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This is the third installment in a series of blogs from our camp staff. Each of the staff were asked how their area of camp (rock climbing, archery, horseback riding, etc) and Judaism was linked for them, and how they have brought the two together in their lives.

Ilana Weisberg

farm 7The ways that we interact with animals at Camp Ramah reflects a greater compassion for the natural world. Judaism teaches that we should respect and love the animals that surround us. We focus on learning from the goats, chickens, alpacas, and ducks by observing the way that their world works in connection to ours. Our campers and staff help provide our animals with food, shelter, and safety while we receive milk, eggs, and love from our animals.

DSC_0021 2There are a few specific things we do to really focus on the back and forth of caring for the animals. I particularly like to focus on thanking the animals. For example, after milking Grace, one of our goats this summer, we always went back to thank her. Thanking her for her milk changes the interaction from one where we are simply receiving, to one where we are gratefully receiving. Not only does this completely change the dynamic of caring for Grace as a being instead of just a means to receive milk, but it also teaches us to appreciate the things we are given. By loving and caring for Grace, including cleaning her enclosure, walking her, feeding her, socializing with her, and milking her, we are learning the amount of work it takes to receive a small amount of milk.

Beyond appreciating the animals, I try to encourage campers and staff alike to connect with the animals. Simply saying hello while passing by an enclosure is a great way to form a relationship with the other inhabitants of camp. It takes a lot of patience and understanding, but when we were really able to have relationships with the animals, it was magical to see the interactions. From some campers that were willing to wake up early to feed the chickens, to others who were missing home and told the goats all about their families, I’m sure our animals can’t wait for the buses to roll up and for camp to be in session again.

We received this letter a few weeks ago from one of our amazing chalutzim, Ellery.  We are extremely grateful for this kind gesture, and amazed at the beautiful way she writes about the place we all call home. 

Ellery (third from right) with friends before Shabbat.

Ellery (third from right) with friends before Shabbat.

Dear Rabbi Eliav,

As you may recall, my bat mitzvah passed a couple months ago. For my bat mitzvah project, I had a really hard time choosing which community I wanted to help most; Ramah, of course, was included in the list of organizations. I ended up deciding to volunteer at a nursing home called Shalom Park that my zayda had lived at, but I still wanted to be able to give back to the place I call home for several weeks each summer. I had received quite a bit of money from my bat mitzvah and it only made sense to donate to Ramah. Ramah is such an important part of my life and Jewish identity, in many ways it had helped me reach my bat mitzvah as much, if not more, than weekly hebrew school.

To be completely honest, Ramah is not picture-perfect. Fallen trees lay like collapsed soldiers, with their charred cores that had been defeated by the Hayman fire. A rare treasure are the colorful wildflowers that, like much of the plant life, are recovering from the threat of their home. The buildings are far from glamorous with chipping paint and rotting wood. And yet, despite all of the imperfections, I, and many others, will forever call Ramah beautiful. But Ramah is not beautiful because of its watercolor sunsets, or the way the white tents lay against the regrowing forest, or even the way the paths are lit in the dead of night by the starlight that can only be seen at 8,000 feet high and its guiding lights. No, Ramah is beautiful because of what happens there. At ROA smiles are contagious, connecting to nature is inevitable, and many recognize God in the world in ways they never had. At Ramah in the Rockies afternoon rainstorms can’t stop us from dancing, a bruise or scrape has never stopped one of Ramah’s campers to take on a new challenge, the line for the showers before Shabbat is worth the wait because the dirt has collected on skin and underneath fingernails from various adventures. Chilly mornings will never be a roadblock for the community of 8,000 feet to wake up with the sun, a group-hug can’t be stopped by the amount of mud on our clothing. Ramah changes people.

When I step off the bus each summer on the first day of camp, I come alive just as hundreds of others do the same. My heart is beating with the anticipation of spending my next weeks in nature and with friends that come from every corner of the world, my cheeks ache from the uncontrollable need to smile, and my world shifts back into place. I know that every year I return to my home-away-from-home where I can meet old friends and new-comers, I can greet the forest, and see the world in its best light. I know that every year I return to my home that a day won’t go by that cheering from the Ohel Ochel [dining tent] that can be heard on the basketball court, that a Shabbos will not pass without dancing, I know a day can’t pass that I won’t experience something new, or that the summer won’t go by without a competitive game of capture the flag. Because that moment when I step off the bus to join my friends I know the 11 months I was anxious to return to my family of friends were well spent because I am now where I belong. And every summer, after all hiking, rafting, climbing, painting, biking, hugging, singing, smiling, I return to my other family with tears in my eyes, marked up legs, and stories to share.

I chose to donate 10% of the money I had received for my bat mitzvah to Ramah because I know that it will go to many more summers of camp that many more campers can experience and know ROA the way I have. I chose to donate to Ramah because it has made me the person I am today. I chose to donate to Ramah because it is my family and my unofficial home.

I appreciate what you and the staff do at ROA more than I am able to put in to words.

Sincerely,

Ellery Andersen

Rafi, our Director of Camper Care, has prepared this great list to help gear up for camp!

  • Rafi at Boulder Pride 2013If you think your kiddo might experience sadness or homesickness at camp, practice having more sleepovers at friends’ and family’s homes. Prepare your kid with ideas for self-soothing, bedtime routines that don’t include you, and how to get help at camp if they need it. Perhaps allow your child to pick out one comfort item to bring with them (eg. a stuffed animal, a special pillowcase, one of your shirts…)

  • Tell your kid/s about your fun camp memories, why you loved camp or wish you could’ve gone, and why you value it for them. (It Family photoshould go without saying do *not* tell them scary camp stories!!)

  • Read the Camp Handbook and go over the camp schedule and routine with your kids. Talk about the expectations that camp has of them and what expectations they can have of camp. For example, let them know about our food, trips, and electronics policy.

  • IMG_9091Make sure your kids know how to take care of their personal hygiene needs (ie. Showering, brushing teeth, changing their underpants daily) without you. Their counselors will help but the kids will need to self-direct to a certain extent.

  • Follow the packing guidelines listed in the Handbook, label all of your kid’s stuff, and let them help you pack or have them pack themselves so that they know what they are bringing and are less likely to lose belongings without realizing it.

  • Shabbat BoysMake sure that we at camp know everything we need to know to help your child have a successful summer. We will keep personal information confidential but knowing what’s going on in your child’s life can help us do our best job for them. (ie. Impending divorce, death in the family (including pets!), recent issues in school)

This past sunday we marked 100 Days until camp- so we thought this would be a good time to start introducing you to our 2015 Summer Staff!

