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

2014 Tzevet Tipus [Rock Climbing Staff], Noah Kaplan, wrote this spoken word poem this summer about the power of the Masa [backcountry excursion] experience.  Words to the poem are below the video.  We hope you will enjoy this!

 

For five days we leave behind our phones, we forget about conventional conveniences, the clutter of the day, we sweep it all aside for a while to find what hides behind our eyes unclouded by wifi. For five days We breathe the fresh air cradled rocky and strained by aspen groves, sipping on the sweet smells of summer fed to us by our sky Hashem whispers to us, adventure is out there. We, who fly a whole mile high, there is nothing like this ride. We call this time Masa, the journey. We leave early and pack light, for we plan to travel far, wide, We give up our complex comforts for a simpler sense of service to ourselves, of preference and priority, of sound, Listen, adventure is out there, listen. It’s laping at your shore. This song never gets old.  We leave our watches, our roofs, and yes often our bathrooms, for a timeless place, a forever truth in nature. These ancient languages have not been lost, the trees still whistle and hum in the breeze with their lips bigger thaan SUV’s and their tongues that never get tired, are you listening? Can you hear it? We call this time Masa, this place, the Journey. We are in search of adventure, in search of god and each other, we are the Masa, the journey and for four nights the moon is our spotlight, watching as the stars nod across the sky to tuck us into that silver darkness, nothing is warmer, nothing is freer than this blanket this fire by our side, we, the pioneers of our own potential have  songs with their endless arms reaching upward, there is something magic about this circle, these hurtles, this path untraveled, you’ll find your potential is just as endless, listen as the wind plays the trees against the drumming, there is rhythm to discover in our feet. Learn what it means to feed yourself full to this beat, what it means to push yourself more, to take care of your core, to be apart of this team, born of a collective dream, we are all in this together, strip the white noise of the city from your skin, we should all know this everything, and to make memories that do not require batteries. Write stories with your every step. For five days and four nights we learn to take care of our bodies, our minds, our souls. Look up, Hashem is all around us out here, this air, this water, these lives and laughter let its voice fill you, climb its mountains, ride it smooth, move with purpose, groove, climb, bike, shoot, lace up your boots. It is time, Learn precision and how to sleep by its side, no lie, out here we are the pioneers of our own potential, the students of our surroundings, the reverent citizens of our world, there is no end to this road, us all a part of this team, this whole, this time, like an endless smooth sounding rhyme, with light hearts, and laughter, find us pushing our limits going faster choosing the challenge that will bring us forward, for there is no end to this road. This journey where we sing ourselves to sleep and awake in the morning with the possibilities simply at our feet, all around us, waking up to find that adventure is out here.

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 was written and sent out to all of our parents the day after camp:

Yesterday morning we said goodbye to the last of our 2014 chalutzim campers].  Our staff members spent the afternoon winterizing our tents, packing the tripping gear and cleaning camp for the long nine months until we reopen for our 2015 season. Our chalutzim have already arrived home,and many spent the day on airplanes heading to one of 27 states, Canada, Israel and Mexico from which they hail.  Last night we will gathered as a Kehillah Kedosha [holy community] for the final time this summer to celebrate our invaluable tzevet [staff] at our annual staff banquet.  These young men and woman have spent the past 9+ weeks providing the most incredible, educational and inspiring experiences possible for nearly 400 chalutzim who came to our camp this summer. 

At our slide show Monday night, I began to tear up while watching the faces of the chalutzim who have spent time with us this summer.  I saw pictures of smiling children climbing rocks, biking trails, building fires, throwing Frisbees and playing basketball.  I saw pictures of children dressed in white swaying to the music on Friday night and then gathered around the havdallah candles on Saturday evening.  I saw children perfecting old skills and acquiring new talents.  I saw the faces of hundreds of youth being positively impacted in an intense and intentional Jewish environment.

A summer is made up countless moments, and no two people at camp have the exact same experience.  Here are three vignettes from this past session that will forever stand out in my mind.

