With the help of a most supremely generous gift of $20k from the OREG Foundation and an anonymous donor, we are excited to announce the completion of our newest addition to our farm: an 18-by-26-foot Farmtek hard sided polycarbonate greenhouse! Over the past week, our chalutzim (campers) have been able to witness the construction of the greenhouse, from the first steel poles that went into the ground, to the hard shell outside to the final product with planter boxes. Finally, we are SO excited to be able to elevate our farm with new planting grounds in order to continue to promote organic food options, sustainability, and consumer awareness amongst chalutzim.
One of the amazing benefits of this greenhouse is that it will lengthen our farming season. Right now, most of our growing takes place over the summer, as the cold winters present rather challenging planting circumstances. But with the introduction of our new greenhouse, we will be able to harness the energy from the sun to sustain warm crops all year around. We are especially grateful to the BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy program, the program that will take place over the 9-month off-season at the Ramah in the Rockies ranch, which is committed to “incorporating horticulture therapy into the[ir] program and maintaining the greenhouse through the winter months.”
We are also incredibly thankful for this gift, as the greenhouse will diversify our harvesting crops! Right now, our garden predominantly grows cold crops: kale, cauliflower, broccoli, herbs, etc. But by April of next year, we hope to have our greenhouse fully green and bursting with warm crops such as eggplant, tomatoes, strawberries, corn, beans, squash, cucumbers and more! These crops will serve as supplements to our organic produce that we use in the kitchen, making Ramah in the Rockies even more of a farm-to-table operation!
The expansion of our crop production will also enable us to broaden our consumption and garden education.”Because this is a three season greenhouse, we will be able to start planting earlier in the season, which will allow chalutzim see different stages of growth.” says Sammy Schwartz, part of our tzevet chava (farm staff) here at camp. By doing so, chalutzim will have the opportunity to expand their knowledge and understanding about the process of food production.
At Ramah in the Rockies, we believe that it’s so important to think and talk about where our ingredients come from, the conditions under which they were produced and harvested, and what happens to the organic waste. Our motto of “ain bizbuz,” or “no waste,” our commitment to eating organic wherever we can, and our food education program all aim to contribute to a culture that is intentional and environmentally conscious. It is our mission to raise awareness about the importance of these issues; the addition of our new greenhouse to our chava will play a major role in helping to ensure that this mission is reinforced in our community.
If you have a vision for how you can tangibly and practically improve the Ramah in the Rockies experience, CLICK HERE to donate, or contact Rabbi Eliav Bock at firstname.lastname@example.org
This past Tuesday, Ramah in the Rockies was honored to welcome Rick Richt to our chava (ranch) for a Fourth of July concert! Rick Recht is known nationally for utilizing the power of song to foster communities, create unforgettable memories, and develop Jewish pride in audiences of all ages. Throughout Recht’s hour long set, he performed for and engaged our entire community in meaningful, spirited, song and dance. The ruach (spirit) was palpable as we gathered in the late afternoon sun, armed with homemade posters and dressed in our best red, white and blue.
Solelim camper Eitan Gotian has been playing guitar for nine years, and had the opportunity to play on stage with Rick Recht. He thought it was “really cool” that Recht came to Ramah in the Rockies, saying, “I think that everybody liked his performance because he got everyone involved; even the younger kids and the older kids were singing along.”
Tzevet (staff) member and musician Isaac Rosen also found Recht’s presence on campus to be wildly impactful. “Rick Recht is definitely a big name in the Jewish camper movement,” he said. “A lot of kids had heard of him, some of them had heard him perform at other camps, and the fact that he was coming to Rockies… people got really excited.” Rosen also had the opportunity to perform with Recht, saying, “It felt like it all came together. It was really incredible to get to play with him.”
Centered around themes of community, peace, and tikkun olam, Rick Recht’s music leant a new meaning to our regular Fourth of July celebrations. Some of his most beloved songs from his new album, “Halleluyah,” to which our chalutzim sang along, focus on the values that Ramah in the Rockies holds dear, such as kesherim (connections) and kavod (honor). And in fact, Rick Recht’s personal goal in his performances is to do just that. “That’s the magic of Jewish music – the interaction, the singing, the dancing, and the powerful community connection. For me, it’s a dream come true to create and share in these powerful experiences,” he remarks.
Rick Recht has been a leader in the Jewish rock world since 1999, with the release of his first Jewish album, Tov. In addition to performing and inspiring the next generation of Jewish leaders through music, Recht is the founding executive director of Jewish Rock Radio (JRR), which features a variety of music from all over the Jewish world. This year, thanks to the generosity of Michael Staenberg of St. Louis, Missouri, Jewish Rock Radio is launching the JRR Gift of Music – a major national initiative that will provide Jewish music to thousands of teens and young adults in Denver. This means we will be able to offer the entirety of our Ramah in the Rockies family with free downloads of popular Jewish music! Click here to get your JRR Gift of Music now!
Additionally, in response to the interest expressed by our chalutzim in the music from the concert, Rick Recht has generously provided the Rockies community with free music downloads with some of his greatest hits! Now, chalutzim can take their favorite tunes home with them and keep the magic of camp alive year round. Click here to take Rick Recht’s music home with you, and enter download code 7UBIK7TD to access.
Rick Recht’s performance, coupled with the arrival of our 1B campers and our traditional Fourth of July festivities (such as waffles for breakfast and barbeque for dinner) truly enhanced what was already a special day for our kehillah (community).
I had the chance to sit down with Michael Harlow, musician, performer, and Rosh Shira at Ramah in the Rockies. With his signature afro in braids, his feet bare, and his head spinning with new ideas, Harlow was the image of the next generation of musical creativity. How did he get here? I wondered the same thing.
“My parents started me on piano lessons in first grade,” he told me. Since then, he has learned to play the drums and the guitar as well. Furthermore, he has expanded his knowledge of music theory with the help of his parents and his older brother, all musically inclined by nature. “I grew up around music. My mom sang in the Zamir Chorale of Boston, a famous Jewish choir. My dad is also a singer and my brother is a jazz pianist who graduated from Oberlin Conservatory.”
Every day since those first piano lessons, Harlow has been practicing, learning “more and more songs, in order to learn more and more chords and more riffs and more notes to become more familiar with how notes interact with each other throughout the neck of the guitar.” His passion has taken him far. Right now, in the world beyond camp, his focus is on his musical duo with Brandeis University classmate Brian Rauch, called ‘Late Night Thoughts.’ The duo creates acoustic covers of pop songs, and right now they’re working on recording and releasing an EP comprised entirely of original music. A shameless self promoter (as any up-and-coming artist should be), Harlow encourages readers to “find us on Facebook and give us a like” (links below).
His passion for making music and spreading joy through music made him a natural fit for Rosh Shira at Ramah in the Rockies. This is his fifth summer at Ramah in the Rockies, his second summer as Rosh Shira. In the past, he told me, Harlow was essentially a one man band; the guy behind the ruach (spirit) of camp. This year, he’s interested in getting himself out of the equation. “I’m a born performer, and I know that about myself. But shira is not a performance; it’s a facilitation of musical exploration for all of our chalutzim (campers).” Ultimately, his goal is to “make it so that anyone with guitar skills and the ability to facilitate and organize humans could be Rosh Shira quite easily”
So, what drives Michael Harlow to keep going? How does he wake up early every morning with enough energy to share with our whole kehilah (community)? Why does he constantly strive to improve our musical experience at Ramah in the Rockies, working tirelessly every week to master new songs, melodies, and chords?
“Nothing brings me more joy in life than music. And if I can share that with others, if I can make just 10% of chalutzim realize that they love shira, or just two chalutzim realize that they absolutely love music, or change their thoughts on t’fillah, then I’ve accomplished my goal. I think there is nothing more powerful than humans singing together. And so if I can be a part of that, I’m happy.”
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You could feel the anticipation in the air as nearly 20 staff members departed the ranch at 6am and headed to Denver International Airport. Weeks of preparation had led us to this point. Everyone from our incredible kitchen staff to our camper care team to our counselors was prepared and excited. We were ready. It was go time.
