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A Place to Be Yourself, The Place to Take on Life’s AdventureSONY DSC

The Ramah Rockies Experience 

 Rabbi Scott Bolton, Congregation Or Zarua, New York City

Writing from the beautiful Rockies, Basecamp


I believe that we need to find the right places for growing, reflecting, experiencing joy and awe. At every stage of our lives, we must find it for ourselves, and parents, to be good guides for their children, have to search out those environments. Finding a place, school, camp, or synagogue that encompasses them all is a challenge. What an incredible privilege to be able to become part of this sacred community at Ramah Rockies where I can see that everyone is in explorer mode and committed to the core values of community, individual growth, joy and honoring one another.

From this Rabbi’s perspective, when a camp is filled with people who are little like angels you have to share the blessings. Let me call out to fellow parents, Jewish community members and those wanting to contribute to the lives of children as camp staff – this is an inspiring Jewish place to be for two, four or eight weeks! Everyone here is accepted for who they are, what they stand for and how they express their Judaism, yet the commitment to community and finding common ground places everyone in a trust relationship. SONY DSC

With those trust relationships built through sacred attachments, the adventures themselves into the wilderness, up boulders, through forests, down paths both excite individual campers and create an understanding about teamwork and responsibility important both for summer adventures and for all of life.

At about 9,800 feet above sea level, at a trailhead, I saw a group of teens take on leadership under the careful supervision of dedicated adventure counselors. The gave each of the young leaders a different job and had them carefully sort out, equitably, all the extra equipment they would need to camp over five days and reach more than 12,500 feet above the tree lines. Their initiation into the ways of survival and skills for staying safe, and their celebrating Shabbat together got them ready for that journey. The leaders of the Jewish Outdoor Leadership Initiative (JOLI) empowered those teens from around the world, of one Jewish family, to each find their own inner strength and to create a team that could literally and figuratively realize new heights! JOLI bolton masa bierstadt

I am seeing that when those of all backgrounds, of one family, come to make magic here at Ramah Rockies there is a buzz and a peace all at the same time. There are physical heights and spiritual heights to ascend. Few places in my travels have inspired such an electricity as well as a sense of acceptance, potential growth and Jewish spirit. 

I know I am in the right place for these weeks I will be here! Hineini! “I am here,” as our ancestors responded to God when asked if they were ready for the next chapter. 

 

To register for Ramah in the Rockies today, please click this link. Register Now!

You Spoke, We Listened

Rabbi Eliav Bock

Eliav headshot

The better part of the past eight weeks or so since leaving the chava (ranch) have been spent reaching out to you, our camper families, to gather your thoughts about us and our camp program this last summer.  We did this by personally calling or emailing each of our over 350 camper families.  We also sought your input via an anonymous survey, which was administered by a third party foundation.  But we didn’t stop there.  We also asked all 90+ staff members for their perspectives as part of their exit interviews at the end of the summer.  And then we requested them to complete a similar survey as well.  

We heard from many of you and cannot thank you enough for your time and responses to our questions.  Now that we have had time to review and evaluate it all, here is what we have learned and our plans for the future.

(I apologize for the length, but firmly believe in sharing as openly with you as you have with us.)

 

TWO THUMBS UP:

Our Community

The geographic and religious diversity of our camp population enhances the warm and nonjudgmental community that we create each summer.  Many of our chalutzim (campers) have “never felt so welcomed”, never felt so accepted for who they are, and “never [felt] so able to pursue [their] own passions without fear of being judged by others.”  There is an overall feeling among those who responded that most people at camp share the same values as they or their children do.

Our Outdoor Programming

While there were a few masaot (excursions) that did not go as planned, this part of the program continues to be the most memorable and impactful aspect of camp.  Our chalutzim who participated in multi-day experiences felt challenged and returned to camp with a great sense of accomplishment. Equally as important as the venues was the peer-to-peer bonding that took place.

Although the weather at the start of summer put a damper on some base camp activities, we received many compliments on the excellent balance between program quality and content, skills instruction, and fun factor.  There were no complaints that our chalutzim had biked, climbed, or rode too much.  (In fact, many would have liked more opportunities to do these.) And while there was high praise for the equipment used at camp, there were also times when there were more chalutzim wanting to participate than the equipment could accommodate at a single time.

