrived from HEA or from home earlier in the day formed a tunnel with their arms for incoming campers to walk through, singing and cheering as each new camper joined our kehillah kedoshah (holy community). Squeals of excitement were heard as chalutzim reunited with friends they hadn’t seen all year.

Following a dinner filled with ruach (spirit) and pizza, chalutzim made their way to their ohelim (bunks) where they had a chance to unpack and relax after a long day of travel. Counselors led their bunks in writing the ohel brit, the bunk contract, to ensure that our summer is built upon a foundation of kindness and respect. Finally, every ohel sang the Shema before going to bed early, knowing that tomorrow would be the first day of the best summer of their lives.

And just like that, Kayitz 2017 at Ramah in the Rockies began.

 

By Rachel Blau

If it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes leaders and elders to help set the tone for the community.  Ramah in the Rockies is a magical village that opens its doors for nine weeks each summer and transforms the lives of the hundreds of youth who walk through our gates.  And, if our chalutzim (campers/pioneers) are our village members, then our village leaders are the madrichim (counselors) and the village elders are Hanhallah (senior staff).  The Hanhallah of our camp form an extraordinary group of passionate Jewish educators.  They are the ones who work tirelessly throughout the summer ensuring that your children have impactful, fun, and safe experiences at Ramah in the Rockies.
 
With only weeks until we welcome our first chalutzim, it is with great pride that we introduce the members of our 2017 Hanhallah.

Our Year Round Team (Click on Photo to read Bio)

Rabbi Eliav Bock, Executive Director                                                Douglas Wolf, Business Manager

 

Julia Snyder, Program Director                                                             Lisa Holstein, Office Manager

 

Sandra Yaron, Registrar                                                                      Rafi Daugherty, Director of Camper Care  

Abigail Gavens, Tikvah Director

 

 

 

 

  

Summer Senior Staff

Achinoam Aldouby, Summer Assistant Director

I grew up in Israel, now living in Jerusalem.  I work with LOTEM- a non-profit organization that makes nature accessible to people with special needs.  I also research at the Hebrew University theater performances incorporating Jewish texts and lead Torah study sessions at Elul- a pluralistic Beit Midrash…and best of all, I love making ice cream.  I’m excited to come back to camp and to see how the camp has grown from the first time I came in summer 2010. I’m looking forward to see our chaluzim and tzvet choose to challenge themselves physically, spiritually and socially.

 

Jacob “J-Chat” Chatinover, Director of Logistics ‘Car Czar’

I am from West Hartford, CT, and now live in Denver.  When not at camp, I read comic books.  Also, I am a math teacher (to pay for the comic books).  I am most looking forward to slowly gaining the trust and respect of the tzevet, and as the one in charge of all camp walkie-talkies, being feared and loved in equal measure.

 

 

Deena Cowans, Rosh Chinuch (Director of Education)

I grew up in the Chicago area, but now I live in New York City, where I am a Rabbinical student at JTS.   I am looking forward to singing on Saturday night and for sunrise yoga!

 

 

 Rashei Edah (Unit Heads)

Lexi Marcus, Rosh Ilanot (3rd and 4th grade)

I am a born and raised Denver Coloradan. I am currently studying human development, soon to become an elementary educator. I dance, laugh often, and pet puppies whenever I can. I am very excited to watch and grow alongside everyone at camp, and guiding the campers towards internal, external, and Jewish self discovery.

 

 

Liza Elkin, Rosh Metaylim (5th and 6th grade)

I am originally from Newton, Massachusetts but will be moving from New York City to Denver this fall to begin my Master of Social Work! This is my first summer at Ramah Rockies and I am really looking forward to helping create a summer rich in exploration, learning, and lots of fun for our campers. And I’m excited to experience the beauty of the Rocky Mountains! 