Upon our arrival at the airport, the staff sprang into action unloading snacks, getting gate passes, going through security, and finding the gates. Flights began to touch down at 8am, and we were ready to receive each chalutz or chalutzah (camper) right off the plane as they came in. This was no small feat; flights were delayed, gates were changed, and baggage was misplaced. Moreover, this session alone, Ramah in the Rockies welcomed arriving chalutzim from nearly 40 separate flights. But our expert staff, armed with spreadsheets and group chats galore, handled it with ease. Every camper in a dark green “Ramah in the Rockies” tee was quickly spotted and welcomed.
Three buses, two 12-passenger vans, two trucks, and one Subaru pulled out of the airport that afternoon. Meanwhile, the bus from the Hebrew Educational Alliance (HEA) in Denver was well on its way, and local families packed up their cars and set off towards camp to drop off their campers in person. Bus rides from all over were full of laughs and songs, and soon chalutzim and tzevet (staff) alike were headed up the dirt road towards the ranch, approaching 8,000 foot elevation.
Each arriving vehicle was greeted with cheers, songs, and smiling madrichim (counselors), who swept up their chalutzim in a gust of energy and whisked them off to games, sports, and health checks. As the airport buses pulled up to the Ranch, those who had arrived from HEA or from home earlier in the day formed a tunnel with their arms for incoming campers to walk through, singing and cheering as each new camper joined our kehillah kedoshah (holy community). Squeals of excitement were heard as chalutzim reunited with friends they hadn’t seen all year.
Following a dinner filled with ruach (spirit) and pizza, chalutzim made their way to their ohelim (bunks) where they had a chance to unpack and relax after a long day of travel. Counselors led their bunks in writing the ohel brit, the bunk contract, to ensure that our summer is built upon a foundation of kindness and respect. Finally, every ohel sang the Shema before going to bed early, knowing that tomorrow would be the first day of the best summer of their lives.
And just like that, Kayitz 2017 at Ramah in the Rockies began.
If it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes leaders and elders to help set the tone for the community. Ramah in the Rockies is a magical village that opens its doors for nine weeks each summer and transforms the lives of the hundreds of youth who walk through our gates. And, if our chalutzim (campers/pioneers) are our village members, then our village leaders are the madrichim (counselors) and the village elders are Hanhallah (senior staff). The Hanhallah of our camp form an extraordinary group of passionate Jewish educators. They are the ones who work tirelessly throughout the summer ensuring that your children have impactful, fun, and safe experiences at Ramah in the Rockies.
With only weeks until we welcome our first chalutzim, it is with great pride that we introduce the members of our 2017 Hanhallah.
Our Year Round Team (Click on Photo to read Bio)
Rabbi Eliav Bock, Executive Director Douglas Wolf, Business Manager
Julia Snyder, Program Director Lisa Holstein, Office Manager
Sandra Yaron, Registrar Rafi Daugherty, Director of Camper Care
Abigail Gavens, Tikvah Director
Summer Senior Staff
Achinoam Aldouby, Summer Assistant Director
I grew up in Israel, now living in Jerusalem. I work with LOTEM- a non-profit organization that makes nature accessible to people with special needs. I also research at the Hebrew University theater performances incorporating Jewish texts and lead Torah study sessions at Elul- a pluralistic Beit Midrash…and best of all, I love making ice cream. I’m excited to come back to camp and to see how the camp has grown from the first time I came in summer 2010. I’m looking forward to see our chaluzim and tzvet choose to challenge themselves physically, spiritually and socially.
Jacob “J-Chat” Chatinover, Director of Logistics ‘Car Czar’
I am from West Hartford, CT, and now live in Denver. When not at camp, I read comic books. Also, I am a math teacher (to pay for the comic books). I am most looking forward to slowly gaining the trust and respect of the tzevet, and as the one in charge of all camp walkie-talkies, being feared and loved in equal measure.
Deena Cowans, Rosh Chinuch (Director of Education)
I grew up in the Chicago area, but now I live in New York City, where I am a Rabbinical student at JTS. I am looking forward to singing on Saturday night and for sunrise yoga!
Rashei Edah (Unit Heads)
Lexi Marcus, Rosh Ilanot (3rd and 4th grade)
I am a born and raised Denver Coloradan. I am currently studying human development, soon to become an elementary educator. I dance, laugh often, and pet puppies whenever I can. I am very excited to watch and grow alongside everyone at camp, and guiding the campers towards internal, external, and Jewish self discovery.
Liza Elkin, Rosh Metaylim (5th and 6th grade)
I am originally from Newton, Massachusetts but will be moving from New York City to Denver this fall to begin my Master of Social Work! This is my first summer at Ramah Rockies and I am really looking forward to helping create a summer rich in exploration, learning, and lots of fun for our campers. And I’m excited to experience the beauty of the Rocky Mountains!
Ronni Gurwicz, Rosh Solelim (7th and 8th Grade)
I am originally from the dark wasteland that is the North of England, and now am a Storytelling Coach and Program Developer working for a Dutch based organization. I can’t wait to be part of the wonderful Ramah community spirit again, after having worked for Ramah Seminar last summer in Israel.
Eliana Willis, Rosh Bogrim
I’m originally from Los Angeles. Since graduating from UC Santa Cruz in 2015 I have spent my time traveling, working in environmental education, and currently, studying at Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. I’m most looking forward to Friday evenings at camp, when the whole community comes together for Shabbat with song, dance, blessings, and great challah!
Eli Witkin, Rosh JOLI
Born and raised in Minneapolis, MN I spent the last year in the Holy city and will be returning to Boston in the fall. Outside of camp I like to smile at strangers and learn Torah – I like to think of myself as a professional community builder. I am looking forward to lightning storms, getting into that deep place in my mind that only a long trail provides access to, and trying out a new t’filla curriculum
Today marks our 75 day countdown until we welcome our first Chalutzim(pioneers/campers) to the Ramah in the Rockies Ranch. In this time of Pesach, when we think about 4 cups of wine, 3 matzot and the numbers in “Who Knows One,” I want to reflect on some of the key numbers we are thinking about as we prepare for the summer.
27,000 Amount of clean drinking water (in gallons) available at any moment in 4 holding tanks
438 Campers currently registered for the 2017 summer season
146 Campers who are coming to Ramah in the Rockies in 2017 for the first time
200 Maximum number of campers at camp at any one time
103 Staff members who are working at camp this year
95 Liters of grape juice we will use on this summer for Kiddush on Friday nights
40 Additional campers we hope to enroll before opening day
21 Israeli staff members coming as part of our mishlachat (up from 9 in 2014)
15 Hens who will be laying eggs at camp this summer
10 New folding cafeteria tables we have ordered for the summer
8 12 passenger vans we will have on site at any one time this summer
3 Dogs we will have living with us on the ranch (the smallest number in a while)
2 Goats coming to camp this summer (on loan from a local goat farmer)
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For chalutzim (campers) at Ramah in the Rockies, the masa (outing) is an integral part of camp. This summer, our Tikvah campers spent three days and two nights at Chatfield State Park, a very well-organized site with all of the necessary facilities for our campers, including showers, toilets, lake, playground, etc.
After setting camp up, our group headed over to the lake and took a stroll along the beach. When we returned to ourcampsite, we cooked a delicious meal of veggie burgers accompanied with roasted sweet potatoes and onions. We played some games by the campfire and headed to bed early. The following morning, we hiked along the dam overlooking the lake and then went swimming. After lunch, we met up with Amber, one of the park’s rangers, and she taught us about the wildlife in the park. She showed us skulls, skins, and furs of the different animals. Then Amber took us to clean the beach of the lake as part of our service project. We concluded with a scavenger hunt along one of the park trails. That night, we had a Mexican fiesta, complete with salsa, chips, guacamole, rice, and beans. Each of our campers enjoyed a different part of their masa experience. The facts that we had such an organized site and that our vans had all of the food and games needed to keep our campers occupied and entertained made it very easy!