Our Quality Staff

Many parents commented, and many of our older chalutzim noticed, that not only was our staff older than they had expected but also how eager and motivated they were to be working at camp and with the campers. While there were some critiques of missed follow-ups, a few poor choices made by staff, and some less-than-ideal counselor pairings, the overall consensus was one of a stellar team running a safe, educational, and inspiring summer for their children.

From the staff side, 100% stated that they were working there to advance the camp’s mission. Nationally, only 80% of Jewish summer camp staff members answer this affirmatively.

MIXED REVIEWS (& WHERE WE CAN IMPROVE)

Our Food

Overall, we received the most comments about the food at camp.  Some loved it, others wanted more meat, some wanted nuts, and others wished for more menu variety.  Our food program is an integral part of our camp’s mission.  At the same time, we know that little else matters if our chalutzim are hungry or wondering about the menu for the next meal.  During the off season we continue to refine our menus, replacing less popular choices with new options, integrating more mainstream plant-based proteins, and improving our between-meal snack variety.  This past summer we learned that while some campers were aware of readily available snacks, many of our younger campers did not know that they could grab something from the Ohel Ochel (dining tent) whenever they were hungry.

Improving our communication to campers about snacks is an easily accomplished goal.  Other menu challenges, particularly meat availability, have multiple variables involved.  Each year, a farm family in upstate New York raises free-range (organic) chickens for our summer needs.  We made the switch to free-range chickens in 2012  after receiving negative feedback about serving factory farmed meat that did not fit in with the values we are living by as a community. In 2015, however,  due to the unusually colder winter and spring in the northeast, the chickens were not of eating size and not schechted (ritually slaughtered) until late June, delaying meat on the camp menu until early July.

Acquiring additional organic chicken and meat from other sources and making it more often would answer that need, but would ignore the reality of our available facilities.  Quite simply, we do not have a suitable meat kitchen at camp.  Until we are able to build a new, $3+ million dining hall/commercial kitchen, we do what we are able which means that our only method to cook meat is on an open grill.  And while we use the main kitchen to keep things warm (double wrapped in the dairy warmers) and to prepare parve side dishes, meat meals require us to shut down most of the regular kitchen and cover it in plastic for much of the day resulting in simplified dishes served for breakfast and lunch on those days.

While the shortage of meat/chicken is not readily fixed, we continue to offer eggs at most breakfasts and include protein options during the week as part of the salad bar.  Meanwhile we continue to review our menus with a nutritionist to ensure that our community’s nutritional needs are met.  We realize that this situation is not ideal, but hope our clarity helps explain why our meat situation is the way it is.

Our Younger Camper Experiences

Each year we continue to grow our camp programs for all our edot (groups), however, this summer it was clear that our younger campers needed us to rework their schedule to accommodate more of the popular base camp activities and incorporate additional outdoor adventure experiences particularly for our Ilanot chalutzim.  The wet start to the summer did not help their adventure opportunities!

To address these issues, starting kayitz (summer) 2016, we are:

  •  Forgoing most day trips, which will enable our younger campers to participate in more base camp activities including horseback riding, mountain biking, and rock climbing.
  •  Conducting more outdoor-based overnight experiences that are age-appropriate to take advantage of our ranch and surrounding national forest, leading to an increased appreciation for all nature has to offer.
  •  Ensuring that any additional equipment needed for our youngest campers are available BEFORE any campers arrive.
  •  Aspiring higher in each of our program areas, ensuring that our younger campers are learning the basic skills needed as foundations for their progress in the current summer and future seasons.

Our Interpersonal Connections

Jewish summer camp works as an educational medium in large part because campers develop close, personal connections with their counselors and friends.  This summer we noticed that, especially among our two-week participants, these connections did not take root as we hoped they would.  For many of these chalutzim they had fun activities but not emotionally memorable experiences.  Although we have had four-week campers in tents with mixed 2-week and 4-week campers, the transition of saying goodbye to one set of friends and welcoming another proved more difficult than in years past.