 

Ronni Gurwicz, Rosh Solelim (7th and 8th Grade)
I am originally from the dark wasteland that is the North of England, and now am a Storytelling Coach and Program Developer working for a Dutch based organization. I can’t wait to be part of the wonderful Ramah community spirit again, after having worked for Ramah Seminar last summer in Israel.

 

 

 

Eliana Willis, Rosh Bogrim

I’m originally from Los Angeles. Since graduating from UC Santa Cruz in 2015 I have spent my time traveling, working in environmental education, and currently, studying at Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. I’m most looking forward to Friday evenings at camp, when the whole community comes together for Shabbat with song, dance, blessings, and great challah!

 

 

Eli Witkin, Rosh JOLI

Born and raised in Minneapolis, MN I spent the last year in the Holy city and will be returning to Boston in the fall.  Outside of camp I like to smile at strangers and learn Torah – I like to think of myself as a professional community builder. I am looking forward to lightning storms, getting into that deep place in my mind that only a long trail provides access to, and trying out a new t’filla curriculum 

 

 

 

Today marks our 75 day countdown until we welcome our first Chalutzim(pioneers/campers) to the Ramah in the Rockies Ranch. In this time of Pesach, when we think about 4 cups of wine, 3 matzot and the numbers in “Who Knows One,” I want to reflect on some of the key numbers we are thinking about as we prepare for the summer.

27,000 Amount of clean drinking water (in gallons) available at any moment in 4 holding tanks

438      Campers currently registered for the 2017 summer season

146      Campers who are coming to Ramah in the Rockies in 2017 for the first time

200      Maximum number of campers at camp at any one time

103      Staff members who are working at camp this year

95        Liters of grape juice we will use on this summer for Kiddush on Friday nights

40        Additional campers we hope to enroll before opening day

21        Israeli staff members coming as part of our mishlachat (up from 9 in 2014)

15        Hens who will be laying eggs at camp this summer

10        New folding cafeteria tables we have ordered for the summer

         12 passenger vans we will have on site at any one time this summer

         Dogs we will have living with us on the ranch (the smallest number in a while)

2          Goats coming to camp this summer (on loan from a local goat farmer)

         Registered campers coming from: Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia,

           Wyoming, Kansas, Hong Kong and The Netherlands.

חג שמח!!!

Rabbi Eliav

Dear Camp Families,

Campers arriving at airportHappy New Year! In an effort to constantly improve, we have made some changes to our airport routine for this coming summer and want to explain both the “what” and the “why” behind these changes to you.  

The “WHAT?”

Starting with Summer 2017, we are no longer creating a recommended flight list for our major cities.  Instead, we expanded our arrival and departure flight windows.  The new arrival window is 9:00am – 11:30am and families are welcome to choose any flight that lands before 11:30am in Denver.  We will meet all arriving campers at their gates (except JOLI campers).  Campers waiting in airportOur staff will escort campers to collect their bags and then congregate at Baggage Claim #10 until it is time to load the shuttles for the drive to camp.  JOLI campers are expected to link up at Baggage Claim #10 with their bags.
The new flight window
departing Denver is 10:15am – 3:00pm.  Again, families are welcome to select any airline that departs from Denver International Airport in this travel window.  Instead of bringing all our departing campers to the airport at the same time, they leave camp in waves, based on their flight time. Flights to just about every city in the Continental US are available non-stop within this window. We recommend that families select the earliest available flight within the window.  

Friends meeting at airport

The “WHY?”

Quite simply, we made the window wider to accommodate earlier non-stop flights to the coasts. We noticed that the 4-5pm flights to Boston, Washington DC, and New York were the ones most commonly delayed, causing additional problems and leading to incredibly long days for our campers. To combat these issues, we adjusted our travel window to accommodate earlier non-stop flights to our larger US coastal cities.  Campers leaving on those flights will have to leave the ranch significantly earlier in the morning, but we hope that by enabling our East Coast families to select earlier flight times it will mean fewer delays and allow
campers to arrive home at a more reasonable time.  Again, please select the most appropriate flight for each city
within the travel window.  

