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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