#1 The Rain: If there was one aspect of camp that we all experienced it was the rain.  This summer has been one of the wettest in decades.IMG_7216  Session IIA experienced the wettest two weeks of the summer, with almost 4 days of non-stop rain.  Amazingly, the rain did little to dampen people’s spirits.  Most Masa’ot continued as planned.  The afternoon of Yom Sport turned into a two hour “sing down” and dance party in our dining tent.  While most of the always epic apache relay was cancelled, we did manage to gather outside for the final rope burn.  The most common question heard over the staff radios was, “are we still in lightning mode?”  With the rain this summer, all of us were that much more appreciative when we had beautiful weather and blue skies.  All of us played a little harder, climbed a little higher and rode a little stronger when we had the chance to be out in the sun.  And at the end of the day, we all know that a wet summer in the West is a real blessing, as the region has suffered through too many scorching hot summers that have led to catastrophic fires and parched hillsides. 

#2 Hearing reflections from a 5th year Chalutz:  Each week at Havdallah, as we gather on our basketball court, I eagerly await the ritual of hearing one member of each edah [age group] reflect on the week that has passed.  This past Saturday night, Aaron, one of our JOLI chalutzim who has been here since our inaugural summer, read a short speech that sums up what so many of us are thinking and feeling:

 I’d like to introduce you all to a phenomenon I have noticed after 5 years [at Ramah Outdoor Adventure] called the “music distortion effect”.  You will notice it on the way home on Tuesday.  You’ll notice the sound of your headphones is surprisingly grainy.  Maybe this is just what happens when you don’t listen to your iPod for a month.  However, I think “music distortion effect” has a much deeper meaning.  When we call the world outside of camp the “real world” we are in fact mistaken.  The “real world” is just too loud for us to hear the truth about what is real.  What’s real is right here.  When we can finally hear, we figure out that the freedom and peace and happiness [we feel here]–is what’s actually real.  And when we go home, we have to try to stop just listening to the blaring siren of “real life”, begging us to believe it when it says that such bliss isn’t possible.  We have to try and sing the songs we learned here, and when we return from our ten-month masa, trust me, we’ll have so many more songs to sing.

Aaron sums up what so many of us are feeling and struggling with as we re-enter our lives away from the ranch.  How do we take the magic that exists here and apply it to our lives back home? 

#3 60 Successful Masa’ot!  One amazing aspect of our camp is the masa’ot [excursions].  This summer we sent out a record 60 masa’ot — Postcard-commentsfrom overnight horseback trips on our ranch with the Ilanot (3/4th graders) to 6 day intensive high alpine backpacking trips for our JOLI (11/12th grade) participants.   Chalutzim return from masa with a contagious energy.  Those of us who stay back at camp during masa week look forward to their return– beginning around noon on Fridays.  As each group comes back to camp there are loud shrieks of delight as friends reconnect.  Aside from the energy present when groups return, it is incredibly special to see how new bonds are created when a group must work together in the backcountry.  People who left as near strangers come back as close friends.
Perhaps most importantly, our motto of “challenge by choice” is so clearly visible on these days, as each person feels that s/he achieved his/ her own personal goals during their time away from camp.  Some might have climbed a hill faster or scaled a more difficult route or carried more weight, but at the end of the day, everyone returned to camp secure with their own personal triumph.

We spend most of the year planning for the summer, and while each day at camp feels like at least three days in the “real world”, the end of the summer still seems to creep up on us way too quickly.  And just like that, we are set to close the curtain on Kayitz 2014. 

JOLI edit2This summer will go down as our best yet.  Our staff, once again, went above and beyond to provide an incredible experience for the chalutzim.  Our educational program was engaging and probing.  Our schedule had few
er issues than in years past, and the 
masa’ot were more varied than they have ever been.  From the youngest chalutz to the oldest tzevet member, we had an incredibly high caliber of people at camp this summer.  So many chalutzim commented to me over the past eight weeks just how nice and genuine everyone was at camp.  This is perhaps one of the greatest hallmarks of our unique community; a place that respects differences and celebrates diversity within our Jewish community.