As done in the past, we will create region/session based email lists (ex: New York area 1st session, Bay Area 2nd Session, etc.) so that families in the same region and session are able to  self-coordinate about details as well as Unaccompanied Minor status.

Our Unaccompanied Minor contact person is Kenny Shuster.  Please list his name and our main camp phone number (303) 261-8214 on any airline forms.  

If you have any questions, please email transportation@ramahoutdoors.org.

Thank you,

Rabbi Eliav Bock, Camp Director

Lisa Holstein, Office Manager

Melannie Levine, Airport Coordinator

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This week we will celebrate the miracles of Chanukah!  This summer, we celebrate the wonder of our 8th summer! 
Each summer, we celebrate the miracles of camper achievements:
  • Living out our Core Values of Kavod (Respect), Simcha (Joy), Tzmicha Ishit (Personal Growth), and Kehillah
    (Connection). 
  • The pride and joy of biking to the summit of Mt. Evans (elevation: 14,265), a Colorado 14-er! 
  • Chalutzim learning to milk goats, feed chickens, saddle horses, and and care for our fellow ranch inhabitants
  • The feeling of accomplishment when reaching the top of a climbing route for the first time!
  • Learning skills on backcountry excursions to become independent.
  • Meeting Jews from around the world and creating intense, meaningful, and lifelong friendships and connections.

We wish you and your entire family and community a wonderful Chanukah full of sufganiyot, miracles, and enjoying the glow of the candles!

Chag Sameach! 

 

At Ramah in the Rockies we believe that all Jewish children should be able to experience the transformative experience of Jewish summer camp. We know that each child has his/her own special needs, and whenever possible work closely with parents and guardians to develop a customized plan to enable their child to succeed in our community. At the same time, we know that there are some children we are not able to serve for a variety of reasons, and whenever possible will work with parents to find a Jewish summer camp that is suitable for their child.

The Ramah Camping Movement has been a pioneer in serving campers with developmental disabilities. Our first Tikvah Program started in 1970. Since 2011, Ramah in the Rockies has run a Tikvah program for children with developmental disabilities. What began as a standalone program, where campers with disabilities lived in their own tents, has evolved into a combined integrated and stand-alone program. We have served over twenty campers in this program for the past few summers.

Starting in 2017, Ramah in the Rockies will only run an integrated program for children with special needs. We will focus our efforts on providing a high level of integration and support for young people with autism spectrum disorders. Potential campers must:

1. Possess ADLs (activities of daily living/self-care skills)
2. Participate in daily activities at the base camp and on extended masa’ot (excursions) with their neuro-typical peers.

Campers who exhibit self-injurious or violent behavior will not be accepted for this program.

Ramah in the Rockies is committed to providing a number of special services and supports before, during and following the summer. We believe these will help participants integrate more successfully into the broader community.

Prior to the summer:
Parents of our campers in the Tikvah program will meet, virtually or in person, with our head inclusion specialist (i.e Rosh Tikvah) to design an appropriate program for their child. Our goal is to work with parents, teachers and therapists to learn what supports and strategies their child needs to succeed at camp.

During the summer:
-All bunk staff at Ramah in the Rockies with Tikvah campers will receive additional training to help integrate campers.
-Inclusion specialists will help Tikvah campers integrate into their bunks and activities, and better manage transitions and free time.
-There will be a space at camp for campers in our inclusion program to go when they are in need of sensory breaks/respite from the broader camp community.
-Staff will work with each camper to develop skills to better integrate into communities at camp and at home.

After the summer:
-Tikvah Director or one of the inclusion specialists will provide a written report on the child’s progress at camp.

Ramah in the Rockies is committed to offering the highest level of care for our Tikvah campers, and will limit the number of campers in any given session.

