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scott wasserman sukkahThere is something primordial about carving a space out from the wilderness. Backpacking in a national park this summer, I was struck by the persistence of the instinct.
This log is our kitchen. This branch is where we dry a towel. We enter the tent from this direction. Over here, just beyond camp, we store our food. We can’t help but to carve a space from the wilderness.

From within wilderness we organize, and shape and assemble. We look outside that space and say, “outside is wilderness and in here something seperate.”

When we are children, we delineate such spaces. We conjure caves, we play home, we build fortresses. We duck under sheets to escape the terrors of a wilderness.

Leaving Egypt, the Jewish people are young and newly free humans. They are flung into a vast wilderness and from within it, they carve a space for themselves. They fashion a moving encampment and dwell in smaller spaces therein.

A sukkah is a space assembled at precisely that time of year when one begins to draw inward, bringing together those things that you might need in the winter ahead. A sukkah is a cozy, autumnal comfort. You adorn it with symbols of the harvest and gaze at a swollen moon. You consider the universe and the vast wilderness in which you live.

Scott Wasserman, Ramah Parent

In celebration of only 100 days left until camp!

Do you want to be a part of this celebration? Sign up to create a “Countdown” photo here: Countdown until Camp sign up sheet

This is the first installment in a series of blogs from our base 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.

Shira Rosenblum

Shira on our

Shira on our “3-D” archery range with one of our hanging targets.

“What makes an archery class Jewish?” Whenever someone asks me this question, I reflect on how I have combined two integral aspects of my identity. When I became a competitive archer at Brandeis University, I convinced my teammates to compete on Sundays so as not to interfere with my Shabbat observance. For a while, this was the only connection between my newly acquired love of archery and my lifelong passion for Judaism.

Everything changed when I joined the archery staff at ROA in the summer before rabbinical school four years ago. I was excited to develop Jewish content for each archery lesson in keeping with camp’s core values. However, I didn’t want to focus on bible characters/stories about archery. I looked for additional Jewish sources and worked backwards from the archery skills as well.

For example, the first session of any archery class must cover range safety. I selected the Jewish value of refraining from lashon hara (gossip or evil speech) to accompany that first class. I devised activities which would help the chalutzim (campers) understand how the value related to archery. After the activity, I made sure to reinforce the lesson: once we release our arrows from the bow, we have little control over where they land and are unable to repair the damage caused by their sharp points after removing them from the targets. So too with our words! Once we say something, we have no control over how far our message will spread and who we may hurt in the process. Additionally, we may apologize but we can never fully take back the pain caused by harmful speech.

I love the challenge of incorporating Jewish values into my archery lessons and am grateful to ROA for sparking this interest in me. I have since expanded this project to other educational settings and have conferred archery certification to seven different camp counselors at ROA and elsewhere. I look forward to seeing the role archery will play in my rabbinate going forward!

Shira is a Rabbinical Student at the Jewish Theological Seminary, and a longtime Ramah archery instructor. 

Shabbat Shalom Ramah Friends!

First session flew by, and here we are already a few days into second session!  After a rejuvenating inter-session, we are all back at the chava [ranch], our chalutzim [campers] are here, and we are ready to have another awesome four weeks! On Wednesday, we welcomed chalutzim from all over the world: Oklahoma, Washington, New York, California, Israel, Mexico, Florida, and more.

Something unique happened this year on arrival day, easily one of our smoothest in 6 summers! The airport buses arrived within minutes of the buses from HEA in Denver, leading to a sudden wave of purple filling up camp with smiles, hugs, cheers, and ruach [spirit]!  And perhaps best of all, it was perfect Colorado mountain weather (hi 70s) with NO rain.  Camp magic is happening non stop, and I want to share a few magical moments.

Ilanot and Metaylim have been starting off each morning at 7:30 with an awesome Shmirat HaGuf [exercise] routine on the basketball court, as a part of the revamp of this program we mentioned in our last email.  Ilanot has already had biking, climbing, mining and archery.  In addition to the above activities, Metaylim chalutzim have also had art and farming.  This morning, when I went to visit our campers on the farm, I saw them cleaning up the goat pen and feeding and grooming our resident goats: Grace, Buttercup, Chalav and Dvash.  