Other than some rainy moments, our campers had a great time. All agreed it was a positive experience and that they would happily do it again!
Howard Blas, director of the National Ramah Tikvah Network, was very impressed when he learned details of our masa during a recent visit to Ramah in the Rockies. “I have been taking Tikvah campers on masa (we call it “Etgar”) for the past fifteen years at Ramah New England. Many Tikvah programs don’t have such camping trips. I thought our one-night, two-day hiking, canoeing, and rafting trip was impressive. But, wow! The Rockies’ three-day masa is amazing!”
This blog is being reposted in honor of Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month.
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You’ve heard it before, “Jews are the People of the Book”. Our religion is transmitted through books. Our religious practices rely on books. Our ethnicity values book smarts. But how many of us spend any significant time with “our” books?
Modern Judaism is a practice of rabbinic Judaism, or the Judaism first discussed by the rabbis of the Talmud. Anyone who has ever tried to learn Talmud, whether they are a beginner or a yeshiva bocher, knows that the Talmud is hard. The reasoning is often opaque, much of the Talmud is written in a mostly dead language (Aramaic) and the subject matter is sometimes seemingly unrelated to our modern lives.
Yet those who stick with it, who allow themselves to dig into a text and consider its meanings and lessons, describe the experience as transformative. In part this is because the Talmud (and other Jewish texts) contain a wealth of wisdom. But in part this is because the effort it takes to understand the text and the intimacy that comes from engaging in consistent study are part of the reward. Just like with people, the more we invest in a relationship, the more meaning we find in it.
This summer, we will take on the challenge of becoming the People of the Book by dedicating ourselves to the sustained study of a book of Talmud (technically the Mishnah) known as Pirkei Avot. The book of Pirkei Avot– often incorrectly translated as Ethics of the Fathers, but more correctly translated as Selections of Principles– contains the transmitted moral and ethical one-liners of the early rabbinic period (around the year 0-200CE). Some of the material is timeless in its wisdom, other selections are troubling to our modern values. We’re going to study both parts, because an educated and thoughtful person does not shy away from what is hard.
At Ramah in the Rockies, we focus on developing the inner and outer selves. We take on physical challenges like rock climbing, mountain biking and backpacking; we also take on emotional and spiritual challenges like living in close quarters with others, practicing Judaism more intensely than many of us do during the year and living in close proximity to nature.
Our study of Pirkei Avot will challenge our inner and outer selves. We will explore forms of learning such as embodied learning, chevruta (partner) learning, theater, arts and discussion. We will learn to question and challenge each other respectfully, to try something we have never considered or valued.
We believe that we can learn both from the text and from the process of study. We hope that learning this entire work together over the course of 10 weeks will teach us about patience, love, community and self. We will certainly be challenged, but Ramah in the Rockies embraces challenge by choice, and we will choose to persevere when the material pushes back at us. Along the way, we will celebrate our accomplishments with a siyyum, a joyful celebration of completing a unit of text study. Judaism links Torah study with food– a siyyum usually involves a feast, and children are often given honey when they study Torah to make their learning sweet.
We hope that we will feel nourished by this endeavor, and that our learning will sweeten our lives.
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Happy New Year! In an effort to constantly improve, we have made some changes to our airport routine for this coming summer and want to explain both the “what” and the “why” behind these changes to you.
Starting with Summer 2017, we are no longer creating a recommended flight list for our major cities. Instead, we expanded our arrival and departure flight windows. The new arrival window is 9:00am – 11:30am and families are welcome to choose any flight that lands before 11:30am in Denver. We will meet all arriving campers at their gates (except JOLI campers). Our staff will escort campers to collect their bags and then congregate at Baggage Claim #10 until it is time to load the shuttles for the drive to camp. JOLI campers are expected to link up at Baggage Claim #10 with their bags.
The new flight windowdeparting Denver is 10:15am – 3:00pm. Again, families are welcome to select any airline that departs from Denver International Airport in this travel window. Instead of bringing all our departing campers to the airport at the same time, they leave camp in waves, based on their flight time. Flights to just about every city in the Continental US are available non-stop within this window. We recommend that families select the earliest available flight within the window.
Quite simply, we made the window wider to accommodate earlier non-stop flights to the coasts. We noticed that the 4-5pm flights to Boston, Washington DC, and New York were the ones most commonly delayed, causing additional problems and leading to incredibly long days for our campers. To combat these issues, we adjusted our travel window to accommodate earlier non-stop flights to our larger US coastal cities. Campers leaving on those flights will have to leave the ranch significantly earlier in the morning, but we hope that by enabling our East Coast families to select earlier flight times it will mean fewer delays and allow
campers to arrive home at a more reasonable time. Again, please select the most appropriate flight for each citywithin the travel window.
As done in the past, we will create region/session based email lists (ex: New York area 1st session, Bay Area 2nd Session, etc.) so that families in the same region and session are able to self-coordinate about details as well as Unaccompanied Minor status.
Our Unaccompanied Minor contact person is Kenny Shuster. Please list his name and our main camp phone number (303) 261-8214 on any airline forms.
Rabbi Leo of Mexico City brought a delegation of twenty campers from his community this past summer. He wrote this during the summer about the experience of being at camp. We look forward to welcoming more campers from Bet El this summer, and our continued partnership with the Mexico City community.
An English version is below the Spanish.
Camp Ramah in the Rockies, una experiencia inolvidable
”Que bellas son tus tiendas Yaacov, tus moradas, pueblo de Israel”
Es un gusto y un privilegio estar aqui en Camp Ramah, en Colorado, con un grupo fantastico de niños y madrijim de Comunidad Bet-El. Por primera vez casi veinte campers de nuestra comunidad de la ciudad de Mexico pudieron tener la experiencia de venir juntos. Esto fue posible gracias a generosos donadores de nuestra comunidad y a Camp Ramah asi como Rabbi Eliav que tuvieron la vision de que jovenes judios mexicanos puedieran interactuar con amigos de Estados Unidos, Israel y otras partes del mundo vivenciando que el pueblo judio es uno, a pesar de las diferencias de idiomas costumbres y lugares.
Llegamos hace una semana y por lo que hemos vivido, ha sido increible!!! Los niños estan muy emocionados de estar aqui. Han podido crear nuevas amisatades y practicar su ingles. El Camp ofrece actividades increibles como montar a caballo, andar en bici, clases de arte, escalar, mineria, cocinar en el bosque, y muchas otras mas.
Por otro lado todos nuestros jalutzim estaban muy emocionados de ir a el programa de Masa que es cuando se van fuera del camp a acampar por varios dias y cada uno escoge a cual quiere ir y viven una experiencia inolvidable.
Hemos logrado unirnos a todas las tfilot diferentes que otorga el camp y aprendimos las diversas meoldias que tienen en sus canciones. Asi como ya pasamos nuestro primer Shabat en Camp Ramah y fue muy emotivo, nos identificamos mucho con esta Kehila kedosha y descubrimos que son muchas mas las cosas que nos unen que las que nos diferencian.
Esperamos que para el proximo año podamos regresar otra vez y vivir nuevamente esta gran oportunidad!!!
Rabbi Leo Levy – Comunidad Bet-El de Mexico
Camp Ramah in the Rockies, an unforgettable experience
”How good are your tents, O Jacob, your dwellings, O Israel”
It’s a pleasure and a privilege to be here at Camp Ramah in the Rockies, with a fantastic group of kids and madrichim from the Bet-El Community. For the first time, almost twenty campers from our community in Mexico City have the experience of coming to camp together.
This was possible thanks to the generous donors of our community, Camp Ramah, and Rabbi Eliav who all had the vision of bringing young jewish Mexican kids to camp so the could interact with other Jewish kids from America, Israel, and all over the world; acknowledging that the Jewish people are one– no matter the different languages, customs, and places.
We arrived a week ago and for what we have experienced it has been an amazing time. The kids are really excited to be here. They have been able to create new friendships and are practicing their English, this camp offers incredible activities such as riding horses, mountain biking, arts and crafts, climbing, mining, outdoor cooking, and many others.