For more information or to be considered for the Tikvah program, please contact the Camp Director, Rabbi Eliav Bock eliavb@ramahoutdoors.org or our Rosh Tikvah at Tikvah@ramahoutdoors.org

During the past six weeks, our year-round team has reached out to hundreds of camp families by email, phone, and survey.  Many of you responded to our requests for honest feedback, including a record number to our online survey.  We know that we can only continue to provide an amazing summer experience to our campers and staff by constantly working to make each summer better than the one before it.  The way to do this is by always being open to adapting our camp program to meet the needs of our community.  Our mission might remain the same, but aspects of our program have to change and improve from year to year.

We cannot thank you enough for your time and thoughtful responses to our questions.  Now that we have had the opportunity to review and evaluate all the feedback, here is what we have learned and our action plan for the future.

TWO THUMBS UP

Values Based Community

The comment heard most often from campers, staff, and parents is that ours is a warm, intentional community, where people are kind, welcoming, and accepting.  So many remarked on how newcomers and returning campers are able to bring their full personalities to our camp. We frequently also heard about the benefits of having a geographically diverse camper population. While our younger campers  particularly enjoyed earning and bringing home the stickers with our four core values home, these concepts stood out to all that Ramah in the Rockies is a place where we strive to treat everyone and everything with respect.  This is something that so many parents (and campers) appreciated.

Outdoor Programs

Ramah in the Rockies continues to be THE Jewish camp for rustic outdoor living.  So many families observed how their children were able to express the sensation of awe and grandeur that comes from living in the Colorado Rockies. While there are always some questions before camp starts concerning our  not allowing any screens or earphones around camp, once engaged in the program, parents and campers realize that this is one of the more powerful aspects of our camp.  And, of course, our outdoor program is best on display as exhibited by the various masa’ot (excursions) in which our campers participate throughout the summer. Masa’ot allow campers to bond with each other and challenge themselves in ways that they could not ordinarily do if they always remained in the relative comforts of base-camp.

Song and Dance

So much of the formal teaching in our children’s lives is directed towards obtaining further knowledge.  At camp, we have the opportunity to also affect a child’s spirit and soul.  This year, we made an extra effort to improve our song, dance, and visual arts programs.  Many families noted how much their children loved these additions, including our daily dances at Mifgash. By the end of the summer, we also had switched to playing modern Israeli hip-hop as part of our Havdallah dance party for the older campers.  We know that the culture of dancing that took off this summer will take a few more years to fully institutionalize, but we are eager to continue to invest resources in this area, including hiring a Rosh Rikud for the summer of 2017, a position we have never formally had.  Additionally, parents told us that their children had been onto SoundCloud and Youtube to continue listening and dancing to some of their favorite camp songs.

MIXED REVIEWS (WHERE WE NEED MORE EMPHASIS)

Camper Care

During the summer you are entrusting us with your single most beloved treasure – your children – confident that we are providing your child with a safe, enjoyable experience.  This is an incredible responsibility which we daily appreciate and continually strive to earn. While we pride ourselves on having the most mature staff in the Jewish camping industry, we know that we cannot rest on our laurels.  To ensure and improve camper care for our families, including communicating well, we plan to make a number of changes going forward that will address specific areas where we know we could have done better.  Two main areas of change include:

  • Medical Facility and Medication Distribution:

    • While complying with codes and regulations, our health center is pushed to its limits. We are now designing a new facility and raising funds to build a Wellness Center that should be open for the 2018 season. (Let me know if you would like to contribute to this important project.) In the interim, we plan to expand our medical space into the adjacent staff building known as “Don’s House”, giving us more room for sick campers to heal and another working bathroom.

    • We are re-examining our medication dispensing procedures, including assigning dedicated medical staff to pulling, logging, and distributing the medication rather than making this one of the many daily tasks for the camp nurse.  We will continue to work with CampMeds or another pharmacy that individually packs pills for appropriate dispensing.

