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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shabbat Shalom, 

Rabbi Eliav Bock

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

Getting off the van's on the first day!

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

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

New and old camp friends

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

Shira in the ohel ochel

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

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

Shabbat shalom

Rabbi Eliav Bock

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Rabbi Eliav Bock
Camp Director

Dani Wallace, 2019 Director of Camper Care, with her Ilanot chalutzim in 2016
Dani Wallace, 2019 Director of Camper Care,
with her Ilanot chalutzim in 2016

Kayitz 2019 is a few short weeks away, and I could not be more excited to welcome your children to the Ramah in the Rockies ranch! My name is Dani Wallace and I am so pleased to introduce myself as the Director of Camper Care. After beginning my journey at camp in 2016 as the Rosh Edah (Unit Head) for Ilanot (rising 3rd & 4th graders), I returned to work for Ramah year-round as the Communications Coordinator – better known as the person who posted those much-anticipated photo updates! As a Jewish summer camp veteran of more than a decade, I am a firm believer in the unique magic of overnight camp.

That being said, camp can also be challenging! While some of these challenges may be physical, like summiting one of Colorado’s famous 14,000 ft. peaks, others are emotional. Learning how to share a living space, cope with homesickness, and adjust to a new environment can be stressful. To help you help your camper,  here are my Top 5 Tips & Tricks to ensure successful summer experiences for our chalutzim:

1 – Talk About Camp Early & Often

Start talking about camp now, if you haven’t already begun! These conversations can be a chance to unpack anxieties, foster excitement, and prepare your child for a meaningful summer experience. While reassuring your child that they will have a great time is important, don’t be afraid to acknowledge that the first few days might be a little tough until they get used to the rhythms of camp. Be sure to let them know that these emotions are normal, and you are sure they can handle it. Remind them also that their counselors are there to help and support them! Acknowledging fears and concerns ahead of time affords you and your child the opportunity to brainstorm coping strategies before camp even begins. First time campers might find that practicing sleeping away from home with a sleepover or two is helpful.

2 – Include Campers in the Preparation Process

Ensuring that your camper feels prepared is a great way to ease the pre-summer jitters! Utilize our online packing list to make sure your camper has everything they need to succeed. For some campers, being involved in the shopping and/or packing process can help calm nerves, so hand over that sharpie and let them help label their belongings, or go for walks together to make sure their hiking boots are fully broken in!

3 – Nip Homesickness in the Bud

The transition from home to camp can be a big adjustment, and many campers experience homesickness as they settle in. Printing out a few photographs of family and friends, packing a special stuffed animal to squeeze when they miss home, or including a prewritten “for when you feel homesick” letter are all useful strategies that can ease your child’s mind. If your child is particularly nervous, send a letter or one-way email that is awaiting their arrival to be read, or include a note in luggage for them to discover when unpacking! Additionally, including some pre-addressed and stamped envelopes in their suitcase makes writing home quick and easy.

4- Help Us Help Your Camper!

Myself, along with the rest of the camper care, and our leadership team here at Ramah in the Rockies are your partners in the success of your child’s summer! If your camper has a particular challenge that might impact their experience, it is best addressed before camp starts. If we know about potential problems in advance, we are able to strategize together and set your child up for success. If there is any information that was not included on your initial application that might help us facilitate the best summer possible for your camper, please contact Julia Chatinover, juliac@ramahoutdoors.org.

5 – Research Reassures

The unknown can be daunting, but familiarizing your child with Ramah in the Rockies before they pack their bags can make the transition to camp less intimidating! On our website you and your camper can watch videos, click through photos, learn about the daily schedule, and get an idea of what to expect upon their arrival to our beautiful chava (ranch). If you have any questions or concerns feel free to reach out to Rabbi Eliav, eliavb@ramahoutdoors.org or Julia Chatinover, juliac@ramahoutdoors.org.

I am looking forward to sharing a summer of fun, friendship, and adventure with all of our amazing chalutzim (campers)!

B’simcha,

Dani Wallace

Director of Camper Care


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

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

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

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

363      Campers currently registered for Kayitz 2019

105      Staff members working at camp this summer

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

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

40        New mountain bikes ordered

35        More campers we hope to enroll before opening day

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

18        Hens laying eggs at camp this summer

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

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

3          New primitive campsites being built

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

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

!!!חג שמח

– Rabbi Eliav and the Ramah in the Rockies Team

Focusing on קשרים – Connections

Chalutzim and Tzevet dancing in our Chadar Ochel

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Purim Letter from Rabbi Eliav

Rabbi Eliav Bock

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

CAMP TV

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

The new scene in the Chadar Ochel

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

A Loon internet balloon

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

FREE SOLOING

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

Alex Honnold in Free Solo

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

On a climbing masa.

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

ADDED CALORIES

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

Our new beverage selection.

