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Shabbat Shalom Ramah Family and Friends!

After a refreshing intersession with our staff and refocusing our energies on our goals at camp, the chava (ranch) is teeming with activity again.  The past two days have been full programing with chalutzim biking, climbing, creating arts and crafts, zumba dancing, mining, and so much more.  Each day during the past week has started with brilliant sunshine before clouds have rolled in for a late afternoon shower.  We have had to adapt some of our programing, but are thankful for any moisture as the west is not a good place to be when it becomes too hot and dry.

As we prepare for our first Shabbat of the session, we are also here with our largest group of chalutzim ever assembled on the ranch (205!), including a large contingent from Mexico City’s Bet El congregation.  Alongside their rabbi, Rabbi Leonel Levy, are here for the first two weeks of second session.  We look forward to a continued partnership with the community in Mexico City and to seeing their numbers grow in future summers, even if we never plan to have more than 205 chalutzim on the ranch at any one time!

The first few days of a session are always a combination of excitement and trepidation; excitement at returning to camp, a second home for so many of our chalutzim (campers), and trepidation by both new and returning chalutzim about how the summer will be, what activities one will do, and whether one will make close friends.  On Wednesday, our oldest chalutzim picked their activity areas that they will do throughout Session IIA and some into IIB.  Our younger chalutzim were assigned activities that included archery, horseback riding, and animal care.  While it is impossible to describe everything that transpires during the first few days of the session, we saw groups who dug up amazing rocks in mining, groups who rode horses out to Ramah Valley and around the perimeter of our ranch, and groups of mountain bikes who attempted our beginner and intermediate single tracks.  (Next week they will ride the advanced track!)  In all of these activities, our guiding ethos of “challenge by choice” has been front and center.  Each chalutz has only been in competition with him/her self.

Each morning our chalutzim have awakened to the sound of “bo-bo-boker tov” yelled by a group who stand on the picnic table in the Kfar assisted by G-baby who usually is coming back from his hour long ride by 7:00am.  After the chalutzim wash and dress, they all head to their m’komot t’fillah (prayer spaces) for shmirat haguf (morning exercise) and t’fillot (prayers).  The t’fillot over the past two days have been incredible and inspiring.  We had some groups singing along with guitars, others engaged in more movement-focused t’fillot, others doing art, and others engaged in a more traditional, full matbeah, t’fillot .  Our second oldest edah, Bogrim, spent part of their first t’fillah learning about t’fillin, and actually having a chance to open a pair and to peek inside. Starting on the first day, and continuing over the course of the session, our hope is that chalutzim can experience an array of prayer options.  This session we are blessed to have a number of rabbinic “guest stars” who are here to help with all educational aspects of the program.

Sadly, due to the rain on opening day, for the second time in our camp’s history, we did not have a camp-wide opening campfire on the first night of a session.  On a personal level, I was sad about this, since this campfire is when we usually teach the camp song and it is the first time I have a chance to address our entire kehillah kedosha (holy community).  Instead, we had a chance to do some opening remarks during dinner in the chadar ochel (dining hall).  Last night our younger chalutzim had a campfire where they sang songs and heard some stories.  Our older chalutzim had a chance to play capture the flag in Ramah valley, another programmatic staple of our camp.

As I finish writing this email, our entire Kehillah Kedosha is engaged in doing service projects for the camp.  We believe that everyone in our community can contribute in some way to the betterment of camp as a way to prepare for Shabbat.  At the moment our chalutzim are  beautifying the chadar ochel for Shabbat dinner, creating a new trail in camp, giving the camp dogs a bath (they need it!), and more.  As soon as each have finished their projects we will begin the rotations in the shower house, when everyone is “required” to clean themselves and ready themselves physically for Shabbat, which includes putting on clean clothes.  In a few short hours, all will be dressed in white and gathering as an entire camp to dance and sing.

Next week is our masa week, when our older chalutzim leave for most of the week.  Our younger chalutzim will have a chance to do a shorter excursion and will also have most of the ranch to themselves  to further engage in our base camp activities.

On behalf of the entire Ramah team, I hope that you too have a relaxing and joyful Shabbat!

We use a lot of Hebrew at camp, and we do this intentionally. We teach our chalutzim Hebrew via everyday activities and announcements. As an example, in Soosim (horses) kids learn the names of parts of a horse and saddle in both Hebrew and English. Below are some of our most commonly used words in Hebrew, for your reference. 

Hebrew at Camp

The sun is shining, groups are returning– it’s a beautiful late afternoon on the chava (ranch)! We had stunning weather this past week and it’s truly an incredible feeling to see this chava full of 300+ chalutzim (campers), tzevet (staff), and orchim (guests). Rabbi Mitch Cohen, the National Ramah Commission Director, who is visiting this weekend, commented to me, “How cool is it that 7 years later, it’s just routine to be able to visit Ramah in the Rockies!?”

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A few photos from our new Mountaineering Masa

Last Sunday, we celebrated a meaningful “Yom Yisrael” (Israel Day). JOLI helped plan the day and run the different peulot (activities). Each edah focused on a different aspects of Israeli culture and history. The Ilanot chalutzim had activities relating to raising kids in Israeli society via life milestones such as birthday parties, bnai mitzvah, entering the army, and more. Metaylim and Sollelim together learned about pioneer spirit of the early chalutzim (pioneers) and the establishment of the State of Israel. The Bogrim chalutzim focused on issues about Israeli innovation and contributions to the world.