  • Parent/Camper Communication

    • Our goal this summer was to communicate personally with every parent of a new camper in the younger edot (age group) within the first few days of camp.  While we did call most parents, we know that we missed some and for this we are truly sorry.  We are also working on systems to ensure that parents hear information about their children in a more timely fashion and have a chance to collaborate more closely with us when their child is struggling.  To follow up after the session ends, we are working on ensuring better feedback letters from our counselors describing aspects of the camp program and including a list of questions to help parents engender more of a conversation with their camper concerning their experiences.

    • We will work to improve our mail system.  While we will remain a few miles from the closest mailbox (where our USPS & UPS carriers drop all mail and packages), we know that campers deserve to get their packages and letters in a more timely fashion once they arrive at the ranch. For next summer we plan to hire a staff member who will oversee all parts of the mail operation, including sorting and delivering mail and printing emails.  We also expect that this person will check outgoing mail to ensure it is properly addressed and stamped so that it reaches its destination sooner.

Teaching More Outdoor & Naturalist Skills

We have a beautiful remote ranch and all our campers spend some time sleeping in tents and under the stars. With that said, we need to work more intentionally at teaching outdoor and wilderness skills, especially to our younger campers.  We heard from many parents who were surprised that their child did not learn how to put up a tent or use knives.  While we cannot teach everything one needs to know to survive in the wilderness in two – or even four – weeks, we are spending time this year working on a five-summer curriculum whereby each age group will have specific outdoor skills in which they will gain proficiency.  We are basing our curriculum on the merit badge system used in the Boy Scouts of America, and will include items like setting up shelter, using knives, creating fires safely, navigation techniques, and knot tying.  While elements of each will also be taught in the different chugim (activities), we also plan to add a regular chug called camping skills where campers can practice these skills at base camp in a more relaxed atmosphere than they could when they are out on masa, where too often time is of the essence.  We also hope to build upon some of the more naturalist activities often taught in the farm program and teach them in other areas of camp as well.  This includes a greater appreciation for plant diversity and learning more about the natural history of the land around us.

 Interpersonal Connections

Jewish summer camp works as an educational medium in large part because campers develop close, personal connections with their counselors and friends. While improving this area was a goal going into the summer, and we did better in 2016 than ever before, we have yet to fully realize our vision.

Moving forward, we will continue to improve our staff training to ensure that social connections are being made within the ohelim (tents) and require counselors to complete regular socio-grams (an activity to aid them in identifying and encouraging healthy group dynamics).  We will also encourage more activities that foster positive early connections and adapt our scheduling to include more bunk-specific bonding activities.  Our goal is for each ohel, when they are in base camp, to have a minimum of two scheduled peulot ohel each week where the counselors will have a chance to oversee some sort of intentional bonding program or discussion to help draw campers together.

We also intend to include more scheduled times for counselors to be with their campers in less formal environments, outside of the dining hall.  We know that counselors can have incredible impact and influence on their campers, and want to help foster these positive relationships.

Finally, while our two-week programming will continue to be available to our edot through their Bogrim summer, our older two-week campers will no longer be able to select their activities at the base-camp.  Instead, they will travel by “mishpachot” (coed families) to each activity and be able to experience most of the fourteen base camp opportunities we offer each two-week session.  We have made this change to give our short-term campers more chances to bond within a smaller group and also to give our four week campers the ability to experience a few activities in greater depth along with a similar group of friends for their entire time at base-camp.

With the exception of our first-time Ilanot and Metaylim campers, we will continue to encourage families to consider the four-week options over two-week sessions.  No matter how incredible we make our two-week program, it simply cannot live up to the magic experienced over four weeks.

We feel incredibly privileged that so many families have entrusted us to care for their children each summer.  We know the awesome responsibility that this entails and are aware that a child’s experience at camp can influence decisions throughout life.  We constantly seek to improve our camp and to fully realize the values that guide us throughout our summer.  We also know that there will be times when we fall short of expectations, and cannot thank our parents, chalutzim, and tzevet enough for continuing to push us make our camp better and stronger!

Thank you and Shanah Tovah!

Rabbi Eliav and the Ramah in the Rockies team!

