Posts

If it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes leaders and elders to help set the tone for the community.  Ramah in the Rockies is a magical village that opens its doors for nine weeks each summer and transforms the lives of the hundreds of youth who walk through our gates.  And, if our chalutzim (campers/pioneers) are our village members, then our village leaders are the madrichim (counselors) and the village elders are Hanhallah (senior staff).  The Hanhallah of our camp form an extraordinary group of passionate Jewish educators.  They are the ones who work tirelessly throughout the summer ensuring that your children have impactful, fun, and safe experiences at Ramah in the Rockies.
 
With only weeks until we welcome our first chalutzim, it is with great pride that we introduce the members of our 2017 Hanhallah.

Our Year Round Team (Click on Photo to read Bio)

Rabbi Eliav Bock, Executive Director                                                Douglas Wolf, Business Manager

 

Julia Snyder, Program Director                                                             Lisa Holstein, Office Manager

 

Sandra Yaron, Registrar                                                                      Rafi Daugherty, Director of Camper Care  

Abigail Gavens, Tikvah Director

 

 

 

 

  

Summer Senior Staff

Achinoam Aldouby, Summer Assistant Director

I grew up in Israel, now living in Jerusalem.  I work with LOTEM- a non-profit organization that makes nature accessible to people with special needs.  I also research at the Hebrew University theater performances incorporating Jewish texts and lead Torah study sessions at Elul- a pluralistic Beit Midrash…and best of all, I love making ice cream.  I’m excited to come back to camp and to see how the camp has grown from the first time I came in summer 2010. I’m looking forward to see our chaluzim and tzvet choose to challenge themselves physically, spiritually and socially.

 

Jacob “J-Chat” Chatinover, Director of Logistics ‘Car Czar’

I am from West Hartford, CT, and now live in Denver.  When not at camp, I read comic books.  Also, I am a math teacher (to pay for the comic books).  I am most looking forward to slowly gaining the trust and respect of the tzevet, and as the one in charge of all camp walkie-talkies, being feared and loved in equal measure.

 

 

Deena Cowans, Rosh Chinuch (Director of Education)

I grew up in the Chicago area, but now I live in New York City, where I am a Rabbinical student at JTS.   I am looking forward to singing on Saturday night and for sunrise yoga!

 

 

 Rashei Edah (Unit Heads)

Lexi Marcus, Rosh Ilanot (3rd and 4th grade)

I am a born and raised Denver Coloradan. I am currently studying human development, soon to become an elementary educator. I dance, laugh often, and pet puppies whenever I can. I am very excited to watch and grow alongside everyone at camp, and guiding the campers towards internal, external, and Jewish self discovery.

 

 

Liza Elkin, Rosh Metaylim (5th and 6th grade)

I am originally from Newton, Massachusetts but will be moving from New York City to Denver this fall to begin my Master of Social Work! This is my first summer at Ramah Rockies and I am really looking forward to helping create a summer rich in exploration, learning, and lots of fun for our campers. And I’m excited to experience the beauty of the Rocky Mountains! 

 

Ronni Gurwicz, Rosh Solelim (7th and 8th Grade)
I am originally from the dark wasteland that is the North of England, and now am a Storytelling Coach and Program Developer working for a Dutch based organization. I can’t wait to be part of the wonderful Ramah community spirit again, after having worked for Ramah Seminar last summer in Israel.

 

 

 

Eliana Willis, Rosh Bogrim

I’m originally from Los Angeles. Since graduating from UC Santa Cruz in 2015 I have spent my time traveling, working in environmental education, and currently, studying at Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. I’m most looking forward to Friday evenings at camp, when the whole community comes together for Shabbat with song, dance, blessings, and great challah!

 

 

Eli Witkin, Rosh JOLI

Born and raised in Minneapolis, MN I spent the last year in the Holy city and will be returning to Boston in the fall.  Outside of camp I like to smile at strangers and learn Torah – I like to think of myself as a professional community builder. I am looking forward to lightning storms, getting into that deep place in my mind that only a long trail provides access to, and trying out a new t’filla curriculum 

 

 

 

Reflections on the Ramah Service Corps Fellows Conference:

Who says summer camp is only in the summer?

