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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)

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 

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.

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

Thank you for joining us for our Hanukkah Highlights series – an opportunity for tzevet (staff) from every corner of our community to share their favorite camp memories! 

Yaakov Dermer Posing
Name: 
Yaakov Dermer

Job at Camp: Rosh Chuggim (Head of Activities)

Summers at Ramah in the Rockies: 1

Favorite Camp Activity: Singing around the medurah (campfire)

Occupation: Rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and Student Rabbi at Temple Beth Tzedek in Amherst, NY

 

Meal time at Ramah in the Rockies was not for the faint of heart. Most afternoons, as lunch began to wind down and hundreds of plates were shuffled and stacked, the dining tent where we gathered as a community three times each day would erupt into a chorus of deafening cheers. As I had come to expect from my experience working at other Ramah camps, campers proved their creativity and pride by the decibel levels they could reach. Out in the Rockies, however, I was surprised to discover our campers’ cheers were often much more than an excuse to bang on the table and clang their silverware.

One such cheer truly captured the spirit of our community this summer. Picture this: hundreds of campers have just finished eating a meal that largely consisted of farm-fresh produce, most garbage has been composted rather than thrown away, and untouched leftovers have been diligently returned to the kitchen. Slowly, but with increasing strength, we begin to hear a familiar cadence echoing through the mountains: “Ain bizbuz b’machane Ramah! Ain bizbuz b’machane Ramah!” (There is no waste at Camp Ramah!)

What this cheer lacked in rhythmic catchiness, it made up for in moral conviction. Chalutzim (campers) were not reveling in their success on the basketball court or insisting their edah (age group) was the best. Rather, with this cheer, they were celebrating a far nobler accomplishment: their ability to finish the meal with as little wasted food as possible. As more campers learned this cheer and its meaning, the intentionality of our meals deepened. Even our youngest campers began to develop an awareness that this cheer was not just a cheer, but a protest against a world which, despite rampant hunger, wastes close to 1.4 billion tons of food each year.

Looking back, it seems obvious that a cheer about food waste would be among the most popular at Ramah in the Rockies this summer. The staff at camp worked tirelessly to create a culture of awareness around environmental sustainability which permeated every aspect of camp. We watched as a greenhouse was built from the ground up, and ate the first lettuce it produced. We learned with a dedicated farm staff about everything from the Torah of bread to the role of goats in ancient Israel. We sang Jewish songs by moonlight and davened close to the earth, our prayers reaching toward the mountain tops. Ain bizbuz b’machane ramah. Nothing is wasted; all of God’s creation has a purpose, and is deserving of our utmost care and respect.

In my work as Rosh Chuggim, head of base camp activities, I was concerned with another form of wastefulness – wasted time. A large part of my role was to ensure that the daily activities happening around camp were running smoothly and according to a tight schedule. I worked primarily behind the scenes, coordinating with activity supervisors, supporting staff, and managing an unending array of logistical minutia. From mountain biking to outdoor cooking, mural making, and mining, the campers had a non-stop program of wilderness challenges, and I felt responsible for helping them to get the most out of each and every day. While I could have gotten lost in the details, I remained motivated by the fact that each moment at camp is precious, an opportunity to influence the next generation of Jewish leaders, and not to be wasted.

As I reflect on the summer from my NYC apartment, I’m called to bring the energy of camp from the mountains to the city and into my final year of rabbinical school. Our campers’ unlikely favorite cheer is still ringing in my ears. Ain Bizbuz, there is no place for waste, no time for apathy or indifference. As a soon-to-be rabbi, I’m grateful to take this lesson to heart. I move toward the rabbinate remembering that each moment is an opportunity to bring honor and sanctity into the world. Each person I meet, each piece of food I enjoy, is a gift from God, to be appreciated and respected rather than carelessly discarded. Following the campers of Ramah in the Rockies, may we all learn to cheer with pride, ain bizbuz. May we create a world in which little is wasted, and much is gained.

 

 

Our Hanukkah Highlights series is an opportunity for tzevet (staff) from every corner of our community to share their favorite camp memories! For every day of Hanukkah we will be featuring a different staff member and a different wonderful story about what makes Ramah in the Rockies so special. 

Tamar Moss climbing rocks


Name: 
Tamar Moss

Job at Camp: Base Camp Intern

Summers at Ramah in the Rockies: 7

Favorite Camp Activity: Rock Climbing

Occupation: Student at Brandeis University studying Environmental Studies

 

This past summer, two other counselors and I had the opportunity to lead a group of Metayalim (5th and 6th graders) campers on a backpacking trip along the Goose Creek Trail. The route snakes through the beautiful Lost Creek Wilderness and involves summiting a few small mountains, but I was especially excited for this masa (backcountry excursion) for another reason – this was a route I had previously hiked as a camper just a few summers before.

I was back at Ramah in the Rockies as a base camp intern, my first summer on staff, and had the opportunity to experience one of my favorite trails as a madricha (counselor) instead of as a chalutza (camper). As we packed up our gear, I wondered what the next few days would bring. Would I be able to facilitate amazing masa memories for my campers the way my counselors had for me?

On our first afternoon out on the trail it immediately started to rain, and we were all a little bit cold and miserable. We decided it would be a good idea to stop for the night, even though there wasn’t a stream big enough to use as a water source right near our campsite. We helped the campers set up tarps and they changed into dry clothes as we cooked dinner.

