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Over the past six weeks, our year-round team has reached out to hundreds of families through emails, phones calls, and our annual feedback survey. Thank you to everyone who responded to our requests for honest feedback! Our goal is to provide our chalutzim (campers) with an amazing summer experience year after year. We know that in order to achieve this goal, we must work to make each summer better than the one before, and continue to adapt our camp program to meet the needs of our community. Thanks to your feedback, we have a clear understanding of what aspects of our program have been successful and where there is room for improvement.

– TWO THUMBS UP –

Challenge by Choice and Personal Growth
At Ramah in the Rockies, our mission is to nurture the character development of Jewish youth by providing campers the opportunity to challenge themselves physically, intellectually, and spiritually. We call this value “Challenge by Choice,” and are always seeking new ways to encourage our chalutzim to become their best and bravest selves! In Kayitz 2018, implementing a revised curriculum of outdoor skill-building for all campers brought us one step closer to achieving this goal. Additionally, our Sayarim campers pushed themselves beyond their comfort zones 20 meters above the ground at a local high ropes course, and our JOLI participants challenged themselves to become leaders within our machane (camp) by taking charge of Yom Sport and serving as counselors-in-training for the younger edot (age groups). We are so proud of the growth we witnessed in our campers last summer!

Music, Dance, and Visual Art
Music, Dance, and Visual Art are vital to the unique magic we are able to create together at camp each year. This summer, we made a concentrated effort to integrate the simcha (joy) and creativity of these art forms into each and every day! Our community awoke to song each morning, sang together at our daily t’fillot (prayers), and participated in high-energy Israeli dance parties before dinner each night as we set the tables. Beit HaYitzera – our new arts pavilion – housed our Omanut (Art) Program, and dedicated staff members even utilized the space to create an exhibition of camper artwork for our whole community to enjoy. On the last night of camp, we all came together for our first semi-annual “Kol Edah” festival, where each age group performed a different popular Israeli song. Click here to view the videos!

Fostering Kehillah (Community)
The most important aspect of camp is undoubtedly the connections and friendships that are formed on our ranch each summer. Dividing Bogrim, our biggest edah, into two smaller programs allowed campers to bond more deeply with their peers. In addition, more ohel (bunk) bonding opportunities were worked into the schedule, and older and younger campers connected through ‘buddy programs.’ This summer, we also dedicated Ohel Koby – our new game tent – in honor of former camper Koby Gruenwald. This space quickly became the central hub of the tent area, where campers convened for ping pong tournaments, challenged their madrichim (counselors) to foosball, and relaxed with friends over card games. Carving out more time and space for creative play has facilitated so many meaningful connections across our community, and is a practice that we will undoubtedly continue for summers to come.

 

– MIXED REVIEWS –
(Where we need more emphasis)

Kid-Friendly Menu
In 2018 we made some big changes to our menu in an effort to make meals more kid-friendly. While we’ve made great strides, there is still lots of room for improvement as we continue to refine our menu to ensure that our campers leave every meal happily nourished! First and foremost, we’ll be removing failed experiments such as the infamous lentil loaf from our lineup, and bringing back camper favorites like chili and cornbread. We’ll also be moving towards a “less seasoning, more sauce” philosophy, wherein campers can choose the amount of flavor they’d like to add to their meal rather than opt out of a course that’s too spicy or seasoned for their palate. Additionally, we will continue to provide a salad bar, pasta bar, cereal, and sandwiches as alternative options at each meal. We are also committed to improving the food offerings on masa’ot (backcountry excursions) and ensuring campers with dietary restrictions have plenty of options. Next summer, we will also be sharing our weekly menu on our social media platforms, so that you will know exactly what your camper is eating!

Masa Assignments & Backpacking
While every masa (backcountry excursion) is a unique experience, we recognize that many campers come to Ramah in the Rockies hoping to participate in a particular trip. Next summer, we will be incorporating more backpacking masa’ot into our program to ensure that everyone who would like to participate in this staple of the Colorado experience has an opportunity to do so! We are also committed to ensuring that campers don’t repeat the same trips summer after summer if they do not wish to. Therefore, beginning next summer, we will be making an effort to avoid repeat masa experiences for returning campers so that everyone in our community has the opportunity to take on a new challenge.