Ari Polsky

A few weeks ago, I packed a bag, ready to escape the cold, and hopped on a flight to California. I attended the Ramah Winter Training Institute at Camp Ramah in California, as a part of the Ramah Service Corps Fellows. At this conference I was blessed to be a part of a cohort of my peers from all the Ramah camps. Aside from the blessing of being back in the camp setting in the middle of winter (not to mention visiting my childhood camp), it was great to really see camp magic happening all around me.

Shacharit at Temple Beth Am with Josh Warshawsky

Shacharit with the Josh Warshawsky and the Pressman Academy Middle School, where I grew up.

The conference featured six different tracks, each with their own sessions and activities. In each track the cohorts gathered to sharpen their skills, and gear up for the summer. The Ramah Service Corps track was a little different, in that our focus was on bringing the summer into our year-round positions.

As a member of the RSC, we each work in synagogues, schools, and youth groups, to bring the magic of camp to the rest of the year. We use our skills as Rashei Edah, Madrichim, and Moomchim, and infuse synagogue, school, and youth group life with camp-style programs and Jewish learning.

A true highlight- on the second day of the conference, we woke up bright and early, and made our way to Pressman Academy at Temple Beth Am to see one of our fellow RSC Fellows in action. Josh Warshawsky led a spirited musical shacharit service for the middle schoolers, in which we got to take part. I and another fellow, Alan, were treated to catching up with many of our former campers briefly after shacharit. Afterward we heard a bit about Josh’s many hats within the synagogue and school, and what he has been doing to bring camp to school life.

Ramah Service Corps Fellows Group Shot

Ramah Service Corps Fellows 2014-2015 at the Zimmer Museum.

Our next site visit was at the Zimmer Children’s Museum at the Jewish Federation, meeting with Esther Netter. While taking us on a tour of the museum, Esther told us, “A day at a good museum is a lot like a good camp program.” We heard all about the thought, intention, and planning that went into the various parts of the museum, and making it accessible to a diverse population. Seeing all the kids and activities going on at this museum, it felt less like a “museum” and more like a collection of playgrounds and role playing sets. I guess that’s what Esther meant by museums being like camp. She gave us another piece of advice that stuck with the group, “Share your failures. Talk about them. It’s what you will learn the most from, more than your successes.”

Later, Alisha Pedowitz, from BJE-Los Angeles, joined us to talk about Service Learning, and using active service projects and debriefing sessions as experiential service learning. To model this, we took part in helping the Zimmer Museum prepare materials for a future workshop, and cleaning some of the toys. We cut out pictures and shapes, and cleaned the toys, and had a great time together.

The final part of the day involved an interactive cell phone and picture scavenger hunt throughout parts of Hollywood. We had a great time roaming the city and coming up with cool ideas for creating our own monitored scavenger hunts.

Zimmer Museum BJE Los Angeles Service Learning

Doing service learning with the Zimmer Museum and Alisha Pedowitz.

The conference itself really was an exercise in modeling activities that we could all use in our camp, synagogue, school, and youth group lives. We had a great time sharing our best practices. Of course, we also shared our failures and challenges, and crowd sourced ways to improve them. By bringing all of us together at this conference, we each strengthened our network of colleagues, of friends, and fellow camp people. Thank you to Amy Skopp Cooper, Dr. Zachary Lasker, Esther Netter, Alisha Pedowitz, Josh Warshawsky, Dan Messinger, and Rabbi Joel Alter for all facilitating, teaching, and presenting to the cohort.

 

 

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.

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

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

IMG_3842

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

 

 

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

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.  

unnamed

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

watch?v=hBVGT3e3Z2Y&feature=youtu.be

greenbergs

 

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

 

Parent’s letter:

 

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

 

Read more

In a few short months, we will open our fourth summer at Ramah Outdoor Adventure.  And if this summer is anything like the first three, the key to our success will once again be the incredible group of passionate, dedicated and inspirational staff who come to the Ramah Ranch each summer to implement our innovative outdoor adventure program.