After dinner, another counselor and I collected empty water bottles and hiked a down the mountain to get water from a bigger stream. As I trudged back up the mountain, my backpack heavy with full water bottles, I remember thinking that the first day of our masa had been more frustrating than fun. All I wanted was for our group to get some rest and start fresh in the morning. I hoped the kids were winding down and going to sleep.

As I got closer to the campsite, however, I was surprised to hear bursts of laughter and giggles. The kids, who I had presumed were cold, damp, and probably grumpy, were just the opposite! Huddled together in their sleeping bags under a dripping tarp, morale was high and they had been busy inventing a new game.

This game was sort of like a competition between two teams, where someone came up with a topic, and each team composed a satirical advertisement or skit about it. Then a panel of judges voted on which performance they liked best. The chalutzim continued to play this game throughout the rest of the masa. Every time we took a break and were ready to get back on the trail, they would beg for time to play just one more round.

I realized that while I had been busy worrying about making masa fun and memorable for the chalutzim, they had been busy creating their own fun! This experience taught me that sometimes being a great counselor isn’t about planning the best activities or being in control. Sometimes being a great counselor is about encouraging your campers to be creative and silly, and empowering their leadership by being an enthusiastic participant in the games they create themselves.

It was really special to watch these chalutzim come together over something that made them all laugh – to see every single one of them included and participating. I hope that someday those campers will be on staff themselves, having grown up at Ramah in the Rockies the way I did. And I hope that when they lead their first masa, they remember their hike along the Goose Creek Trail in 2017 and realize that as long as they give their campers space to be goofy and creative, the fun will find them!

Our Hanukkah Highlights series is an opportunity for tzevet (staff) from every corner of our community to share their favorite camp memories! For every day of Hanukkah we will be featuring a different staff member and a different wonderful story about what makes Ramah in the Rockies so special. 

 Yuval Sharabi riding a horse


Name: 
Yuval Sharabi

Job at Camp: Tzevet Susim (Horse Staff)

Summers at Ramah in the Rockies: 4

Favorite Camp Activity: Horseback Riding, of course!

Occupation: Therapeutic Horseback Riding Guide

 

Many of my friends in Israel ask me why I keep coming back to Ramah in the Rockies each summer. They say, “Yuval, you’re 30 years old. What are you still looking for out in Colorado?”

My answer is always the same. I tell them, “If you’ve never been to camp, you cannot understand the powerful experience of being in a place free from judgement, a place where everyone is equal. I come back to Colorado every summer because at Ramah in the Rockies, I can be my true self and not have to hide behind any mask.”

I think that in today’s world – a world full of technology so advanced that it is possible to do almost anything by pressing a button – sometimes we forgot what it means to be human. We forget what it feels like to interact with someone without having a cell phone get in the way. We forget the excitement of getting to know someone new and discovering that you have something in common with them. I think that for both chalutzim (campers) and for tzevet (staff), the experience of disconnecting from technology to spend a few weeks together in the mountains is so important. We all need to remember how to connect meaningfully, face to face. There is no better place to do this than at camp.

Especially on Friday evenings, when our entire community comes together to welcome Shabbat, that is when the real magic happens. Israeli and American, we all join together, singing and dancing as one kehillah kedoshah, one holy community.

When my friends in Israel ask me why I keep coming back, I ask them to show me another place who I can impact the lives of hundreds of chalutzim throughout the course of the summer; a place where I can help them acquire the tools they need to grow and learn, all while growing and learning myself.

When I was asked to reflect on my favorite memories from last summer, two occasions came to mind. The first is slightly mixed with sorrow, but is still a precious memory to me. The night the fire broke out and everyone was evacuated to a field far away from the flames, I sat on the sidelines for a moment and watched the amazing scene that was happening. I saw the entire team of counselors put their campers’ needs above their own, looking after their chalutzim by them by wrapping them in blankets so they would not be cold and singing songs with them so they would not be afraid. In that moment, I felt so at home that I forgot what a scary situation we were in. I saw in this place what we would call in Israel “Israeli Fraternity.” On that night, our community became a family.

The second memory that came to mind was Yom Kehillah, a day where the campers could connect with Israel. Myself and the rest of the Israeli delegation worked night after night to prepare for this day, because it is so important to all of us that our chalutzim feel close to Israel in their hearts, no matter how far away it is. To see the campers laughing, singing Israeli songs, and participating in conversations about Israel with their peers and their counselors was amazing.

Camp is a place where everyone can be themselves, celebrate Shabbat together, comfort each other when times are hard, and form a meaningful connection with Israel. For these reasons and so many others, I will continue to return every summer to my favorite place in the world, Ramah in the Rockies!

Our Hanukkah Highlights series is an opportunity for tzevet (staff) from every corner of our community to share their favorite camp memories! For every day of Hanukkah we will be featuring a different staff member and a different wonderful story about what makes Ramah in the Rockies so special. 


Name: 
Eliana Willis

Job at Camp: Bogrim Rosh Edah (Unit Head)

Summers at Ramah in the Rockies: 3

Favorite Camp Activity: Care of Magical Creatures (Animal Care)

Occupation: Jewish Engagement Coordinator at BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy

 

 

What do recent Bogrim campers and residents of the UC Santa Cruz Trailer Park have in common? A knack for slackjaw dance-off!