All of our chalutzim were very excited about the Masa program which is when they go camping outside of camp for a couple of days. Each camper had the chance to choose which Masa they wanted to go on, and they get to have unforgettable experiences.
We have been able to join the different T’fillot that camp has to offer and we have learned all the different melodies of the different songs. We had our first Shabbat in Camp Ramah, it was very emotional, we had become part of this Kehilla Kedosha and we have discovered that there are more things that unite us than things that set us apart.
We hope that next year we can come back and enjoy this great opportunity once again!!!
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A few weeks before coming to Ramah in the Rockies, Sous Chef Jeffrey Harris was out to dinner with a friend of a friend. Jeffrey was telling his dinning companion about the job that he had just been offered in the Colorado Rockies. They replied, “Working at a summer camp will be life changing,” and at the time Jeffrey was hesitant – after all, how could one summer surrounded by hundreds of Jewish kids in the Colorado Rockies be life changing? But by summer’s end, that same Sous Chef had a very different perspective on Ramah in the Rockies, as he shared, “This is a unique place… I believe I have met people here who will be in my life forever.”
Just as Ramah in the Rockies is a unique summer camp, so too is Sous Chef Jeffrey Harris. Jeffrey has taken to learning about Judaism – he is learning Hebrew, he has gone to t’fillot, learned in limmudim, and has even studied Talmud in chevruta. Normally, these are fairly normal things for the tzevet at Ramah in the Rockies to take part in – what makes this situation extraordinary is that Sous Chef Jeffrey Harris is not Jewish.
Jeffrey Harris was raised Protestant Christian, and prior to coming to work at Ramah he only knew a handful of Jews, and knew very little about Judaism as a religion. As Jeffrey disclosed, because of his religious differences he was worried that he would, “be an outsider from the rest of the community,” but he is now an integral member of the Ramah in the Rockies family.
Jeffrey explained that Judaism is not so different from Christianity in many ways, “Rituals are rituals – they are just different depending on the religion.” And likewise he can relate to the t’fillot we do at camp, as he recalled that even in Church he was taught to repeat words that he had been instructed to say. Sous Chef Jeffrey did however note some differences between the two major religions, as he pointed out Christianity is a religion established in faith, whereas Judaism is, in his assessment, a religion grounded in practice. Moreover, he was drawn to Judaism’s approach to right and wrong; that is, Jews will often choose to do what they believe to be ethically or morally right. This is juxtaposed by Christianity’s ideology of sin, which was/is determined by the church not by the individual.
In a similar vein, Jeffrey recalled a conversation he had with Rabbi Eliav where Eliav explained that, “Judaism only has one unifying belief – that there is one God; other than that we [Jews] argue about everything.” This model was one which fascinated Jeffrey, and is why he ultimately took a stab at learning Talmud. Because, “The New Testament is vague, but the Talmud goes into complex details about everything,” Jeffrey found learning Talmud refreshing.
Jeffrey started this journey at the beginning of the summer; his first week in the kitchen he spent some time researching the laws of kashrut, as they would be significant in his line of work. This however only sparked his interest, and he soon dug deeper. Jeffrey began to explore various facets of Judaism – by the first day of the first session he had started learning Hebrew using flashcards, and later in the summer he continued his learning.
He attended a few services, but found that they were not as interesting as other parts of Judaism because he was not able to understand what was being said. However, he did recognize the allure of singing in services, as he believes singing offers more of an emotional connection, which in his perspective it is more enjoyable, “seeing people be connected to something.” Moreover, at a certain point in the summer he decided to try wearing a kippah and he even tried observing Shabbat with the rest of the Ramah in the Rockies community.
Although Jeffrey has found Judaism’s extensive laws and regulations a bit restrictive, thus far he has welcomed that challenge. And furthermore, he has his sights set on working for a Jewish organization which will allow him to come back to Ramah in the Rockies next summer. All in all, this job has become a lifestyle for Jeffrey, as he pointed out, “You can treat it as just a job, or dive in and be part of the kehilla.”
https://www.ramahoutdoors.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/LOGO-300x167.png00Adminhttps://www.ramahoutdoors.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/LOGO-300x167.pngAdmin2016-12-01 22:38:492016-12-01 22:38:49Meet Jeffrey the Sous Chef
November 29th is Giving Tuesday. For those who have never heard of Giving Tuesday, it’s a reaction to the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Rather than spending money on something material, it is a chance for people to take part in a Global Day of Giving.
I am asking that this Giving Tuesday you consider making a meaningful gift to Ramah in the Rockies. In my nearly four seasons at Ramah in the Rockies (and another 15 with the greater Ramah movement), I have seen first hand what a blessing camp can be.
I have witnessed campers learn a new skill, overcome fears, make friends, form a community, and become better people! I know that camp can change lives because it has changed mine.
I am asking you to help us nurture the next generation of Jewish youth.
Your gift allows us to provide opportunities and experiences like these:
Campers from smaller Jewish populations feeling the power of immersive Jewish community for their first time,
Campers from cities like New York or Los Angeles actually seeing starry nights and hearing nature’s orchestra,
Groups of campers forming community and conquering challenges while hiking together through Rocky Mountain National Park,
Campers learning lifelong skills as they work to master fire building, rock climbing, mountain biking, and other techniques, and
An enduring love of the Colorado wilderness. Many of our campers and staff have planted roots in Colorado and grown the local Jewish community because of their time with Ramah.
There is something primordial about carving a space out from the wilderness. Backpacking in a national park this summer, I was struck by the persistence of the instinct.
This log is our kitchen. This branch is where we dry a towel. We enter the tent from this direction. Over here, just beyond camp, we store our food. We can’t help but to carve a space from the wilderness.
From within wilderness we organize, and shape and assemble. We look outside that space and say, “outside is wilderness and in here something seperate.”
When we are children, we delineate such spaces. We conjure caves, we play home, we build fortresses. We duck under sheets to escape the terrors of a wilderness.
Leaving Egypt, the Jewish people are young and newly free humans. They are flung into a vast wilderness and from within it, they carve a space for themselves. They fashion a moving encampment and dwell in smaller spaces therein.
A sukkah is a space assembled at precisely that time of year when one begins to draw inward, bringing together those things that you might need in the winter ahead. A sukkah is a cozy, autumnal comfort. You adorn it with symbols of the harvest and gaze at a swollen moon. You consider the universe and the vast wilderness in which you live.
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During the past six weeks, our year-round team has reached out to hundreds of camp families by email, phone, and survey. Many of you responded to our requests for honest feedback, including a record number to our online survey. We know that we can only continue to provide an amazing summer experience to our campers and staff by constantly working to make each summer better than the one before it. The way to do this is by always being open to adapting our camp program to meet the needs of our community. Our mission might remain the same, but aspects of our program have to change and improve from year to year.
We cannot thank you enough for your time and thoughtful responses to our questions. Now that we have had the opportunity to review and evaluate all the feedback, here is what we have learned and our action plan for the future.
TWO THUMBS UP
Values Based Community
The comment heard most often from campers, staff, and parents is that ours is a warm, intentional community, where people are kind, welcoming, and accepting. So many remarked on how newcomers and returning campers are able to bring their full personalities to our camp. We frequently also heard about the benefits of having a geographically diverse camper population. While our younger campers particularly enjoyed earning and bringing home the stickers with our four core values home, these concepts stood out to all that Ramah in the Rockies is a place where we strive to treat everyone and everything with respect. This is something that so many parents (and campers) appreciated.
Ramah in the Rockies continues to be THE Jewish camp for rustic outdoor living. So many families observed how their children were able to express the sensation of awe and grandeur that comes from living in the Colorado Rockies. While there are always some questions before camp starts concerning our not allowing any screens or earphones around camp, once engaged in the program, parents and campers realize that this is one of the more powerful aspects of our camp. And, of course, our outdoor program is best on display as exhibited by the various masa’ot (excursions) in which our campers participate throughout the summer. Masa’ot allow campers to bond with each other and challenge themselves in ways that they could not ordinarily do if they always remained in the relative comforts of base-camp.