Sollelim (7th and 8th grade) have been showing their presence, as one of the largest edot [age groups] we have ever had. Yesterday and today they have been having their elective prakim, where each chalutz has chosen three activities on which to focus during his/her time at camp.  As I write this, Sollelim chalutzim are out with the rest of the camp doing service projects as part of our Tikkun Ramah [camp improvement] program; projects range from painting fences to giving baths to some of our camp dogs.    

Yesterday was a full programing day for Bogrim (9th and 10th grade), but this morning they moved into masa (excursion) mode and began the process of bonding with their group. Each group tested their equipment and packed their dry food for next week.  The groups have put their gear in piles for Shabbat and will come back into their masa groups on Sunday afternoon.  

JOLI (Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute- our 11th and 12th graders) this week completed a Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course, administered by our friends at SOLO Wilderness Medical School. Last night they had a mini masa to Ramah Valley where they practiced setting up tarps and tents.  They were “back” in camp for t’filot at 8:00am.

In a few moments, camp-wide service projects will come to a close and our entire camp will begin to clean up and shower for Shabbat.  Although we have a single shower house (with individual stalls) for all our campers, everyone should be able to take hot showers using our custom made solar hot-water heater system.  If the weather holds, we will be doing Kabbalat Shabbat outdoors in the Pardes T’filah.  Tomorrow will be a terrific Shabbat, followed by Eicha [The Book of Lamentations] reading on Motzei Shabbat [after Shabbat].  Sunday is a special day due to the Tisha B’av fast.  Although the older chalutzim are encouraged to fast at least half the day, we will be serving meals throughout for anyone who wants to eat.  Monday morning, we move into full masa mode with groups headed all over Colorado for one to four nights of camping and fun in nature.

As always please be in touch with any questions or comments.  We have posted pictures on Facebook and Smugmug and plan to add more on Sunday evening.
Rabbi Eliav and the Ramah in the Rockies Team

Why you should go to Adult Camp

By Alan Levitt

AdultCamp RiverCrossingI’m guessing you know a kid who’s been to Ramah in the Rockies. I’m guessing you’ve had that wonderful, enthusiastic encounter, when they try to describe their experience: they’re talking a-mile-a-minute about the fantastic adventures they had, telling you about a new friend or three, perhaps singing a new Hebrew song or laughing at some inside joke. You’ve probably noticed a renewed sense of Jewish identity. And a fresh confidence.

And we all say the same thing: Man, I wish I could go to camp.

I said that. Three of my kids have worked multiple summers at Ramah Outdoor Adventure (ROA), and a couple of my nieces have attended as campers. So I had visited the camp and had seen the literature and watched the videos and heard the stories. Hiking. Biking. Climbing. Sleeping under the stars. A community Shabbat filled with singing and dancing and ruach. Archery!

AdultCamp RockClimbingLast year, ROA offered Adult Camp, and a dozen of us jumped at the chance to be part of the inaugural class. Most of us had some connection to the camp; we had children who either attended or worked there. Or we knew someone who did. We were from all over the country, from a variety of Jewish backgrounds and with a diverse range of abilities and experiences. In that sense, we were exactly like every group of campers that comes to ROA.

In truth, I think a lot of us did it to connect with our kids – to better understand what made ROA so special to them. We also did it because it sounded like fun. Yes, we did the stuff you see in the brochure: biking, climbing, singing, davening. Archery! We marveled at the deepest, clearest night sky most of us had ever seen. We enjoyed a wonderful Shabbat and then we embarked on a backpacking trip through the beautiful Pike National Forest.

AdultCamp TfillahBut here’s the thing the kids and the brochure won’t tell you: the activities are indeed a blast, but more than that the experience is also transformative. Even for an adult. You will bond with amazing, interesting people. You will learn from first-rate Jewish educators and outdoor leaders. You will be challenged and at times pushed beyond your comfort zone. If you let it, it will open and touch your heart.