Ilanot had a week full of base camp activities, as well as a camp-out out under the stars. One of the highlights of their week was Rocktion. At the Rocktion (Rock-Auction), the campers collected rocks around camp that they would try to “sell” to staff and fellow campers, in exchange for popcorn kernel currency. The chalutzim created their own pricing system based on what value they found each rock to be worth. Dani, the Rosh Edah, excitedly shared with me about a moment where four campers pooled their rock resources and created a “store” together at the Rocktion. Other activities included a carnival complete with face painting, balloon animals, a photo booth, snow cones as well as a hike up one of our neighboring mountains.

mountaineering1Metaylim spent some time in base camp this week along with time out on a 2-day backpacking masa (backcountry excursion). One of the highlights of their week was a limmud (learning activity) where Nadav (a staff member) led them in a discussion about changes that campers would want to see in the world. These campers maturely and articulately discussed in small groups their personal passions: gender equality, religious ethics, gun control, and many other worldly topics. Campers had a lot of curiosity to learn and understand more. They shared their own opinions on the topics, how they think it affects their day-to-day, and how they can support each other’s beliefs.

For the final three days of the week, the group backpacked in Pike National Forest. One masa group shared that they encountered unexpected items on the trail including a cave in one spot, some animal bones in another, and more! The kids came back covered in charcoal “war paint” excited about their accomplishments and ready to celebrate Shabbat!

Sollelim spent the majority of this past week out on masa. Groups were spread across Western Central Colorado including groups who rock climbed near Canyon City, shot archery at Cheyenne Mountain State Park and biked in Pike National Forest. The biking trip left camp and returned four days later after biking numerous mountain passes and having ridden 37 miles just yesterday! The art masa, one of our newer additions, had a chance to hike and paint in the beautiful Colorado wilderness.

This past Shabbat, Bogrim did a Peulat Shabbat (Shabbat Activity) on Jewish Identity. The edah made bar graphs by voting with post-its on various important aspects of our Jewish identities. Categories included Israel, Hebrew, Jewish Education, having Jewish friends, pursuing social justice, Shabbat, Jewish observance/halakhah, eating Jewish foods, and remembering the Holocaust. The campers made new bar graphs of what our grandparents would have chosen within these categories. It was interesting to see trends of what chalutzim chose and similarities and differences to their grandparents. The discussion then moved into smaller groups based on the category and everyone shared stories of why they chose it. One chalutzah told the story of her grandma, a Holocaust survivor in Toronto, and how that has impacted her Jewish identity.

mountaineering3Bogrim left camp on Monday morning for their various masa’ot. This summer we pioneered the advanced climbing/mountaineering chug in basecamp, which pairs up with a mountaineering masa. We created this program to give campers who had been here for a number of years a new opportunity to grow and challenge themselves. In the same day on masa, that trip managed to go sledding down a patch of ice, cross over the Continental Divide, and spend the day swimming at an alpine lake (at 10,000 feet) in Rocky Mountain National Park! The participants on this new masa had a great time. They even said it could be harder so as to be able to push themselves more next time.

JOLI has been gone since early Monday morning, and experienced some incredible moments and achievements on “adventure masa”. While the majority of the edah was out on the masa, several chalutzim chose instead to be counselors-in-training (CITs) in different areas around camp, and learn more about what it means to be on staff. On the adventure masa, the chalutzim got to mountain bike, rock climb, hike, and even practice their WFA skills! Their madrichim (counselors) ran them through several medical scenarios to test their training on the trip. Yesterday, the group reached the summit of a high peak nearby, and were exceptionally proud of their accomplishments on the trip. Ari, our Communications Manager, joined them for two nights, and shared that he had many incredible conversations with this thoughtful and mature group of campers about their JOLI experience, school, hobbies, life, and how they got to Ramah. He appreciated watching the intentionality of every component of the trip and how much responsibility the chalutzim had to lead themselves throughout.

As we get ready to send this email, everyone is showering and changing into their clean white clothes. We are going to be gathering in a few minutes in the Pardes T’fillah for dancing and Kabbalat Shabbat. It is hard to believe that this is the final Shabbat of first session. Our time together has been flown by. Tonight, in my D’Var Torah, I will be emphasizing the importance of cultivating friendships that last a lifetime. Indeed, we have seen that many of our chalutzim who have been with us for multiple years are forming and nurturing these friendships and our hope is that, over time, as our younger chalutzim return to camp each year, they too will have these cherished friendships on which they can rely.

Some photos are already online at Smugmug and on Facebook. We will be adding more after Shabbat. You can check out a video of a few of the masa’ot photos here: 2016 Masa Week Session 1B

Can you believe it? After months of planning, filling out forms, going over packing lists, and getting ready for the summer, camp is FINALLY here! Our chalutzim arrived at the ranch over the course of the day on Wednesday.  In a true Colorado fashion, we experienced both sunny skies and drizzling throughout the day as chalutzim (campers) met their madrichim (counselors), their fellow chalutzim, and acclimated to life at 8,000 feet elevation.