Yom Meuchad
Every summer we try to find a way to make our special Sunday programming fun and meaningful for chalutzim of all ages, and every summer the feedback we receive about these special, camp-wide events shows us that there is lots of room for improvement. We’ve been scratching our heads trying to find a solution, and while we have some ideas, we also are eager to hear directly from our campers! Therefore, we will be creating a committee of veteran campers of all ages to help us brainstorm what steps we can take to make these days as much fun as possible for everyone. If your camper has spent at least three summers with us at Ramah in the Rockies and would like to participate in this special committee, please email juliac@ramahoutdoors.org.

– IN CONCLUSION –

Thank you for being a part of our kehillah kedoshah, our holy community, and for taking the time to share your feedback with us so that we may continue to improve! As always, please be in touch with any specific questions, comments or concerns. All of us on the year-round team are available to speak via phone, email or in person.

Sincerely,

The Ramah in the Rockies Team

In a religion full of holidays, there is one that reigns supreme: Sukkot. Not what you might have expected, right?

As one of the three major pilgrimage festivals, in which Jews in Temple times would make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Sukkot goes by many names in the Jewish tradition. Other than Sukkot, the festival is referred to as Chag ha’Asif (the Harvest Festival), Chag ha’Hodaya (Festival of Thanksgiving), Hakhel (Gathering), and He’Chag (The Festival). Since Rabbinic times, we have attached two other holidays to Sukkot – Hoshanah Rabbah and Simchat Torah.

Campers Building improvised structuresEach of these names reflects a one of our most important camp values, making it the perfect holiday to “celebrate” at camp. The nature of the holiday, in which we dwell in temporary, open air structures reflects our value at Ramah in the Rockies of living close to nature. The harvest festival’s focus on gratitude and intentionality about the food we eat is something we experience daily at camp, as we introduce all our meals with a “Siyur Ochel” (food tour) in an effort to encourage our community to slow down, take a moment, and truly appreciate the food that nourishes us and where it comes from. Joy, community and honor are three of our four core values, and we emphasize gathering as a community for meals, Jewish rituals, and fun.

As part of our special Sunday ‘Yom Meyuchad’ programming this summer, we recreated many of the Jewish holidays, giving our chalutzim (campers) the opportunity to share their favorite family traditions with their friends and to create new Jewish memories together. For “Yom Sukkot” at camp, chalutzim built Sukkot out of materials they found in the forest, decorated our new Ohel Ochel (Dining Tent), and perfected their outdoor cooking skills. Campers also worked on the farm and learned about farming cycles, practiced new orienteering skills that might have helped the Jews make it through the desert in less than 40 years, and created skits and decorations to welcome two new Sifrei Torah to our machane (camp)!

Since the fire in 2017, we have been honored to receive Sifrei Torah from our friends at Ramah Day Camp in Nyack and Temple Beth Am in Los Angeles. When Yom Sukkot rolled around this summer, we were thrilled to have an opportunity to celebrate these new Torah with our entire kehillah kedoshah – our holy community. In celebration, we built a new Aron Kodesh and quilted a handmade, custom dressing for the Torah. When we shared these beautiful new items with our community as the highlight of our Yom Sukkot schedule, everyone joined together to sing, dance, and welcome the Torah to its new home at Ramah in the Rockies!

Campers and Eliav Director holding TorahIn addition to formally welcoming the new Torah to our camp community, we had so much fun learning and sharing outdoor skills, gathering for a day of fun, and getting a taste of this important holiday while at camp. May this festival be an opportunity for all of us to re-immerse ourselves in nature, in mindfulness and gratitude, and in the pure joy of being Jewish.

Moadim l’simcha!

Deena Cowans (Director of Jewish Education 2016-2018)

Shana Tova from Ramah in the Rockies! Grab some apples and honey and see how our tzevet (staff) responded when we asked them to share a sweet moment from Kayitz 2018. The follow snippets exemplify the friendship, kindness, and connection that makes our kehillah kedoshah – our holy community – so unique and special.