PicMonkey Collage

 

From left to right: Ben Winter, Leora Perkins, Rafi Daugherty, and Moshe “Mushon” Samuels

Hey, I’m Ben, and I’ll be your program director this summer. I’m looking forward to a great summer full of ruach and fun! I’m super excited to be joining the Camp Ramah family. Although I’m new, I’ve only heard awesome things about the camp and am confident we’ll have a fantastic time together. I can’t wait to meet all of you in 100 short days!

Hey, I am Leora Perkins, a first-year rabbinical student from JTS. I am super excited to be at camp this summer as Rosh Chugim [Head of Base Camp Activities]. I love hiking,  swimming, cooking tasty vegetarian food– and recently started getting into gardening.

My name is Rafi. This year, i’m the Director of Camper Care. I’m really looking forward to seeing all of the chalutzim [campers] and their smiling faces at camp!

Hi I’m Mushon and I’m thrilled to be returning to Etgar b’Ramah as Rosh Chinuch [Director of Education]. My favorite thing about camp is Shabbat- I love the ruach [energy] and singing at Kabbalat Shabbat [Friday night services] at the Pardes Tefilah [outdoor sanctuary], the sense of kehilah [community] at the K’far [tent area], and of course the delicious Friday night dinner at the ohel ochel [dining tent]. Can’t wait to celebrate Shabbat with all of you in 100 days!

2014 Tzevet Tipus [Rock Climbing Staff], Noah Kaplan, wrote this spoken word poem this summer about the power of the Masa [backcountry excursion] experience.  Words to the poem are below the video.  We hope you will enjoy this!

 

For five days we leave behind our phones, we forget about conventional conveniences, the clutter of the day, we sweep it all aside for a while to find what hides behind our eyes unclouded by wifi. For five days We breathe the fresh air cradled rocky and strained by aspen groves, sipping on the sweet smells of summer fed to us by our sky Hashem whispers to us, adventure is out there. We, who fly a whole mile high, there is nothing like this ride. We call this time Masa, the journey. We leave early and pack light, for we plan to travel far, wide, We give up our complex comforts for a simpler sense of service to ourselves, of preference and priority, of sound, Listen, adventure is out there, listen. It’s laping at your shore. This song never gets old.  We leave our watches, our roofs, and yes often our bathrooms, for a timeless place, a forever truth in nature. These ancient languages have not been lost, the trees still whistle and hum in the breeze with their lips bigger thaan SUV’s and their tongues that never get tired, are you listening? Can you hear it? We call this time Masa, this place, the Journey. We are in search of adventure, in search of god and each other, we are the Masa, the journey and for four nights the moon is our spotlight, watching as the stars nod across the sky to tuck us into that silver darkness, nothing is warmer, nothing is freer than this blanket this fire by our side, we, the pioneers of our own potential have  songs with their endless arms reaching upward, there is something magic about this circle, these hurtles, this path untraveled, you’ll find your potential is just as endless, listen as the wind plays the trees against the drumming, there is rhythm to discover in our feet. Learn what it means to feed yourself full to this beat, what it means to push yourself more, to take care of your core, to be apart of this team, born of a collective dream, we are all in this together, strip the white noise of the city from your skin, we should all know this everything, and to make memories that do not require batteries. Write stories with your every step. For five days and four nights we learn to take care of our bodies, our minds, our souls. Look up, Hashem is all around us out here, this air, this water, these lives and laughter let its voice fill you, climb its mountains, ride it smooth, move with purpose, groove, climb, bike, shoot, lace up your boots. It is time, Learn precision and how to sleep by its side, no lie, out here we are the pioneers of our own potential, the students of our surroundings, the reverent citizens of our world, there is no end to this road, us all a part of this team, this whole, this time, like an endless smooth sounding rhyme, with light hearts, and laughter, find us pushing our limits going faster choosing the challenge that will bring us forward, for there is no end to this road. This journey where we sing ourselves to sleep and awake in the morning with the possibilities simply at our feet, all around us, waking up to find that adventure is out here.

Happy Thanksgiving

This post was originally featured on the Jewish News of the Greater Phoenix Area.  Debbie was a guest of ours at Shavuot this past year, and we are touched and amazed at her words here.  If you are interested in coming for Shavuot camp this year, please contact Matt Levitt.

 

For one week in June 2014, I made aliyah. Not to Israel, but up the mountain to Ramah, my spiritual home, where the mountain meets the sky. It had been many years since I stepped onto the hallowed ground of any Ramah campus, and though this ascent was not to my home camp of Camp Ramah in the Poconos, I was instantly in my element at Ramah Outdoor Adventure in the Rockies (ROA) in Deckers, Colorado. Because my daughter had been a member of the brave “Chevrat HaMeyasdim” (founding/pioneering staff members) in 2009 and 2010, I already recognized some names and faces and was familiar with landmarks from her photos and descriptions. I had heard her sing ROA songs and chants, and knew a bit about what made this Ramah camp similar yet different from the original Ramah prototype.

There is no mistaking the ruach of Ramah, the ineffable bond that exists among generations of Ramah-niks all across the country. Shared values, curiosity, connection to the place and each other. Even as a camp that is only four years old, all of this is part of ROA. This is a place to feel Jewish and be Jewish in a way that reaches deeper inside than any experience you can have back in your everyday school-year world. What makes ROA extra special is the exploring spirit brought to just about every activity. Everyone hikes, bikes, climbs, rappels, kayaks, works on the farm and backpacks in the rugged, yet serene, Rocky Mountain wilderness. Founded on the principle of “challenge by choice,” Ramah Valley is like a vortex where campers and staff learn things about life and themselves, creating a kehillah kedosha — a holy community.

The gardens for fruits and vegetables (enjoyed at meals) are built and maintained by campers and staff. The horse pastures are accessible in the center of the camp. The sounds of tefillah (prayer), limmud (learning), shirah (singing), rikud (dancing) and amanut (arts) may be concentrated in rooms adjoining the Chadar Ochel ohel (dining room tent), but the life of this camp is breathed everywhere among acres of both semi-developed and undeveloped land.

Shavuot Shabbat CampI knew most of that, or thought I did, before I arrived. But I didn’t fully get it until I found myself living it. Last spring, I opened an email newsletter from ROA. It contained a small announcement inviting interested families to contact the camp for more information about a new Shavuot study opportunity. There would be holiday-specific programming as well as free time for these visitors to the ranch. They would be joined by senior tzevet (staff) who were readying the camp for the beginning of the summer season. Right away, I signed up, encouraged by my daughter and her formative experiences as a young adult.

Upon arrival, I learned that the other families who had expressed interest had not been able to come that week. I was the only person not on staff there, yet immediately I knew that I was not an outsider. Just as I had a sense of familiarity with ROA based upon my daughter’s involvement, all I had to do was introduce myself as Risa’s Mom and, immediately, I was embraced, literally and figuratively. Lucky me, I was invited to participate in every aspect of staff orientation, study sessions, discussion groups, and even wilderness first-responder training. I volunteered in the farm-garden, braided challah, and assisted in the kitchen. Soon, I wasn’t just my daughter’s middle-aged mother. I quickly became a member of a tight-knit family of young people, some in college, some recent grads, and some rabbinical students.