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Our Rashei Edot (Unit Heads)

That night, our Sollelim campers (7th and 8th grade) and Bogrim campers (9th and 10th grade) heard all about our different offerings and leveled into their chugim (specialty areas). Our Ilanot (3rd and 4th grade) and Metaylim (5th and 6th grade) campers spent time around our medurah (campfire) singing songs and being introduced to camp traditions.

Ilanot had an awesome activity last night where they played some get-to-know-you games. Dani, IMG_0421Rosh Ilanot, described it as featuring “an epic game of sharks and minnows, and a massive human knot activity”. She also reported that all the Ilanot campers are “super-pumped” about horseback riding.  At t’fillot this morning, Ilanot was joined by Metaylim, and were led by one of our guests, Rabbi Elana Kanter (also known as G-Baby’s mom). She used storytelling to talk about all the different brachot. During birkot hashachar (a morning prayer), the group acted out all the different things they were thankful for upon waking.  

Metaylim started off the summer with the fun activities of horseback riding, outdoor cooking, biking, and hanging out with our baby goats. Vanessa, Rosh Metaylim, shared a great story about how some of our returning campers taught the new campers our favorite game of Gaga. They had a blast learning the game and joining in the friendly competition. Last night, Metaylim had a fun icebreaker activity asking each other questions and getting to know their fellow chalutzim.


0497Thursday morning,
Sollelim trekked up Givat Ilanot (a hill overlooking our property) and held their morning services looking onto camp.  The entire hike up, the edah sang and shouted their Sollelim cheers. Last night, they had a special peulat erev (evening activity) – a fashion show where campers dressed up their counselors, painted faces, and did their hair. Each counselor was supposed to represent a variety of themes (Frozen, wizards, America, fireworks, etc) . The campers had to introduce the counselors and the theme to a panel of judges. Our panel of judges (including Rosh Omanut- Head of Art) gave feedback and the chalutzim loved the activity. Rami, Rosh Sollelim, shared about a camper who did a freestyle rap to present their counselor.


Last night,
Bogrim had a rousing game of capture the flag on the Kikar (an open field in camp). Earlier in the day, they had a limmud (text study) on social issues and brainstormed what actions they could take to address some of them (such as treatement of animals or unity of the Jewish people). This morning our Bogrim chalutzim held an unusual type of t’fillah, which Rosh Bogrim Dave described as a “spiritual chevruta”. In pairs, they discussed what parts of prayer are difficult for them, what parts they enjoy, and what they were looking to get out of their prayer experiences this summer.

Since JOLI’s (11th and 12th grade) arrival on Monday, they have been certified in Wilderness First Aid and learned basic backcountry skills. These are the first steps in the Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute’s process of transforming campers into outdoor leaders.  Putting all their skills to the test, JOLI cooked their dinner and slept out in Ramah Valley last night. They practiced setting up tarps, tents, bear bags, and more!

IMG_0423For all our campers, this week we introduced a new perek (activity block) into the schedule: Mifgash (Meet Up). This activity takes place right before dinner with the goal of creating a daily time in our busy days to recognize the awesome things that happen here. We share some highlights of the day and sing and dance a bit. After Mifgash, the entire camp washes hands and heads into dinner.

As our camper population has continued to expand over the years, so too have some of our facilities. In order to accommodate this growth, we built three new tents this summer, as well as a brand new bathroom and shower house. We are excited for our campers to “break it in” as they get ready for Shabbat– cleaning up and changing into their Shabbat whites. We look forward to our first Shabbat with campers this summer, full of ruach (spirit) and joy!

 

Shabbat Shalom!

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.

 

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 2016 Hanhallah.

(To read about our year round team, please visit Our Team.)

Julia Snyder – Program Director

11069266_10152729187695509_6031520002684934310_nJulia is originally from Seattle, and joined ROA as a madricha in 2012, and later as Rosh Ofanayim (Biking).  She is a passionate cyclist, lover of vegetarian cooking, and avid explorer.  Julia is thrilled to be moving to Denver and returning to the wide open spaces of the West after spending time in New York City.  She has experience teaching both Jewish studies and environmental science to learners of all ages, and is excited to combine her academic background of Talmud and Earth Science with the energy and joy of camp.

 

Rafi Daugherty – Director of Camper Care

RafiDaughertyRafi is excited to be returning to camp as the Director of Camper Care with his baby daughter, Ettie! Rafi is a Colorado native who is working towards a graduate degree in Counseling. He also organizes the largest LGBTQ Passover Seder in the world called Queer Seder, held in Denver. Rafi went to camp as a kid and worked in camp as a teen and young adult- he is thrilled to be a part of the Ramah Rockies community.

 

 

Melanie Levine – Programming Specialist (aka Meracezet)

Melannie Levine photoMelannie is thrilled to be returning to ROA for her 5th summer and, thus, is eagerly anticipating the bestowal of the 5th-year swag item (oh, and her job at camp as well, of course!). For almost a decade, she has lived out of a backpack while studying and working abroad. In this time, Melannie has come to look forward to her time at ROA as a chance to reconnect with friends, nature, Judaism, and the amazing program that camp offers. After a several year hiatus, she is returning to school at Brandeis University in Massachusetts to pursue to her master’s degree in Sustainable International Development and is currently seriously contemplating making her life much more difficult by undertaking a second degree at the same time, of which is an MBA in Nonprofit Management.