What is slackjaw dance-off, you might wonder? Try letting your mouth hang open with your jaw completely slack. If you can hold the expression while watching a friend do the same without bursting into laughter, I’m impressed. If you can hold it longer than them while you’re both dancing, you’ve just won slackjaw dance-off.

Before I came to Ramah in the Rockies, I was a student at UC Santa Cruz, living in a community known as the UC Santa Cruz Trailer Park. This amazing place is unlike any other trailer park and student housing option I’ve ever seen. We lived in artfully decorated trailers, shared meals, and played music together. The highlight of the year was always the Olympics, where we dressed up in our wackiest outfits and competed in a series of ridiculous games. It was a celebration of our community and the freedom to be silly!

This year was my third summer at Ramah in the Rockies, and my first as a Rosh Edah (unit head). I was a couple years removed from college and missing the shenanigans of the trailer park days. As the Bogrim tzevet (staff) and I brainstormed program ideas, we knew we needed to plan an event that combined our favorite camp games and activities, such as “the Oreo challenge” and dancing to popular Israeli music, into one evening of silliness, laughter, and fun. Throw in some trailer park classics like the aforementioned slackjaw dance-off and finger jousting, and we managed to create an amazing new tradition… the Bogrim Balagan Olympics!

We ran the program as a Peulat Erev (evening program) once each session. During second session it happened to rain on the night we planned to hold the Olympics, so we ended up crowding all of Bogrim – the largest edah (age group) at camp – into a small, indoor program space. It was the last night of camp for our the two-week chalutzim (campers), so the energy in the room was full of excitement before the festivities even began.

Everyone showed up in their wackiest attire: tie-dye, onesies, and even an evening gown! Campers rotated through stations where they participated in hilarious slack-jaw dance-offs, challenged each other to competitive games of finger jousting, and attempted to disentangle themselves from a human knot, among other fun activities.

Counselors taught and refereed games, played high-energy Iraeli pop music, took pictures, and brought a ton of ruach (spirit) to the event. Though it was a cool night, we soon opened the big garage doors for some fresh air. The pine trees surrounding us sparkled with raindrops and our view of the huge, jagged rock face in the distance was stunning. Soon people were dancing and running around in the rain! It wasn’t long until the sky began to clear, and we spotted a rainbow emerging from the clouds above us. I recited a bracha on the rainbow, which was met with a resounding “Amen” by all.

Now that the rain had passed, we gathered in a circle outside and distributed prizes (in the form of tiny plastic reptiles) for winning games and for the most creative costumes. We sang and chanted all of our edah cheers (we had at least eight), affirming our self-proclaimed status as the best edah at Machane Ramah!

Throughout the summer, myself and my fellow Rashei Edah were challenged to bring our unique identities and our whole selves to our job. For me that meant a lot of things, from making up songs for the campers before bed, to teaching some of my most beloved Jewish texts, to sharing my favorite college tradition – the Olympics – with my chalutzim.

As an educator, I am continuously inspired by the communities I’ve been a part of, and strive to bring the best of what I learn from each of these experiences to my own work. Slackjaw dance-off may not seem like education, but we all experienced something powerful that night –  the vulnerability of looking ridiculous, a sense of unity and pride in our community, and just plain, pure simcha (joy).

Our Hanukkah Highlights series is an opportunity for tzevet (staff) from every corner of our community to share their favorite camp memories! For every day of Hanukkah we will be featuring a different staff member and a different wonderful story about what makes Ramah in the Rockies so special. 

Name: Ryan “Lunch Pail” Fleischer

Job at Camp: Ilanot Madrich

Summers at Ramah in the Rockies: 6

Favorite Camp Activity: Mountain Biking

Occupation: Student at University of Colorado Boulder studying Neuroscience and Human Geography

I could feel the excitement in the air from the moment my Ilanot chalutzim (campers) – the youngest at Ramah in the Rockies – woke up that morning. They were bouncing off the walls of our ohel (tent), unable to talk or think about anything other than the amazing Peulat Erev (evening program) we had planned for that night.

Tonight was the Annual Ilanot Rocktion.

For those of you wondering what a “Rocktion” is, it’s simply a “Rock Auction.” But as mundane as that may sound, I can assure you that the Rocktion is a highlight of the summer for both chalutzim and tzevet (staff).

Every summer we start preparing for the Rocktion in advance by telling our campers to save any beautiful or interesting rocks they unearth during their mining chuggim (activity period). They discover chunks of smokey and rose quartz, iridescent crystals, and even the occasional piece of topaz. Ilanot chalutzim absolutely love collecting these beautiful stones, and stockpile their favorites in preparation for the Rocktion each session. Over the last week and a half their collections had started to take over our ohel!

We always hold the Rocktion in the middle of masa (backcountry excursion) week, when all of the older campers are away from base camp having amazing adventures. We invite all the staff who are not off leading masa’ot to come and participate, and the Ilanot chalutzim love to be the center of attention for the night!

We began the Rocktion that night by giving the campers a few minutes to set up their “stores.” They made signs advertising their great rocks and competitive prices, and then arranged their rock collections on the table before them, organizing their stones by size, color, or type. Finally, it was time for the Rocktion to begin!

Staff from every corner of camp showed up to support Ilanot! They were handed a small cup full of dried beans, which served as our currency for the evening. For the next half hour, our dining hall was transformed into a noisy, bustling marketplace. Counselors and campers bargained with each other, haggling over the best deals and most beautiful rocks. And when to sale was over, the auction began!