Song and Dance
So much of the formal teaching in our children’s lives is directed towards obtaining further knowledge. At camp, we have the opportunity to also affect a child’s spirit and soul. This year, we made an extra effort to improve our song, dance, and visual arts programs. Many families noted how much their children loved these additions, including our daily dances at Mifgash. By the end of the summer, we also had switched to playing modern Israeli hip-hop as part of our Havdallah dance party for the older campers. We know that the culture of dancing that took off this summer will take a few more years to fully institutionalize, but we are eager to continue to invest resources in this area, including hiring a Rosh Rikud for the summer of 2017, a position we have never formally had. Additionally, parents told us that their children had been onto SoundCloud and Youtube to continue listening and dancing to some of their favorite camp songs.
MIXED REVIEWS (WHERE WE NEED MORE EMPHASIS)
During the summer you are entrusting us with your single most beloved treasure – your children – confident that we are providing your child with a safe, enjoyable experience. This is an incredible responsibility which we daily appreciate and continually strive to earn. While we pride ourselves on having the most mature staff in the Jewish camping industry, we know that we cannot rest on our laurels. To ensure and improve camper care for our families, including communicating well, we plan to make a number of changes going forward that will address specific areas where we know we could have done better. Two main areas of change include:
Medical Facility and Medication Distribution:
While complying with codes and regulations, our health center is pushed to its limits. We are now designing a new facility and raising funds to build a Wellness Center that should be open for the 2018 season. (Let me know if you would like to contribute to this important project.) In the interim, we plan to expand our medical space into the adjacent staff building known as “Don’s House”, giving us more room for sick campers to heal and another working bathroom.
We are re-examining our medication dispensing procedures, including assigning dedicated medical staff to pulling, logging, and distributing the medication rather than making this one of the many daily tasks for the camp nurse. We will continue to work with CampMeds or another pharmacy that individually packs pills for appropriate dispensing.
Our goal this summer was to communicate personally with every parent of a new camper in the younger edot (age group) within the first few days of camp. While we did call most parents, we know that we missed some and for this we are truly sorry. We are also working on systems to ensure that parents hear information about their children in a more timely fashion and have a chance to collaborate more closely with us when their child is struggling. To follow up after the session ends, we are working on ensuring better feedback letters from our counselors describing aspects of the camp program and including a list of questions to help parents engender more of a conversation with their camper concerning their experiences.
We will work to improve our mail system. While we will remain a few miles from the closest mailbox (where our USPS & UPS carriers drop all mail and packages), we know that campers deserve to get their packages and letters in a more timely fashion once they arrive at the ranch. For next summer we plan to hire a staff member who will oversee all parts of the mail operation, including sorting and delivering mail and printing emails. We also expect that this person will check outgoing mail to ensure it is properly addressed and stamped so that it reaches its destination sooner.
Teaching More Outdoor & Naturalist Skills
We have a beautiful remote ranch and all our campers spend some time sleeping in tents and under the stars. With that said, we need to work more intentionally at teaching outdoor and wilderness skills, especially to our younger campers. We heard from many parents who were surprised that their child did not learn how to put up a tent or use knives. While we cannot teach everything one needs to know to survive in the wilderness in two – or even four – weeks, we are spending time this year working on a five-summer curriculum whereby each age group will have specific outdoor skills in which they will gain proficiency. We are basing our curriculum on the merit badge system used in the Boy Scouts of America, and will include items like setting up shelter, using knives, creating fires safely, navigation techniques, and knot tying. While elements of each will also be taught in the different chugim (activities), we also plan to add a regular chug called camping skills where campers can practice these skills at base camp in a more relaxed atmosphere than they could when they are out on masa, where too often time is of the essence. We also hope to build upon some of the more naturalist activities often taught in the farm program and teach them in other areas of camp as well. This includes a greater appreciation for plant diversity and learning more about the natural history of the land around us.
Jewish summer camp works as an educational medium in large part because campers develop close, personal connections with their counselors and friends. While improving this area was a goal going into the summer, and we did better in 2016 than ever before, we have yet to fully realize our vision.
Moving forward, we will continue to improve our staff training to ensure that social connections are being made within the ohelim (tents) and require counselors to complete regular socio-grams (an activity to aid them in identifying and encouraging healthy group dynamics). We will also encourage more activities that foster positive early connections and adapt our scheduling to include more bunk-specific bonding activities. Our goal is for each ohel, when they are in base camp, to have a minimum of two scheduled peulot ohel each week where the counselors will have a chance to oversee some sort of intentional bonding program or discussion to help draw campers together.
We also intend to include more scheduled times for counselors to be with their campers in less formal environments, outside of the dining hall. We know that counselors can have incredible impact and influence on their campers, and want to help foster these positive relationships.
Finally, while our two-week programming will continue to be available to our edot through their Bogrim summer, our older two-week campers will no longer be able to select their activities at the base-camp. Instead, they will travel by “mishpachot” (coed families) to each activity and be able to experience most of the fourteen base camp opportunities we offer each two-week session. We have made this change to give our short-term campers more chances to bond within a smaller group and also to give our four week campers the ability to experience a few activities in greater depth along with a similar group of friends for their entire time at base-camp.
With the exception of our first-time Ilanot and Metaylim campers, we will continue to encourage families to consider the four-week options over two-week sessions. No matter how incredible we make our two-week program, it simply cannot live up to the magic experienced over four weeks.
We feel incredibly privileged that so many families have entrusted us to care for their children each summer. We know the awesome responsibility that this entails and are aware that a child’s experience at camp can influence decisions throughout life. We constantly seek to improve our camp and to fully realize the values that guide us throughout our summer. We also know that there will be times when we fall short of expectations, and cannot thank our parents, chalutzim, and tzevet enough for continuing to push us make our camp better and stronger!
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A Place to Be Yourself, The Place to Take on Life’s Adventure
The Ramah Rockies Experience
Rabbi Scott Bolton, Congregation Or Zarua, New York City
Writing from the beautiful Rockies, Basecamp
I believe that we need to find the right places for growing, reflecting, experiencing joy and awe. At every stage of our lives, we must find it for ourselves, and parents, to be good guides for their children, have to search out those environments. Finding a place, school, camp, or synagogue that encompasses them all is a challenge. What an incredible privilege to be able to become part of this sacred community at Ramah Rockies where I can see that everyone is in explorer mode and committed to the core values of community, individual growth, joy and honoring one another.
From this Rabbi’s perspective, when a camp is filled with people who are little like angels you have to share the blessings. Let me call out to fellow parents, Jewish community members and those wanting to contribute to the lives of children as camp staff – this is an inspiring Jewish place to be for two, four or eight weeks! Everyone here is accepted for who they are, what they stand for and how they express their Judaism, yet the commitment to community and finding common ground places everyone in a trust relationship.
With those trust relationships built through sacred attachments, the adventures themselves into the wilderness, up boulders, through forests, down paths both excite individual campers and create an understanding about teamwork and responsibility important both for summer adventures and for all of life.
At about 9,800 feet above sea level, at a trailhead, I saw a group of teens take on leadership under the careful supervision of dedicated adventure counselors. The gave each of the young leaders a different job and had them carefully sort out, equitably, all the extra equipment they would need to camp over five days and reach more than 12,500 feet above the tree lines. Their initiation into the ways of survival and skills for staying safe, and their celebrating Shabbat together got them ready for that journey. The leaders of the Jewish Outdoor Leadership Initiative (JOLI) empowered those teens from around the world, of one Jewish family, to each find their own inner strength and to create a team that could literally and figuratively realize new heights!
I am seeing that when those of all backgrounds, of one family, come to make magic here at Ramah Rockies there is a buzz and a peace all at the same time. There are physical heights and spiritual heights to ascend. Few places in my travels have inspired such an electricity as well as a sense of acceptance, potential growth and Jewish spirit.
I know I am in the right place for these weeks I will be here! Hineini! “I am here,” as our ancestors responded to God when asked if they were ready for the next chapter.
To register for Ramah in the Rockies today, please click this link. Register Now!