Moshe “Mushon” Samuels –Interim Tikvah Director

moshe-pic-e1435590866176-144x150I am an experienced informal Jewish educator, with vast experience in both Israel and North America. Specifically, I have spent 16 summers on staff at Camp Ramah- I’ve spent 12 summers at Camp Ramah in Canada, where I served as both the unit head and the Jewish educator for the Tikvah program (8 summers with the Edah in total), and for the past couple of summers I’ve served as Rosh Chinuch (Educational Director) at Camp Ramah in the Rockies. Currently, I am the Shaliach (Israeli Emissary) at Bnai Jeshurun Congregation in New York.

 

Deena Cowans – Rosh Chinuch (Education Director)

IMG_0918Deena is excited to join Team Rockies after seven summers on staff at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin and one summer on staff with Ramah Israel Seminar. She will graduate from Columbia University in May with a Masters in Public Administration- Development Practice (aka International Development, aka helping the developing world). Deena graduated from Duke University in 2011 and then made her way through the Jewish social justice world: she was a corps member with AVODAH in Washington DC, then worked in Israel with the JDC, then in Nepal with an Israeli organization called Tevel B’Tzedek.

Leora Kling Perkins – Rosh Mumchim

HeadshotOriginally from the Boston Area, Leora is entering her third year of rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, and will be returning to camp for her second summer. She is a graduate of Gann Academy and Brandeis University, and worked for several years at the Jewish Community Relations Council in Boston coordinating a literacy volunteer program. She is loves hiking, singing, and cooking delicious vegetarian food, and is especially proud of the garden she planted with her classmates in Jerusalem.

 

Ben Braunstein – Rosh Logistics

Ben BraunsteinThis will be my second summer at Ramah in the Rockies, and I could not be more excited! I am a Jewish Studies major with a background in technology and teaching. I love the outdoors and frequently hike and camp in my home town of Los Angeles. Can’t wait to see you all soon!

 

 

 

Zack Slavkin- Co-Rosh Masa

1184836_496264560455207_1062678445_nI was born and raised in Southern California, but came home to Colorado in 2008. Finishing up my psychology degree at CSU, after which I hope to travel and volunteer before coming back and working in alternative therapy environments. I love the outdoors,  especially backpacking and mountain biking which are my two main hobbies at the moment. I also like to make music, and I love sharing my passions with others.

 

 

Bri Andersen – Co-Rosh Masa

unnamed-7I was born and raised in Colorado. This will be my 6th summer up at Ramah and I LOVE the outdoors. I love to hike in the mountains, bike around Denver, and read a good book by the fireplace. I’m currently studying meteorology at MSU Denver.

Shabbat Shalom Ramah Family and Friends!

It seems like just yesterday, our chalutzim were arriving at the ranch and now we are about to start the last Shabbat of the 2015 camp season.  Our chalutzim are back from their masa’ot [backcountry excursions], and changing into their Shabbat whites. After the frenzied morning and afternoon of the trips returning followed by crazy lightning storms, we are looking forward to  a calm Shabbat.

We want to share a few highlights from this past week’s happenings at camp, and get you ready to welcome your chalutzim [campers] home.

Sunday we had an awesome Yom Sport competition, where kids spent the day competing in hockey, gaga, ultimate soccer (a game of our own invention), basketball, cheering/cheer writing, and plaque making. The day was full of ruach [spirit] from all, and we want to especially acknowledge the hard work of the JOLI captains and judges who ran the day, and made everything happen. One of the most exciting events of the day is the JOLI fire burn competition, where they have to build a fire tall enough to burn a rope strung between two chairs. This session, JOLI, completed it in the fastest time in ROA history!  As soon as one team succeeded, they joined the other teams’ chalutzim in cheering on their fellow JOLI captains. This is the one day each summer that we engage in friendly competition, and it was amazing to see each team act with sportsmanship and menschlichkeit.

Ilanot spent a day with Metaylim at Wellington Lake, and had a day of fun in the sun until the weather turned and the thunder rolled in.  They returned to camp, happy and dry. Ilanot also went on a horse masa around our ranch before heading out the back gate to our neighbors’ buffalo ranch where they spent the evening in the barn’s hayloft.

Metaylim was divided into three different groups for their masa’ot:  Payne Creek, Rolling Creek, and Wigwam. They spent two nights in the backcountry learning basic masa skills.  For many of our Metaylim campers, this was their first extended backpacking trip.  It is always a pleasure to see their smiling faces return with an added sense of accomplishment, knowing that they had just spent three days in the back-country.

Sollelim spent the week backpacking, biking, climbing and performing service projects.  Al, a Sollelim madrich, held a discussion on trail crew masa about theology and how people connect via traditional sources or nature.  Some kids spoke about their connection via nature when spending time alone, others feel connected when they are in a community praying all together. One chalutz shared a story about how they do not connect to traditional views of God, though when they are scared, they find themselves saying the Shma prayer.

Bogrim headed out on horseback riding, rock climbing and biking masa’ot.  A highlight from the biking masa was a pizza-making and Jewish identity activity. The talk was about how each person defines Jewish identity and how they find their connections to community, tradition, history, and God. Bogrim backpacking masa summitted a 14’er (mountain peak over 14,000ft) during their trek through the Sangre de Christo Wilderness.