Moving forward, we will improve our staff training to ensure that social connections are being made within the ohelim (tents) and require counselors to complete regular socio-grams to aid them in identifying and encouraging healthy group dynamics.  We will also encourage more  activities that foster positive early connections and adapt our scheduling to include more bunk-specific bonding activities are all being worked into the programming vision for summer.  Our goal is for each ohel, when they are in base camp, to have a minimum of one peulat erev (evening activity) just to themselves and then other activities with the broader edah (age group) or entire camp.  Plus we will be adding more ohel time on Shabbat before havdallah.

Two-week programming will continue to be available to our edot through their Bogrim summer for 2016.  However, we are evaluating the feasibility of requiring our Bogrim chalutzim to register for four weeks starting with the 2017 season.  While we continue to believe that it is possible to create memorable and impactful experiences for our younger campers within two weeks, independent research has proved that longer sessions result in greater impact, deeper relationships, and additional personal growth.  For our older chalutzim we may need to make this change to fully realize the outcomes we strive to achieve in our program.

With the exception of our first-time Ilanot-Sollelim campers, we will continue to encourage families to consider the four week options over two-week sessions.  No matter how incredible we make our two week program, it simply cannot live up to the magic experienced over four weeks.

We feel incredibly privileged that so many families have entrusted us to care for their children each summer.  We know the awesome responsibility that this entails and are aware that a child’s experience at camp can influence decisions throughout life.  We are constantly seeking to improve our camp and to fully realize the values that guide us throughout our summer.  We also know that there will be times when we fall short of expectations, and cannot thank our parents, chalutzim and tzevet enough for continuing to push us make our camp better and stronger!

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

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!

On Sunday we marked 100 days until our first chalutzim arrive!

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.

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 post was originally posted here.

Kaspar M. Wilder, 12, is a published poet, National Latin Exam Gold Medalist, a mythology buff, and all-around science fiction geek. She was diagnosed with Asperger’s, Attention Deficit Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder while in early elementary school. She recently celebrated her bat mitzvah by leading services at Temple Beth El in her hometown of Portland, Maine.

For the past four summers, Kaspar has been a camper at Ramah Outdoor Adventure (ROA) in the Colorado Rockies. Kaspar has participated in ROA’s Tikvah Program for campers with disabilities, both as a participant in the Amitzim edah (division) for campers with disabilities and, most recently, as part of the camp’s inclusion program.

Ramah Outdoor Adventure has become her second home and, according to her parents, has been a big part of her everyday happiness and success. Kaspar hopes someday to become a member of ROA’s tzevet susim (“horse staff”). Below is her take on life at Ramah Outdoor Adventure.

Four summers. Four summers bursting with the harmony of cycles. Every year, the drive up, and up, and up. That in itself is enough to break some spirits.

But there it is: the homecoming. The cheering, the screaming of names. If you are a returning camper, you are passed around, admired, and soon bear the mark of a hundred dirt-encrusted hugs. Newbies are taken in, enveloped in a new universe that welcomes you with every ventricle of its beating heart.

The first day is a whirlwind. Pick your chugim (electives), be assigned your ohel (tent), unpack, meet new people, write your ohel brit (tent “covenant”), and crash into an unfamiliar bed. Even the hardness of the bunk feels like down pillows after your day. A million new names have overwhelmed your mind: kfar (village), amitzim (“brave”–the name of the division for campers with disabilities), mitbachon (cooking), beezbooz (waste, usually waste of resources).

This is the pattern of life at camp. Up at 6:30. The weight of your bakbuk mayim(water bottle) feels strange? Get used to it. Time to throw yourself into prayer, song, and dance. Some days this feels beautiful, even ecstatic. Other days you are only praying for breakfast.Kaspar dancing before ShabbatThen you wake up your body, wondering when your mind will catch up. Relax. You are home, in the calming shadow and soon-to-be-warm arms of the Rockies. Then finally breakfast, but it’s over all too soon. Your electives become normal, eventually. Things settle into a rhythm of heart and mind and body and soul. You grow stronger. You make friends. You begin to understand not only the dances at shira (singing activity), but the dance of the earth. You begin to realize why we eat everything we’re given, even those awful sun-nut butter sandwiches. (Be glad. My first year they had something even worse.) Dreams are a rarity. Sleep is essential. So is water. Your stomach hurts? Drink water. You’re dizzy? Drink water. You have a twisted ankle? Drink water. Trust me, do it. It’s not as crazy as it sounds.