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On most mornings over the past eight weeks, I have risen well before our chalutzim (campers) and left my log cabin to walk to the office. In this three minute walk, the words of “Modeh Ani” usually come rolling off my tongue, almost naturally, as I stop and take in the amazing physical beauty I am blessed to be part of each summer.
This ranch is awe inspiring in so many ways! During my brief walk, I pass the camper tents, still silent from the outside at this early hour, but soon to be brimming with the sounds of children preparing to begin a new day of activities. I pass the horse pasture on my right, still wet with dew, a creek running through it, 24 majestic animals huddled in the morning brisk air finishing their nightly hay. After passing the towering Buffalo Peak against a brilliant blue background on my left I turn to see Prospector Mountain and its soaring cliffs, a peak so many set as a goal to climb each summer. Often the moon is still up, even though the light is bright and clear. Early mornings are truly a magnificent time at Ramah in the Rockies.
Today, I again woke early, but my hour of quiet was not to be as our chalutzim rose shortly thereafter to begin their long trip home. As I sit here looking out over our horse pasture some eight hours later, all of our chalutzim have left, returning to one of thirty-two States and seven countries. Our ranch is again poignantly silent. Another season has come and gone at Ramah in the Rockies, another summer has drawn to a close. Our long 42 week “masa” (excursion) in the “real world” has begun.
It is impossible to summarize all that happens in a single season in one email. Indeed, it is impossible for any one person to experience all that camp has to offer, for there are so many micro-communities within our one broad “kehillah kedosha“ (holy community). Each masa group, ohel (tent) and chug(activity) has its own stories, jokes, and memories. Rather than try to capture all that transpired these past eight weeks, Iwill instead focus on three activities that most of us have experienced this summer.
Mifgash, Singing, and Dancing
Each day this summer at 5:45pm our community gathered on our basketball court for a new camp tradition called “Mifgash“ (meeting).
During these fifteen minutes we announced y’mai huledet(birthdays), heard a rega shel yisrael (fun fact about Israel) and made camp-wide hoda’ot (announcements). Most importantly, we danced! While only fifteen minutes long, this new ritual became a cornerstone of our summer community. It was the one time that everyone could gather in a single place; a time when the youngest camper to the most senior staff member could interact with one another on a regular basis to release some energy and dance together to some modern Israeli music. The coordinated and the uncoordinated became one as long as we were smiling and having fun. Two songs that became a staple of this tradition were Hashem Melech and Bein HaBodedim. Click on either and ask your chalutz to show you his/her moves.
But Mifgash was only one part of our reinvestment in the Arts this summer. Throughout the summer, our talented Rosh Shira, Michael Harlow, along with so many other amazing musicians at camp, taught and led us us in some of the best shira sessions we have ever had on this ranch. From new tunes inspired by the training of the URJ movement, such as Dan Nichols’ Esa Enai,to original tunes written by our own tzevet members (Michael Harlow’s Modeh Ani), music infused our program throughout the day and became an integral part of our kehillah this summer as everyone from Ilanot through JOLI and staff embraced new melodies with excitement. Last night’s final shira and dance session was one I will remember throughout the off-season and one that will hopefully become the new standard at Ramah in the Rockies.
While the people in our camp can change from year to year, the values that anchor our community remain the same. As part of our strategic planning process, our board of directors reworked our “Core Values” to become four basic principles: Honor, Joy, Personal Growth, and Connection.
Building upon these core values, we created “midah“(value) stickers that chalutzim worked to earn during their time at camp. Each Friday night, we asked those chalutzim who had earned all four stickers to rise and be acknowledged publicly for exhibiting these traits. Their names were added later in the week to our permanent “Midah Board” in the Pardes T’filah. Throughout the summer, most water bottles were adorned with these stickers.
While the stickers were a gimmick to enable us to acknowledge the accomplishments of our chalutzim, on a deeper level they truly reflect what it means to be a member of the Ramah in the Rockies community. Each summer so many come to camp and leave transformed in countless ways as they push themselves to their physical emotional and spiritual limits. Yet this community is so much more than our roster of activities. Yes, we bike, climb, and do arts and crafts, but at the center of our Kehillah Kedosha are these enduring values. Ones that we hope our chalutzim and tzevet will hold dear not only while at camp, but, perhaps most importantly, beyond our gates and throughout their lives.
Because of our commitment to these values and their role in our community, we are asking all of our chalutzim, tzevet members, and visitors to participate in a new initiative called “The Midah Project.” More information can be found here, but in short, we would like to ask every person who set foot on our ranch this summer to draw a picture representing one of our core values. These pictures will then be turned into tiles which will be mounted as part of murals that will adorn our ranch for many years to come.
Of course, no discussion of a season at Ramah in the Rockies would be complete without mention of our masa (excursion) program.This summer we sent out a record 75 masa’ot. Some trips traveled farther than ever from base camp into regions of Colorado such as State Forest State
Park and the Spanish Peaks Wilderness area. Our 2016 chalutzim hiked, climbed, and biked farther than any groups in previous summers. Whether it was our Ilanot who hiked to the Buffalo Ranch and then up Prospector Mountain, or our Metaylim who spent time rafting and backpacking,orour Sollelim who climbed new routes in Boulder Canyon, or our Bogrim chalutzim who “summited” a fourteen thousand foot peak on bikes, or our JOLI group who spent a full night sleeping alone on a “solo” in the Indian Peaks Wilderness area, each chalutz had his or her own adventure.
My favorite day at camp comes every two weeks when the chalutzim return from their masa’ot tired, smelly, and often with bruises, yet smiling ear to ear, so full of excitement and pride in their accomplishments over the week. I love watching their dirty faces as they return to the relative comfort of our ranch, eager to tell everyone about their unique experiences on the trail. As I go out to greet the chalutzim and ask them about their masa’ot, I am invariably met by a cacophony of stories and giggles. While some groups might have hiked longer, climbed higher, or eaten more delicious food, each and every chalutz(a) will be left with memories of personal transformation and enduring friendships.
And to Wrap Up. . .
And now, we must close this chapter of Kayitz 2016. It has surely been one of best ever and one that has impacted more people than ever before.
Closing camp is always bittersweet since we know that there are still peaks to climb, friendships to deepen, and songs to sing. While the “real world” calls, we can take heart that there are only 306 more days until next summer! Our registration for 2017 is already open, and spots are in high demand!
As we pack up our summer office and prepare for tonight’s staff banquet, I want to thank all of our families, chalutzim, tzevet, and raving fans for continuing to support us and enabling us to assemble one of the most remarkable Jewish communities in the country. While the camp season must come to an end, I know that the lessons and friendships developed over the past 9 weeks will continue for years to come.
–Rabbi Eliav and the entire Ramah in the Rockies team
We sent this email out yesterday to all of our camp families.
Dear Camp Families and Friends,
We hope the school year has started off well for you. With the opening of our Summer, 2017 registration, we have some updates to share also.
We are enjoying reading the survey responses so far received and will be publishing results once we finish compiling them all. If you have not yet completed our survey and would like to give us the gift of feedback on your summer experience with us, please click here. Your responses to our surveys help us shape our program updates and changes for next summer.
Midah Tile Project
Throughout the summer, we told our campers about the new Midah Murals we will be creating around camp, using their artwork to fashion mosaics around their summer experiences. If you have not yet created a tile as a part of our Tile Project, it’s not too late to submit one! If you chose to create digital artwork, you can send that to us via email at email@example.com. Please read the full instructions on how to participate at ramahout.s466.sureserver.com/tileproject.
Registration and Program Updates
Registration for Kayitz 2017 has been open for a month now and we already have a number of registered campers. If you want to receive your super comfy Ramah fleece, please register before October 31st! While we still have room in all sessions and all bunks, we do expect to begin filling some by the end of September. To register now, please click here.
While we are using this time immediately after camp to still fully evaluate our 2016 program, we want to let you know about a few upcoming changes that might affect your registration choices. We hope these modifications for 2017 will improve the Ramah in the Rockies’ experience for all of our chalutzim (campers).