Read more

Dear Blog readers:

I want to share a letter with you that is being sent to all our camper families.  Filling our sessions too early is a terrific “problem” to have, and we look forward to many more similar problems in the months and years ahead.

Two Week Camping Now Available for 5/6th Graders in Session I

Read more

On most mornings, I begin my day with a few minutes of davening (prayers) while looking out of the picture window.  Usually, I am joined in the living room by my twenty month old son Matan, who dons his own tallit (“feefeet” as he call it) and sits next to me holding a small blue siddur.  I treasure these moments together because I know that they are helping to forge his own Jewish identity, and because they are a constant reminder of the responsibility I have as a parent to set a good example, as he mimics my actions.  While I wish I could say that I have deep religious experiences on most mornings, more often than not, my prayers are said by rote with only a little more kavanah (intention) than I would have if I were reading the New York Times.  Inevitably, after a few minutes Matan becomes bored sitting next to me and motions that he wants to head to the kitchen to eat.  I usually hurry through the rest of my teffilot and move on with my day.

Read more

This was a letter sent to all parents today.  Our email crashed while sending the letter, so many people might not have received it.

As we enter the Sukkoth holiday later this week, when we move outdoors to eat our meals in the sukkah, I am reminded of the incredible experiences I shared this summer with your children and our incredible staff.  While enrollment for 2012 is well underway (we have close to 50 campers already registered!) we are still evaluating lessons learned from last season and are considering how we are going to improve and expand the camp program for 2012.

I want to thank all the parents who provided us feedback on the customer satisfaction survey, which was administered by a third party organization to ensure anonymity.  The first 25 pages can be read here.  As you can see, we have made improvements in most key areas and continue to rank higher than the national average in many categories.   We are especially pleased that so many campers said they would highly recommend this camp to their friends.

If you do not have time to read all 25 slides here are the “headlines” from the results:

We made huge improvements in all areas related to Spiritual, Cultural and Religious life.

We received improved ratings on cabins/tent accommodations.

We received twice as many “excellent” scores for the bathroom/shower facilities compared to 2010.

We scored very strong ratings on all areas related to cost.

Our campers’ ratings up across the board compared to 2010.

That being said, we know that we must continue to improve our program and will be working throughout the off season to ensure that summer 2012 is even better than our initial two seasons.

As always, please do not hesitate to be in touch with any questions or comments.

Chag Samaiach.

Rabbi Eliav

It is official.  The summer 2011 season has come to an end.  The gear bins have been sealed, the tents closed down and all the kitchen equipment stored for the off season.  All that is left are lots of memories and good stories.   If we were in camp, the chadar ohel would be ringing with the sound of the entire camp singing “shabbos is coming we are so happy, we’re going to sing and shout out loud.” Instead, we are all welcoming Shabbat back in our homes; probably devoid of the service projects, Israeli dancing and massive challah baking (up to 75 challots) that were part of our Friday afternoon rituals at camp.

Our second year was a resounding success.  We welcomed over 250 campers and staff to the Ramah in the Rockies ranch.  We lead over 30 extended massaot (excursions) and numerous shorter trips.  We rode bikes, and we rode horses.  We climbed mountains and rappelled down cliffs.  We planted our own vegetables and harvested our own food.   We laughed, and we cried.  We sat in quiet meditation and we sang songs with intense passion.

While 2011 is still fresh in my mind, I wanted to share three vignettes with you that capture the spirit of our community this past summer.