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

CONCLUSION

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

February 25th, 2019

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


Moss Herberholz, Director of Inclusion

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

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

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

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


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

Rabbi Eliav Bock
Rabbi Eliav Bock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With gratitude,
Rabbi Eliav Bock


Douglas Wolf
Douglas Wolf

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes, Douglas

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

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

Over the past six weeks, our year-round team has reached out to hundreds of families through emails, phones calls, and our annual feedback survey. Thank you to everyone who responded to our requests for honest feedback! Our goal is to provide our chalutzim (campers) with an amazing summer experience year after year. We know that in order to achieve this goal, we must work to make each summer better than the one before, and continue to adapt our camp program to meet the needs of our community. Thanks to your feedback, we have a clear understanding of what aspects of our program have been successful and where there is room for improvement.

– TWO THUMBS UP –

Challenge by Choice and Personal Growth
At Ramah in the Rockies, our mission is to nurture the character development of Jewish youth by providing campers the opportunity to challenge themselves physically, intellectually, and spiritually. We call this value “Challenge by Choice,” and are always seeking new ways to encourage our chalutzim to become their best and bravest selves! In Kayitz 2018, implementing a revised curriculum of outdoor skill-building for all campers brought us one step closer to achieving this goal. Additionally, our Sayarim campers pushed themselves beyond their comfort zones 20 meters above the ground at a local high ropes course, and our JOLI participants challenged themselves to become leaders within our machane (camp) by taking charge of Yom Sport and serving as counselors-in-training for the younger edot (age groups). We are so proud of the growth we witnessed in our campers last summer!

Music, Dance, and Visual Art
Music, Dance, and Visual Art are vital to the unique magic we are able to create together at camp each year. This summer, we made a concentrated effort to integrate the simcha (joy) and creativity of these art forms into each and every day! Our community awoke to song each morning, sang together at our daily t’fillot (prayers), and participated in high-energy Israeli dance parties before dinner each night as we set the tables. Beit HaYitzera – our new arts pavilion – housed our Omanut (Art) Program, and dedicated staff members even utilized the space to create an exhibition of camper artwork for our whole community to enjoy. On the last night of camp, we all came together for our first semi-annual “Kol Edah” festival, where each age group performed a different popular Israeli song. Click here to view the videos!

Fostering Kehillah (Community)
The most important aspect of camp is undoubtedly the connections and friendships that are formed on our ranch each summer. Dividing Bogrim, our biggest edah, into two smaller programs allowed campers to bond more deeply with their peers. In addition, more ohel (bunk) bonding opportunities were worked into the schedule, and older and younger campers connected through ‘buddy programs.’ This summer, we also dedicated Ohel Koby – our new game tent – in honor of former camper Koby Gruenwald. This space quickly became the central hub of the tent area, where campers convened for ping pong tournaments, challenged their madrichim (counselors) to foosball, and relaxed with friends over card games. Carving out more time and space for creative play has facilitated so many meaningful connections across our community, and is a practice that we will undoubtedly continue for summers to come.

 

– MIXED REVIEWS –
(Where we need more emphasis)

Kid-Friendly Menu
In 2018 we made some big changes to our menu in an effort to make meals more kid-friendly. While we’ve made great strides, there is still lots of room for improvement as we continue to refine our menu to ensure that our campers leave every meal happily nourished! First and foremost, we’ll be removing failed experiments such as the infamous lentil loaf from our lineup, and bringing back camper favorites like chili and cornbread. We’ll also be moving towards a “less seasoning, more sauce” philosophy, wherein campers can choose the amount of flavor they’d like to add to their meal rather than opt out of a course that’s too spicy or seasoned for their palate. Additionally, we will continue to provide a salad bar, pasta bar, cereal, and sandwiches as alternative options at each meal. We are also committed to improving the food offerings on masa’ot (backcountry excursions) and ensuring campers with dietary restrictions have plenty of options. Next summer, we will also be sharing our weekly menu on our social media platforms, so that you will know exactly what your camper is eating!

Masa Assignments & Backpacking
While every masa (backcountry excursion) is a unique experience, we recognize that many campers come to Ramah in the Rockies hoping to participate in a particular trip. Next summer, we will be incorporating more backpacking masa’ot into our program to ensure that everyone who would like to participate in this staple of the Colorado experience has an opportunity to do so! We are also committed to ensuring that campers don’t repeat the same trips summer after summer if they do not wish to. Therefore, beginning next summer, we will be making an effort to avoid repeat masa experiences for returning campers so that everyone in our community has the opportunity to take on a new challenge.

Yom Meuchad
Every summer we try to find a way to make our special Sunday programming fun and meaningful for chalutzim of all ages, and every summer the feedback we receive about these special, camp-wide events shows us that there is lots of room for improvement. We’ve been scratching our heads trying to find a solution, and while we have some ideas, we also are eager to hear directly from our campers! Therefore, we will be creating a committee of veteran campers of all ages to help us brainstorm what steps we can take to make these days as much fun as possible for everyone. If your camper has spent at least three summers with us at Ramah in the Rockies and would like to participate in this special committee, please email juliac@ramahoutdoors.org.