P.S If you have not yet seen our new recruitment video, check it out below.

We sent this email out yesterday to all of our camp families. 

 

Dear Camp Families and Friends,

We hope the school year has started off well for you. With the opening of our Summer, 2017 registration, we have some updates to share also.

SurveysValues

We are enjoying reading the survey responses so far received and will be publishing results once we finish compiling them all.  If you have not yet completed our survey and would like to give us the gift of feedback on your summer experience with us, please click here.  Your responses to our surveys help us shape our program updates and changes for next summer.


Midah Tile Project

Throughout the summer, we told our campers about the new Midah Murals we will be creating around camp, using their artwork to fashion mosaics around their summer experiences. If you have not yet created a tile as a part of our Tile Project, it’s not too late to submit one! If you chose to create digital artwork, you can send that to us via email at arip@ramahoutdoors.org.  Please read the full instructions on how to participate at ramahout.s466.sureserver.com/tileproject.

Registration and Program Updatesisrael

Registration for Kayitz 2017 has been open for a month now and we already have a number of registered campers. If you want to receive your super comfy Ramah fleece, please register before October 31st!  While we still have room in all sessions and all bunks, we do expect to begin filling some by the end of September. To register now, please click here.

While we are using this time immediately after camp to still fully evaluate our 2016 program, we want to let you know about a few upcoming changes that might affect your registration choices. We hope these modifications for 2017 will improve the Ramah in the Rockies’ experience for all of our chalutzim (campers).


IMG_79322-Week vs 4-Week Programs

Traditionally when our campers have arrived for their sessions, whether attending for two or four weeks, all of our older campers would spend over an hour “leveling” into (choosing) their electives at camp. While this is useful for our four-week campers, we realized that our two-week campers were passing over an hour choosing activities in which they would participate for a total of three hours in the following days at base camp.  Additionally, our four week campers were not able to experience the full programmatic arc of our speciality programs because there were often two week campers transitioning either in or out of their activities.

To improve this system, we are making the following change for our 2017 programs:  our two week campers (all ages) will travel to our different activities in camp as members of “mishpachot” (families).  This will give our new and returning campers the opportunity to experience all that base camp has to offer in their two weeks with us. We think this will enable our two-week campers opportunities to do more activities while also creating a more communal feeling among our four-week campers.

dancingTwo and four week campers in our older age groups will continue to live in different, but adjacent, tents.  Our rising 3/4th grade campers will continue to live in mixed tents, while most of our rising 5/6th grade campers will live in separate tents, unless our registration numbers warrant otherwise (likely in our August session).

Please note that our six-week campers will spend their four-week session as four-week campers and their two-week session with the different activities.

If you have any questions about this, please feel free to reach out to Rabbi Eliav Bock or Julia Snyder, and we will be glad to answer your questions about these improvements to our program.

JOLI

The goal of our JOLI (Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute) program is to create future Jewish outdoor leaders. As such, the program is designed to push participants physically, spiritually, and mentally to take on new challenges and find new areas of growth.  While our JOLI program is incredibly rewarding for those who complete it, it is not suitable for all rising 11th/12th graders.

For a number of years, we have required JOLI applicants new to our community to have an interview and complete essay questions.  Because of this
process, these individuals have often been the best prepared because they fully understand the challenges that they are going to undertake while participating in JOLI.  For our 2017 season, we will expand this intake procedure to include our
Bogrim graduates wanting to join the JOLI program.  

For those who have applied or will be applying to JOLI 2017, we will be sending information about interviews and essay questions, and will begin the interviewing process in early October.  In the meantime, anyone who registers for JOLI 2017 will have a spot saved for them, but no one will be confirmed until after we decide, together, whether JOLI is a good fit for each applicant.  (Don’t worry, anyone who registers prior to October 31, whether or not s/he has gone through the interview process will still receive a free Ramah in the Rockies fleece).