Over the next few weeks, those of us that work year round for Ramah will be taking some time to sleep, relax, and reflect.  While today we will say goodbye to the most incredible group of staff ever assembled at a Jewish summer camp, we know that the 2015 season is just around the corner.  If you have not already registered your camper for 2015, you may do so here.  Over 40 chalutzim have already registered for next year.  While we will not be filled before the end of the month, we do expect to reach capacity once again in 2015 — so please do not wait too long to register.  Deposits are 100% refundable until March 1, 2015 AND campers enrolled before October 31, 2014 will receive a complimentary Ramah soft shell jacket.

As always, we welcome your comments or suggestions via email and phone.  Parents, we will also be sending a final customer satisfaction survey.  Please complete it if you have not yet done so, as it helps us continue to improve our program each year. 

And when we come back online, we look forward to reflecting more on kayitz 2014 and planning for an even better kayitz 2015.  

Rabbi Eliav Bock

Rabbi Eliav Bock, Director
Ramah Outdoor Adventure

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

 

By Ari Polsky, Customer Experience Specialist

horseAs a longtime Ramahnik, and recent transplant to Ramah in the Rockies, I have had over 2000 camp meals in my life. While there are many fond memories of camp meals and routines, none have quite been like the dining experience that happens here at Ramah in the Rockies. This first and most easily noted difference is the routine: upon entering the chadar Ochel  [dining hall] and sitting down to start the meal, one of our tzevet mitbach [kitchen staff] offers tafrit hayom [menu of the day].

Wayne, Miriam, Neil, Yael, or Terry stand in front of the entire dining hall, and announce the menu, and what nutritional features or special ingredients the day’s meal might have. Sometimes the tafrit hayom focus on the anti inflammatory properties of coriander, or how quinoa is a complete protein. Whatever the fact of the day, it educates those sharing the meal about something new that helps everyone appreciate the meal.

The other clear difference I have observed is the length of the meals—they are longer than I am used to having in a camp setting. The length has allowed me to have more in depth conversations with those at the same table, as well as allowed for a more leisurely eating pace. Not only are the meals longer, but we are also not supposed to start clearing or cleaning up until the moment that it has been declared “Zman L’nakot!” [Cleanup time!]

Perhaps the most suprising part of my first ten days at Ramah in the Rockies is the lack of red meat or poultry. Tasty and more sustainable alternatives have been frequent: quinoa, tofu, seitan, salmon, rice and beans, etc.

From my conversations with veteran staff, I learned that this was a conscious decision from both the chalutzim [campers] and the tzevet [staff] after the first two summers at camp. Together, they asked the camp rather than serving meat regularly that they would prefer to have it less often, but know that when meat was served it came from a farm where the animals are cared for, responsibly fed, and raised environmentally, and of course kosher.  Last week, I helped unload over 200 frozen chickens and 50 pounds of ground beef that were raised at a farm by one of our camper families.

The sustainable and local food ethos of camp goes even farther, with our milk coming from a local, organic, and sustainable dairy, called Aurora Organic Dairy and the fish from a local Fish Farm, Quixotic Farming.  Over the course of the summer, these companies will donate over 400 gallons of Milk and 600 pounds of fish for our campers and staff to enjoy.  Quixotic food, which has a contract with the Colorado prison system, employs inmates getting ready to be released and provides them with meaningful job training that they can use when they return to the outside world.  Our senior staff have visited the prison and met with the workers there to ensure that the fish fits in with our broader food values.

A staple of many camps is a canteen, or some opportunity to get extra snacks throughout the day. I was surprised that there was no such place at Ramah Outdoor Adventure and wondered how campers and staff would obtain food throughout the day, as food is strictly prohibited in living areas.   I discovered that there are almost always healthy snacks such as fruit or pita chips are available throughout the day near the kitchen (except for 30 minutes before and after the meals). I have enjoyed the ability to pick up a nectarine or chips and dip at 11am or 9pm if I so desire.

Even the way that the dining hall is run fits within the broader values that I can see permeate all areas of Ramah in Colorado.   Everyone from the chalutzim to the hanhallah [administration] take turns acting as Meltzarim [Waiters]. The Meltzarim are responsible for setting tables before the meals, and sweeping up after. Another group helps in the “dishpit” after the meal and assist the fulltime dishwashers pushing every plate, utensil, and serving dish through the industrial dishwasher and then putting the clean dishes away on the drying racks.  While we have only been staff and senior leaders at camp thus far, I can only imagine how being a part of meal set up and clean will affect the 390 chalutzim that will grace the Ohel Ochel [dining tent] throughout this summer.