  • One sweet moment that I had was when I was on my first masa (backcountry excursion) of the summer – Mining Masa. All of the campers surprised the counselors by waking up at 5:30 AM and packing up the entire campsite while we were still sleeping! – Eli Lovich
  • This summer, I got the chance to talk to Metayalim boys about identity and respect. I told them a bit about my own story and the boys were attentive and asked great questions. One of the kids sincerely wanted to know how to best stand up in a situation when someone was expressing oppressive beliefs about another person or group! – Rafi Daugherty, Director of Camper Care
  • On the second Shabbat of a two-week session, I walked into the ohel (tent) to find my campers sitting together in a circle making and decorating Shabbat-o-grams for each person in the bunk. Although we had given them each a Shabbat-o-gram the previous week, we never mentioned the idea of them making some as well. When it was finally time for Kabbalat Shabbat, they handed them out to each other and to each of the counselors as well. It was just so sweet to me that they had not only decided to make Shabbat-o-grams all on their own, but they turned it into an activity for the whole bunk!   – Emma Wallace
  • One evening during our nightly program, there was a huge thunderstorm. One of my chalutzot (campers) was very anxious and afraid during the storm, so the other campers in her bunk immediately stood around her, hugged her, and start singing together. It wasn’t long before the singing was so loud we could barely hear the thunder! – Michal Raicher, JOLI Staff
  • I had a camper who got kind of homesick one night, so I brought him out to the steps of our bunk to try and talk to him and get his mind off of feeling sad. We were talking about all of the fun activities coming up, and I mentioned our upcoming trip to the neighboring Buffalo Ranch. The second I started talking about bison this kid’s eyes just lit up and he started chatting with me and sharing all these fun facts about times he’s seen bison and why he thinks they’re cool. I let him ramble happily for a few minutes before asking if he felt like he could sleep and taking him back inside to go to bed! – Daniel Cohen
  • A really sweet moment happened on my Solelim backpacking masa when, on the second day, we woke the kids up super early to climb up a mountain. They started off pretty tired but literally as soon as we started climbing uphill the entire group started singing and didn’t stop singing until we had gotten to the top 3 hours later! – Becky Milner
  • One of my most homesick campers who I spent a lot of time with came up to me my last Shabbat at camp and gave me a “pencil box” she made out of recycled materials so I could have something at school to put my pencils in. She then told me she was excited to come back to camp next summer! – Jessica Dworkin, Camper Care
  • I think the sweetest moments are always coming back from masa to base camp when everyone is full of excitement and new stories and experiences. Everyone just wants to hug their bunkmates, take a hot shower and hear all about what their friends did on their masa’ot– Inbal Horvitz
  • Returning from masa second session was the sweetest- the other half of JOLI was waiting for us when we arrived and greeted us with cheers and a group hug! I also loved the JOLI talent show on the last night of camp. A few campers decided to write an original rap where they went through each member of our edah (age group) and said something nice about everyone in perfect rhyme! – 
  • My sweet moment was when a camper who was super scared about going on backpacking masa ended up not only challenging herself but actually having fun and being impressed by what she was capable of! – Amanda Feinberg
  • There are two moments that really stand out to me. One was when a camper asked me to make him sad because he loved camp so much and didn’t want to miss it too much when he had to leave! The other was when a camper came up to me and told me that one of his friends was feeling homesick but wasn’t ready to talk about it. This caring and mature camper just wanted to make sure that I was aware that his friend was feeling sad! – Ben Kahn
  • One of my favorite sweet moments from this summer happened one afternoon during sha’ah menucha (rest hour). Some of the girls in my Ilanot ohel decided that they wanted to paint their nails together. So they sat outside on the steps and did just that. Just as a disagreement started to arise, a couple of Metayalim boys wandered over and asked if they could join in as well. The girls happily showed them all of the colors they had and soon forgot all about their previous argument. Within minutes the girls were doing the boy’s nails and vice versa. They were all laughing and smiling and by the end of the hour, each and every one of them had beautifully painted nails. – Noa Landau-Camarillo
  • Leading Impramahv – a Shabbat afternoon improv workshop- was a highlight of my summer as a whole! One week, two Ilanot girls attended and had so much fun that they went back to their ohel afterward and spent the rest of the afternoon playing the improv games with the other girls in their bunk. – Ryan “Lunch Pail” Fleischer, Rosh Ilanot
  • One night, my co-counselor and I spontaneously decided to take our ohel of five girls on an overnight, which turned out to be one of my favorite experiences of the summer and one that I’ll never forget. Love and laughter filled the air as we woke up with the sun shining down on the mountains in front of us. – Avital Kessler-Godin
  • One of my campers was nervous about dancing to the Israeli songs we play at camp. One day, out of nowhere, asked me if he could stand with me in the front to lead the dance to ‘Tudo Bom’ – the most popular song of the summer! He even helped me teach my parents some of the dances when they came to visit on Shabbat. It’s so fulfilling when a camper comes out of their shell, both in big and small ways! – Zevan Shuster
  • One night for our evening program, we decide to make brownies outside on camping stoves. When the process took longer than expected, we all just dug into the half-baked brownies, enjoying the gooey mess until everyone was covered in chocolate! It was literally a sweet moment. Just then, a huge thunderstorm began and so we all huddled together beneath a tarp, eating brownie batter until the storm passed. – Carly Sless
  • My favorite moment of the summer was definitely seeing the excitement on the camper’s faces as we announced the winners of the climbing competition that took place on the bouldering wall for kids and staff. Everyone was so supportive and our three winners were so proud of themselves! – Amir Avramson, Rosh Climbing
  • On one masa I lead, a camper sprained his ankle so we had to spend the night at a different campsite than we had planned. Another Ramah masa group showed up and we all ended up camping and cooking together! We spent the night talking and laughing around campfire and the sense of community was so amazing. – Shir Michel 