I don’t want to give too much away. You should discover for yourself. I’ll just say, when you march back into camp property on the final morning after your masa (“journey”) you’ll be different – you’ll be “more” – than you were when you arrived at camp a week earlier. Then, and only then, will you truly understand why your kids get so excited about Ramah in the Rockies.

For more information or to register now, click 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!

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.

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

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

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.”

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

 

 

The following was written by Josh Wolf, brother of our Business Manager, Douglas Wolf. Ramah has the privilege of hosting Josh and his wife, Michele, for Shabbat on this 4th of July.
This morning, we raised the flag Josh gave us (pictured below) in a ceremony with our Ilanot and Metayalim chalutzim and tzevet. 
Josh Wolf in Afghanistan

I am a Captain in the United States Army Reserve, currently serving with the 945th Forward Surgical Team based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  I am a 66F, which is a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA).

In my civilian job I work for Laser Spine Institute doing anesthesia in their Tampa Ambulatory Surgery Center for minimally invasive spine procedures. Previously, I worked at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, a Level 2 adult and pediatric trauma center.

I started my Ramah experience as a camper in Camp Ramah in New England. I worked as kitchen staff there as well as a counselor in the Tikvah edah for special needs children and young adults. I have accompanied my wife to Ramah Darom where I helped out in the infirmary as well as assisting with other things that needed to get done (luggage, cutting the grass, etc).  I also helped out at Ramah Outdoor Adventure serving as a nurse.

Our three kids are all Ramah Darom kids.  Our eldest, Melissa worked on the waterfront staff at Ramah Palmer and staffed Poland-Israel Seminar. Becca was a counselor at Darom, and Zach, our youngest, planned to work at Darom, but was obligated to begin basic cadet training at the US Air Force Academy this summer when he accepted an appointment as a cadet.

The U.S. Military is very accommodating of religious practJosh Wolf's Flagices and dietary restrictions.  As a Jew in the Army I found that, within reason and realizing that the mission is always paramount, the Army strives to allow service members to pray and eat within the boundaries of their religion.  During training, accommodations are made to allow for Shabbat service attendance.  On larger bases, such as Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas there is a Jewish chapel, albeit a small one, complete with a Torah, siddurim and kippot.  There may not be a minyan but there is a place to pray and if you are in the field there are people that will come to you to complete a minyan if you need to say Kaddish for a loved one.

There are also Jewish clergy (Rabbis) serving in the armed forces and although they may not be co-located with you efforts are made to allow service members to get to religious services conducted by those clergy.  The extent to which the Army will accommodate service members was evident during my first deployment to Afghanistan which coincided with the Jewish High Holy Days.  The army was willing to transport service members from their assigned bases, via fixed wing or rotary (helicopters), to Bagram Air Base where the Jewish clergy were conducting Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services.

I am a VERY proud American and Jew. I am honored to serve our country and take care of the war fighters, providing anesthesia and critical care near the front lines to better their chances to return to their families after fighting for our American values.

 

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

Risa Isard, one of our founding tzevet member (2010-2013) recently wrote a piece about her experience of living in California during this drought and reflecting upon the dryness through the Jewish lens she learned at Ramah.

I’ve spent the last year living in Fresno, California—the heart of agriculture capital of the country. It’s been an amazing and eye opening experience to have this kind of access to fresh fruits and vegetables, including being able to differentiate between varieties of fruits I’d never even heard of before now. But it’s not the fruitsJOLI 2012—the end of the labor—that move me most. Rather, I am most moved by this newfound knowledge I have about what exactly it takes to produce the food I enjoy so much. I’m grateful for the men and women in the field whose hard work makes it possible for me to shop at farmer’s markets almost exclusively, where I buy produce that was sometimes picked the very day I bought it. I’m also moved by the uncontrollable “x factors” and the game of roulette that seemingly determine the fate of my community’s economy and quite frankly, our nation’s and our world’s food supply. Read more