– IN CONCLUSION –

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

Sincerely,

The Ramah in the Rockies Team

In a religion full of holidays, there is one that reigns supreme: Sukkot. Not what you might have expected, right?

As one of the three major pilgrimage festivals, in which Jews in Temple times would make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Sukkot goes by many names in the Jewish tradition. Other than Sukkot, the festival is referred to as Chag ha’Asif (the Harvest Festival), Chag ha’Hodaya (Festival of Thanksgiving), Hakhel (Gathering), and He’Chag (The Festival). Since Rabbinic times, we have attached two other holidays to Sukkot – Hoshanah Rabbah and Simchat Torah.

Campers Building improvised structuresEach of these names reflects a one of our most important camp values, making it the perfect holiday to “celebrate” at camp. The nature of the holiday, in which we dwell in temporary, open air structures reflects our value at Ramah in the Rockies of living close to nature. The harvest festival’s focus on gratitude and intentionality about the food we eat is something we experience daily at camp, as we introduce all our meals with a “Siyur Ochel” (food tour) in an effort to encourage our community to slow down, take a moment, and truly appreciate the food that nourishes us and where it comes from. Joy, community and honor are three of our four core values, and we emphasize gathering as a community for meals, Jewish rituals, and fun.

As part of our special Sunday ‘Yom Meyuchad’ programming this summer, we recreated many of the Jewish holidays, giving our chalutzim (campers) the opportunity to share their favorite family traditions with their friends and to create new Jewish memories together. For “Yom Sukkot” at camp, chalutzim built Sukkot out of materials they found in the forest, decorated our new Ohel Ochel (Dining Tent), and perfected their outdoor cooking skills. Campers also worked on the farm and learned about farming cycles, practiced new orienteering skills that might have helped the Jews make it through the desert in less than 40 years, and created skits and decorations to welcome two new Sifrei Torah to our machane (camp)!

Since the fire in 2017, we have been honored to receive Sifrei Torah from our friends at Ramah Day Camp in Nyack and Temple Beth Am in Los Angeles. When Yom Sukkot rolled around this summer, we were thrilled to have an opportunity to celebrate these new Torah with our entire kehillah kedoshah – our holy community. In celebration, we built a new Aron Kodesh and quilted a handmade, custom dressing for the Torah. When we shared these beautiful new items with our community as the highlight of our Yom Sukkot schedule, everyone joined together to sing, dance, and welcome the Torah to its new home at Ramah in the Rockies!

Campers and Eliav Director holding TorahIn addition to formally welcoming the new Torah to our camp community, we had so much fun learning and sharing outdoor skills, gathering for a day of fun, and getting a taste of this important holiday while at camp. May this festival be an opportunity for all of us to re-immerse ourselves in nature, in mindfulness and gratitude, and in the pure joy of being Jewish.

Moadim l’simcha!

Deena Cowans (Director of Jewish Education 2016-2018)

amA Final Note from Rabbi Eliav

I am writing these words from the steps of the old lodge – the only vestige of the building that was once the beating heart of our machane (camp). A year ago, I stood in this same spot, the smell of smoke in the air, and I prayed. Surrounded by the rubble left in the wake of last summer’s devastating fire, I felt fear and uncertainty about the future of Ramah in the Rockies. Today, at the end of an incredible summer season, I feel nothing but optimism and confidence.

As I waved goodbye to our last group of chalutzim (campers) yesterday morning, I was overcome with a deep sense of gratitude and pride. Ours is a community of resilience, and TOGETHER we succeeded in facilitating an unforgettable summer experience for more than 425 chalutzim. While it is impossible to summarize an entire summer in just a few paragraphs, I wanted to highlight some aspects of our program that helped to make Kayitz 2018 so special.

 

 

Music

Music has always been a vital part of our kehillah (community) here at Ramah in the Rockies, but this year we made an extra effort to incorporate music into each and every day, and the results have been truly remarkable. Israeli pop music pounded through the speakers before every meal, and campers and staff danced as they set the tables. Music also became the cornerstone of each edah’s (age group’s) daily prayers, and the melody of ‘Hallelujah’ could be heard reverberating across the ranch. Click here to listen! Each morning, we awoke to the sound of a bugle, and oftentimes the incessant mooing of the cows who came to visit from the neighboring Lost Valley Ranch.

In addition to interspersing music throughout our daily schedule, this summer we offered a music chug (activity block) for campers, and I was blown away by the creativity they demonstrated. Together, chalutzim wrote original music and set prayers to new tunes, some of which we have incorporated into our t’fillot(prayers). These campers also led shira (song session) after meals in front of our entire machane, and joined the musical team for our Kabbalat Shabbat celebration. It was amazing to watch chalutzim confidently strum a guitar alongside our most seasoned songleaders, and I can’t wait to watch as these campers continue to grow and bring music to our kehillah for summers to come.