amA Final Note from Rabbi Eliav

I am writing these words from the steps of the old lodge – the only vestige of the building that was once the beating heart of our machane (camp). A year ago, I stood in this same spot, the smell of smoke in the air, and I prayed. Surrounded by the rubble left in the wake of last summer’s devastating fire, I felt fear and uncertainty about the future of Ramah in the Rockies. Today, at the end of an incredible summer season, I feel nothing but optimism and confidence.

As I waved goodbye to our last group of chalutzim (campers) yesterday morning, I was overcome with a deep sense of gratitude and pride. Ours is a community of resilience, and TOGETHER we succeeded in facilitating an unforgettable summer experience for more than 425 chalutzim. While it is impossible to summarize an entire summer in just a few paragraphs, I wanted to highlight some aspects of our program that helped to make Kayitz 2018 so special.

 

 

Music

Music has always been a vital part of our kehillah (community) here at Ramah in the Rockies, but this year we made an extra effort to incorporate music into each and every day, and the results have been truly remarkable. Israeli pop music pounded through the speakers before every meal, and campers and staff danced as they set the tables. Music also became the cornerstone of each edah’s (age group’s) daily prayers, and the melody of ‘Hallelujah’ could be heard reverberating across the ranch. Click here to listen! Each morning, we awoke to the sound of a bugle, and oftentimes the incessant mooing of the cows who came to visit from the neighboring Lost Valley Ranch.

In addition to interspersing music throughout our daily schedule, this summer we offered a music chug (activity block) for campers, and I was blown away by the creativity they demonstrated. Together, chalutzim wrote original music and set prayers to new tunes, some of which we have incorporated into our t’fillot(prayers). These campers also led shira (song session) after meals in front of our entire machane, and joined the musical team for our Kabbalat Shabbat celebration. It was amazing to watch chalutzim confidently strum a guitar alongside our most seasoned songleaders, and I can’t wait to watch as these campers continue to grow and bring music to our kehillah for summers to come.

Camper playing guitar learning colorwarThis summer, our machane’s love for music culminated in our first annual Kol Edah– a musical celebration often referred to as a Zimriya” by our fellow Ramah camps. Each edah spent weeks practicing and preparing a different Israeli song with Rosh Shira Michael Harlow, and on Monday our entire community gathered together for an evening of ruach (spirit) and beautiful music. As Sayarim performed “Od Yiyeh Li,” clapping, dancing, and smiling all the while, I was reminded of the way in which music connects our community through time and space. I am sure that years from now, when those chalutzim hear that song once more, they will be transported back to their time at Ramah in the Rockies, and will remember the sense of joy and community they experienced at camp.

 

 

Simcha (Joy) 

When we dedicated Ohel Koby – our new game tent erected in honor of former camper Koby Gruenwald – Rabbi Solomon Gruenwald reminded us all about the importance of play. Click here to listen to his speech! In our lives beyond camp, we are so preoccupied by work, school, and extracurricular activities that we often forget to make time just to play and to enjoy life. This summer, we emphasized the importance of creative play and of unbridled simcha (joy) throughout every facet of our program.

Ohel Koby remains the prime example of this ethic in action. Stocked with Ping Pong tables, Foosball, Cornhole, Hula Hoops, and a plethora of board games, this tent provided campers with a space to relax, to connect with friends of all ages, and most importantly, to just have fun! Our youngest chalutzim expanded the spirit of Ohel Koby far beyond the translucent walls of the tent by constructing intricate forts in the woods behind their ohelim (tents). These amazing structures became the stage for lots of imaginative play as they defended their forts from intruders – usually their madrichim (counselors) – during free time each day.