Written by 5th years counselor: Jordan Anderson

Every other week during the summer at ROA, we go out on masaot (excursions). We leave camp for backpacking, kayaking, rafting, horseback riding, climbing, and mountain biking. And each of those weeks, on the Sunday before we leave, Rabbi Eliav gives us a talk about what to expect for the next week. He tells us that we’re about to experience incredible highs and some not so incredible lows. He tells us that we will push ourselves beyond anything we ever thought ourselves capable of. Rabbi Eliav stands in front of the entire camp and tells us that we’re about enjoy views seen by very few and only accessible by horse, bike, foot, or river. But my favorite piece of wisdom Rabbi Eliav shares with us is this: he tells us we’re going to learn about who we are and, if we allow ourselves to grow, we will come back different people with a week’s worth of stories to tell.

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Written by: Elyssa Hammerman, Tikvah Director

elyssah@ramahoutdoors.org or 303-261-8214 x103

The Tikvah Program at Ramah Outdoor Adventure continued to thrive in summer 2013.  While we continued our incredible programming from the previous summer, one of our highlights was the extended masa (overnight camping excursion), which we extended to two nights.  Before the overnight Tikvah campers and staff carefully packed their hiking packs and prepared for our adventure.  Every camper saddled up his/her horse and rode off to our first campsite.  

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We played games, told stories, and feel asleep under the stars as we had done the year before; however, when we woke up, we rolled our sleeping bags, packed our packs, and hiked out of camp to our next spot.  We camped next to a beautiful stream in which we played.  That afternoon some of us relaxed around the campsite, while others set out to climb a nearby mountain! We all picked berries and then carefully followed an incredible orienteering course set up by one of our counselors.  We cooked a delicious dinner on the fire and sang silly songs!  In the morning we hiked back into camp singing our made up songs; every other group was also coming back from different directions.  We were warmly received with pictures and hugs and couldn’t wait for lunch and showers! This was a truly special component of our 2013 summer.  

Besides the masa we incorporated a buddy program which was also a huge success.  Every morning during Shmirat Hagoof (exercise) we played games with our buddies.  Everyone really enjoyed getting to know each other on a new level.  There were many other highlights from 2013 including: spending time with our baby goats, the talent show, archery, and Shabbat Shira.  We also hired a professional videographer and have a new Tikvah recruitment video.

As we count the days to summer 2014 we have a lot to look forward to. This summer we will be offering our traditional Tikvah program; however, campers will be participating in program prakims (periods) with their peers rather than their ohel (tent). We are also excited to launch a new inclusion track for campers who are capable of being integrated into BOTH our typical base camp program and a typical masa WITHOUT a one-on-one counselor. We will have an inclusion specialist who will be working with the counselors of those campers and who will be providing extra support to those campers while at base camp. We can’t wait until we’re all together again, back on the ranch riding the trails and gazing at the beautiful starry sky.

This summer, Alan P. and David and Michelle F. represented a first for a young camp named Ramah Outdoor Adventure – campers from Mexico. David and Michelle live in Mexico City, where Alan, their cousin, was also born and lived until moving to San Diego three years ago. Alan and David, both aged 13, attended Ramah Outdoor Adventure for two weeks in session one, and lived in the same bunk (for campers entering 7th and 8th grade). Michelle, 16, participated in session one’s month-long Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute (JOLI), a training program for older high-schoolers interested in leading outdoor experiences. (Next Summer Michelle plans to be one of the founding participants on the Ramah Seminar Outdoors program launching this summer in Israel).

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I wanted to share with all our readers an email sent by one of our camper parents, Barbara Gottesman.  Barbara sent this message to the parent list at her kid’s school.  I think she captures what we are about 100%. –Rabbi Eliav

I’m not sure which Ramah you were considering but I highly recommend Ramah in the Rockies (Outdoor Adventure Camp). We are hosting an info session . . .  and the camp director will be there. Several kids go from the Bay Area each session (with numbers growing) and staff meet the kids at the gate in Denver – flights on South west are nominal. My kids (7th and 10th grades) LIVE for this camp.

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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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