Campers counted the beans they earned by selling their rocks and then had the opportunity to spend these beans on a number of amazing prizes! Prizes that were available for bidding ranged from a personalized meal courtesy of our kitchen tzevet to an ice cream party on Rabbi Eliav’s front porch! Needless to say, everyone headed back to their ohel that night with a huge smile plastered on their face.

The Rocktion is always my favorite memory of the summer because it is a time for both chalutzim and tzevet to act silly and have fun together! Everyone who participates has a blast, and year after year I look forward to my favorite night of the summer… the Rocktion!

Our Hanukkah Highlights series is an opportunity for tzevet (staff) from every corner of our community to share their favorite camp memories! For every day of Hanukkah we will be featuring a different staff member and a different wonderful story about what makes Ramah in the Rockies so special. 

Elana
Name: 
Elana Schrager

Job at Camp: Bogrim Yoetzet (Camper Care Staff)

Summers at Ramah in the Rockies: 3

Favorite Camp Activity: Backpacking – anywhere, anytime!

Occupation: Communications and Research Intern at End Citizens United PAC, a grassroots funded group dedicated to fighting for campaign finance reform

 

I drove to camp last summer. Vermont to Maryland to Colorado in five days. Campus to camp, student to graduate before Shabbat had time to roll around again.

College, I thought as I drove—college is a game played for and by yourself. Camp, though—camp is a place of utter self-abnegation. Camp is where you go—where I went—to give in ways that you can’t during the school year. But I hadn’t been at camp for any length of time in over a year, and I felt young and unprepared and wasn’t sure if I remembered, anymore, how to give in the ways camp required of me.

As I drove west I thought – am I old enough to do this? This summer, rather than returning as a madricha (counselor), I would be a yoetzet, a member of the camper care team – a small group of individuals who serve as parent liaisons, provide extra support for counselors, and connect one-on-one with campers who are struggling. Throughout my summers on staff I had looked up to the camper care team – I had trusted them, respected them, and valued their advice. Now I was about to be one of them.

After days of driving I finally arrived at Ramah in the Rockies, where I quickly discovered that I possess tools I didn’t know I had – tools I’ve gathered from books and friends and choices (good and bad) and personal history. They are the tools I use to sort and organize the goings on of the world and my reactions to them. My chalutzim (campers) I learned, are still acquiring those tools. They are utterly fragile and utterly sound, with bodies and minds that break and mend all at once in the split second that you look away. They are testing, always testing … you, and themselves, and their friends, and their parents. They are bundles of raw sincerity, a sincerity made even more obvious by their half-hearted cynicism.

And I had the opportunity to immerse myself in the worlds of these amazing kids. I got to talk with them and listen to them and work with them as they shattered and mended and shattered again over the course of minutes, hours, days. And, for the first time in my life, I got to hear from their parents—to hear from Real Adults, grownups whose very voices made my knees go trembly when I got on the phone. I realized that I am not yet a Real Adult and no longer a kid. As a member of the camper care team, I learned that the role I play as a kind of intergenerational translator is an essential one – one that I am uniquely qualified for in my confusing, post-collegiate liminality.

It is December now, and dark outside. I am not a kid, or an adult, or a student. I, like my teenage campers this summer, am at home, working and testing and probing to figure out what identity, what thing will define me as my life moves forward. And sometimes little gleams of memory float across my eyelids—of a camper this summer, turning his face up to me and asking in total sincerity: “But… how do I know that that’s really who I am?”

I don’t have an answer, and I didn’t have one this summer. And I can now accept that not having an answer is okay. In the end, our campers take care of each other, and our incredible counselors take care of them. And we in the camper care office, no matter our age, exist as support—as liaisons, as backup…safety nets to catch those who stumble, waiting hands ready to help them step back into everyday life at camp.

And that’s the way it should be.

Our Hanukkah Highlights series is an opportunity for tzevet (staff) from every corner of our community to share their favorite camp memories! For every day of Hanukkah we will be featuring a different staff member and a different wonderful story about what makes Ramah in the Rockies so special. 

Isaac Rosen Climbing rocks

Name: Isaac Rosen

Job at Camp: Solelim Madrich, Climbing Staff, & Masa Leader

Summers at Ramah in the Rockies: 5

Favorite Camp Activity: Rock Climbing

Occupation: Student at Tufts University studying English and Film & Media Studies

 

For as long as I can remember, my biggest fear has been lightning. If I was ever outdoors with even the threat of a storm on the horizon, I would tense up and figure out how, where, and when I would be able to get inside. I knew how to tell how far away a strike was, and which indoor and outdoor locations are the safest hideouts in case of an emergency. Needless to say, a deep-rooted fear of lightning and five summers in the Colorado Rocky Mountains set me up for some interesting situations.

Fast forward to the first time I ever lead a backpacking masa (backcountry excursion). Though I had participated in numerous masa’ot throughout my time as a camper at Ramah in the Rockies, I still felt as nervous as I did excited, stepping into this new leadership role for the first time. I spent the next few days exploring Colorado’s Lost Creek Wilderness with a group of 13 and 14 year old chalutzim (campers). Everything was going according to plan until, suddenly, it wasn’t.