Camper playing guitar learning colorwarThis summer, our machane’s love for music culminated in our first annual Kol Edah– a musical celebration often referred to as a Zimriya” by our fellow Ramah camps. Each edah spent weeks practicing and preparing a different Israeli song with Rosh Shira Michael Harlow, and on Monday our entire community gathered together for an evening of ruach (spirit) and beautiful music. As Sayarim performed “Od Yiyeh Li,” clapping, dancing, and smiling all the while, I was reminded of the way in which music connects our community through time and space. I am sure that years from now, when those chalutzim hear that song once more, they will be transported back to their time at Ramah in the Rockies, and will remember the sense of joy and community they experienced at camp.

 

 

Simcha (Joy) 

When we dedicated Ohel Koby – our new game tent erected in honor of former camper Koby Gruenwald – Rabbi Solomon Gruenwald reminded us all about the importance of play. Click here to listen to his speech! In our lives beyond camp, we are so preoccupied by work, school, and extracurricular activities that we often forget to make time just to play and to enjoy life. This summer, we emphasized the importance of creative play and of unbridled simcha (joy) throughout every facet of our program.

Ohel Koby remains the prime example of this ethic in action. Stocked with Ping Pong tables, Foosball, Cornhole, Hula Hoops, and a plethora of board games, this tent provided campers with a space to relax, to connect with friends of all ages, and most importantly, to just have fun! Our youngest chalutzim expanded the spirit of Ohel Koby far beyond the translucent walls of the tent by constructing intricate forts in the woods behind their ohelim (tents). These amazing structures became the stage for lots of imaginative play as they defended their forts from intruders – usually their madrichim (counselors) – during free time each day.

Campers playing ping pongThis summer, we also reemphasized our core value of simcha through our edah programming. Our phenomenal tzevet (staff) planned carnivals and Iron Chef competitions. They organized an Israeli Shuk and a ‘Bark Mitzvah’ for one of our beloved camp dogs. They made sushi, braided challot for Shabbat, hosted talent shows, planned scavenger hunts, and went above and beyond to ensure that their chalutzim had as much fun as possible. Everytime I had the chance to attend one of these amazing programs, I was blown away by the silliness, the laughter, and the smiles on everyone’s faces. It was truly simcha exemplified


 

Community

This summer, I was reminded of the the vital importance of our extended community each and every day.  Every time I walk past our ohelim I remember the families who joined us for our annual Volunteer Day and helped to prepare our physical site for the arrival of campers. When I eat a bowl of cereal and pour in a splash of milk, I think about our friends at Aurora Dairy who generously donated more than 700 gallons milk to our kitchen this summer. When I read from one of our two beautiful Torah scrolls, I recall the generosity of Ramah Day Camp in Nyack and Temple Beth Am in Los Angeles, who donated these Torot to our machane after the fire last summer.

I am also excited to announce that we have a very special plan for one of these Torah scrolls, which has been dressed and protected in a beautiful cover and a custom Pelican Case donated by the Kut Family! In an effort to keep our community connected throughout the year, we’d like to offer use of this Torah to anyone in our extended community who is celebrating a simcha. It can be FedExed anywhere in the country! If you would like to have a piece of Ramah in the Rockies with your family as you celebrate a B’nai Mitzvah, wedding, or other simcha, please contact me directly at eliavb@ramahoutdoors.org.

 

 

Thank you for an amazing summer!

Last summer’s fire taught us a valuable lesson: Ramah in the Rockies is so much more than the physical spaces we occupy. We are the music that reminds us of the friendships formed and memories made throughout the summer. We are the time spent playing, connecting with one another, and embracing the simcha and silliness that is at the heart of our mission. We are the community that transcends each summer and extends far beyond the Colorado Rocky Mountains – a community that shows up in times of need and provides support, encouragement, and love from all around the world.

Throughout this summer, we had the opportunity to reexamine what defines our kehillah, and have found myriad ways to honor those values every day. Through music, play, joy, and community, our machane has been able to rebuild, to heal, and to grow stronger than ever before. Thank you for an incredible Kayitz 2018 – I can’t wait to see you back on the ranch next summer.

Todah Rabah,

Rabbi Eliav


We want to hear your feedback!

Over the next few weeks, and in summers to come, we have the opportunity to improve upon the foundation we have established here at Ramah in the Rockies. In order to continue to provide our chalutzim with impactful experiences year after year, we ask that if your child attended camp this summer, you please take a moment to fill out a brief survey about their experience. Click here to take our 2018 Summer Feedback Survey.


Register TODAY! For summer 2019

We are already registering campers for our 2019 season, and we’d love to have you join us for another adventure. Click here to register today! Spaces fill fast, so register early to reserve your spot. Deposits are 100% refundable for any reason until March 1st, 2019. Register before October 31st, 2018 to receive a free Ramah in the Rockies gift, as well as our early bird discount! Questions? Contact us at info@ramahoutdoors.org or call (303) 261-8214.