I have been continually impressed in my short time here so far with the quality, intention, and effort that go into providing three daily meals. As I continue to learn my new home here at Ramah in the Rockies, I discover more and more about the camp and food culture here. I look forward to seeing how the food education at this camp will transform the lives of all of our chalutzim and their families.

Dear 2014 Parents and Chalutzim,

In a few hours we will welcome Shabbat for the first time this summer at Ramah in the Rockies. While our chalutzim  [campers] do not arrive for a few more weeks, the first group of tzevet [staff] arrived this past Sunday to begin summer preparations. Many of the tzevet are here for an intensive Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course. This course, administered by an outside mountaineering school, is designed to help prepare our tzevet to lead masa’ot [backcountry trips].

While we are here for WFR and to prepare the Ranch for the summer, the past 48 hours have truly been a gift. In the middle of the week, we collectively took a break to celebrate Shavuot. This is the holiday where we celebrate the Israelites receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, and also where the Israelites used to bring the first fruits to the Temple in Jerusalem.

As is the tradition on Shavuot, we had an “all-night” learning session, as well as other studying opportunities throughout the holiday. Various members of our year-round and summer teams led the sessions. Topics included Musar, how we relate to our Jewish identity, priorities in giving tzedakah, and perspectives on the revelation events described in Exodus 19. These sessions reflected our value of creating opportunities for continued growth for all of tzevet and chalutzim.

On the morning of Shavuot, we tried something new in a true Ramah in the Rockies style. We hiked up to Givat Ilanot [a hill at the ranch] with a Torah. There, atop the mountain, overlooking the valley that houses our camp, we davened [prayed] the morning service and read from the Torah. While the Israelites might have gathered at Mount Sinai to hear the Ten Commandments for the first time, we gathered atop our own mountain to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments a few thousand years later! What a powerful experience to share this holiday with staff of such a variety of backgrounds coming together in nature!

Several different tzevet members took turns leading, teaching, and explaining the service throughout our Shavuot davening. The meals, which included our own famous homemade vegan challah, were served throughout the holiday. What a delicious way to be welcomed back to the Ranch!

While Shavuot is a one of the three pilgrimage festivals featuring extra readings and prayers, we also shared lots of downtime together. Because one can transfer fire on Shavuot (unlike Shabbat), on the second night of the chag, we lit a medura [bonfire], sang songs, made smores, and hung out savoring the mountain air. During the afternoons, our tzevet enjoyed games of basketball and hikes to Prospector Mountain.

When we gather tonight in the Pardes Tefillah, this time dressed in white for Shabbat, we will be finishing our first terrific week at camp, and thinking about to the next few Shabbatot. Next week we are joined by Hanhallah [senior staff], the following week all of our tzevet, and finally, in three weeks, our chalutzim.

We look forward to seeing many of our local chalutzim, families, and supporters this Sunday for our Volunteer Day and wish you all a Shabbat Shalom!

 

For the past few years, we have had  a number of former chalutzim who have written about their time at Ramah Outdoor Adventure as part of their college admissions essays.  Over the next few weeks we will feature a few of these from our former chalutzim (and hopefully future tzevet members).  If you want your essay to be featured email us at info@ramahotudoors.org.  This weeks essay was written by Simon Lowen (JOLI 2012):

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The morning peeks over the mountains, and the whole camp comes alive. We wake up, yawn, and smile with the knowledge that another phenomenal day charged with learning and adventure awaits us. We are at Ramah in the Rockies, a Jewish outdoor adventure camp, in which campers learn the value of nature, leadership, community, and more. This is my favorite place on earth, and I could live here forever; I love nature, adventure, and environmental sustainability, which are all huge parts of camp, and my personality meshes perfectly with this truly special environment.