*FLASH*

I instinctually start counting in my head. “One…Two…Thr – ”

*BOOM*

Less than a mile away.

The clouds overhead still looked light – far from the ominous dark gray of the typical Colorado thunderheads – and yet the thunder roared before I could even take a breath. The calm, pale sky had misled us, urging us to push onward toward the top of the saddle we had to pass, and now the lightning was much too close for comfort. If it had been five years earlier I would have been shaking in my hiking boots, closing my eyes, and hauling tuchus down the mountain towards safety. Even as an adult, I felt the familiar childhood terror creep into my mind. This time, however, I knew that I couldn’t let fear stand in the way of being the leader my campers needed me to be.

I looked at the faces of those middle schoolers behind me, and in that moment, I realized that I couldn’t be the shaky, whimpering kid anymore. It was my turn to become one of the level-headed role models that I had looked up to and trusted to protect me during my masa’ot as a camper.

I kept my cool, instructed everyone to turn around, and we quickly headed for lower ground. We found a small grove of aspen trees, all of which were evenly sized but weren’t the tallest trees in the vicinity I knew this would be the safest place to wait out the lightning storm; we had gone over lighting protocal time and time again during staff week and throughout the Wilderness First Responder training course that masa leaders participate in.

Together we sat down on our backpacks and assumed “lightning position,” watching the flashes of the lightning, listening for the crashes of the thunder, counting the seconds between them all, and waiting patiently for the storm to pass.

From that point forward the trip went smoothly, and the lighting storm became just another story for my campers to eagerly share with their friends when we returned triumphantly to base camp just in time for Shabbat that Friday. But for me, the memory of that storm is so much more than just another exciting masa story. In that moment, crouching in the aspen grove with those kids, I suddenly understood that the counselors I had looked up to as a chalutz all those summer ago were not super-human. They were ordinary people – people just like me – who rose to the occasion because they knew their campers were depending on them.

This is what makes masa’ot  at Ramah in the Rockies so special – for both the chalutzim and for their counselors. On these excursions into the unknown, we all have the opportunity to face our fears, overcome challenges, and emerge on the other side knowing that we are capable of more than we ever imagined.

Our Hanukkah Highlights series is an opportunity for tzevet (staff) from every corner of our community to share their favorite camp memories! For every day of Hanukkah we will be featuring a different staff member and a different wonderful story about what makes Ramah in the Rockies so special. First up, Danit Cohen!

Name: Danit Cohen

Job at Camp: JOLI Madricha (Counselor)

Summers at Ramah in the Rockies: 3

Favorite Camp Activity: Mountain Biking in Buffalo Creek

Occupation: Wilderness Field Guide at BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy & Ski Instructor in Breckenridge, CO


Monday, August 7, 2:24 a.m.

Talya: “Danit? Wake up, I think something’s going on outside.”

Danit: “What? It’s probably nothing, you can go back to sleep.”

It was just a few minutes later that I awoke once more to a voice outside of our ohel (tent) shouting, “Everyone has to wake up, make sure everyone is awake and out of the ohelim. There’s a fire. Get everyone up right now!

Strange as it may seem, I wasn’t surprised that the first responders telling me where to go and what to do were my own chalutzim (campers). After all, it was Week 4 of the JOLI Program; I had already witnessed tremendous growth and leadership from these amazing campers.

Perhaps my favorite part of being a JOLI madricha (counselor) is the feeling that our edah (unit) is not simply a few staff members and 20 chalutzim – it is a cohesive team of Jewish Outdoor Leaders. There comes a point in the summer when the staff begin to step back and let the JOLI chalutzim lead the way with their own internal compasses. Don’t get me wrong – they don’t just arrive at camp on Day 1 with this initiative. We help them acquire the tools necessary with an intensive wilderness medicine course, programs based on healthy self expression and communication skills, and a curriculum of backcountry skill-building that includes making a fire, building a shelter, and throwing a proper bear bag. Once these basic skills are acquired, we step back and watch as our JOLI chalutzim utilize them in a real-world context, growing into leaders in our camp community. Like we tell them from the start of the summer: “This program will be what you make of it.”

In many ways, the fire that burned down the lodge this summer revealed the strength and determination of our entire community, from the leadership who coordinated our relocation to JCC Ranch camp to the remarkable volunteers who worked tireless to ensure that our campers remained safe and comfortable throughout the transition process. Still, the events of that week definitely took their toll on the staff. Counselors were running on fumes; desperately tired but determined to remain present and optimistic for their campers. It was at this moment that the JOLI chalutzim stepped up to the plate, showcasing the leadership qualities that we had been developing all session.

I’ll never forget their faces when we finally got an opportunity to sit down together at the Hebrew Educational Alliance in Denver after the evacuation. We were prepared to support them, hear their concerns, and give them some time to just be campers and hang out together. But these remarkable teenagers had something else in mind: they immediately started suggesting ways they could help the rest of camp. “Can we go to JCC Ranch Camp before everyone else to help set it up?” asked one JOLI chalutz. “We can make signs, give the tours, and be a warm welcome to this new place where they’ll be for the week.” And that is exactly what we did. JOLI made anxious campers feel at ease in a new environment and allowed exhausted tzevet to take a well-deserved break, knowing their chalutzim were in good hands.