I hiked up the mountain with the entire community as we symbolically received the Torah from Sinai on a glorious Shavuot morning. Moses may not have brought dogs with him, but faithful pets accompanied us. Amidst the group of tallit-clad fellow hikers, wearing a kippah that I had crocheted decades earlier as a camper, I was called up for an aliyah as the Torah was read on the mountaintop.

Eliav ShavuotLike all Ramah camps, every meal began with hand-washing and motzi. But ROA goes further than that, by also beginning each meal with announcements by the food educator, a dedicated position on staff, who described what was on the menu, what the health benefits were of the locally sourced ingredients, and what the vegan/gluten-free option was. This was unlike any camp food I’d ever eaten. Every tasty dish was crafted with the intention to maximize nutrients, and was energy-fueling and appetite-quenching. Each table had a designated helper/cleaner, yet everyone pitched in. There was always room for one more person to sit on the bench. And of course we “benched” after every meal, conscious of which food groups were represented.

What ROA lacks in sprawling manicured lawns, paved sports courts, and cathedral gathering halls, it makes up for with rustic-but-civilized ohelim (tent-bunks) where windows are unzipped, and light comes from flashlights, headlamps and solar-powered lanterns. (Helpful tip for first-timers: place the solar-powered lantern outside in the sun during the day!) There is no need to clean the bathroom in your ohel, because there isn’t one; just walk up the hill to the bright and airy communal bathhouses. (Tip: DO remember to bring your bucket of toiletries.) While you won’t find yourself crossing perfectly sodded fields to get to your next activity, do allow time to hike up and down the rocky hills and valleys, and to stop to watch the caterpillar spin its silk, the aspen leaves flutter, and the deer in your midst. (Tip: DO wear sturdy shoes daily. DO carry your day-pack everywhere. DON’T try to capture these experiences with a camera; you simply can’t.) Most important tips: drink water, lots of water; apply and reapply sunscreen; and always wear your hat. ROA is located at serious altitude.

From one Jewish mother to another, if you think that your son or daughter might enjoy the challenges and confidence-building experience of developing outdoor physical skills while being supported by a Jewish-values-driven community, check-out the information about an upcoming meet-and-greet event being hosted here in Phoenix/Scottsdale on Tuesday Nov. 18th. See you there!

by Beth Hammerman

Ben Skupsky w/water tankIn recognition of Shemini Atzeret, the holiday we just celebrated, we share with you the various ways in which Ramah Outdoor Adventure works on conserving its precious water resource. This holiday, which follows the Jewish festival of Sukkot, marks the beginning of the rainy season after the harvest in Israel. The prayer for rain, Tefilat Geshem, is the only ritual that is unique to Shemini Atzeret. After the prayer for rain is recited, the phrase Masheev HaRuach U-Moreed HaGeshem (“He causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall”) is inserted into the Amidah prayer until Passover. This is the season of divine judgment for the future year’s rainfall, the time when we pray that God’s goodwill may afford us the appropriate amount.

Donald Skupsky, Chairman of the Ramah in the Rockies Board, and his son Ben, developed camps most significant water related initiative. They spent years researching an effective way to bring hot water to our shower house that would be both economical and practical. After years of research, they designed and implemented a passive solar system made up of two hot boxes housing two bladders that are continuously being filled from the creek water that is piped in. Each bladder holds 500 gallons of water and measures 7ft. X 9ft. X 16 in. high. The black color of the bladder absorbs more of the sun’s rays and heats the water inside more quickly. By having a large surface area and shallow depth, the water inside the bladder is able to heat more quickly than traditional upright storage tanks.

camp waterfallThe two bladders are plumbed in series, so that heated water from one bladder serves as input to the second, increasing water temperature. The bladders are housed in separate hot boxes, each covered with polycarbonate, which is often used for greenhouses and lets 90% of sunlight pass through. The top of each box is angled to catch the maximum amount of sun in the spring and summer months. Each box is lined with reflective insulation to direct sunlight inward and further heat the bladders. Even if the sun does not shine for a few days, storing water above ground significantly improves hot water availability over traditional water heating systems.

The advantages to this system are many. It significantly reduces the monthly water heating cost from the shower house. On Friday alone, over 200 showers occur. The system is designed to use up to 1,500 gallons of hot water in that 3-hour period. It is very eco friendly since there are practically no moving parts, which means that the system does not use any fossil fuels or electricity to operate. Further, this has been a great learning experience for our campers and staff.

There are many other initiatives the camp has implemented regarding water usage. Campers are encouraged not to flush the toilet after each use so the tank does not have to empty out and fill up unnecessarily after each use. Half of the sinks in the new shower house have facets with 15 second timed water release. This reminds campers when cleaning their teeth and washing up of the need to be conscious of their water usage. The showerheads have a reduced water stream, further saving on water usage. Excess water from the dining room table pitchers is reused in the gardens and greenhouse. There is a poster board outside the dining room indicating each day how much water is being used in the different areas of the camp. This public display has sparked discussion among campers and staff and the hope is that water consumption will decrease as a result.

hydroMickey Vizner, the camp’s environmental and sustainability project manager, is always thinking of new initiatives to conserve water. The latest is thru the use of Hydroponics. This is where plants are grown without the use of soil. The nutrients that plants normally derive from the soil are simply dissolved into water instead, and depending on the type of hydroponic system used, the plant’s roots are suspended in, flooded with or misted with the nutrient solution so that the plant can derive the elements it needs for growth. ROA is testing this concept with two camp-made vertical “water trees,” each able to hold 14 plants and camp-made nutrients (egg shells and banana peels soaked in water with some added purchased minerals).

There are significant environmental benefits to hydroponics use. Such a system requires significantly less water than soil-based plants because it recycles and reuses water and nutrient solutions, as it is continually pumped through the plant roots. Hydroponics requires little or no pesticides and much less nutrients. This represents not only a cost savings but also benefits the environment in that no chemicals or nutrition pollution are being released into the air. As the population increases and arable land available for crop production declines, hydroponics will allow us to produce crops in alternative places. Hydroponically grown foods not only taste better and are more nutritional, but you can change the properties of your food and monitor what goes into it.

Lastly, one of Mickey’s dreams is to build a water powered ner tamid (eternal light). He hopes to design a water wheel that will be turned by the flow of the creek water to create electricity to power the light. He sees this as a force of nature coming from G-d, which serves as a reminder that G-d is forever eternal.

 

 

 

 

 

Over the summer, we were honored to have Rabbi Peretz Rodman and his wife, Miriam.  He wrote this to several of his Rabbinical colleagues, and we are honored at his words about our Camp! Register your child today so that they can share in the magic of camp!