JOLI participants had a choice of either heading out for a five day adventure masa, where they did some mountain biking, rock climbing and also climbed a 14’er, OR remain back at camp as CIT for Metaylim and help lead a masa for the younger campers.   Both groups had incredible weeks.

As I complete this weekly email, our last masa group just rolled in from State Forest State Park.  Sadly, it also has begun to rain very heavily, which means that our weekly rikud [dancing] will likely be cancelled, and we will daven under our Ohel Moed [tent], instead of our open-air Pardes T’fillah.  Nonetheless we are sure that Shabbat will be as spirited as usual, especially given that this is the very last one of the 2015 camping season for everyone in our Kehillah Kedosha [holy community].

In summary, it has been an incredible week thus far, and we are looking forward to a pleasant and relaxing Shabbat here with our adult campers who have joined us. We will be sad to say goodbye to everyone on Tuesday, and can’t wait for them to return next kayitz. A reminder that registration for next summer has already opened, and you can register here.

Shabbat Shalom,

-Eliav

Rabbi Eliav Bock and the Ramah in the Rockies Team

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Photos –  Youtube –  Facebook
Shabbat Shalom Ramah Family and Friends!
For the last time this kayitz [summer], a group of our tzevet [staff] made the trek to Denver International Airport, and picked up 41 chalutzim [campers] that were coming in from all corners of North America (and Israel too!) for our final two weeks at camp. This summer has been an incredible one thus far, and the next two weeks will be no different.

This past week started out on an amazingly strong note- we celebrated Yom Yisrael [Israel Day]. The day’s events were put on by our Israeli staff members to educate and engage various aspects of their homeland. At Yom Yisrael, there were stations that taught about kibbutz life, the Bedouins, religious issues in Israel, and Tel Aviv beach culture.

One of the activities was a discussion on the religious and secular divide in Israel, led by our Rosh Chinuch [Head of Education] and Rosh Omanut [Head of Art].  Mushon and Rachel were married this past winter in Israel, religiously, though they chose not to get married under the ultra-orthodox monopoly on weddings in Israel.  As a result, their wedding is not recognized by Israeli law. They had planned to have a civil, courthouse wedding here in the States this summer that would then be recognized by Israeli law.  However, a camp wedding and educational opportunity proved to be more appealing. The end of the day we celebrated a civil wedding, conducted by one of our tzevet. We celebrated into the night, with yummy wedding cake and cookies made by our awesome kitchen staff. Mushon was particularly excited to teach some of his favorite ‘80’s songs and dances!

This week the chalutzim have been busy participating in our fun base camp activities: rock climbing, mountain biking, horseback riding, mining, archery, hockey, art, and much, much more!  In addition to regular camp activities, each edah has also had some special programs.

As I am writing this, I am watching groups get ready with “packout”- a process of packing personal and group gear for their masa’ot [backcountry excursions].  Everyone from Ilanot [3rd and 4th graders] to JOLI [11th and 12th graders] will spend at least one night this week under the stars camping out.

Ilanot this week in their limmud [learning activity] made “Shmonsters”- creative monster stuffed animals made of felt. They learned about the Shma prayer (hence, Shmonsters) and included a text of it inside the stuffed animals for them to have with them.

Metaylim had an awesome art/nature t’fillah [prayer service] led by one of our tzevet chava [farm staff].  They made artwork reflecting their experiences with nature, and later featured a nature walk through camp with meditations.

Sollelim began their limmud [Jewish learning] activity just as the two week buses were arriving up to camp. Rather than continue their activity, they got up and actively greeted the new arrivals, and practiced the value of Hachnasat Orchim [welcoming guests]. Rather than just learning about values, they were living them!

Bogrim enjoyed a rousing and spirited “sing-off” followed by a talent show.  Their energy and voices could be heard throughout the office building and this side of camp.

JOLI had an exciting night learning how to make sushi from some of our particularly talented staff. They came up with creative rolls and learned all about the ins and outs of the art of sushi making.

One of the aspects of our camp in which we take pride is the way we lift the veil on the food choices we make at camp.  We start most meals with a food tour about what we are eating, or how the food came to our plates.  This week, we had two interesting experiences with our food program that we shared with our chalutzim.  We began the summer with over 400 gallons of organic milk, donated by a local, private labeler.  On  Thursday morning, we finished using all our organic milk, and for budgetary reasons will finish the summer serving regular 2% milk.  We explained to the chalutzim the shift in the product that they will be served in our final two weeks.

Also, last night we had a camp-wide barbecue with an enormous amount of organic chicken.  Due to the cold weather in the northeastern U.S. this winter, the chicks that were supposed to hatch in late winter and then graze for a few months were delayed in hatching and growing to a size where they could be schechted [ritually slaughtered].  Instead of taking delivery of all 500 chickens in early June, we were only able to get a few in the early spring, and the rest were schechted and sent here in early July.  With the 9 days when we do not serve meat remaining, we are now left with more meat than expected. This means that our chalutzim who came in the first part of the summer ate less meat than usual, and the ones now at camp are eating more meat than usual.  We expect to have another 2-3 barbeques before the end of the summer!

To let you in on a little surprise, Sunday will be our infamous Yom Sport competition. (But shhh, don’t tell your children, it’s a surprise!) We are excited for this energetic day of friendly competition and camaraderie.