Finally, after six days, there comes a soft undertone to this wild rhythm. It swells, overtakes you. Take a deep breath. There’s time for a shower now. The drumming stops. Finally, it is Shabbat.

This is a day that moves to a different song. Hours to yourself, to spend in the village playing cards or reading in one of the numerous hammocks that inevitably pop up. Prayer becomes less of an ordeal, even though you have to do more of it. You get to eat more, and better. It’s time to let your body rest and your soul soar.

Shabbat ends when three stars are in the sky. Havdalah begins. The drumming starts up again, filling your mind, awakening your heart. Another week. Masa week.

My first year at camp, when we were still young and over-simplified things, “masa” was defined for me as “outing.” This invoked, for me, undirtied picnic wear and parasols–even perhaps, since we were at camp, a tent, complete with a blow-up mattress for inside. Psych!

Masa

“Masa,” correctly defined, means “journey.” That means rain. That means sleeping on the ground and freezing your eyes out in your pitiful so-called sleeping bag. That means waking up at the crack of dawn to climb that mountain, by God. But it also means triumph. It means beauty. It means camaraderie and strength that will change you, inside and out. It means Ramah. High place (the literal translation of the word “ramah”).

Eventually you must return to the faraway world you once called home. Where showers are daily and machines a common sight. But you are different. You have returned from a high place. So when your friends ask, “You went to the mountains?” your response will be, “Even higher.”

This post is part of a three-part series sponsored by the Ramah Camping Movement. The National Ramah Tikvah Network of programs serves children, teens, and young adults with disabilities. All eight North American Ramah overnight camps offer programming for campers with disabilities. To learn more, click here.

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 Ramah families!

It seems like just yesterday that we were gathering for the first time during shavua hachanah [staff week] with our tzevet [staff] and speaking about how we are forming the basis of our Kehillah Kedosha [holy community]. In a few hours, we will gather as a Kehillah Kedosha for the final time of the season with our second session chalutzim [campers].  This summer has truly flown by!

The week started off with Yom Sport, our traditional color war competition. It was a rather wet, rainy, and thunderous Yom Sport, and as such many of the typical activities were altered for the day; after a morning of sports, the afternoon turned into a two hour sing down, dance party and other random indoor games.  The rain broke just in time to complete the last four stations of the Apachy Relay, including an epic rope burn!

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.

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 it’s an incredible one to both be a part of and observe.

Ilanot, the 3rd and 4th grade edah [division], rode the horses to the Susan B. Anthony campsite, a rarely used campsite on our property.  They had a fun night of camping under the stars.  Last night, the Ilanot chalutzim made forts and slept in our dining hall, and today spent spent the day at the Woodland Park farmers market.

Metaylim, the 5th and 6th grade edah, went on a three-day backpacking trip at two of the eastern gateways of the Lost Creek Wilderness. They also had a horse masa option. Continuing last session’s success, we mixed the bunks and genders on their masa.   Metaylim also traveled to the local YMCA camp on high ropes elements on Monday where they played team building games on the course.

Sollelim, the 7th and 8th grade edah, chose between climbing, backpacking, rafting-biking, and service/trail crew options.  This year we have added new masa options for Sollelim, like an archery masa and an omanut masa [art-themed excursion].– Read more about those here.

Bogrim, our 9th and 10th grade edah, returned  to Sangre De Christo Wilderness, south of Colorado Springs.  The climbing masa went to Eleven Mile Canyon, and another group went on a horsepacking masa, crossing through the Holy Cross Wilderness.  After a very wet IIA masa, this week each Bogrim group were able to complete their routes, and only had a few rain showers throughout the week.

JOLI went on an adventure challenge masa, biking Segment 2 of the Colorado Trail, bushwhacking through an area near the Lost Creek Wilderness.They hiked, climbed, and biked all around the Lost Creek Wilderness area.  Last night the JOLI group left their camp site at 8:00pm and hiked by moonlite into the camp, arriving close to 1:00am where they then slept on the migrash.  The JOLeaders who did not go on masa with JOLI were CIT’s with Ilanot, Metaylim and Sollelimmasa’ot, learning the ropes of being staff and leaders for camp.