How I Spent Shabbat Hazon:

Fifteen or twenty minutes off the nearest paved road, on a 360-acre 1880’s Colorado homestead next to a pristine National Forest, and almost an hour from any sustained cellphone reception, Jewish life is vibrant and exciting. Shabbat with Ramah Outdoor Adventure / Camp Ramah in the Rockies was rich and fulfilling.

Our colleague Eliav Bock gives visionary leadership to this community, which he has led since its shoestring inception 4 summers ago. Clearly focused on values, mission-driven in every detail, this is the place for kids — and young adult staff members — who want a rustic, physically challenging outdoor adventure in a supportive environment infused with a Jewish living and learning.

It is recognizably Ramah, but distinctively different. Campers spend every other week offsite on backcountry excursions even further off the grid. (We’re talking satellite phone by a counselor on the backcountry trips.) When they return for Shabbat, it is evident that they are exhilarated from the week and thrilled to be all together again.

The director, Rabbi Eliav, himself sets the tone: relaxed, low-key, ready to take on any task himself, attentive and welcoming to everyone. He has constructed a model environment for health and sustainability. And how many RA members sometimes have to ask the nearest neighbor, a few miles up the road, to borrow a bale of hay for the horses?

Ramah in the Rockies takes kids and staff from all over. It might be a wonderful opportunity for kids you know or college students you know.

Miriam Green, one of our kitchen staff and student at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, wrote this poem over the summer. We think it serves as a great reflection for Yom Kippur.

I don’t understand the point.
If trustworthiness is so hard to attain
and so easy to destroy
Why work to be trustworthy at all?
When each one of us seems destined to fail
in matters big or matters small?Perhaps we should turn from emun to emunah
from trustworthiness to Trust
and the only
One
we can truly trust is G-d
for we know people will fail us
time and again
people we love
people we despiseand the more power, the more weight
we give to their words
the harder that weight will fall
and crush
us
in our disappointment.
We must always trust that G-d has a way
that G-d has a plan
that we have no hope of seeing the big picture of our lives
yet G-d has already painted it.
Each place
each relationship
each moment
a gift, specially formed for each one of us
precisely as G-d intended.So.
If humans can’t be trusted
Why should we aspire to this ideal of trustworthiness
that we can at best momentarily attain?Perhaps it is part of our endeavor to be holy as Hashem our G-d is holy.
But I think it is about forgiveness.
My students asked me
How can you trust someone who has failed you?
Can you trust someone who has been in jail?
And I had no clear answer for them.
But one wise student gave a teshuvah:
Yes
I could trust someone who can failed me, he said.Ahh, I kvelled.
You see, you have found the answer.
It’s about forgiveness.Because as we endeavor to be trustworthy
We know in our heart!
that at least in moments
all humankind will fail
and as we regard our fellow as ourself
we know in our gut we must forgive.
And each act of forgiveness
is a stitch repairing the fabric of the world
making us whole
granting us a taste
of the bliss
of the world to come.

Chalutzim [campers] at Ramah in the Rockies now understand how the expression “busy as a bee” came into being. Chalutzim learned all about bees through Rinat Levinson, a tzevet [staff member] from Israel, who studied biodynamic beekeeping. Rinat became interested in this field only a year ago and has become so passionate that she found a Denver beekeeper, Oliver Stanton, who donated a hive full of bees so she could teach our chalutzim.

Bee KeepingBiodynamic bee keeping is an approach that respects the integrity of the colony and was founded over 150 years ago. Its aim is to minimize stress factors and allow bees to develop in accordance with their true nature. There are many protocols one must follow so as not to exploit the bees for their honey and ROA followed them while mainting the hive. Examples include: bees are allowed to build natural comb, swarming is acknowledged as the only way to rejuvenate and reproduce a colony, the queen is allowed to move freely throughout the hive and sufficient honey is retained in the hive to provide for the winter.

Rinat’s goal was to make us more aware of the bee’s life cycle and its impact on the environment. Bees are useful in helping thousands of plants to exist and multiply, since they carry pollen from one flower to another, enabling them to form seeds and reproduce themselves. Campers learned about community from studying the bees as each bee and bee activity is integral to the whole. No single part, not even the queen, can be seen as isolated from the whole. Isn’t this what community is all about?

She taught how to respect and take care of the hive and the importance of its survival. Unfortunately, the honeybee is becoming an endangered species, with more than a 50% US decline in managed honeybee colonies due to parasites and disease, climate change and air pollution. The most serious of all is the impact of pesticides– an environmental hazard for any being. Campers discussed what they could do about this phenomenon.

Honeybees are the only insects that provide an important food for man. Interesting note is that the bee is a non-kosher insect, so why is its honey kosher?

So much Jewish learning can be taught through studying the bees. “Devorah” is Hebrew for “bee.” It’s also the name of two great women mentioned in the Torah. What is so special about a bee that these great women should be named after it? There are several citings in the Midrash where the Jewish people and the Torah are compared to bees. For example, just as bees swarm behind a leader, so too are the Jews led by the sages and prophets who teach and guide them. Just as the nature of a bee is to collect pollen and nectar for others, so do the Jews toil accumulating Torah and mitzvahs, not for our own benefit, but for a higher purpose.

BeeHiveHoney is first mentioned in the Bible as one of the gifts sent by Jacob with his sons when they went down to Egypt to seek food during the famine. Moses, at his first encounter with God at the burning bush, hears God’s pledge for the first time: “I shall rescue them from the hand of Egypt and bring them up to a land flowing with milk and honey”(Exodus 3:8). Throughout the Bible, Israel is repeatedly referred to as the land of “milk and honey.” Manna, the most perfect food ever created, which sustained the Israelites for 40 years of wandering in the desert, is described as tasting “like a cake fried in honey” (Exodus 16:31)

“The Torah is sweeter than honey to my mouth,” sang King David. So just like a honeybee spreads the news of the sweet nectar it found to the rest of the colony, so too should we spread the word of Torah. A bee knows that spreading her knowledge is important for her entire colony to prosper. By spreading the sweetness of Torah and mitzvahs to others, you can enhance the capability of the Jewish people to fulfill its purpose, and to be a “light unto the nations.”

We all know that on Rosh Hashanah, honey is used in a symbolic way. We ask for a Shanah Tovah – “May we have a good and sweet year” as we dip apples into honey. It is not only for a good and sweet year in material blessings that we have in mind, but also a good and sweet year in our spiritual life of Torah and mitzvahs, which are “sweeter than hon
ey and the honeycomb” (Psalms). As we eat honey during these High Holidays, we hope campers will remember the labor of love that went into making that honey. There were a lot of honeybees, working very hard, as each honeybee will only produce about one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime. We are hopeful that our Ramah bees will provide a taste of honey for the upcoming New Year.