We are looking forward to this Shabbat, and the stunning weather we have been having.

A reminder to all that campers cannot receive or send mail while they are on their masa’ot next week. Also, we will only post photos of campers when they are in camp.

Registration is officially open for 2016, and you can sign up on our website (ramahout.s466.sureserver.com) by clicking “Register Now” at the top.

As always we do our best to post regular photo updates both on Facebook and Smugmug, and we will post Shabbat photos on Sunday.

Wishing you all a wonderful Shabbat!

Rabbi Eliav and the Ramah in the Rockies Team

Shabbat Shalom Ramah Families,

This has been an unseasonably warm and dry week here at the Chava, leading to a similarly pleasant masa [backcountry excursion] week for all of our chalutzim [campers].  Ironically, last Friday night was the first one where we gathered under our Ohel Mo’ed for dancing and t’ffilot because of the rain.

Last Saturday night  was a more somber occasion than usual, as we marked Tisha Ba’av, the Ninth of Av, which commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem. Typically, Saturday night is a joyous occasion, filled with dancing, but not this past week. We read the Book of Eicha, a narrative of the destruction, by candlelight in the Ohel Ochel [dining hall] that evening and framed the next day for the chalutzim. Sunday was full of reflective programming, including one peulah  [activity] where chalutzim discussed their motivation in life and what values they live by.  The peulah asked them to think about why activism is important to their lives or what they stand for.

Ilanot’s highlight of the week was their “Farm Masa”, where they spent an entire day in farming activities:  milking goats, making goat cheese, and creating their own lunch with a harvest from the farm – a real “Farm to Table” experience!  They then slept out in tents, next to the farm.  Today, they visited the local farmer’s market and had a chance to speak with local farmers and sample some Colorado produce.

Metaylim had a blast this week rafting down the Arkansas River and taking a day trip to both Cave of the Winds and Mueller State Park. Be sure to check out some awesome GoPro footage from the rafting on our Facebook page! At Cave of the Winds, they explored the many “rooms” of Colorado’s famous 500 million-year-old cave system, learning about bats and cave formation along the way. They even got to zipline across a scenic canyon!

Sollelim campers headed out for a 4-day masa.  The masa’ot included climbing, biking, hiking,  art, and service projects.   This morning, those of us at camp were awoken by the Payne Creek masa who opted to do a night hike under the full moon back to camp.  They left their campsite,

a few miles from camp, at 3 am under a brilliant clear moon, arriving back at the Chava around 6 am and setting up a makeshift campsite on the on the migrash [sports field], where they camped out and made breakfast.

Bogrim campers went kayaking, hiking, climbing, farming, and archery masa’ot.  The kayaking group had a chance to be on the water more than usual because of the amazing weather, while the rock climbing masa at Sheeprock accomplished quite an impressive feat – a multi-pitch climb to the top of Helen’s Dome.  They were treated to a stunning view at the top and reported beautiful weather.

JOLI went to Indian Peak and, as has become tradition on the JOLI masa, they had a prolonged solo experience. Many reported the highlighs of their week being the solo experience and swimming in a freezing cold lake that was fed by snow melt only a few hundred feet away!  They were also inspired and awestruck during this morning’s sunrise t’fillot [prayers] atop the Continental Divide.

Questions to ask your chalutzim this week:

— Ilanot: What was your favorite part of farm masa? What did you do at the Woodland Park Farmers’ Market?

— Metaylim: How was Cave of the Winds? What did you or your friends perform at the lip sync battle?

— Sollelim: Did you get to know anyone new on masa this week? What did you talk about?

— Bogrim: What was something about this masa experience that was new for you? What was the hardest part?

— JOLI: What were you thinking about during your solo experience? What was your biggest challenge on the masa?

We are looking forward to wonderful Shabbat together, and hope that this beautiful weather holds out for the weekend.  Sunday is going to be “Yom Yisrael” (Israel Day), where our 12+ Israeli mishlachat  [emissaries] plan a day to teach about their homeland.  We hope you all have a pleasant and relaxing weekend.

As always, photos from the excursions will be uploaded after Shabbat; you can find them on our Facebook page and Smugmug. A video of some photos from the excursions can be viewed by clicking here.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Eliav and the Ramah in the Rockies Team

–Written earlier today, but sent once ALL chalutzim have returned from Masa–

Each Friday morning, when I sit down to write these letters, I wonder where the week went. They say that each day of camp is like three in the “real world” which makes these weekly updates more like 21-day summaries. This past week was no exception.

We began the week with a touching Havdallah on the basketball court followed by an awesome Yom Sport breakout consisting of flaming torches and blazing logs. Sunday was perfect weather for our monthly Yom Sport event. Ultimately, when all the points were tallied from the games, songs, and banners, Kachol [Blue] emerged victorious. Of course, point values did not matter much because everyone had a fun and exciting day.

Sunday morning also brought a joyous occasion: we were FINALLY able to name our goats. Despite our best efforts, the goats were not able to join us for Friday night tfillot. (Our goat farmers had to rush their “aunt” to the vet just before Shabbat due to a spreading infection, which is now under control.)  The baby goats will forever be known at Camp Ramah as Chalav and D’vash (Milk and Honey).