Shana Tova from Ramah in the Rockies! Grab some apples and honey and see how our tzevet (staff) responded when we asked them to share a sweet moment from Kayitz 2018. The follow snippets exemplify the friendship, kindness, and connection that makes our kehillah kedoshah – our holy community – so unique and special.

  • One sweet moment that I had was when I was on my first masa (backcountry excursion) of the summer – Mining Masa. All of the campers surprised the counselors by waking up at 5:30 AM and packing up the entire campsite while we were still sleeping! – Eli Lovich
  • This summer, I got the chance to talk to Metayalim boys about identity and respect. I told them a bit about my own story and the boys were attentive and asked great questions. One of the kids sincerely wanted to know how to best stand up in a situation when someone was expressing oppressive beliefs about another person or group! – Rafi Daugherty, Director of Camper Care
  • On the second Shabbat of a two-week session, I walked into the ohel (tent) to find my campers sitting together in a circle making and decorating Shabbat-o-grams for each person in the bunk. Although we had given them each a Shabbat-o-gram the previous week, we never mentioned the idea of them making some as well. When it was finally time for Kabbalat Shabbat, they handed them out to each other and to each of the counselors as well. It was just so sweet to me that they had not only decided to make Shabbat-o-grams all on their own, but they turned it into an activity for the whole bunk!   – Emma Wallace
  • One evening during our nightly program, there was a huge thunderstorm. One of my chalutzot (campers) was very anxious and afraid during the storm, so the other campers in her bunk immediately stood around her, hugged her, and start singing together. It wasn’t long before the singing was so loud we could barely hear the thunder! – Michal Raicher, JOLI Staff
  • I had a camper who got kind of homesick one night, so I brought him out to the steps of our bunk to try and talk to him and get his mind off of feeling sad. We were talking about all of the fun activities coming up, and I mentioned our upcoming trip to the neighboring Buffalo Ranch. The second I started talking about bison this kid’s eyes just lit up and he started chatting with me and sharing all these fun facts about times he’s seen bison and why he thinks they’re cool. I let him ramble happily for a few minutes before asking if he felt like he could sleep and taking him back inside to go to bed! – Daniel Cohen
  • A really sweet moment happened on my Solelim backpacking masa when, on the second day, we woke the kids up super early to climb up a mountain. They started off pretty tired but literally as soon as we started climbing uphill the entire group started singing and didn’t stop singing until we had gotten to the top 3 hours later! – Becky Milner
  • One of my most homesick campers who I spent a lot of time with came up to me my last Shabbat at camp and gave me a “pencil box” she made out of recycled materials so I could have something at school to put my pencils in. She then told me she was excited to come back to camp next summer! – Jessica Dworkin, Camper Care
  • I think the sweetest moments are always coming back from masa to base camp when everyone is full of excitement and new stories and experiences. Everyone just wants to hug their bunkmates, take a hot shower and hear all about what their friends did on their masa’ot– Inbal Horvitz
  • Returning from masa second session was the sweetest- the other half of JOLI was waiting for us when we arrived and greeted us with cheers and a group hug! I also loved the JOLI talent show on the last night of camp. A few campers decided to write an original rap where they went through each member of our edah (age group) and said something nice about everyone in perfect rhyme! – 
  • My sweet moment was when a camper who was super scared about going on backpacking masa ended up not only challenging herself but actually having fun and being impressed by what she was capable of! – Amanda Feinberg
  • There are two moments that really stand out to me. One was when a camper asked me to make him sad because he loved camp so much and didn’t want to miss it too much when he had to leave! The other was when a camper came up to me and told me that one of his friends was feeling homesick but wasn’t ready to talk about it. This caring and mature camper just wanted to make sure that I was aware that his friend was feeling sad! – Ben Kahn
  • One of my favorite sweet moments from this summer happened one afternoon during sha’ah menucha (rest hour). Some of the girls in my Ilanot ohel decided that they wanted to paint their nails together. So they sat outside on the steps and did just that. Just as a disagreement started to arise, a couple of Metayalim boys wandered over and asked if they could join in as well. The girls happily showed them all of the colors they had and soon forgot all about their previous argument. Within minutes the girls were doing the boy’s nails and vice versa. They were all laughing and smiling and by the end of the hour, each and every one of them had beautifully painted nails. – Noa Landau-Camarillo
  • Leading Impramahv – a Shabbat afternoon improv workshop- was a highlight of my summer as a whole! One week, two Ilanot girls attended and had so much fun that they went back to their ohel afterward and spent the rest of the afternoon playing the improv games with the other girls in their bunk. – Ryan “Lunch Pail” Fleischer, Rosh Ilanot
  • One night, my co-counselor and I spontaneously decided to take our ohel of five girls on an overnight, which turned out to be one of my favorite experiences of the summer and one that I’ll never forget. Love and laughter filled the air as we woke up with the sun shining down on the mountains in front of us. – Avital Kessler-Godin
  • One of my campers was nervous about dancing to the Israeli songs we play at camp. One day, out of nowhere, asked me if he could stand with me in the front to lead the dance to ‘Tudo Bom’ – the most popular song of the summer! He even helped me teach my parents some of the dances when they came to visit on Shabbat. It’s so fulfilling when a camper comes out of their shell, both in big and small ways! – Zevan Shuster
  • One night for our evening program, we decide to make brownies outside on camping stoves. When the process took longer than expected, we all just dug into the half-baked brownies, enjoying the gooey mess until everyone was covered in chocolate! It was literally a sweet moment. Just then, a huge thunderstorm began and so we all huddled together beneath a tarp, eating brownie batter until the storm passed. – Carly Sless
  • My favorite moment of the summer was definitely seeing the excitement on the camper’s faces as we announced the winners of the climbing competition that took place on the bouldering wall for kids and staff. Everyone was so supportive and our three winners were so proud of themselves! – Amir Avramson, Rosh Climbing
  • On one masa I lead, a camper sprained his ankle so we had to spend the night at a different campsite than we had planned. Another Ramah masa group showed up and we all ended up camping and cooking together! We spent the night talking and laughing around campfire and the sense of community was so amazing. – Shir Michel 