#1 Returning from Masa.  A new tradition was solidified this year.  As each Masa (excursion) returned to camp, they marched back to the gear shed singing a song from their trip, or chanting their masa cheer.  (Last month I wrote about a biking masa’s return).  Those of us who remained at base camp would come out of the office as we heard their voices to welcome back the returning chalutzim (campers).  One of the most memorable returns of any group was group of metayalimers (entering 5/6th grade) who had gone on a day trip to our neighbor’s buffalo ranch to feed the buffalo.  On their way back, they found a large mud puddle, and rather than walk around it, apparently began a competition of who could become the muddiest.  After the first puddle, they found a second and then a third, and thus began a game of mud painting, and mud sliding.  They eventually ran the final mile to camp, covered in thick brown mud, almost as if they had just been hanging out at the Dead Sea.  Rather than returning upset to be so dirty, these 10 & 11 year olds were “hooting” and “hollering” and squealing with delight about their expedition.  Each bragged about how they were muddier than the next.  This type of uninhibited play could only happen at camp!

#2  Bo Bo Bo Boker Tov:  Each morning, these are the words that begin Ramah Outdoor Adventure.  This summer, Dan AKA “Juice-Boxx” [note the double X], Gabi AKA “G-baby,” and Or, AKA Or, took the lead on leading the Bo Bo Bo Boker Tov cheer when they were at base camp.  They would meet at the picnic table at 5:58 or 6:58, depending on the day, and begin chanting.  All of us at camp became so used to this chant that we stopped setting our own alarm clocks as their voices would echo off the valley walls.  Last Thursday, “G-baby” had already left to go back to school, and Juice Boxx & Or were on a Masa.  As a result: the rest of the camp overslept, because no one set an alarm!  Eventually people began to wake on their own, and once we realized why everyone had overslept we all had a good laugh.  The irony of our community is that we are in a gorgeous natural setting, and often just listen to the sounds of nature around us, such as during meditative teffilot or during solos on our massaot.  But much of the time at base camp, there is a constant din of cheering, whether it is chalutzim cheering on their friends in the duathlon, chanting edah cheers in the chadar ohel or at 6:00am during camp wake up!  As a tribute to our Bo-Bo Boker tov wake ups, all the staff gathered on the picnic table on our final full day of programming and gave a collective cheer. No one slept in that day!

#3 Increased environmental awareness:  At our core, Ramah Outdoor Adventure is a community dedicated to living intentional Jewish lives with a heightened sense of our natural environment.  It is for this reason that we focus so much on the food we eat, on our water consumption and on how our decisions impact the broader world around us. (Watch this video by our metayalimers on this topic)  Last Sunday we had a final barbeque during lunch to finish off the final 40 pounds of meat that we had left in our freezer.  As we always do when we have our occasional barbeque meals, we placed disposable plates and cups on the serving tables (we have no meat dishwasher, and therefore are not able to use reusable tableware at meat meals).  But when it came time to serve the meat, I noticed that most of the chalutzim were holding cut out pieces of cardboard, in place of disposable plates.  I am still not sure whom, but someone apparently had gone to the kitchen, taken a few of the boxes they had placed outside for recycling and began cutting small “card board” plates.  Instead of rejecting these primitive plates, the chalutzim chose to use them in lieu of the disposables that the camp provided.  In this way they were making a powerful statement that even if we were serving a meal that had a huge impact on the natural environment (our meat is sadly, NOT organic or local and creates about 4 times the amount of garbage as a typical meal at Ramah Outdoor Adventure), they were going to do whatever they could in their own power to make the meal a little more environmentally friendly.  We have put all the paper goods back into storage instead of the local landfill.  Just like the previous groups who came through this summer, there were many chalutzim who third session asked whether next summer we could try to serve local and/or organic meat and make the meal far less wasteful of natural resources.

As we draw the curtain on the 2011 season, please know that we are already counting down the days until the opening of camp in 2012.  We are expanding our program and expect up to 150 chalutzim at camp at any one time.  (See our current dates and rates here, and register here—though know that we expect to add additional programs for younger children AND adults).  We already have a number of families who have registered their children for next year.   Thank you to everyone who made our second season such a success.  We would not be able to be building this camp without the support of parents, chalutzim, donors and volunteers.  We look forward to many more successful summers together.