To read more about the program, please visit https://www.ramahoutdoors.org/about/joli/

TikvahTikvah

We are currently re-evaluating our Tikvah program to figure out the best model for our camp and our participants.
We invite all of our current and potential Tikvah families to discuss their child and what type of program is the right fit for them with our former Tikvah Director, Elyssa Hammerman (
elyssah@ramahoutdoors.org).  Rabbi Eliav will be convening a group of stakeholders  in the coming weeks to discuss the future trajectory of this program.  If you would like to be part of this group, please be in touch with him directly.

Financial Aid

In an effort to move the process of need-based financial aid along more efficiently, we are starting the application process three months earlier this year. Requests for financial aid are reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis.  Families are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.  If you have any questions, please visit ramahout.s466.sureserver.com/scholarships or email Douglas Wolf at douglasw@ramahoutdoors.org.

Reflecting on Summer 2016: 

Highlights and a Survey

On most mornings over the past eight weeks, I have risen well before our chalutzim (campers) and left my log cabin to walk to the office. In this three minute walk, the words of “Modeh Ani” usually come rolling off my tongue, almost naturally, as I stop and take in the amazing physical beauty I am blessed to be part of each summer.

This ranch is awe inspiring in so many ways! During my brief walk, I pass the camper tents, still silent from the outside at this early hour, but soon to be brimming with the sounds of children preparing to begin a new day of activities. I pass the horse pasture on my right, still wet with dew, a creek running through it, 24 majestic animals huddled in the morning brisk air finishing their nightly hay. After passing the towering Buffalo Peak against a brilliant blue background on my left I turn to see Prospector Mountain and its soaring cliffs, a peak so many set as a goal to climb each summer. Often the moon is still up, even though the light is bright and clear. Early mornings are truly a magnificent time at Ramah in the Rockies.

Today, I again woke early, but my hour of quiet was not to be as our chalutzim rose shortly thereafter to begin their long trip home. As I sit here looking out over our horse pasture some eight hours later, all of our chalutzim have left, returning to one of thirty-two States and seven countries. Our ranch is again poignantly silent. Another season has come and gone at Ramah in the Rockies, another summer has drawn to a close. Our long 42 week “masa” (excursion) in the “real world” has begun.

It is impossible to summarize all that happens in a single season in one email. Indeed, it is impossible for any one person to experience all that camp has to offer, for there are so many micro-communities within our one broad kehillah kedosha (holy community). Each masa group, ohel (tent) and chug(activity) has its own stories, jokes, and memories. Rather than try to capture all that transpired these past eight weeks, Iwill instead focus on three activities that most of us have experienced this summer.


Mifgash, Singing, and Dancing

Each day this summer at 5:45pm our community gathered on our basketball court for a new camp tradition called Mifgash (meeting).

mifgash danceDuring these fifteen minutes we announced y’mai huledet(birthdays), heard a rega shel yisrael (fun fact about Israel) and made camp-wide hoda’ot (announcements). Most importantly, we danced! While only fifteen minutes long, this new ritual became a cornerstone of our summer community. It was the one time that everyone could gather in a single place; a time when the youngest camper to the most senior staff member could interact with one another on a regular basis to release some energy and dance together to some modern Israeli music. The coordinated and the uncoordinated became one as long as we were smiling and having fun. israelTwo songs that became a staple of this tradition were Hashem Melech and Bein HaBodedim. Click on either and ask your chalutz to show you his/her moves.

But Mifgash was only one part of our reinvestment in the Arts this summer.
Throughout the summer, our talented Rosh Shira, Michael Harlow, along with so many other amazing musicians at camp, taught and led us us in some of the best shira sessions we have ever had on this ranch. From new tunes inspired by the training of the URJ movement, such as Dan Nichols’ Esa Enai,to original tunes written by our own tzevet members (Michael Harlow’s Modeh Ani), music infused our program throughout the day and became an integral part of our kehillah this summer as everyone from Ilanot through JOLI and staff embraced new melodies with excitement. Last night’s final shira and dance session was one I will remember throughout the off-season and one that will hopefully become the new standard at Ramah in the Rockies.