New In 2009, we held our first Family Camp at Ramah in the Rockies. It was during this formative week for our machane (camp) that I first met a sweet kindergartener by the name of Koby Gruenwald. Even at five years old, Koby had a zest for life, loved to dance, and was already excited to come to Ramah in the Rockies as a chalutz (camper). When he returned as a camper in 2014, it was immediately clear to see that Koby was one of those kids who simply thrive at summer camp. While he was among the youngest chalutzim on our ranch, he was always one of the loudest and most energetic, throwing himself into rikkud (dancing) and shira (singing) with all his heart. And when he was not dancing or singing, Koby could be found playing games with his friends.

Before the summer of 2016, Koby Gruenwald was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Our camp community, along with thousands of others throughout the world, rallied to Koby’s side and prayed for his recovery. While he was unable to join us as a camper as his sickness progressed, we were thrilled that Koby was able to visit for Shabbat one last time in 2017. Although he was barely able to walk, a smile remained plastered to Koby’s face throughout his visit. He spent his Shabbat afternoon playing board games with his friends and former bunkmates at a table in front of our old lodge building.

Ohel Koby has become the heart of our tent area

When Koby passed away earlier this year, we knew that we wanted to find a way to honor his memory and the singularity of his infectious spirit here at camp. And thus, Ohel Koby was born. With the support of more than 100 friends and family who made donations in his memory, we were able to erect a tent filled with a myriad of games that campers and their counselors can enjoy together during periods of free time throughout the day.

Free time at camp is both incredibly important and extremely challenging. On the one hand, it is imperative for campers to experience the joy of unstructured play. On the other hand, free time can become a source of stress when chalutzim are not sure how to fill their time. The lack of structure is especially difficult for some of our younger campers.

New sign Ohel Koby

From the moment we dedicated this new space on June 16th, 2018, Ohel Koby has improved our kehillah (community) immeasurably. Anyone in camp can take a few minutes to play ping pong, knock hockey, chess, or connect four, among many other games. Ohel Koby has quickly become an integral part of our tent area, and the sounds of campers chatting and laughing emanate through its translucent walls throughout the day.

We recently added a ping-pong table just outside the ohel, and the results have been mesmerizing! As it turns out, ping pong is a terrific opportunity for campers to challenge their madrichim (counselors) to a friendly competition, since physical size is of little significance in the game. We are also eagerly awaiting the arrival of a commercial fuse-ball table, which is sure to provide our chalutzim with countless hours of fun.

When dedicating Ohel Koby, Koby’s father, Rabbi Salomon Gruenwald, spoke about the importance of play, and of the joy and connections that play facilitates. He described the different parts of the brain, and how even as his son was nearing the end of his life, he never lost his ability to play, and would happily challenge his friends and family to a game whenever possible.

For many members of our community, camp is the one time each year where they disconnect from their electronic devices, step away from the screens, and refocus their attention towards the people and activities that surround them. A recent article in the Atlantic describes some of the challenges facing a generation of children who are growing up wired to their screens and technology. Now more than ever, our world needs spaces like Ohel Koby.

corn-hole and hula-hoops in Ohel KobyIn Ohel Koby, our chalutzim play many games that were invented long before the Atari or Nintendo game consuls arrived on the market. Rain or shine, campers can grab a deck of cards, a board game, or a ping pong paddle and play games that encourage them to engage with their peers, to meet people, and to make new friends.  Technology comes and goes, but the basic instinct to play remains.

