Ari Polsky and Matt Levitt
In January, professionals from each of the Ramah camps traveled to Israel. We gathered together for several purposes: a week of professional development for the Kerem Cohort (year round/program professionals that are “twenty something”), the annual Ramah Shabbaton in Israel, and interviews with Israeli staff for camp this summer. This trip had an additional purpose though—in a time in which organized groups are avoiding traveling for security reasons, we wanted to show that we are not afraid, that we stand with Israel, and it is a safe place to be.
The trip began for Ramah in the Rockies assistant director, Matt Levitt, at Kiryat Moriah in the Jewish Agency for Israel offices. A whirlwind experience of back-to-back-to-back interviews throughout an intense day of question-asking, vetting, and interviewing. The Jewish Agency works tirelessly to find suitable candidates for our Ramah camps each summer which collectively bring over 250 shlichim (Israeli emissaries) to North America to work in our camps. The candidates submit resumes, conduct phone interviews, and complete full-day in person interviews before even sitting in front of the Ramah directorate. Its an intense process culminating in face-to-face interviews with representatives from each Ramah camp.
Ramah in the Rockies annually brings 10-12 shlichim to work in various roles at camp. While not all of our Israeli staff come through the Jewish Agency, all come with a desire to teach Israeli culture, history, and Hebrew language within our camp community. These staff members are great additions to our camp community and essential in helping us further our camper’s connection to Israel, something so evident from seeing the interview process first hand. Shortly after the interviews Matt was joined by Ari Polsky and the rest of the Kerem Cohort.
Among the core values of Ramah is a commitment to Jewish learning, community, and observance. It’s often easy to see how our core values apply to our chalutzim, though this commitment extends to all who visit the ranch over the summer. As year-round staff, this was a tremendous opportunity for us to exercise our commitment to Jewish learning- in formal, informal, and personal ways. Yes, we spent time doing some group text study in the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem, but it was more than that! Collectively, our Kerem Cohort spent 5 hours together in a formal setting talking about some of the joys and challenges of our jobs, and how we all continue to grow in our roles.
At the end of our time together in Israel, we gathered our small cohort into the greater Ramah movement- the annual Ramah Shabbaton in Israel. At the shabbaton, Israeli staff from last summer and this coming summer, as well as the North American staff who are spending time in Israel gathered to celebrate our Ramah community. Any time Ramahniks gather, ruach in singing and davening is at its peak, and that was a true highlight of this experience. Not to mention hearing a room of 100+ Ramahniks singing the tune of “When You Believe” during davening on Shabbat Shirah (Thanks Ya’acov!) was incredible.
Being able to spend time with our summer staff, and hearing about their experiences in Israel, traveling with our colleagues from across the Ramah movement, and visiting Israel once again was a true gift and a great experience.