 

 

This post was written by Miriam Green, one of our tzevet mitbach [kitchen staff] during the summer.  She is currently a rabbinical student at the Ziegler School for Rabbinic Studies.  She writes a regular blog about food and values that we will be sharing here.

HUMILITY: RECITATION PHRASE

What is a Recitation Phrase?

A chalutz [camper] wearing the value bracelets from the summer.

A chalutz [camper] wearing the value bracelets from the summer.

In Mussar [Jewish Teachings], it’s a statement (like an inspiration, or a reminder) that a person says first thing in the morning, as the first half of a “journaling” practice, intended to facilitate self-reflection.  So a Mussar practitioner would say her Recitation Phrase in the morning, and then in the evening, write a journal entry (any length, one word minimum) about how the day went.  Did the Recitation Phrase serve as a useful reminder or was it repeatedly forgotten?  Did the practitioner observe that she was handling situations and relationships in a different way because of her Mussar practice?  (This is the Big Goal we’re going for.)

Over the summer, at Ramah in the Rockies, we practiced a middah for one week at a time.  Now that the academic year is beginning and time seems to be moving at a different pace, I’ll stay with a middah for two weeks.  My second week focusing on Humility has already begun.

And the Recitation Phrase will remain the same:

My body is on loan from Hashem; it is my responsibility to care for it.

Miriam writes her own blog on Mussar, Food, and Life.  The blog can be found at: http://mussarandfood.wordpress.com

This was written and sent out to all of our parents the day after camp:

Yesterday morning we said goodbye to the last of our 2014 chalutzim campers].  Our staff members spent the afternoon winterizing our tents, packing the tripping gear and cleaning camp for the long nine months until we reopen for our 2015 season. Our chalutzim have already arrived home,and many spent the day on airplanes heading to one of 27 states, Canada, Israel and Mexico from which they hail.  Last night we will gathered as a Kehillah Kedosha [holy community] for the final time this summer to celebrate our invaluable tzevet [staff] at our annual staff banquet.  These young men and woman have spent the past 9+ weeks providing the most incredible, educational and inspiring experiences possible for nearly 400 chalutzim who came to our camp this summer. 

At our slide show Monday night, I began to tear up while watching the faces of the chalutzim who have spent time with us this summer.  I saw pictures of smiling children climbing rocks, biking trails, building fires, throwing Frisbees and playing basketball.  I saw pictures of children dressed in white swaying to the music on Friday night and then gathered around the havdallah candles on Saturday evening.  I saw children perfecting old skills and acquiring new talents.  I saw the faces of hundreds of youth being positively impacted in an intense and intentional Jewish environment.

A summer is made up countless moments, and no two people at camp have the exact same experience.  Here are three vignettes from this past session that will forever stand out in my mind.

#1 The Rain: If there was one aspect of camp that we all experienced it was the rain.  This summer has been one of the wettest in decades.IMG_7216  Session IIA experienced the wettest two weeks of the summer, with almost 4 days of non-stop rain.  Amazingly, the rain did little to dampen people’s spirits.  Most Masa’ot continued as planned.  The afternoon of Yom Sport turned into a two hour “sing down” and dance party in our dining tent.  While most of the always epic apache relay was cancelled, we did manage to gather outside for the final rope burn.  The most common question heard over the staff radios was, “are we still in lightning mode?”  With the rain this summer, all of us were that much more appreciative when we had beautiful weather and blue skies.  All of us played a little harder, climbed a little higher and rode a little stronger when we had the chance to be out in the sun.  And at the end of the day, we all know that a wet summer in the West is a real blessing, as the region has suffered through too many scorching hot summers that have led to catastrophic fires and parched hillsides. 

#2 Hearing reflections from a 5th year Chalutz:  Each week at Havdallah, as we gather on our basketball court, I eagerly await the ritual of hearing one member of each edah [age group] reflect on the week that has passed.  This past Saturday night, Aaron, one of our JOLI chalutzim who has been here since our inaugural summer, read a short speech that sums up what so many of us are thinking and feeling:

 I’d like to introduce you all to a phenomenon I have noticed after 5 years [at Ramah Outdoor Adventure] called the “music distortion effect”.  You will notice it on the way home on Tuesday.  You’ll notice the sound of your headphones is surprisingly grainy.  Maybe this is just what happens when you don’t listen to your iPod for a month.  However, I think “music distortion effect” has a much deeper meaning.  When we call the world outside of camp the “real world” we are in fact mistaken.  The “real world” is just too loud for us to hear the truth about what is real.  What’s real is right here.  When we can finally hear, we figure out that the freedom and peace and happiness [we feel here]–is what’s actually real.  And when we go home, we have to try to stop just listening to the blaring siren of “real life”, begging us to believe it when it says that such bliss isn’t possible.  We have to try and sing the songs we learned here, and when we return from our ten-month masa, trust me, we’ll have so many more songs to sing.

Aaron sums up what so many of us are feeling and struggling with as we re-enter our lives away from the ranch.  How do we take the magic that exists here and apply it to our lives back home? 

#3 60 Successful Masa’ot!  One amazing aspect of our camp is the masa’ot [excursions].  This summer we sent out a record 60 masa’ot — Postcard-commentsfrom overnight horseback trips on our ranch with the Ilanot (3/4th graders) to 6 day intensive high alpine backpacking trips for our JOLI (11/12th grade) participants.   Chalutzim return from masa with a contagious energy.  Those of us who stay back at camp during masa week look forward to their return– beginning around noon on Fridays.  As each group comes back to camp there are loud shrieks of delight as friends reconnect.  Aside from the energy present when groups return, it is incredibly special to see how new bonds are created when a group must work together in the backcountry.  People who left as near strangers come back as close friends.
Perhaps most importantly, our motto of “challenge by choice” is so clearly visible on these days, as each person feels that s/he achieved his/ her own personal goals during their time away from camp.  Some might have climbed a hill faster or scaled a more difficult route or carried more weight, but at the end of the day, everyone returned to camp secure with their own personal triumph.

We spend most of the year planning for the summer, and while each day at camp feels like at least three days in the “real world”, the end of the summer still seems to creep up on us way too quickly.  And just like that, we are set to close the curtain on Kayitz 2014. 

JOLI edit2This summer will go down as our best yet.  Our staff, once again, went above and beyond to provide an incredible experience for the chalutzim.  Our educational program was engaging and probing.  Our schedule had few
er issues than in years past, and the 
masa’ot were more varied than they have ever been.  From the youngest chalutz to the oldest tzevet member, we had an incredibly high caliber of people at camp this summer.  So many chalutzim commented to me over the past eight weeks just how nice and genuine everyone was at camp.  This is perhaps one of the greatest hallmarks of our unique community; a place that respects differences and celebrates diversity within our Jewish community.