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2014 Grants for Day School Students Now Available for Ramah Outdoor Adventure’s Upcoming Camp Season

A grant of $100,000 by an anonymous donor will now make it possible for students in Jewish day schools to apply for generous scholarship support for the upcoming 2014 camp season. The grant represents unprecedented support for the camp’s day school campers, as well as traditional need-based scholarships and support for first-time campers.

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For the past few years, we have had  a number of former chalutzim who have written about their time at Ramah Outdoor Adventure as part of their college admissions essays.  Over the next few weeks we will feature a few of these from our former chalutzim (and hopefully future tzevet members).  If you want your essay to be featured email us at info@ramahoutdoors.org.  This weeks essay was written by Michael Harlow (JOLI 2012):

Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you? 

The floor on the ohel ochel –the dining tent– sways and bounces on Friday night, as over 150 campers and counselors exuberantly sing and dance after the Sabbath meal. It’s a physical reminder of the incredible spirit that surrounds me.  I am smack in the middle of so much positive energy, Eytan on one side, Janine on the other, our arms around each other as together we lead the Hebrew songs.  I am completely at home here, part of a community of people who passionately share my interests and my values, at my home away from home, Camp Ramah in the Rockies.

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Written by 5th years counselor: Jordan Anderson

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

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Written by: Elyssa Hammerman, Tikvah Director

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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By Elyssa Hammerman, Tikvah Director

Ramah Outdoor Adventure has contributed so much to my semester in Israel.  While I work at Ramah during the summers, and part time throughout the year, I am a full time second and third grade teacher at Denver Academy of Torah (DAT).  I am currently taking a semester off from teaching to study at The Pardes Institute in Jerusalem.  Despite my relative lack of formal Jewish learning, my summers at Ramah in Colorado have made this semester much more impactful.

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Check out our video, Mining at Ramah!

A group of chalutzim (campers) walk along a ditch, eyes glued to the ground. They call out eerily profound advice to each other. “You can’t be looking for it if you want to find it,” says one to the others.” “It doesn’t matter if it’s topaz or not, as long as you think it looks cool,” says a second. What has produced this level of wisdom in these chalutzim? Rock-hounding.

Rock-hounding (looking for rocks near the surface of the earth) is one of the most popular peulot (activities) at Ramah Outdoor Adventure. Rafi , 13, has done rock-hounding all three summers he’s been at camp. “You get to find cool rocks, learn what they are, and once you memorize the different kinds, you can tell other people what they found,” Rafi said.

Situated on the outskirts of the Pike’s Peak batholith, the region around Ramah Outdoor Adventure has a long history of mining. Since the 1850s, prospectors have come through looking for gold and silver. They found a little metal, but mostly they found topaz, a semi-precious gemstone, and quartz.

Rock-hounding is led by Juliana Kern, a fixture at camp since it opened. Rocks are in Juliana’s blood. Her mother was the only woman studying among 1000 men at the School of Mines in Golden, CO, in the late 1940s, and went on to work for the United States Geological Survey and as a photocrographist. She also taught mining to adults at the Denver Free University, where a young Juliana sat in on classes. Juliana’s brother owns a claim on Crystal Creek (also in Colorado) that has been mined for close to 120 years.

Juliana herself worked in nursing for many years, and as a grocery stocker, always continuing to collect rocks as a hobby. After she hurt her leg in 2003, she began looking for rocks more as a form of physical therapy. Now she enjoys sharing her passion for rocks and minerals with children. “I love kids, and I love it when they first find something and they’re so amazed at the beauty of it,” Kern said.

Rock-hounding also led Juliana to a spiritual experience. “Finding something beautiful in Utah is what brought me closer to Hashem,” she said. She tries to bring in religious teaching to her activities with campers. “I try to tell them about the perfect laws of nature that they talk about in the torah, that nothing is added or taken away from God’s creation, and how cool it is for God to have put something here for us to find billions of years later,” she said.

Finding shiny rocks is also a great chance to talk about the perils of materialism, according to Juliana. Campers often want to know how much their finds are worth, but Juliana says, “I tell them, ‘If you like it, it has a sentimental value that money can’t be placed on,’ and about how people place claims and get greedy and harass each other until it’s no fun anymore.” Campers can keep anything they find at camp except for Native American artifacts.