This week was our final masa week of the session. On Monday, the JOLI (11/12th graders) and Bogrim (9/10th graders) campers set out on separate 5-day masa’ot. While JOLI spent some time biking and climbing, they also took the opportunity yesterday to rise before dawn (at 3:00 AM!) to summit of one of Colorado’s beautiful—and challenging—14’ers (peaks higher than 14,000 feet above sea level).  Bogrim campers went on masa’ot including horseback riding, hiking, rock climbing, and farming.  All had their own adventures and special stories that they told about getting wet in the backcountry, seeing incredible vistas, and having deep dinner discussions.

Sollelim (7/8th graders) split into groups between rock climbing, biking, archery shooting, hiking, and service projects at the Pueblo Mountain State Park. Now in its second year, our Archery Masa has become one of the more popular choices for this age group; chalutzim [campers] are able to spend four days doing intense shooting at the Staunton State Park Archery range, which features numerous 3-dimensional targets set up in the beautiful Colorado terrain. On the biking masa, chalutzim hone their skills over miles of forest service road and trail on our front-suspension mountain bikes. While some sections of this ride are relatively smooth, most of the journey is spent climbing impossibly high peaks or descending at rapid speeds into beautiful valleys. While pausing at the tops of difficult hills, many riders wondered whether the Forest Service could (or would) ever build paved bridges across these mountains.

All Metaylim (5/6th grade) chalutzim spent Monday at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, where most were able to feed the giraffes by hand. They then left for a three-day backpacking trip into the Lost Creek Wilderness. Watching Metaylim chalutzim pack-out on Wednesday morning is always a pleasure because I see the looks of apprehension and excitement on their faces. As a younger edah, many embark on their first or second trip into the backcountry with the knowledge that, for three days/two nights, they will not be able to return to the comfort of their own beds. Madrichim [counselors] double and triple check that everyone’s packs fit and that each chalutz/a has all the gear they will need (especially rain jackets and water bottles). Every chalutz/a also carries a portion of the group gear, adding a level of importance and responsibility to each camper and each pack. Around 9:00 AM, groups hiked out into the wilderness or boarded busses to reach the trailheads, which led them home over the course of three days. The only thing that might compare to watching Metaylim pack-out was watching them return to us dirty, tired, and incredibly proud of the miles they hiked and the skills they learned along the way.

Ilanot (3rd/4th grade) chalutzim spent Monday at the zoo with their older friends and then had an overnight with the horses on our ranch (despite their campsite being on property, we didn’t see them until they officially “returned” to us before lunch the following day). On Wednesday night, in a not-so-masa-like activity, the Ilanot girls enjoyed a private “spa-night.”  It was a great bonding activity, even if they appeared at Thursday morning breakfast as the cleanest chalutzot in the history of masa week! Today, the entire edah went to the local farmers market, where they interviewed the farmers and learned more about local agriculture.

Finally, our Amitzim chalutzim had their own three-day masa consisting of hiking, biking and a day at Wellington Lake. They slept out under the stars, cooked dinner over our camping stoves and enjoyed being in the outdoors. While every child in this edah has different abilities and sometimes they split into smaller groups for daytime activities, the incredible madrichim were able to ensure that they all came together in the evening for dinner, bonding, and resting.

As I am concluding this letter, the first of our trips are returning from masa. Over the next 4 hours 180 campers and 70 staff members will roll, walk and run into camp filthy, smelly and exceedingly happy. The washbasins are ready for everyone to clean and bleach their dishes and the solar water bags are filled (with over 1000 gallons of hot water) for everyone to shower. We will soon gather in the Pardes Tefillah for our final Kabbalat Shabbat of the session. It has been a magical beginning to this summer season, and we will be savoring our remaining few days together even as we look forward to next year.

As always, please be in touch with any questions, comments or concerns. Photos will be uploaded Sunday from the weekend and from masa’ot. In the mean time, please check out our video from the Masa’ot returning today.

Shabbat shalom!

Eliav

Shabbat Shalom for our first Shabbat of 2015!

The year-round team has been working towards this moment for 9 months: the moment we get to welcome back our chalutzim [campers] from their 11-month masa [excursion]– or what some refer to as the “off season.”

Our chalutzim are finally here, arriving from all over the United States, Israel, Canada, as well as the Philippines. After an unusually wet spring, the hills and fields are greener than they have ever been.  And since the constant rain stopped last weekend, this first week of camp has brought unseasonably warm temperatures with most days hitting over 85 degrees.

This week Chalutzim have been noticing some some of the updates that we have made to our ranch.   In addition to building a few more tents, including a new Tikvah Sensory tent, we moved our goat barn to the middle of the camp, so our chalutzim can see our four goats throughout the day and milk them in a more public space.  Less visible, but perhaps even more important is the completion of the first phase of our waste water treatment plant, which is now processing waste from Beit Kesher [our new staff lounge/retreat center] into clean water.  After the summer, we hope to complete the system and next year much more waste, will be sent back down stream.  (We are being mandated by the State to discontinue use of many of our septic systems).

Our food this summer has been a big hit so far and our tzevet mitbach [kitchen staff] have been hard at work cooking some delicious favorites like mac and cheese and quinoa sloppy joes–all without adding salt or sugar.  The first night Chalutzim enjoyed homemade whole wheat pizza!  We have also added oatmeal as an extra hot-option each morning for breakfast.  The tzevet from our farm have used this week to teach us about where our food comes from (like our very own garden) and what we can do with our food waste, such as composting or sharing with our goats and chickens.