Over the next few weeks, those of us that work year round for Ramah will be taking some time to sleep, relax, and reflect.  While today we will say goodbye to the most incredible group of staff ever assembled at a Jewish summer camp, we know that the 2015 season is just around the corner.  If you have not already registered your camper for 2015, you may do so here.  Over 40 chalutzim have already registered for next year.  While we will not be filled before the end of the month, we do expect to reach capacity once again in 2015 — so please do not wait too long to register.  Deposits are 100% refundable until March 1, 2015 AND campers enrolled before October 31, 2014 will receive a complimentary Ramah soft shell jacket.

As always, we welcome your comments or suggestions via email and phone.  Parents, we will also be sending a final customer satisfaction survey.  Please complete it if you have not yet done so, as it helps us continue to improve our program each year. 

And when we come back online, we look forward to reflecting more on kayitz 2014 and planning for an even better kayitz 2015.  

Rabbi Eliav Bock

Rabbi Eliav Bock, Director
Ramah Outdoor Adventure

Shalom Camp Families,

The past few days have been an exciting few days of saying lehitra’ot [goodbye] to our Session I chalutzim [campers], taking some time to refocus and refresh with our tzevet [staff], and welcoming our Session II chalutzim.  Now that we are all together here as a kehillah kedosha [holy community], I wanted to share with you all a few highlights from the first few days of our second session.

Our opening day this session was probably one of the hottest days we have had here at the ranch all summer! Our tzevet were ready with water and sunscreen as the cars and buses streamed in throughout the day.   With Israeli music playing in the background, chalutzim got off the busses and were greeted by tunnels of madrichim that the chalutzim came running through.  Already within the first few hours we heard cheers of “Bo-Bo-Bo-Bo-Bogrim!” and all the other edot [age groups] learning and enthusiastically shouting their names!

Bee KeepingThe opening day also saw our chalutzim doing the typical ice breakers, health checks, and unpacking. The following day, our chalutzim awoke to a full day of programming.  Chalutzim were biking our single track, riding our horses, planting in our garden and playing basketball.  A new highlight this session for our chalutzim is beekeeping.  Led by Rinat Levinson, one of our veteran tzevet members, chalutzim are learning all about bee life cycles and needs, as well as getting some honey snacks for themselves.

The first night we enjoyed our traditional opening medura [bonfire], where we created a special musical space together.  We learned our camp song, and sang a few other favorites around the bonfire.  It was so thrilling to watch our oldest chalutzim sitting next to our youngest and dancing the moves of the camp song side by side.

Last night we tried a new camp-wide game, capture the counselor.  Often we like to play a camp-wide game of capture the flag in our Ramah Valley, but in our constant attempt try new things we decided to try this new game.  In capture the counselor, essentially a giant game of hide-and-go-seek, each staff member was assigned a point value and in teams by ohel [tent], chalutzim sought out the counselors within the time window.  Those with the most points at the end of the time period won the game.  Ohel 11 of Sollelim were the victors of the evening!

Sollelim/Bogrim/JOLI Torah RollWe often say that one day in camp time is three days in the outside world.  With that said, while we have only had a few short days with your kids, it seems like we have all been here together forever.  After these few short days (or was it a week?) we are ready to make the special transition to Shabbat together.   Our chalutzim are currently showering and changing into their special Shabbat whites. Each time I see our entire kehillah enter the Pardes T’fillah [our outdoor amphitheater], smiling in their Shabbat clothing, I know the hard work of the staff and the devotion of our families is all worth it.

Next week all of our chalutzim will be heading out of camp for their masa’ot [trips].  This morning, our JOLI and Bogrim chalutzim packed their group gear and prepared their food for the week.  They leave on Sunday and Monday mornings.  Our younger campers will also be heading out next week, Metaylim and Ilanot on overnight trips and day trips, and Sollelim on a four-day masa starting Tuesday morning.

As a reminder, we post pictures and updates on Facebook most days that chalutzim are at the chava [ranch]. If you are not a fan of ours on Facebook, please become one.  Here is the link to our online photos that we update every two or three days, and here is a link to a video we posted on Facebook of the first day.

As always please be in touch with any questions or comments.  You can always email me or our yoatzim [camper care team] at campparent@ramahoutdoors.org.

Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Eliav Bock

It seems like just yesterday that we were gathering for the first time during shavua hachanah [staff week]  with our tzevet [staff] and spoke about how we are forming the basis of our Kehillah Kedosha [holy community].  And in a few hours, we will gather as a Kehillah Kedosha for the final time with our first session chalutzim [campers].  This session has truly flown by! What a week it has been!
The week started off with Yom Sport, our annual color war competition. In case you missed our video from it, check out the link, and read Beth Hammerman’s article about it here:

There are some things you just can’t live without at camp. Call it what you want, for some it’s Color War and for others it’s Maccabia Games. But for Ramah Outdoor Adventure, it’s Yom Sport.  Camp wouldn’t be camp without this day of friendly competition! When it falls is usually a surprise. Campers anxiously await the “break” and when that happens, camp instantly goes into a frenzy. There is so much excitement in the air that you wonder if the campers will ever get to sleep Erev Yom Sport.

Yom Sport is an intense day of activities that requires teamwork, cooperation, and consideration for others. Good sportsmanship and mutual respect are expected, and every team member needs to participate in some way. Most important is that every camper enjoys the day. (Continue Reading)

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

This week we welcomed to the chava [ranch] two new sets of residents: our goats, Buttercup and Chetzi, and our bees.  The goats join the pigs, sheep, and chickens in our barn; we know the chalutzim will love these two! This summer we are adding a beekeeping chug [elective], led by veteran staff member Rinat Levinson.  She is beyond excited to be teaching the chalutzim about bees and beekeeping.

Currently, our chalutzim are getting ready for Shabbat after an amazing, chaotic, energetic, and fun day of returning from their masa’ot [excursions].  Upon their return, they spend a few hours in “de-issue,” a process of unpacking, cleaning, and returning all gear checked out for their masa’ot. Aside from the unpacking and cleaning process, they trade tales among friends and bunkmates of their experiences roughing it.  Returning from masa is always a frenzied experience here but an incredible one to both be a part of and observe.

Weather-wise, this week has been a wild one in most of Colorado.  All our groups who were sleeping in the backcountry encountered rain and thunder storms.  Most were able to stay dry or not get more than the usual back-country damp, though a few had to take shelter in some creative places, including our Amitzim (campers with special needs) edah [age group], who spent a night sleeping in a hay loft because their campsite was so wet!

Metaylim, the 5th and 6th grade edah,  went on a three-day backpacking trip at the three eastern gateways of the Lost Creek Wilderness. For the first time, we mixed the bunks and genders on their masa.   Metaylim also spent Monday at the local YMCA camp where they were supposed to spend the day on high rope elements, but instead, because of storms in the area, spent most of the day playing ground games.

