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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.

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

Shalom Camp Families,

The past few days have been an exciting few days of saying lehitra’ot [goodbye] to our Session I chalutzim [campers], taking some time to refocus and refresh with our tzevet [staff], and welcoming our Session II chalutzim.  Now that we are all together here as a kehillah kedosha [holy community], I wanted to share with you all a few highlights from the first few days of our second session.

Our opening day this session was probably one of the hottest days we have had here at the ranch all summer! Our tzevet were ready with water and sunscreen as the cars and buses streamed in throughout the day.   With Israeli music playing in the background, chalutzim got off the busses and were greeted by tunnels of madrichim that the chalutzim came running through.  Already within the first few hours we heard cheers of “Bo-Bo-Bo-Bo-Bogrim!” and all the other edot [age groups] learning and enthusiastically shouting their names!

Bee KeepingThe opening day also saw our chalutzim doing the typical ice breakers, health checks, and unpacking. The following day, our chalutzim awoke to a full day of programming.  Chalutzim were biking our single track, riding our horses, planting in our garden and playing basketball.  A new highlight this session for our chalutzim is beekeeping.  Led by Rinat Levinson, one of our veteran tzevet members, chalutzim are learning all about bee life cycles and needs, as well as getting some honey snacks for themselves.

The first night we enjoyed our traditional opening medura [bonfire], where we created a special musical space together.  We learned our camp song, and sang a few other favorites around the bonfire.  It was so thrilling to watch our oldest chalutzim sitting next to our youngest and dancing the moves of the camp song side by side.

Last night we tried a new camp-wide game, capture the counselor.  Often we like to play a camp-wide game of capture the flag in our Ramah Valley, but in our constant attempt try new things we decided to try this new game.  In capture the counselor, essentially a giant game of hide-and-go-seek, each staff member was assigned a point value and in teams by ohel [tent], chalutzim sought out the counselors within the time window.  Those with the most points at the end of the time period won the game.  Ohel 11 of Sollelim were the victors of the evening!

Sollelim/Bogrim/JOLI Torah RollWe often say that one day in camp time is three days in the outside world.  With that said, while we have only had a few short days with your kids, it seems like we have all been here together forever.  After these few short days (or was it a week?) we are ready to make the special transition to Shabbat together.   Our chalutzim are currently showering and changing into their special Shabbat whites. Each time I see our entire kehillah enter the Pardes T’fillah [our outdoor amphitheater], smiling in their Shabbat clothing, I know the hard work of the staff and the devotion of our families is all worth it.

Next week all of our chalutzim will be heading out of camp for their masa’ot [trips].  This morning, our JOLI and Bogrim chalutzim packed their group gear and prepared their food for the week.  They leave on Sunday and Monday mornings.  Our younger campers will also be heading out next week, Metaylim and Ilanot on overnight trips and day trips, and Sollelim on a four-day masa starting Tuesday morning.

As a reminder, we post pictures and updates on Facebook most days that chalutzim are at the chava [ranch]. If you are not a fan of ours on Facebook, please become one.  Here is the link to our online photos that we update every two or three days, and here is a link to a video we posted on Facebook of the first day.

As always please be in touch with any questions or comments.  You can always email me or our yoatzim [camper care team] at campparent@ramahoutdoors.org.

Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Eliav Bock

It seems like just yesterday that we were gathering for the first time during shavua hachanah [staff week]  with our tzevet [staff] and spoke about how we are forming the basis of our Kehillah Kedosha [holy community].  And in a few hours, we will gather as a Kehillah Kedosha for the final time with our first session chalutzim [campers].  This session has truly flown by! What a week it has been!
The week started off with Yom Sport, our annual color war competition. In case you missed our video from it, check out the link, and read Beth Hammerman’s article about it here:

There are some things you just can’t live without at camp. Call it what you want, for some it’s Color War and for others it’s Maccabia Games. But for Ramah Outdoor Adventure, it’s Yom Sport.  Camp wouldn’t be camp without this day of friendly competition! When it falls is usually a surprise. Campers anxiously await the “break” and when that happens, camp instantly goes into a frenzy. There is so much excitement in the air that you wonder if the campers will ever get to sleep Erev Yom Sport.

Yom Sport is an intense day of activities that requires teamwork, cooperation, and consideration for others. Good sportsmanship and mutual respect are expected, and every team member needs to participate in some way. Most important is that every camper enjoys the day. (Continue Reading)

One of my favorite aspects of Yom Sport is the JOLI (Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute- 11th and 12th Graders) participation as captains and judges.  It was inspiring to see the camp unite around the JOLI captains as they engaged in the final challenge–the rope burn.  During this competition, the JOLI captains must put their outdoor skills to use and build a fire high enough to burn a rope strung
between two chairs, and they must do it all before the other teams can.  Yom Sport is always an exciting time at camp, and the day is charged with this ruach [spirit] and energy that is unparalleled.