I often hear people ask, “what do you folks really do in JOLI?” I always answer with this: we build leaders. Those who come through the JOLI program at Ramah in the Rockies leave with the skills, the confidence, and the initiative necessary to be great leaders in their academic, extracurricular, and professional lives. Furthermore, I am certain that when these chalutzim return to camp as staff members in just a few short years, they will be exceptionally prepared to nurture the next generation of Jewish leaders.

To learn more about our JOLI Program, click here or email info@ramoutdoors.org

 

Every morning at camp when our kehillah (community) awakens, we begin our day by reciting Modeh Ani, the morning prayer that starts with the words “I give thanks.” Our tradition teaches us that we should start each day by humbling ourselves and expressing gratitude for the food that we eat, the earth we walk upon, and the people around us. By engaging in this daily practice, we remind ourselves to pause and actively experience gratitude. This Thanksgiving, our team at Ramah in the Rockies wanted to reflect upon our many blessings and to say “Thank You” to the community that has supported us steadfastly through every obstacle and challenge.


Kehillah Kedoshah
(Holy Community)
Campers on Shabbat
Every summer, we are once again reminded how lucky we are to have such an incredible, caring community at camp. Our chalutzim (campers), tzevet (staff), and guest educators come from across the country and around the world to contribute their ruach (spirit). The result is a vibrant and diverse Jewish community unlike any other; a supportive and loving kehillah that encourages everyone to embrace who they are and grow into the person they want to become. And when we gather together to welcome Shabbat, the power of this community becomes almost tangible; an electricity that draws people back to our ranch summer after summer.


Natural EnvironmentCamper in Nature

Our location in the heart of the Rocky Mountains is one of our favorite things about camp. We are so grateful to be located in the middle of Pike National Forest, where our chalutzim have the opportunity to witness the splendor of the natural world every single day. On their masa’ot (backcountry excursions), chalutzim experience Colorado’s beauty as they bike scenic trails, raft through rapids, climb natural rock faces, and even summit mountains. By the end of their time at camp, our chalutzim gain an appreciation for all living things, and better understand their place in the world.


Ongoing Support Camper and Counselor

The impactful, high-quality programming that is the signature of Ramah in the Rockies would not be possible without the support of our extended community. Thanks to over 700 unique donations since our fire, we are able to raze the burned structures and build temporary facilities to welcome our campers and staff in 2018. Additionally, an anonymous donor has given us $1,000,000 to kick start our rebuilding campaign for our permanent, multi-purpose lodge, which will serve our community for 2019 and beyond! We are grateful not only for the physical improvements these donations will allow us to make, but for the generosity of spirit and commitment to the Jewish camping experience they demonstrate. Here at Ramah in the Rockies, we LOVE what we do. Thanks to you, we will continue the important work of nurturing the character development of Jewish youth for countless summers to come.

Over the past six weeks, our year-round team has reached out to hundreds of our camp 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

Communications
This past summer, our team worked diligently to communicate clearly, concisely, and consistently with our parents through email, phone calls, and regular social media updates. We aimed to find a balance between keeping families informed and allowing our campers to experience the joy of living unplugged in the remote Rocky Mountains. Our communication systems were put to the ultimate test when the Lodge building fire broke out on August 7th, and we managed to keep our entire community updated in real time. We are committed to maintaining this spirit of transparency as we prepare to open in 2018 and determine short-term and long-term solutions for rebuilding our dining facility.

Connections
This year, we were delighted to hear that so many of our chalutzim made meaningful and lasting connections during their weeks at camp, both with their peers and with their madrichim (counselors)! In 2017 we made a number of changes to the role of our madrichim, including adding a third counselor to each tent and carving out more unstructured time for them to bond with their campers. We also added extra ohel (tent) and edah-wide bonding time. The difference these changes made was especially evident in our older chalutzim who spent a full month at camp. The deep bonds of friendship and mentorship these campers formed was incredible to witness! We will continue to encourage all children who are ready to be away from home for four weeks to join us for a month-long session in order to foster these connections across our entire community!

Grit & Resilience
This summer, our campers faced a number of challenges that encouraged them to stretch their limits, take calculated risks, and ultimately accomplish more than they ever thought possible! Part of this process of personal growth, however, is failure and perseverance. When the going got tough, our chalutzim could have chosen to focus on the frustration of a scraped knee or a rainy hike. However when they arrived home, the stories they told were not about defeat, but about the joy of overcoming obstacles. Ramah in the Rockies has created a culture where grit and determination are celebrated. This positive ethos allowed those of us who experienced the fire to remain hopeful and undaunted in the face of a seemingly insurmountable challenge. As one parent said when his children arrived home at the end of the summer, “they forgot the challenges and focused on the positive… it is because of the experiences they have had at Ramah Rockies that they are prepared for the challenges life will throw at them… it is amazing to see the transformation that occurs.”

MIXED REVIEWS
(WHERE WE NEED MORE EMPHASIS)

Food
Our food program fell short this year, especially during the first session of the summer. While we had an incredible kitchen staff, too often the meals were geared towards the palates of adults, and not the taste buds of our chalutzim. Towards the end of our first session, we reworked our menu considerably. From adding a “breakfast for dinner” option to including a pizza dinner each week, the changes we implemented were made with your feedback in mind. As we design and build our temporary kitchen for next summer, we will continue to plan menus that balance the comfort of a main dish such as pizza with the innovation and creativity of side dishes like kale or seitan. This way, we will be able to ensure that everyone is nourished while giving our campers the opportunity to try new things.