This week also marks the inaugural season of our adult camp.  Former staff members Elissa Brown and Sarah Shulman returned to be the madrichot for our adults.  These adults have been biking, horseback riding and rock climbing.  This morning, they awoke at 6:15am and walked up Givat Ilanot for an interactive Teffilah scavenger hunt.  On Sunday, they leave for a three-day backpacking trip.

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 fish tacos, and a reuniting final Shabbat of the summer.

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.

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. Don’t forget that registration for next summer is already open! Be sure to register the for Super Early Bird here.

 

Rabbi Eliav Bock, Director

Ramah Outdoor Adventure

E eliavb@ramahoutdoors.org | T (303) 261-8214 x104

experience @www.ramahout.s466.sureserver.com|Facebook|Blog|Youtube

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

 

YOM SPORT – JULY 2014 – A DAY TO REMEMBER
Beth Hammerman

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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.

Each summer there is a different theme for Yom Sport day. This summer’s theme originated from the story of creation and was based on mythical creatures from the Bible. “On the fifth day, G-d filled the seas with fishes and other water animals. In to the air above the earth He put many birds of all kinds and colors and sizes. On the sixth day, G-d created all the other animals, large and small, those that walk and those that creep or crawl on the earth.”Shelter Building Contest

And so, the teams were formed, a trinity of monsters representing the heaven, sea and land. The Ziz is a giant griffin-like bird said to be large enough to be able to block out the sun with its wingspan. The Rahav is a massive sea-monster, a dragon of the water, who is impervious to human weapons, breathes fire, and emits smoke from its nostrils. The Behemoth is described as a gigantic, powerful earth-monster that can only be tamed by God. The Ziz was created to rule the heavens as the Rahav rules the sea and the Behemoth rules the land. That being said, let the games begin! 

Sunday morning there was no question who was on what team. The campers raced in the Ohel Ochel [dining tent] wearing their red, blue or green t-shirts, designating their team color. Many wore paint all over their face as well as their arms and legs. The spirit filled the air as the songs and cheers began without hesitation.

The morning was hopping with activities all over the ranch. For some it was hockey or ultimate soccer (a game combining ultimate frisbee and soccer), for others it was gaga or basketball. Still others were busy writing their team cheer and song or artistically designing their team plaque. There was something for everyone to do and the campers loved it. They commented how much fun it was, how excited they were, and how they were enjoying the spirit of the day.

 

 

 

 

Dear Families,

We are about to begin our pre-Shabbat dancing and with it our first Shabbat of Session IB. Today started off under brilliant blue skies, and by 1:00pm an awesome rain storm moved through, sending us all into our tents and shelters for almost two hours.  As the sun tries to break through the afternoon clouds, we are frantically trying to shower and change in the much shortened period we have to get ready for Shabbat.

This has been another exciting week on the chava [ranch], full of goodbyes, hellos, and welcomes.  We said lehitraot [goodbye] to our Session 1A chalutzim [campers/pioneers] and greeted a new batch of chalutzim for Session 1B. As has become tradition, our new chalutzim were greeted by a tunnel of staff and chalutzim as they streamed off the bus, initiated by some of our oldest, our Bogrim chalutzim.

The week began with camp-wide tfillot [prayers] with Rabbi Marc Soloway, our scholar-in-residence for the first two weeks and a Rabbi in Boulder CO.  He led in the style of his mentor, Reb Zalman Schachter Shalomi ז’’ל (may his memory be for a blessing). Reb Zalman was an iconic figure in the Boulder and world-wide Jewish communities and will be missed.  Rabbi Marc spoke about his impact in the world of Jewish spirituality and used his original prayer translations to help augment our service.

In addition to the 1B chalutzim that came on Tuesday, we welcomed children with special needs to camp in our Amitzimedah! The Amitzimchalutzim have participated in activities alongside their typically-developing friends.  While Amitzim is not new to us in Colorado, the level of integration we are doing this summer is new to us, and thus far has been a terrific success.

This session we also began a new chug [elective] for our older campers—salsa dancing. Gabi Wasserman, who most people here know as a winning triathlete, is also an excellent salsa dancer.  This chug, started as an experiment earlier in the week with our Bogrim and Sollelimchalutzim, has become a raging success and reached capacity.  The chalutzim are learning all the basic steps and routines of salsa dancing and livening up the dining hall during the day.