Values Stickers

Values

While the people in our camp can change from year to year, the values that anchor our community remain the same. As part of our strategic planning process, our board of directors reworked our “Core Values” to become four basic principles: Honor, Joy, Personal Growth, and Connection.

Building upon these core values, we created midah(value) stickers that chalutzim worked to earn during their time at camp. Each Friday night, we asked those chalutzim who had earned all four stickers to rise and be acknowledged publicly for exhibiting these traits. Their names were added later in the week to our permanent “Midah Board” in the Pardes T’filah. Throughout the summer, most water bottles were adorned with these stickers.

While the stickers were a gimmick to enable us to acknowledge the accomplishments of our chalutzim, on a deeper level they truly reflect what it means to be a member of the Ramah in the Rockies community. Each summer so many come to camp and leave transformed in countless ways as they push themselves to their physical emotional and spiritual limits. Yet this community is so much more than our roster of activities. Yes, we bike, climb, and do arts and crafts, but at the center of our Kehillah Kedosha are these enduring values. Ones that we hope our chalutzim and tzevet will hold dear not only while at camp, but, perhaps most importantly, beyond our gates and throughout their lives.

Because of our commitment to these values and their role in our community, we are asking all of our chalutzimtzevet members, and visitors to participate in a new initiative called “The Midah Project.” More information can be found here, but in short, we would like to ask every person who set foot on our ranch this summer to draw a picture representing one of our core values. These pictures will then be turned into tiles which will be mounted as part of murals that will adorn our ranch for many years to come.

 

Masa

Of course, no discussion of a season at Ramah in the Rockies would be complete without bikingmention of our masa (excursion) program. This summer we sent out a record 75 masa’ot. Some trips traveled farther than ever from base camp into regions of Colorado such as State Forest State

Park and the Spanish Peaks Wilderness area. Our 2016 chalutzim hiked, climbed, and biked farther than any groups in previous summers. Whether it was our Ilanot who hiked to the Buffalo Ranch and then up Prospector Mountain, climbing jumpor our Metaylim who spent time rafting and backpacking,or our Sollelim who climbed new routes in
Boulder Canyon, or our Bogrim chalutzim who “summited” a fourteen thousand foot peak on bikes, or our JOLI group who spent a full night sleeping alone on a “solo” in the Indian Peaks Wilderness area, each chalutz had his or her own adventure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy favorite day at camp comes every two weeks when the chalutzim return from their masa’ot tired, smelly, and often with bruises, yet smiling ear to ear, so full of excitement and pride in their accomplishments over the week. I love watching their dirty faces as they return to the relative comfort of our ranch, eager to tell everyone about their unique experiences on the trail. As I go out to greet the chalutzim and ask them about their masa’ot, I am invariably met by a cacophony of stories and giggles. While some groups might have hiked longer, climbed higher, or eaten more delicious food, each and every chalutz(a) will be left with memories of personal transformation and enduring friendships.

And to Wrap Up. . .

And now, we must close this chapter of Kayitz 2016. It has surely been one of best ever and one that has impacted more people than ever before.

Closing camp is always bittersweet since we know that there are still peaks to climb, friendships to deepen, and songs to sing. While the “real world” calls, we can take heart that there are only 306 more days until next summer! Our registration for 2017 is already open, and spots are in high demand!

As we pack up our summer office and prepare for tonight’s staff banquet, I want to thank all of our families, chalutzim, tzevet, and raving fans for continuing to support us and enabling us to assemble one of the most remarkable Jewish communities in the country. While the camp season must come to an end, I know that the lessons and friendships developed over the past 9 weeks will continue for years to come.

–Rabbi Eliav and the entire Ramah in the Rockies team

Some quick links for you:

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

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

After Yom Sport, we moved into Masa Week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you and Shabbat Shalom,

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