We also learned that many chalutzim reported being hungry between meals and before breakfast. To remedy this, we intend to do the following in 2018:

  1. We will continue to provide snacks in the morning before breakfast at a central location.
  2. We will continue to improve the protein options at meals, including more eggs, fish, and legumes. We will also continue our Sunday night chicken cookouts, which were a huge hit this year!
  3. We will ensure that chalutzim never have to go out of their way to get wholesome, nutritious snacks throughout the day by placing bear-proof coolers of snacks around the property and by offering snacks at the beginning of each program period.

Outdoor & Environmental Education
At our core, we are an outdoor adventure camp that seeks to educate and inspire the next generation of Jewish outdoor and environmental leaders. However, too many of our chalutzim are graduating our program with a love of the outdoors, but lacking in specific camping skills necessary to succeed in the backcountry. While we made vast improvements to our backcountry curriculum this past summer, we will redouble our efforts in 2018.  We will devote the day before each masa(backcountry excursion) to outdoor training, during which our chalutzim and trip leaders will complete various age-appropriate stations such as fire building, stove maintenance, rope skills, first aid, and outdoor cooking. We also hope to expand the environmental education found in our farm program throughout our entire machane (camp), reemphasizing the ways in which our actions affect the natural world around us.

Sunday Programs
Throughout the Summer of 2017, we listened to your feedback and made major changes to our Sunday Yomai Meyuchad (special day), programing. We learned that our Yomai Meyuchad first session, while engaging for our younger chalutzim, left some of our older campers feeling bored and restless. Second session, we piloted a new program in which each Sunday had a theme that our edot explored through age-appropriate activities. The feedback we received confirmed for us that this change was a step in the right direction.

Every summer, our campers love Yom Sport (Color War). They eagerly anticipate traditions such as the all-camp relay race, and aspire to be a team captain one day. Our vision is that in future summers our campers will look forward to all of our Yomai Meyuchad the way they look forward to Yom Sport. We will also continue to allow our oldest chalutzim to take on additional leadership roles during these special days, with the understanding that they will be more invested in programming they helped to create and facilitate. These 16/17 year olds are the future leaders of Ramah in the Rockies, and Sunday programs allow them to practice some of their leadership training in a real-world context.

IN CONCLUSION

We are so excited for another magical summer in the mountains, and have been preparing to implement all of the positive changes and improvements outlined above. We have also been working diligently with architects and contractors to ready our site for next summer! Our early bird enrollment is still open, and any child who registers before the end of October will receive a free piece of embroidered Ramah in the Rockies outerwear. Register Today!

We are honored that you choose to send your children and spend your summers as part of our community at Ramah in the Rockies. As we look ahead to 2018, we know that our camp will look and feel different. Our beloved Lodge is gone; we will be eating in a new area of camp, and will be packing out for trips in a new facility. Yet, as we proved in 2017, our camp is so much more than a physical space. It is the people, the attitudes and the lessons that we experience day in and day out. We know that 2018 will bring new challenges, but we also are certain that by staying focused on what we do best – while continuously remaining open to change and improvement – next year will be the most transformative summer we have ever had at Ramah in the Rockies.

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

 

Although our kitchen facilities were lost in the fire on August 7th, Ramah in the Rockies remains committed to providing our camp community with delicious, farm-to-table options while drawing parallels between the food we consume and Jewish context. If you are interested in making a donation to our rebuilding effort, please click here. 

Ramah in the Rockies cares deeply about its food sources and production. Here on the ranch, every meal is made with love, care, and intentionality. But what does that mean? How does our camp model this philosophy? In order to learn more about the ways we interact with food at Ramah in the Rockies, I talked to people all along the camp ‘food chain,’ and what I discovered renewed my appreciation for each and every meal we share together on the chava (ranch).

To begin, I ventured to the most obvious place for my research; the kitchen, or the mitbach, located right off the dining hall. There I had the opportunity to speak with Phreddy, a restaurant chef for 15 years who now serves as one of our head chefs at camp. As we spoke, he massaged lemon juice, salt, and olive oil into a big bowl of kale. I was struck by what a labor intensive project this salad was! Indeed, every aspect of the work done in the kitchen is treated with tremendous care and attention. “We try and put a lot of love, intention, and creativity into each meal so that everyone feels cared for,” Phreddy told me. “We want everyone to feel like there’s an abundance of options, and not a lack of choice.” Here at camp, our kitchen staff designs every meal to include at least one protein, starch, and vegetable. Their goal is to keep everyone healthy, happy, and properly nourished!

It was clear, however, that there was more to this food than just nourishment. Phreddy spoke of honoring each step in the process of preparing a meal, from planting the seeds to cooking the harvest. He explained, “Judaism is about knowledge. At every step of the process we want to know where our food is coming from, whether it’s organic, and whether it’s local.” This awareness of and appreciation for the process of food production is much of why the kitchen reuses and repurposes untouched leftovers, minimizes our waste with reusable milk and cereal containers, and composts all organic leftovers. Phreddy referenced this season of Sukkot, saying, “one week in the Sukkah infuses the whole year with thanks and appreciation for the food on our plates.”