While intensive mining can be environmentally destructive, Kern says that the rock-hounding she does with campers has a minimal impact, and actually provides an opportunity to discuss environmental stewardship. “I teach them to only dig it up if they’re sure it’s there, and I try to foster that love of nature. I tell them that they’re visitors here, and it’s more the spider’s home than it is theirs.” In the hands of Kern, rock-hounding becomes an opportunity to teach Jewish values, environmental ethics and life-lessons. Not bad for digging in the dirt.

Ramah Outdoor Adventure has challah that has campers and counselors coming back for more every Shabbat! Recreate the ooey-gooey goodness for your own Shabbos table.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_2ceKteb3E

Robyn’s Challah Recipe (makes 3)
Ingredients
5c flour (½ whole wheat ½ white or high gluten)
½ c sugar
½ c oil
2-3c water
1tbs salt
1tbs yeast
optional cinnamon or other spices ~1tbs

Combine flour, sugar, salt, yeast, and optional spices in a large mixing bowl. Measure out water and oil, add water SLOWLY mixing with your hands…send some love! Only use as much water as you need (it will vary), keep dough fairly dry. Add oil slowly bringing the dough to a moist but NOT sticky consistency. Knead dough for a while adding flour oil and water as needed.
Place dough in a bowl about 3 times its size and cover with a warm moist cloth to rise. If its warm outside let it sit in the sun otherwise heat the oven just a little so it’s warm and let it rise there. After about 2 hours take dough out to braid, don’t forget to knead and punch it down some more. Don’t forget to take the challah sacrifice here. Feel free to add more spices at this point. Once challah is braided you can put oil with spices and or syrup/honey/agave on top. Mix the topping together before painting on challahs.
Set oven to 350F, let the challah rise on the stove top while the oven is warming. Cook for 20-45 minutes. The challahs should have a hollow sound when you tap the bottoms.
Shabbat Shalom!

The Results Are In!

Over the past six weeks, our year round team has contacted almost all of our 2013 parents to solicit feedback on our season that ended just two months ago.  In addition many families filled out the third party survey conducted by the Foundation for Jewish Camp.   We appreciate everyone who left their comments in our online survey, who answered our calls, and/or who responded to our messages via email or telephone.  We have incorporated all these comments into an action plan as we begin our planning for the 2014 season.  The results of the online survey can be found here and will be available for all to see on our website throughout the year.

Here are some of the takeaways from all the feedback our families have provided us.

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This Pesach, as we read the story of yetziat mitzrayim in synagogue and at Seders, conversation may turn, as it often does, to leadership. We may discuss Moses’ fear about taking on the mantle of leadership, Pharaoh’s pride that keeps him from protecting his people, or Aaron’s capitulation to the Israelites’ demands to build them an idol. Every summer at the Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute (JOLI), a program of Ramah Outdoor Adventure, teenagers have the same discussions, relating these core Jewish stories to their own leadership styles in the wilderness.

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Sacred Environments: Teens Learn About Sukkot in the Wilderness.  By Nathaniel Eisen

You shall dwell in booths seven days; all citizens of Israel shall dwell in booths; so that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt. –Leviticus 23:42-43

For many of us, building a sukkah is just a commemorative act. We may pick up our schach from a local Hillel or Chabad, rather than gathering it in the woods. We have a warm house to retreat into should the fall weather turn nasty. But when you are huddled beneath a millimeters-thick tarp during a hailstorm, you begin to appreciate how wonderful and frail shelter can be.

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Rabbi Marc Soloway, Rabbi of Bonei Shalom in Boulder, CO, wrote the following post for his synagogue bulletin.  We hope you enjoy reading.

Are you Ready for Jewish Holiday Summer Camp ?

By Rabbi Marc 

This summer I got to spend two whole weeks at “Ramah of the Rockies” as rabbi in residence at this amazing Jewish camp here in Colorado.  As I prepared to leave, I had a taste of the emotions of the two-week campers who were also getting ready to end their heightened summer experience; that intense sadness at having to leave the sacred place and the wonderful friendships cultivated there. 

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