This week we welcomed to the chava [ranch] two new sets of residents: our goats, Buttercup and Chetzi, and our bees.  The goats join the pigs, sheep, and chickens in our barn; we know the chalutzim will love these two! This summer we are adding a beekeeping chug [elective], led by veteran staff member Rinat Levinson.  She is beyond excited to be teaching the chalutzim about bees and beekeeping.

Currently, our chalutzim are getting ready for Shabbat after an amazing, chaotic, energetic, and fun day of returning from their masa’ot [excursions].  Upon their return, they spend a few hours in “de-issue,” a process of unpacking, cleaning, and returning all gear checked out for their masa’ot. Aside from the unpacking and cleaning process, they trade tales among friends and bunkmates of their experiences roughing it.  Returning from masa is always a frenzied experience here but an incredible one to both be a part of and observe.

Weather-wise, this week has been a wild one in most of Colorado.  All our groups who were sleeping in the backcountry encountered rain and thunder storms.  Most were able to stay dry or not get more than the usual back-country damp, though a few had to take shelter in some creative places, including our Amitzim (campers with special needs) edah [age group], who spent a night sleeping in a hay loft because their campsite was so wet!

Metaylim, the 5th and 6th grade edah,  went on a three-day backpacking trip at the three eastern gateways of the Lost Creek Wilderness. For the first time, we mixed the bunks and genders on their masa.   Metaylim also spent Monday at the local YMCA camp where they were supposed to spend the day on high rope elements, but instead, because of storms in the area, spent most of the day playing ground games.

Sollelim, the 7th and 8th grade edah, chose between climbing, backpacking, rafting-biking, and service/trail crew options.  This year we have been adding several new masa options for Sollelim including an archery masa and an omanut masa [art-themed excursion].

Bogrim, our 9th and 10th grade edah, returned to Rocky Mountain National Park, north of Boulder and also hiked to Sangre De Christo Wilderness, south of Colorado Springs.  The climbing masa went to the local twin peak mountain, Sheeprock, and spent their days dodging storms and climbing between the showers. Another group went on a Horsepacking masa, crossing through the Holy Cross Wilderness, with many legs of the journey through snow.

JOLI (Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute), the 11th and 12th grade program, went on an adventure challenge masa, doing segments 1, 2, 4, and 5 of the Colorado Trail. They hiked, climbed, and biked all around the Lost Creek Wilderness area.  They also biked up and over the continental divide at Kenosha Pass, at over 10,000 feet. The JOLeaders who did not go on masa with JOLI were CIT’s with Metaylim  and Sollelimmasa’ot, learning the ropes of being staff and leaders for camp.

Our Amitzim campers road horses to our neighbor’s buffalo ranch and set up camp along their pond.  As a wild storm moved in, they sought shelter in their barn, and ended up spending the night there.  Yesterday they moved to Wellington Lake where they swam and played on the shores before riding back into camp today on horseback.

Now that our chalutzim are all back, we are excited to spend Shabbat and this next week at camp together.  We look forward to our famous Shabbat Challah, tilapia,and a reuniting final Shabbat of Session 1B.

As a reminder, we post pictures and updates on Facebook most days that chalutzim are at the chava [ranch]. If you are not a fan of our Facebook page, please become one.  Here is the link to our online photos that we update every two or three days, and here is a link to a video we posted on Facebook of Yom Sport and the masa’ot returning.

As always please be in touch with any questions or comments.  You can always email me or our yoatzim [camper care team] at campparent@ramahoutdoors.org.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Eliav Bock

 

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: 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

watch?v=hBVGT3e3Z2Y&feature=youtu.be

greenbergs

 

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

 

Parent’s letter:

 

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

 

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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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It has happened!

Another successful summer at Ramah Outdoor Adventure has come to an end.  All is quiet on the ranch.   The goats, chickens and duck have gone home; the alpacas and horses will be picked up shortly.  A few hours ago, we said goodbye to the last of our chalutzim (campers).  Our tzevet (staff) are packing away equipment, sweeping the ohalim (tents) and readying camp for the long nine months of hibernation.  Today is one of the hardest days of the summer.  There is no cheering in the Chadar Ochel (dining hall), there are no yelps of joy coming from the chalutzim biking down the single track, and there is no one hanging around the table in the middle of the kfar (tent village) playing cards during free time.

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At its core, the story of Chanukah is a story about the continuation of the Jewish people in a time when there was great pressure to assimilate into the secular society.  There were those who advocated complete assimilation into the Hellenistic society, and those who advocated complete disengagement from the secular world.  Ultimately, the answer was found somewhere in between.  Greek language, traditions and symbols influenced many aspects of the Jewish community in the 2nd century BCE, but the Jewish people as a whole continued to persevere and continued to flourish even while under the rule of foreign governments. Read more

Last Sunday night, 220 people gathered in Denver to honor Don Skupsky and to celebrate our Camp Ramah.

Here are the brief thoughts I shared with everyone that evening.  Also, if you have not yet seen it, check out our new fundraising video here.

The question is, what do the following people have in common?

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