Campers playing ping pongThis summer, we also reemphasized our core value of simcha through our edah programming. Our phenomenal tzevet (staff) planned carnivals and Iron Chef competitions. They organized an Israeli Shuk and a ‘Bark Mitzvah’ for one of our beloved camp dogs. They made sushi, braided challot for Shabbat, hosted talent shows, planned scavenger hunts, and went above and beyond to ensure that their chalutzim had as much fun as possible. Everytime I had the chance to attend one of these amazing programs, I was blown away by the silliness, the laughter, and the smiles on everyone’s faces. It was truly simcha exemplified


 

Community

This summer, I was reminded of the the vital importance of our extended community each and every day.  Every time I walk past our ohelim I remember the families who joined us for our annual Volunteer Day and helped to prepare our physical site for the arrival of campers. When I eat a bowl of cereal and pour in a splash of milk, I think about our friends at Aurora Dairy who generously donated more than 700 gallons milk to our kitchen this summer. When I read from one of our two beautiful Torah scrolls, I recall the generosity of Ramah Day Camp in Nyack and Temple Beth Am in Los Angeles, who donated these Torot to our machane after the fire last summer.

I am also excited to announce that we have a very special plan for one of these Torah scrolls, which has been dressed and protected in a beautiful cover and a custom Pelican Case donated by the Kut Family! In an effort to keep our community connected throughout the year, we’d like to offer use of this Torah to anyone in our extended community who is celebrating a simcha. It can be FedExed anywhere in the country! If you would like to have a piece of Ramah in the Rockies with your family as you celebrate a B’nai Mitzvah, wedding, or other simcha, please contact me directly at eliavb@ramahoutdoors.org.

 

 

Thank you for an amazing summer!

Last summer’s fire taught us a valuable lesson: Ramah in the Rockies is so much more than the physical spaces we occupy. We are the music that reminds us of the friendships formed and memories made throughout the summer. We are the time spent playing, connecting with one another, and embracing the simcha and silliness that is at the heart of our mission. We are the community that transcends each summer and extends far beyond the Colorado Rocky Mountains – a community that shows up in times of need and provides support, encouragement, and love from all around the world.

Throughout this summer, we had the opportunity to reexamine what defines our kehillah, and have found myriad ways to honor those values every day. Through music, play, joy, and community, our machane has been able to rebuild, to heal, and to grow stronger than ever before. Thank you for an incredible Kayitz 2018 – I can’t wait to see you back on the ranch next summer.

Todah Rabah,

Rabbi Eliav


We want to hear your feedback!

Over the next few weeks, and in summers to come, we have the opportunity to improve upon the foundation we have established here at Ramah in the Rockies. In order to continue to provide our chalutzim with impactful experiences year after year, we ask that if your child attended camp this summer, you please take a moment to fill out a brief survey about their experience. Click here to take our 2018 Summer Feedback Survey.


Register TODAY! For summer 2019

We are already registering campers for our 2019 season, and we’d love to have you join us for another adventure. Click here to register today! Spaces fill fast, so register early to reserve your spot. Deposits are 100% refundable for any reason until March 1st, 2019. Register before October 31st, 2018 to receive a free Ramah in the Rockies gift, as well as our early bird discount! Questions? Contact us at info@ramahoutdoors.org or call (303) 261-8214.

New In 2009, we held our first Family Camp at Ramah in the Rockies. It was during this formative week for our machane (camp) that I first met a sweet kindergartener by the name of Koby Gruenwald. Even at five years old, Koby had a zest for life, loved to dance, and was already excited to come to Ramah in the Rockies as a chalutz (camper). When he returned as a camper in 2014, it was immediately clear to see that Koby was one of those kids who simply thrive at summer camp. While he was among the youngest chalutzim on our ranch, he was always one of the loudest and most energetic, throwing himself into rikkud (dancing) and shira (singing) with all his heart. And when he was not dancing or singing, Koby could be found playing games with his friends.