Every time a camper stops by for a quick game or to cheer their friends on, they are nurturing core parts of their developing minds. And every time they smile or laugh, the memory of Koby Gruenwald is honored. In the wise words of Rabbi Solomon Gruenwald, “Please, play this summer. Play hard. Play good. Play nice with one another.”

-Rabbi Eliav Bock

Though Ramah in the Rockies is still young, it has already played cupid on a number of occasions! This Valentine’s day, we’re taking a look at three amazing Ramah in the Rockies couples, and the unique role that camp has played in their love stories. We wish everyone a day surrounded by love in all of its many forms! 

Sarah and Daniel “JuiceBoxx” Gavens

summer camp love storiesWhat role has Ramah in the Rockies played in your relationship?
We have always been passionate about Ramah. We each grew up going to Ramah camps on separate coasts: Sarah at Ramah Darom and Dan at Ramah Ojai. Being able to share our passion for Ramah in the Rockies together is such a special part of our relationship. We love the energy at camp, coming up to visit, and watching our campers grow every year.

What is your favorite camp memory as a couple?
We said “I love you” to each other for the first time at camp! Also, before camp we made our first big purchase together! We found a website that sold bulk sunglasses for cheap. We got a little carried away and bought 54 pairs that we split. For those keeping track at home, that’s 1 new pair of sunglasses every 1-2 days…

Why is camp such a special place to fall in love?
We both agreed that if we could make it through a summer at camp, we could make it through anything. When we worked at camp together, we had only been dating for a couple of months, and there were some lows, but more importantly incredible highs. We got to know each other through a range of situations, all with a Jewish background.

Rabbi Lauren Henderson and Joel Dworkin

Rabbi Lauren and Joel posing before ShabbatWhat role has Ramah in the Rockies played in your relationship?
Lauren: We met at Rockies! I was in my final summer of rabbinical school, and I hadn’t yet “done my time” working at a Ramah camp as is required of JTS rabbinical students. I showed up on the first day of senior staff weekend as a total newbie, and I remember sitting in the Chadar Ochel (Dining Tent) in a circle, watching this curly-haired guy – Joel Dworkin – who had everyone in rapt attention and laughter.

Joel: It was entirely by chance that I returned to work at Ramah in the Rockies in 2015. I had quit the previous summer after four years of building the masa (backcountry excursion) program and training the new Rosh Masa. In April, Eliav informed me that the new trips coordinator had gone AWOL. They asked if I would take my job back for a few more months… I agreed and when staff training began I was asked to help get a few people acquainted and moved into their tents for the summer. One of them was a young woman entering her last year of rabbinical school named Lauren Henderson.

Lauren: Our first “date” – if you can call it that – was a week later, during the staff outing to Woodland Park and the local Walmart. Joel drove me and a few other staff there in his Subaru (hot date), and we bonded over picking out the perfect coffee mugs. A few nights later, the night before the campers arrived, Joel and I were hanging out in the Chadar Ochel as we helped set up all the tables while listening to Indigo Girls, and I thought to myself, “Hmmm… maybe there’s something going on here…”

Our relationship was pretty secret from most people in camp for the first half of the summer, which we loved, and by mid-July, we started to talk about what would happen post-camp. I went back to finish rabbinical school, Joel went back to Denver, and a year later, we both moved to Chicago where I started my job working at Mishkan Chicago and Joel went back to school. We got engaged in April 2017, and we’ll be getting married this June right after Joel graduates! Ramah in the Rockies is the place we’ve kept coming back to, where we’re excited to celebrate this summer right after we get married, and where we hope to eventually send our future kids.

What is your favorite camp memory as a couple?
Lauren: Early in the mornings before masa’ot (backcountry excursions) would go out, we would meet at the lodge. Joel would bring me an espresso that he’d made with his fancy espresso machine, and we’d sit together on the porch and watch the rest of the camp wake up. I loved those early, quiet mornings together, and I was so devastated when the building burned down – this was the memory from that building that I held onto the most.

Why is camp such a special place to fall in love?
Lauren: I honestly believe that camp is the reason why we fell in love – it was the container that made the foundation of our relationship possible. Joel and I were the best versions of ourselves at camp, personally and professionally, and we got to watch each other thrive in doing the kind of work we most enjoyed, me as a rabbi and him as a wilderness professional. I was the goofiest, silliest, no-makeup version of my rabbinic self, not having to put on a show for anyone. And Joel was the calm in the eye of the storm.

Joel: Everything in camp happens in a bubble.  Eliav often refers to shabbat as an island in time, referencing Abraham Joshua Heschel’s “palace in time.” I think of the entire summer as an island in time; the world shrinks to a few hundred people, every single day has enough going on to fill a week, and every week goes by so fast it seems like a day. There is no time to try to be who you think people want you to be at camp which makes it the norm to be genuine. I learned how empathic Lauren was when working with a homesick child and how she responded to stress before I ever knew her favorite color. I fell in love with who she was, and is, before I had a chance to deal with anything trivial.