Outdoor CookingIt turns out that the kitchen is not the only part of camp that emphasizes food appreciation. Out on masa, our backcountry excursions, food takes on a whole new role. Rather than having their meals prepared for them, chalutzim (campers) are tasked with packing up all their food in the right measures and quantities, as well as helping to prepare each of their meals. Like everything else on masa, this proves to be a team-building activity, and one that leaves campers with “a new sense of appreciation for where their food comes from,” according to Alex Hamilton, head of masa ‘pack out’ here at camp. “It brings people together,” says Hamilton, “It’s like a little mini Thanksgiving.” Having this unique opportunity to partake in the food process is not only a collaborative activity – it also gives our chalutzim a newfound investment in their dinner. Oftentimes campers will try foods they would normally avoid when they’ve cooked the meal themselves!

Camper and Counselor with chickenA similar phenomenon can be observed on our farm, where even the pickiest of eaters can be found munching on veggies they helped to grow themselves! On the farm, chalutzim have the opportunity to interact first hand with the garden, the chickens, and the goats. Each day ripened veggies must be harvested, freshly layed eggs must be collected, and goats must be milked. Our chalutzim play a vital role in these tasks, getting their hands dirty, stepping outside of their comfort zones, and interacting with their food first hand.

“It’s about interconnectedness” says Blair, the head of our farm here at camp. She spoke with me as we harvested produce for that night’s Shabbat dinner. She explained to me how the chalutzim used composted liquids to help with soil fertility, and soon began “thinking of different ways  the food that they eat both comes from this place, but also is going back into it.” By emphasizing this cycle of growth, sustenance, and compost, our kitchen and farm staff have joined forces to encourage a camp culture of gratitude and ‘ain biz-buz’ – no waste.

In the context of Sukkot, Blair, a Rabbinic student, talked about what a festival of the harvest really means to her. She stressed laborious cycle of planting, saying “you only get to have a harvest if you put in all the hard work during the season. I think that reinvigorating the sense that Judaism really cares about and takes responsibility for the whole food chain, and not just what we put into our mouths, is a valuable lesson.”

-Rachel Blau

As the season of Sukkot comes to an end, may we all consider with gratitude the journey our food took to reach our tables! 

 

 

Picture two boys running after each other – laughing and smiling as they dart through the tent circle. Picture a group of girls sitting crosslegged in their ohel (tent), shuffling a deck of playing cards. One of them calls out to a girl sitting on her bed and invites her to play with them. It may appear as though there is nothing extraordinary about these interactions, and yet these were some of the most remarkable moments of the summer.

Summer 2017 was full of countless new adventures; I’d like to tell you about one of them.

In years past, Ramah in the Rockies has offered an Amitzim edah (special needs group). However, this summer we made the decision to implement a full inclusion model for our special needs campers instead. What does a full inclusion model mean, exactly? It means that all campers, no matter their ability, are included into their age appropriate edot and participate in all the wonderful activities our machane (camp) has to offer alongside their peers.

To ensure the success of this program, the Director of Inclusion, three phenomenal Inclusion Specialists, and the rest of our Camper Care team worked together to support not only our inclusion chalutzim (campers), but also their madrichim (counselors), activity staff, and the rest of our kehillah (community).

This support came in many forms. The Inclusion Team would float throughout camp helping to support the campers and the staff as needed. They provided training sessions to both staff and campers about what it means to be inclusive. They were there to lend a helping hand or to be an ear to listen to campers and staff.

When reflecting on the summer, one of our Inclusion Specialists said, “It filled me with joy to witness how the chalutzim in our inclusion program excelled and grew during their time at camp this summer. I look forward to watching this program expand and transform as we accept new chalutzim into our inclusion program in future summers, and as we see the overall inclusivity of our camp grow to be even greater than it already is.”

Why did we decide to implement this model – a model that brings about logistical hassles and additional work? Ramah in the Rockies decided to go the way of the full inclusion model because we know that inclusion benefits everyone.

Inclusion benefits neurotypical campers because it teaches them to be accepting of all people, no matter who they are. It teaches patience, understanding, and gives them an amazing opportunity to interact with individuals who are different from themselves, broadening their perspective in the process.

Inclusion benefits campers with special needs because it gives them an opportunity to socialize with their neurotypical peers. Our special needs campers have the chance to get out of their comfort zone and practice being independent!

Inclusion benefits staff as it teaches them how to work with a wide range of individuals. They are challenged to be more creative as they plan programs, problem solve, and serve as a leader and a role model. It teaches our tzevet (staff)  to be patient and pushes them to be the best counselors they can be.

Furthermore, inclusion benefits you at home, because the lessons that chalutzim learn at camp are lessons they will carry with them for years to come.

Those boys that we asked you to picture? One of them had been a shy, quiet camper in our special needs edah in previous summers. As an Amitzim camper he had not wanted to participate in activities and had difficulty making friends. But this summer, in his age appropriate edah, you would find him eagerly participating in group activities and creating and maintaining friendships. And those girls? One of them struggles with creating friendships at home. Thanks to the inclusion model, she was able to form friendships and connections that she will continue to deepen in summers to come.

Inclusion is not easy. It takes time, effort, energy and work. However when an inclusion model is implemented and supported by a team of dedicated specialists, the results can be life changing for everyone involved.

Campers with arms around each other

Written by Abby Gavens, Director of Inclusion

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 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

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).  

Check out our slideshow from the concert here!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click HERE for camp songs written and recorded by Michael Harlow  

 

By Rachel Blau