Sollelim, the 7th and 8th grade edah, chose between climbing, backpacking, rafting-biking, and service/trail crew options.  This year we have been adding several new masa options for Sollelim including an archery masa and an omanut masa [art-themed excursion].

Bogrim, our 9th and 10th grade edah, returned to Rocky Mountain National Park, north of Boulder and also hiked to Sangre De Christo Wilderness, south of Colorado Springs.  The climbing masa went to the local twin peak mountain, Sheeprock, and spent their days dodging storms and climbing between the showers. Another group went on a Horsepacking masa, crossing through the Holy Cross Wilderness, with many legs of the journey through snow.

JOLI (Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute), the 11th and 12th grade program, went on an adventure challenge masa, doing segments 1, 2, 4, and 5 of the Colorado Trail. They hiked, climbed, and biked all around the Lost Creek Wilderness area.  They also biked up and over the continental divide at Kenosha Pass, at over 10,000 feet. The JOLeaders who did not go on masa with JOLI were CIT’s with Metaylim  and Sollelimmasa’ot, learning the ropes of being staff and leaders for camp.

Our Amitzim campers road horses to our neighbor’s buffalo ranch and set up camp along their pond.  As a wild storm moved in, they sought shelter in their barn, and ended up spending the night there.  Yesterday they moved to Wellington Lake where they swam and played on the shores before riding back into camp today on horseback.

Now that our chalutzim are all back, we are excited to spend Shabbat and this next week at camp together.  We look forward to our famous Shabbat Challah, tilapia,and a reuniting final Shabbat of Session 1B.

As a reminder, we post pictures and updates on Facebook most days that chalutzim are at the chava [ranch]. If you are not a fan of our Facebook page, please become one.  Here is the link to our online photos that we update every two or three days, and here is a link to a video we posted on Facebook of Yom Sport and the masa’ot returning.

As always please be in touch with any questions or comments.  You can always email me or our yoatzim [camper care team] at campparent@ramahoutdoors.org.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Eliav Bock

 

Rabbi Ranon Teller

This morning at Ramah in the Rockies, for the first time in my rabbinic life, I watched a shochet slaughter a chicken. I’ve eaten meat all my life, but I’ve never experienced a shechita (ritual slaughter). I’ve never dealt head on, with the emotional, ethical concerns of taking an animal’s life to support my own. I’ve been meaning to visit a slaughterhouse for some time to confront this deficiency in my rabbinic and human experience. Confrontation time had arrived.

Every year, a local shochet from Boulder visits the Ramah Outdoor Adventure community to teach about kosher shechita. Yadidya Greenberg invited anyone who chose to participate to gather at the chava (farm) to witness a shechita. As we arrived, he carefully displayed his tools of his trade: the rectangular knives, the sharpening stones, the aprons, and a bucket of earth. He began by asking the chalutzim (pioneers/campers) to share their initial thoughts about shechita, eating meat, and slaughtering animals. Then, he told us about his journey from vegan to vegetarian to kosher meat eater. Some time ago, Yadidya discovered that he needed meat protein for health reasons. As an animal lover, he made an oath to stop eating the meat he needed until he learned how to slaughter it himself. He wanted to confront the dilemma with his own hands. And he did. He learned to be a shochet. Yadidya explained with great compassion about the Jewish code of ethics and his personal commitment to teach and spread kosher slaughter. When the shochet does it right, the the animal feels no pain and the animals death is given proper respect.

Yadidya prepared the area by placing some earth underneath an aluminum tube. Then, he bought out the rooster. It was a heritage rooster, a rooster that was allowed to grow naturally. It was a beautiful, big, orange rooster. He handed it to a madricha (counselor), who held the chicken in her arms. The shochet sharpened his knife. He recited the blessing – “Praised are You, Adonai our God, Source of All, for sanctifying us through the commandment of shechita”. What a meaningful blessing at this powerful moment. I thought to myself, ‘Thank you God, for Your system of mitzvot that allows us to partake of the blessings of this world, with ethics, sustainability and compassion.’ As the madricha held the chicken in a cradle hold, Yadidya exposed the rooster’s neck. With one swift, smooth stroke, he cut across its neck, and the rooster was dead. The madricha placed the rooster upside down in the aluminum tube to allow the blood to drain on top of the earth. When the rooster shook and twitched in the throws of death, we were all reminded about the gravity of life and death. Then, it stopped.

We were all a bit shaken by the experience. For those of us who eat meat, it gave us all a much deeper appreciation for the process that brings the meat to our supermarket and our table. For those of us who don’t eat meat, it confirmed the reality that kept us from eating meat. Yadidya stressed the importance of allowing our dietary decision-making process to evolve slowly and for the kids to be sensitive to their parents’ homes and practices.

After processing the experience with kids, Yadidya invited them up to pluck the rooster’s feathers. When it was all over, Yadidya asked me to fulfill the mitzvah of covering the blood with earth. I took some earth from the bucket and covered the blood that had been spilt. I recited the closing bracha (blessing): “Praised are You, Adonai our God, Source of All, for sanctifying us though the commandment to cover blood with earth.” I thought to myself, ‘Thank you God for your system of mitzvot that allows us to give honor and pay respect to the life that we’ve taken to sustain our lives.’

Thank you Yadidya and Ramah Outdoor Adventure for an incredibly meaningful experience for me and the Ramah Outdoor Adventure community of staff and campers. I don’t know yet how this experience will affect my food decision, but I know I’m a better Rabbi, Jew, citizen, and human for experiencing a shechita first-hand.

 

Rabbi Ranon Teller

Congregation Brith Shalom

By Ari Polsky, Customer Experience Specialist

horseAs a longtime Ramahnik, and recent transplant to Ramah in the Rockies, I have had over 2000 camp meals in my life. While there are many fond memories of camp meals and routines, none have quite been like the dining experience that happens here at Ramah in the Rockies. This first and most easily noted difference is the routine: upon entering the chadar Ochel  [dining hall] and sitting down to start the meal, one of our tzevet mitbach [kitchen staff] offers tafrit hayom [menu of the day].

Wayne, Miriam, Neil, Yael, or Terry stand in front of the entire dining hall, and announce the menu, and what nutritional features or special ingredients the day’s meal might have. Sometimes the tafrit hayom focus on the anti inflammatory properties of coriander, or how quinoa is a complete protein. Whatever the fact of the day, it educates those sharing the meal about something new that helps everyone appreciate the meal.

The other clear difference I have observed is the length of the meals—they are longer than I am used to having in a camp setting. The length has allowed me to have more in depth conversations with those at the same table, as well as allowed for a more leisurely eating pace. Not only are the meals longer, but we are also not supposed to start clearing or cleaning up until the moment that it has been declared “Zman L’nakot!” [Cleanup time!]