2-Week vs 4-Week Programs
Traditionally when our campers have arrived for their sessions, whether attending for two or four weeks, all of our older campers would spend over an hour “leveling” into (choosing) their electives at camp. While this is useful for our four-week campers, we realized that our two-week campers were passing over an hour choosing activities in which they would participate for a total of three hours in the following days at base camp. Additionally, our four week campers were not able to experience the full programmatic arc of our speciality programs because there were often two week campers transitioning either in or out of their activities.
To improve this system, we are making the following change for our 2017 programs: our two week campers (all ages) will travel to our different activities in camp as members of “mishpachot” (families). This will give our new and returning campers the opportunity to experience all that base camp has to offer in their two weeks with us. We think this will enable our two-week campers opportunities to do more activities while also creating a more communal feeling among our four-week campers.
Two and four week campers in our older age groups will continue to live in different, but adjacent, tents. Our rising 3/4th grade campers will continue to live in mixed tents, while most of our rising 5/6th grade campers will live in separate tents, unless our registration numbers warrant otherwise (likely in our August session).
Please note that our six-week campers will spend their four-week session as four-week campers and their two-week session with the different activities.
If you have any questions about this, please feel free to reach out to Rabbi Eliav Bock or Julia Snyder, and we will be glad to answer your questions about these improvements to our program.
The goal of our JOLI (Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute) program is to create future Jewish outdoor leaders. As such, the program is designed to push participants physically, spiritually, and mentally to take on new challenges and find new areas of growth. While our JOLI program is incredibly rewarding for those who complete it, it is not suitable for all rising 11th/12th graders.
For a number of years, we have required JOLI applicants new to our community to have an interview and complete essay questions. Because of this
process, these individuals have often been the best prepared because they fully understand the challenges that they are going to undertake while participating in JOLI. For our 2017 season, we will expand this intake procedure to include our Bogrim graduates wanting to join the JOLI program.
For those who have applied or will be applying to JOLI 2017, we will be sending information about interviews and essay questions, and will begin the interviewing process in early October. In the meantime, anyone who registers for JOLI 2017 will have a spot saved for them, but no one will be confirmed until after we decide, together, whether JOLI is a good fit for each applicant. (Don’t worry, anyone who registers prior to October 31, whether or not s/he has gone through the interview process will still receive a free Ramah in the Rockies fleece).
To read more about the program, please visit https://www.ramahoutdoors.org/about/joli/
We are currently re-evaluating our Tikvah program to figure out the best model for our camp and our participants.
We invite all of our current and potential Tikvah families to discuss their child and what type of program is the right fit for them with our former Tikvah Director, Elyssa Hammerman (firstname.lastname@example.org). Rabbi Eliav will be convening a group of stakeholders in the coming weeks to discuss the future trajectory of this program. If you would like to be part of this group, please be in touch with him directly.
In an effort to move the process of need-based financial aid along more efficiently, we are starting the application process three months earlier this year. Requests for financial aid are reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis. Families are encouraged to apply as soon as possible. If you have any questions, please visit ramahout.s466.sureserver.com/scholarships or email Douglas Wolf at email@example.com.
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Greetings from a cool and cloudy day at Ramah in the Rockies! For the first time in probably several weeks, our temperatures have dipped, the clouds rolled in, and much needed rain fell. This has been another transition week for us here on the chava (ranch) as we said lehitra’ot (goodbye) to our 2A campers, and bruchim haba’im (welcome) to our 2B chalutzim (campers). We bid farewell to our incredible delegation from Congregation Bet El in Mexico City, which was recently featured in this news article. (Please note: We are sorry for any misspelled names or incorrect facts in the article. Our kids were interviewed over the phone by an outside reporter.)
This is our smallest session of the summer, to the point that we have been able to consolidate from eating in two seperate dining halls to eating in one. As is the case on the Friday of every other week here at camp, our older chalutzim are “packing out” – preparing their food and gear for their five-day backcountry excursions. They are measuring out their ingredients; checking and rechecking their tents, packs, stoves, and other gear; and making sure all is ready for the trip.
This past Sunday, our Tzevet Chetz V’keshet (Archery Staff) hosted a medieval-themed archery tournament on the range. Our chalutzim and tzevet all came out to cheer and support the competitors, many of whom came in costume and carrying banners representing their teams. I even managed to join for a round or two of shooting. (Though admittedly, I probably missed the target more than hitting it!) Check out the pictures, by clicking this link.
For our Ilanot and Metaylim chalutzim, we had our end of session carnival, always a crowd favorite, complete with balloon animals, face painting, snow cones, a photo booth, and more! These two groups welcomed new friends this week, and, last night, Metaylim had an “ecstatic dance party” as Rosh Edah Julia described it. At the party, they heard a mix of English and Hebrew upbeat dance music and had judgment-free dancing, letting their bodies move to the music. The kids loved it!
Sollelim said goodbye to a bunch of chalutzim earlier this week and welcomed a new cohort as well, our last transition week of the summer. Led by Rami, an incredibly talented and musical Rosh Edah (unit head), the t’fillot (morning prayers) have become a real highlight experience for all. While this might be unusual to say, this edah has really been hitting it out of park when it comes to t’fillah. They have had musical and spirited traditional services as well as deeply meaningful alternative t’fillot, exploring meaning through a variety of options. Another highlight of the week from Sollelim was their glow-in-the-dark gaga game!
While other edot were welcoming new friends, we made a decision this year NOT to offer 2-week Bogrim registration at the end of the summer. The Bogrim group has continued their excellent programming for 4-week chalutzim. We welcome a number of “guest stars” (visiting rabbis) throughout the summer and they have led Bogrim in a variety of activities and limudim (text-based discussions). For example: Rabbi Scott Bolton and Dr. Hartley Lachter did an activity around Jewish leadership styles as they contrast with more top-down religious leadership approaches. Dr. Jessica Cooperman spoke about Jews & Race. Rabbi Elyse Winick led a session on Tikkun Olam. Evenings for our Bogrim chalutzim were filled with silly and fun peulot erev like Pillowcase Charades, where we did impersonations and created costumes using random items placed in a pillowcase. Last night we held a sing-off where the MC picked one word like “sun”, “road”, or “shake” and then thought of different songs with that word. You could hear the singing all the way across camp!
Yesterday evening I watched JOLI participate in a pretty awesome peulat erev (evening activity) – Iron Chef. The JOLI contestants were given a set list of ingredients that had to be included in their two dishes, and everything was cooked and prepared using typical masa gear – camping stoves, cutting boards, and knives. Each of the teams than ate their creations for dinner and presented an extra plate to a panel of judges, including our Head Chef Avram who ran the evening and he gave them some pointers to improve their dishes.
This week we also welcomed another group of chalutzim — our Adult Campers! This summer we have 11 campers joining us who will participate in our base camp activities, spend a spirited Shabbat with our entire kehilla kedosha, and go out on their own masa (backcountry excursion). Leading this esteemed group is the Director of Camp Ramah in Northern California (and a founding Rockies staff member!), Rabbi Sarah Schulman and her husband, Nate Bankirer.
We are looking forward to a wonderful Shabbat with our friends from Adult Camp and our entire kehilla. This Sunday (SHHH, it’s a surprise!), we will be celebrating a camp favorite: Yom Sport! Yom Sport is our color-war competition that we do twice a summer and is always a highlight for our chalutzim and tzevet. It will surely be an exciting day of cheering, singing, dancing, sports, and friendly competition!
I am sitting in the chadar ochel an hour before lunch, Israeli music is blaring from the loudspeakers, and the sounds of chalutzim (campers) returning from masaot (excursions) fill the air outside. Over the next three hours all our chalutzim will return from their masa’ot. After the initial shrieks of delight and quickly paced stories, all will unpack, shower, change, and be ready for another Shabbat at camp.