We have also continued running our usual programs.  Throughout the week, chalutzim could be found biking our roads and single tracks, riding horses on the trails, climbing both on the slab and on the bouldering wall, and just having fun hanging out around their tents during free time.  Additionally, our Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute (JOLI) chalutzim have started working with the various edot in Shmirat HaGuf [morning warm-ups/ Protecting the Body], and other leadership opportunities throughout camp.  It’s really incredible to watch these 11th and 12th graders learn the ropes of being dugma’ot [role models] for the camp.  We hope that these incredible chalutzim will join us on tzevet in the future!

Sunday is sure to be a special day here at camp as it is Yom Sport (but shh…it’s a secret!).   Next week, all of our chalutzim head out on masa’ot [excursions] from three-day trips for our Metyalimchalutzim (5/6th graders) to five-day trips for the 9-12th graders.

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.

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

Wow! This has been an exciting week! We can’t believe it’s already the second Shabbat of the session.  Last Shabbat was an incredible, beautiful, and ruach-filled experience!  Throughout this week, all our chalutzim [campers/pioneers] headed out for their masa’ot [excursions], and now they are back, getting ready to celebrate this Shabbat with us.  While we typically wear white on Shabbat, this week in honor of Independence Day, we will be wearing red, white, and blue!

Independence Day is always an exciting day, but even more thrilling when it’s full of camp magic! Our Ilanot and Metayalim (3-6th grade) chalutzim started our day out with a patriotic music wake up .  They came out, danced, brushed their teeth, and decked themselves out in red, white, and blue.  It was so fun to watch our chalutzim sing, march, and dance along to hits ranging from Party in the USA to Proud to be an American.

Where we might typically have a morning activity block, we did another special 4th of July activity this morning.  US Army Reserve Captain Josh Wolf (and brother of our Business Director) arranged a flag to be given to us that was flown over his base in Afghanistan a few years ago.  We held a flag raising ceremony on our migrash [field] with the Ilanot and Metaylim chalutzim.  Our horse staff acted as a Color Guard, and Douglas Wolf and his son, David, raised the flag given to us by Josh.  Some line dancing and more fun American music capped off the morning activities.  We followed this with a delicious breakfast of red, white, and blue themed food—waffles, strawberries, blueberries, ice cream, and whipped cream!

As our chalutzim are now getting ready for Shabbat and are back from their various excursions, I want to share a brief few highlights of the various trips.  The trips ranged from 2-5 days, depending on the age of the chalutzim, and follow our core value of “challenge by choice”, letting the chalutzim pick the degree to which they want to push themselves.

Ilanot, our 3rd and 4th grade group, had a special horse masa.  Gabi “G-baby” Wasserman, the head of Ilanot themed the masa around a medieval mission to save a princess from a dragon, both played by members of our tzevet [staff]. They also took a day trip to our neighbors on the buffalo ranch and fed the buffalo and cattle.

Metayalim, the 5th and 6th grade edah, went rafting along the Arkansas River in Brown’s Canyon.  They are also the first of our chalutzim this year to have been to the top of a “14’er” (mountain higher than 14,000 feet), Pikes Peak, and were quite excited to see some Bighorn Sheep.  The Metayalim were especially excited to be seeing and learning about fossils at the Dinosaur Resource Center in Woodland Park.  Today they visited a local farmers market where they had a morning long scavenger hunt.

Sollelim, the 7th and 8th grade edah, chose between climbing, backpacking, rafting-biking, and service/trail crew options.  A new option we added this year was archery masa, taking our chalutzim through a 3D target archery range/course. This masa, led by Shira, our head archery instructor, went through Cheyenne Mountain State Park.

Bogrim, our 9th and 10th grade edah, tried some new routes at Rocky Mountain National Park.  The original route that we had planned had to be altered on Sunday when the group arrived and found the trail closed becaues of snow.  The ofanaimmasa [biking trip] rode back triumphantly in the pouring rain, singing and cheering.

JOLI (Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute), the 11th and 12th grade program, went to Indian Peaks.  The snowpack is extremely high this year (300% of average), and at various times during the week they trekked their way through snow, altering their route as needed to avoid the deeper parts and the closed trails.  As a result of the snow, they themed the trip “Masa Beyond The Wall” (A Game of Thrones reference).

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 fish tacos, and a festive July 4th Shabbat.

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 4th of July 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