Perhaps the most suprising part of my first ten days at Ramah in the Rockies is the lack of red meat or poultry. Tasty and more sustainable alternatives have been frequent: quinoa, tofu, seitan, salmon, rice and beans, etc.

From my conversations with veteran staff, I learned that this was a conscious decision from both the chalutzim [campers] and the tzevet [staff] after the first two summers at camp. Together, they asked the camp rather than serving meat regularly that they would prefer to have it less often, but know that when meat was served it came from a farm where the animals are cared for, responsibly fed, and raised environmentally, and of course kosher.  Last week, I helped unload over 200 frozen chickens and 50 pounds of ground beef that were raised at a farm by one of our camper families.

The sustainable and local food ethos of camp goes even farther, with our milk coming from a local, organic, and sustainable dairy, called Aurora Organic Dairy and the fish from a local Fish Farm, Quixotic Farming.  Over the course of the summer, these companies will donate over 400 gallons of Milk and 600 pounds of fish for our campers and staff to enjoy.  Quixotic food, which has a contract with the Colorado prison system, employs inmates getting ready to be released and provides them with meaningful job training that they can use when they return to the outside world.  Our senior staff have visited the prison and met with the workers there to ensure that the fish fits in with our broader food values.

A staple of many camps is a canteen, or some opportunity to get extra snacks throughout the day. I was surprised that there was no such place at Ramah Outdoor Adventure and wondered how campers and staff would obtain food throughout the day, as food is strictly prohibited in living areas.   I discovered that there are almost always healthy snacks such as fruit or pita chips are available throughout the day near the kitchen (except for 30 minutes before and after the meals). I have enjoyed the ability to pick up a nectarine or chips and dip at 11am or 9pm if I so desire.

Even the way that the dining hall is run fits within the broader values that I can see permeate all areas of Ramah in Colorado.   Everyone from the chalutzim to the hanhallah [administration] take turns acting as Meltzarim [Waiters]. The Meltzarim are responsible for setting tables before the meals, and sweeping up after. Another group helps in the “dishpit” after the meal and assist the fulltime dishwashers pushing every plate, utensil, and serving dish through the industrial dishwasher and then putting the clean dishes away on the drying racks.  While we have only been staff and senior leaders at camp thus far, I can only imagine how being a part of meal set up and clean will affect the 390 chalutzim that will grace the Ohel Ochel [dining tent] throughout this summer.

I have been continually impressed in my short time here so far with the quality, intention, and effort that go into providing three daily meals. As I continue to learn my new home here at Ramah in the Rockies, I discover more and more about the camp and food culture here. I look forward to seeing how the food education at this camp will transform the lives of all of our chalutzim and their families.

By Elyssa Hammerman, Tikvah Director

Ramah Outdoor Adventure has contributed so much to my semester in Israel.  While I work at Ramah during the summers, and part time throughout the year, I am a full time second and third grade teacher at Denver Academy of Torah (DAT).  I am currently taking a semester off from teaching to study at The Pardes Institute in Jerusalem.  Despite my relative lack of formal Jewish learning, my summers at Ramah in Colorado have made this semester much more impactful.

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Richard and Eileen Greenberg cherish a strong commitment to creating Jewish community and preserving the environment. This commitment has led them to support the work of Ramah in the Rockies with their time and resources.

Richard devoted his professional career to preserving the environment, opening the Colorado office of the  United States Environmental Protection Agency as a senior enforcement attorney, and then entering the private sector.

The mission of the camp initially motivated the Greenbergs to support it; seeing that mission put into practice inspires them to stay involved. “It’s great to see kids from all over the country practicing their Judaism in an environment that encourages sustainability, environmental protection, and an intentional way of doing everything, including enjoying God’s creation,” Richard said.

The Greenbergs have donated both to the general fund for capital improvements and made specific donations to the equestrian program. Eileen’s parents, Sondra and Howard Bender, have been leaders in Maryland thoroughbred horse breeding for thirty years (Sondra passed away in February, 2012). The Greenbergs have provided funding to create an equestrian center in the Benders’ honor.

In addition to traditional horseback riding, Eileen is committed to helping camp develop more equestrian-facilitated learning, which she describes as “an experiential approach that creates a supportive learning environment for participants to learn about themselves, heal what has been broken, and re-connect to what has heart and meaning through interactive experiences with horses.” To this end, last summer Eileen brought to camp an equestrian-learning facilitator, who introduced the techniques of equine-guided learning to some of the horseback riding staff. In future summers she hopes to expand on this success.

Both Richard and Eileen have personal connections to Jewish summer camp: Growing up, Eileen attended Camp Ramblewood, a Jewish summer camp in Maryland, for six summers. Richard, meanwhile, worked as a “tripper” at Camp B’nai Brith in Starlake, Pennsylvania for four summers. Richard remembers his experience fondly. “It was great to lead these kids, most of whom had never been involved in real outdoor activity on overnight canoe trips,” he said. They passed this love of camp on to their (now adult) children, who attended Camp Shwayder in Idaho Springs, CO.

They have been active members of the Denver area Jewish community for many years, serving on the boards of HEA and The Colorado Agency for Jewish Education (CAJE-CO).

Richard devoted his professional career to preserving the environment, working as a senior enforcement attorney with the United States Environmental Protection Agency for many years.

The Greenbergs have been gratified to see how their support has helped camp to develop and are full of hope for Ramah in the Rockies/Ramah Outdoor Adventure’s future. “It’s remarkable how far the camp’s gone since it opened,” Richard said, but added, “We’re just seeing the beginnings of how the equestrian program can develop.” They urge other people to get involved and help create the camp they want to see.

(And as an update to this blog post, all of us at Camp Ramah want to wish the Greenbergs Mazal Tov on becoming grandparents last week to Jackson Joseph Greenberg– Their first grandchild!)

Check out an amazing video produced by the Greenbergs during their visit to Ramah Outdoor Adventure:

watch?v=hBVGT3e3Z2Y&feature=youtu.be

greenbergs

 

Throughout the off-season, we engage a number of parents in interesting “conversations” online about various aspects of our camp program.  This year, we thought it would be a good idea to publicize some of these email exchanges for our broader camp audience.  We will always remove names and any identifying factors.  We will make small edits to ensure anonymity and correct sentence flow, but otherwise we will publish them in their entirety.  We hope that this segment will be published whenever we feel that there is something worth sharing, and will shed a little light onto how we promote camp in the off-season and the intentionality that goes into making the summer season a success.

 

Parent’s letter:

 

“I do feel that making mincha optional sends a really weak message to the kids and is exactly the kind of thing the Conservative Movement in general suffers from. It’s important to us that he regulate himself to davening [praying] and we will ask him to attend mincha but with so many kids allowed to play instead it makes this a real uphill task for those who know their parents/Hashem [God] expect it. I wish these divisions between movements would disappear and mitzvot would simply be a given and not an option.”

 

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