Our youngest two edot spent most of their week on our chava (ranch) where they had a chance to ride horses, shoot archery, ride bikes, and also go mining. Masa weeks tend to be much quieter at camp since half our kehillah kedosha (holy community) is away which allows us a chance to do programs that might not be possible when everyone is in camp. For example, this week our staff from the Mexican delegation treated us to real Mexican food for dinner and we had two shira (singing) sessions that were incredible because all the chalutzim and tzevet (staff) were able to fit into the small chadar ochel (dining hall) where the acoustics are so much better than our larger dining tent.
Yesterday and today, Ilanot has been on a masa of their own. On Thursday morning, they hiked out to Ramah Valley where they set up a base camp. Half the group then spent the afternoon hiking up Prospector Mountain and the other half of the group hiked to our neighboring buffalo ranch. On Prospector, the wild raspberries are in season, so hikers had a chance to eat their way up the mountain. At the Buffalo Ranch, chalutzim had a picnic overlooking a gorgeous pond before heading into the pasture on a UTV to feed the buffalo and cattle (the cows, by hand). In the evening, everyone met back in Ramah Valley for dinner and a campfire. Today the groups switched.
Due to transportation issues, we combined our entire Metaylim edah and sent them to the Arkansas River for their rafting masa. The group camped out together by the river on Tuesday night, and then spent Wednesday on the water. All reported that it was an incredible experience and the weather was perfect throughout. Our rafting company, Noah’s Ark, are some of the best trained and most responsible guides on the river, and so even when one boat flipped, the guides pulled all the campers into accompanying rafts just as they are trained to do. Campers in the flipped boat all called home, but most, whether in the water or on other rafts, just thought it would be an awesome story to tell. Sadly, this will be our last rafting trip of the summer since the water level will drop considerably by IIB.
Sollelim chalutzim had a chance this week to choose a masa that would challenge them on bikes, by foot (on one of three hiking masa’ot), at a 3-D archery range, and on the cliffs of the surrounding mountains. When I asked some of the Sollelim chalutzim what the highlight of their trip had been, I heard combinations of: the meals and camaraderie in the evenings at the camp sites, summiting some beautiful mountains and of course setting personal goals and achieving them. I heard from a few madrichim (counselors) who told me that they were so impressed by how well the chalutzim worked together to accomplish a number of challenges and encourage each other, especially when walking/riding up steep hills.
Our Bogrim chalutzim spent time on Earth Mountain Farm, climbed in two areas near our camp, biked on miles of road and single track, and hiked throughout Pike National Forest and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. One group also spent the week kayaking near Salida, Colorado. For many of our Bogrim chalutzim this was their 5th or 6th masa at Ramah in the Rockies, and each year we seek to add additional challenges, especially for those chalutzim who have been “growing up” with us. One of the biking madrichim mentioned to me that this was the strongest group of bikers he had seen and they completed their initial route by Wednesday at lunch before tacking on two extra days of biking yesterday and today. On one of the backpacking masa’ot, their leader reported how self sufficient the chalutzim were a few days in and that they had taken charge of setting up camp and cooking each day. That is truly one of our goals for our chalutzim- that they learn all the skills necessary to backpack on their own and lead trips one day!
As has become the tradition with JOLI in the first set of their masa’ot, they returned to the Indian Peaks Wilderness where they had five magnificent days of hiking and camping. The group split into two and made a figure eight hiking loop so that they barely overlapped with each other. All had a chance to spend a night and day on their solo where they sit in one area and appreciate how far they have come (literally and figuratively) and have a chance to journal, meditate, and relax in the magnificent Colorado backcountry. Each JOLI participant also had a chance to be “a leader of the day”, where they had a chance to guide the entire group – deciding on the pace, when to eat, and the best route given the camp site they had to reach each night.
We will wait to hit “send” on this email until all our chalutzim are back on our ranch. Tonight is going to be the final Friday night at camp for almost 75 of our chalutzim and 12 of our tzevet members. When we gather tonight in our circle and sing our niggunim, we will be feeling an enormous amount of gratitude for having had another terrific week at camp and a sudden realization that the final 18 days of the summer are likely to fly by, so we need to savor each and every one them.
As always please be in touch with any questions or comments. We have posted pictures on Facebook and Smugmug and plan to add more on Sunday evening.
A quick slideshow of some of the photos we have received back from our Masa’ot can be found here!
After a refreshing intersession with our staff and refocusing our energies on our goals at camp, the chava (ranch) is teeming with activity again. The past two days have been full programing with chalutzim biking, climbing, creating arts and crafts, zumba dancing, mining, and so much more. Each day during the past week has started with brilliant sunshine before clouds have rolled in for a late afternoon shower. We have had to adapt some of our programing, but are thankful for any moisture as the west is not a good place to be when it becomes too hot and dry.
As we prepare for our first Shabbat of the session, we are also here with our largest group of chalutzim ever assembled on the ranch (205!), including a large contingent from Mexico City’s Bet El congregation. Alongside their rabbi, Rabbi Leonel Levy, are here for the first two weeks of second session. We look forward to a continued partnership with the community in Mexico City and to seeing their numbers grow in future summers, even if we never plan to have more than 205 chalutzim on the ranch at any one time!
The first few days of a session are always a combination of excitement and trepidation; excitement at returning to camp, a second home for so many of our chalutzim (campers), and trepidation by both new and returning chalutzim about how the summer will be, what activities one will do, and whether one will make close friends. On Wednesday, our oldest chalutzim picked their activity areas that they will do throughout Session IIA and some into IIB. Our younger chalutzim were assigned activities that included archery, horseback riding, and animal care. While it is impossible to describe everything that transpires during the first few days of the session, we saw groups who dug up amazing rocks in mining, groups who rode horses out to Ramah Valley and around the perimeter of our ranch, and groups of mountain bikes who attempted our beginner and intermediate single tracks. (Next week they will ride the advanced track!) In all of these activities, our guiding ethos of “challenge by choice” has been front and center. Each chalutz has only been in competition with him/her self.
Each morning our chalutzim have awakened to the sound of “bo-bo-boker tov” yelled by a group who stand on the picnic table in the Kfar assisted by G-baby who usually is coming back from his hour long ride by 7:00am. After the chalutzim wash and dress, they all head to their m’komot t’fillah (prayer spaces) for shmirat haguf (morning exercise) and t’fillot (prayers). The t’fillot over the past two days have been incredible and inspiring. We had some groups singing along with guitars, others engaged in more movement-focused t’fillot, others doing art, and others engaged in a more traditional, full matbeah, t’fillot . Our second oldest edah, Bogrim, spent part of their first t’fillah learning about t’fillin, and actually having a chance to open a pair and to peek inside. Starting on the first day, and continuing over the course of the session, our hope is that chalutzim can experience an array of prayer options. This session we are blessed to have a number of rabbinic “guest stars” who are here to help with all educational aspects of the program.
Sadly, due to the rain on opening day, for the second time in our camp’s history, we did not have a camp-wide opening campfire on the first night of a session. On a personal level, I was sad about this, since this campfire is when we usually teach the camp song and it is the first time I have a chance to address our entire kehillah kedosha (holy community). Instead, we had a chance to do some opening remarks during dinner in the chadar ochel (dining hall). Last night our younger chalutzim had a campfire where they sang songs and heard some stories. Our older chalutzim had a chance to play capture the flag in Ramah valley, another programmatic staple of our camp.
As I finish writing this email, our entire Kehillah Kedosha is engaged in doing service projects for the camp. We believe that everyone in our community can contribute in some way to the betterment of camp as a way to prepare for Shabbat. At the moment our chalutzim are beautifying the chadar ochel for Shabbat dinner, creating a new trail in camp, giving the camp dogs a bath (they need it!), and more. As soon as each have finished their projects we will begin the rotations in the shower house, when everyone is “required” to clean themselves and ready themselves physically for Shabbat, which includes putting on clean clothes. In a few short hours, all will be dressed in white and gathering as an entire camp to dance and sing.
Next week is our masa week, when our older chalutzim leave for most of the week. Our younger chalutzim will have a chance to do a shorter excursion and will also have most of the ranch to themselves to further engage in our base camp activities.
On behalf of the entire Ramah team, I hope that you too have a relaxing and joyful Shabbat!