And of course, this week our chalutzim have been enjoying the myriad of activities offered at camp from biking to farming to Frolf to climbing.  Our younger chalutzim have been rotating through these while our older chalutzim have chosen 3 activities on which to focus.  While the Wednesday’s later afternoon thunderstorm put a damper on the outside activities, we did manage to have an hour long impromptu Zumba-thon and sing along for those who sought shelter in our dining hall during the storm.

Next week, as early as Sunday, we’ll be saying a brief goodbye to all of our chalutzim as they embark on masaot (excursions). The water in the river has dropped low enough that we can send our Sollelim chalutzim out, and are still waiting on word on whether we can send our younger chalutzim rafting as well.   Between the success of this week and the prospect of next week, there is excitement in the air as we head into this Shabbat. We know that the singing, dancing, and resting that will take place over the next day is much needed and one of the best parts of the week. All in all, it’s been a beautiful first week and we’re looking forward to what looks to be a fantastic summer.

We will post a few pictures on Facebook of our pre-shabbat festivities before Shabbat, and then hope to add many more on Sunday evening.
Shabbat Shalom

In celebration of Tu B’Shvat this week, we wanted to share these words about the farm from 2014 Chalutzah, Sophie.  Tu B’Shvat celebrates the trees and is a planting holiday in Israel.  In her piece, she talks about the greenhouse and garden, and the planting we do at camp.

LIFE ON THE FARM AT RAMAH

Written by Sophie Raskin, Tulsa, OK

Planting at GreenHouseIf you make the decision to go to the farm during choice period these are the animals you might see there – 2 pigs, 4 sheep, 5-7 chickens and 3 ducks. And very soon there will also be a mother and baby goat. To get to the farm you have to walk along a long winding path past the horse’s barn. Sometimes if you are lucky you will see the horses in the field. You will also see beautiful views of the mountains and the creek as you walk along.

At the farm you will be taking care of both animals and the garden. If you are taking care of the pigs you will see them eating our camp Inside the Greenhouseleftover food so we don’t waste any food. They will be fighting over the food and you might even see them standing in the big food bowl. They are really pigs! Sounds crazy but one of their names is actually Kosher! We haven’t named the other pig yet but when you come, the other pig will probably be named.

If you are taking care of the sheep you will clean out their dirty pen. You have to rake the old bedding and hay and fill it with new. When you come their hair will probably be overgrown. Right now its very curly and knotty looking. The sheep all move as a pack, or all Sheeptogether. The male with the horns is the leader of the pack. Make sure not to scare one of them because they will run away. If you want to pet them, move up to them very slowly.

I don’t think the chickens look like regular chickens but I’m not sure how to describe them. The ducks don’t look like ducks either! I’m used to yellow ducks and these are not. Some of them have bald spots on their body because they came from a ranch where the roosters were mean to them. When you get to the farm its fun to Chetzi and Butter Cup- Goatscheck in the chicken coop and see if they laid any eggs. The most eggs we have had in one day are five. We don’t use the eggs for camp breakfast because they don’t lay enough to feed everyone. But we do use them as a special prize at camp. For the group who has the cleanest ohel, they get a special “Rocky Mountain Toast” for breakfast and they will use those eggs to make it.

If you like gardening, we have that too at camp. You can either do it at the farm or at the greenhouse. At the farm we grow all kinds of Pigvegetables like carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, corn, potatoes, and even more. We’ll get to pick them after they’ve grown more. In the greenhouse we are growing micro-greens like lettuce, arugula, spinach and kale. We picked some last week and it was used for our Shabbat salad. We use small containers and fill them with dirt and add compost for a natural fertilizer. We mix it up and then sprinkle the seeds and water them and hope they will grow.

Next to the greenhouse there is an outside garden. Part of it has a spice and herb area where we are growing peppermint, parsley, basil, chive, oregano and many others. There are also two wire above ground baskets to grow potatoes. Being above ground makes it easier for the campers to harvest the potatoes.

If you enjoy reading about the farm you should come and visit it yourself. The staff there are all super nice and will answer any of your questions. Robyn does the farm and she is great working with the animals. Dor is in charge of the garden and he loves working with the plants and he grows many delicious things in the garden. Kirsten helps out where she is needed.

 

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.

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.

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“So what do you do the rest of the year?”  This is the question I am most often asked when I tell people that I am a Rabbi/educator who works as a camp director.  In most people’s eyes, camp is an eight week job.  For the other 10 months, I think that they imagine year round camp staffget to kick back by the pool for hours every day.

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When I was studying to be a rabbi, I never thought that part of the official duties in my rabbinate would be to drive 450 miles to Pavillion, Wyoming (a town of 126 people, two hours west of Casper) to ride horses in the pouring rain.  And yet, last Thursday I found myself standing next to veteran ranchers Dar and Bob Vogel on their 2,000 acre ranch checking out about 50 horses that they had pulled off the range.  Each horse had spent the past six month on the Wyoming plains eating the winter grasses and trying to stay warm in the freezing temperatures.  While horses that live in barns need constant attention, horses on the plains can run freely, need almost no grooming, and do not even need shoes on their hooves.

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