Melannie Levine and Jeffrey Harris

What role has Ramah in the Rockies played in your relationship?
We met at camp, and our friendship really started to develop when Melannie came into the kitchen, where Jeffrey was the Head Chef, to help make malawach (a bread kneaded thoroughly with butter). Since then, camp has become an intentional community that we have chosen to return to year after year. It is a place where we know our thoughts and ideals meld with those around us. At Ramah in the Rockies, we have had the opportunity to develop relationships as a couple and to watch each other grow in an encouraging and amazing culture.

What is your favorite camp memory as a couple?
A few weeks in to the summer, Jeffrey had decided he was going to propose to Melannie, and called Melannie’s parents to invite them to be there for the proposal. He spent the next month and a half planning out how he wanted to to it. Jeffrey decided that on August 12th, he would take Melannie on a walk and present a book with a momento from every date or outing we had ever been on. Rosh Susim, Chelsea Schwab, had signed on as Jeffrey’s secret agent with the mission of finding out Melannie’s ring size – a goal she pulled of with ninja-like smoothness. Office Manager Lisa Holstein hid the engagement ring in the safe and Jeffrey stored the handmade book in his office. But on August 7th, when the fire destroyed the Lodge building, the book and the ring were gone –  just days before the proposal.

While Jeffrey scrambled to order a new ring, Ranch Manager Jake Schwab and Ben Hall spent hours searching through the rubble. Miraculously, they managed to find the ring – blackened by the smoke but still as beautiful as ever! While the proposal was pretty much nothing like Jeffrey had planned, it was still incredible. We are so happy that it happened while we were surrounded by the community that brought us together!

Why is camp such a special place to fall in love?
Because it is an intentional community where you live and work alongside each other – an experience that can be very intense.  At camp, you often get to see the best and worst of people, creating bonds and a sense of understanding that would usually take much longer to develop.

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 week we had the honor of welcoming Noga Korem, who is “racing as a privateer,” and Dan Craven, of the professional Israeli Road cycling team, to the chava (ranch)! The duo came to our machane (camp) to visit, teach, and enjoy the beauty of the chava (ranch) through Melinda Goldrich, longtime Ramahnik, supporter of Ramah in the Rockies. She recalls the way she got involved with this team, saying, “the Colorado pro challenge came through Aspen two years ago, that was the first year of the team, and I was asked to gather some members of the Jewish community to be supportive of the team and cheer them on.” Since then, she has built a relationship with the team and has familiarized them with the Colorado Jewish community.

International biking superstar Noga Korem was so excited to get to spend some time in our little corner of the Rocky Mountains. “It’s a really really nice place.” She said. “I love it. I feel sorry I wasn’t here when I was their age.” This morning, Bogrim Advancing Biking had the opportunity to take a double perek (period) lesson from the bike team members, where they learned how to steer, brake, pedal, and stand up on mountain bikes more effectively. “It was a lot of fun.” Noga says, “It looked like the kids really enjoyed it. They loved riding and they loved learning new things.” This wasn’t her first time teaching kids biking. Back in Israel, Noga teaches girls cycling and works with them to hone their skills.

Dan has also really enjoyed his experience at camp. “I only started racing my bike when I got to university because it took me that long to find it,” he told me. “And here are these kids who are being exposed to all of these things; it’s really amazing.” In regards to the culture of the camp, Dan has a real appreciation. “They’re up in the mountains; you don’t see a single kid walking around with a cell phone. We need more of that.”

Raz Paul, Rosh Ofanayim (biking) here at camp, was thrilled that they came to visit, saying, “it’s awesome to see Noga jump and do tricks on the bikes. Every time she goes to a competition or anything, the Israeli Facebook goes crazy. She’s one of the best in the world in downhill biking.” Indeed, being Israeli himself, Raz has a special appreciation for Dan, Noga, and their accomplishments, and he aims to spread his enthusiasm throughout the camp community. Raz is also especially glad that they will get to spend time teaching all of the different edot (age groups), saying, “they are joining all our perakim…one perek of each edah. They taught us some bike skills, how to properly stand on the bikes, how to turn, how to jump safely. The kids love them.”

Indeed, our chalutzim (campers) found the experience of learning from, talking to, and riding with professional cyclists to be invaluable. Yonah, 14, found their instruction to be tremendously helpful, and is hoping to utilize the skills they taught him on future mountain biking masa’ot (backcountry excursions).  He explained, “I learned in general how to go down single tracks and bike better.” A highlight for Yonah was getting the opportunity to follow Noga down a single track and witnessing a world class athlete in action. “It was really cool, she’s so good,” Yonah said, with awe and admiration written on his face. For a kid from New York City who looks forward to mountain biking here at camp every summer, it was truly a once in the lifetime opportunity.

Israeli Cyclists with Campers

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