Before the summer of 2016, Koby Gruenwald was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Our camp community, along with thousands of others throughout the world, rallied to Koby’s side and prayed for his recovery. While he was unable to join us as a camper as his sickness progressed, we were thrilled that Koby was able to visit for Shabbat one last time in 2017. Although he was barely able to walk, a smile remained plastered to Koby’s face throughout his visit. He spent his Shabbat afternoon playing board games with his friends and former bunkmates at a table in front of our old lodge building.

Ohel Koby has become the heart of our tent area

When Koby passed away earlier this year, we knew that we wanted to find a way to honor his memory and the singularity of his infectious spirit here at camp. And thus, Ohel Koby was born. With the support of more than 100 friends and family who made donations in his memory, we were able to erect a tent filled with a myriad of games that campers and their counselors can enjoy together during periods of free time throughout the day.

Free time at camp is both incredibly important and extremely challenging. On the one hand, it is imperative for campers to experience the joy of unstructured play. On the other hand, free time can become a source of stress when chalutzim are not sure how to fill their time. The lack of structure is especially difficult for some of our younger campers.

New sign Ohel Koby

From the moment we dedicated this new space on June 16th, 2018, Ohel Koby has improved our kehillah (community) immeasurably. Anyone in camp can take a few minutes to play ping pong, knock hockey, chess, or connect four, among many other games. Ohel Koby has quickly become an integral part of our tent area, and the sounds of campers chatting and laughing emanate through its translucent walls throughout the day.

We recently added a ping-pong table just outside the ohel, and the results have been mesmerizing! As it turns out, ping pong is a terrific opportunity for campers to challenge their madrichim (counselors) to a friendly competition, since physical size is of little significance in the game. We are also eagerly awaiting the arrival of a commercial fuse-ball table, which is sure to provide our chalutzim with countless hours of fun.

When dedicating Ohel Koby, Koby’s father, Rabbi Salomon Gruenwald, spoke about the importance of play, and of the joy and connections that play facilitates. He described the different parts of the brain, and how even as his son was nearing the end of his life, he never lost his ability to play, and would happily challenge his friends and family to a game whenever possible.

For many members of our community, camp is the one time each year where they disconnect from their electronic devices, step away from the screens, and refocus their attention towards the people and activities that surround them. A recent article in the Atlantic describes some of the challenges facing a generation of children who are growing up wired to their screens and technology. Now more than ever, our world needs spaces like Ohel Koby.

corn-hole and hula-hoops in Ohel KobyIn Ohel Koby, our chalutzim play many games that were invented long before the Atari or Nintendo game consuls arrived on the market. Rain or shine, campers can grab a deck of cards, a board game, or a ping pong paddle and play games that encourage them to engage with their peers, to meet people, and to make new friends.  Technology comes and goes, but the basic instinct to play remains.

Every time a camper stops by for a quick game or to cheer their friends on, they are nurturing core parts of their developing minds. And every time they smile or laugh, the memory of Koby Gruenwald is honored. In the wise words of Rabbi Solomon Gruenwald, “Please, play this summer. Play hard. Play good. Play nice with one another.”

-Rabbi Eliav Bock

Ramah Community:

Below is a letter that we sent out to all of our current 9th grade chalutzim and families.  We are proud to share the details of our new 10th grade Edah, and are availible to answer questions via phone or email.

Dear 9th grade chalutzim (campers) and parents:

Originally we had intended to share this letter with our community while our summer session was still in full swing.  However, after the events of the fire on August 7th, we spent the last weeks of camp planning and implementing our “Plan B” at the JCC Ranch Camp.  Our kehillah (community) shared a remarkable eight days at our adopted home, and we are so grateful for the support and generosity that allowed us to finish the summer on such a positive and hopeful note.

On Wednesday, September 6th, you will be receiving an official announcement about the opening of our 2018 registration. This announcement will include information about our newest edah (age group). It will also explain that beginning next summer, we will only be admitting chaluztim entering grades 9-12 for four weeks. Before sending out this announcement, we wanted share with our 9th grade families more details about our newest edah and explain why we decided to move forward with these changes.

 

THE WHY

Moving to Four Weeks
For our younger chalutzim, our two-week program is a great way for campers to try out Ramah in the Rockies and see if the program fits their needs. As chalutzim mature, however, our two-week program becomes less effective. Since our older edot participate in longer, more intensive masa’ot (backcountry excursions), they spend less time at base camp. We want to ensure that each and every camper has time to form the deep interpersonal relationships that are at the core of our program. Indeed, over the past few years we’ve found that less than 30% of our older two-week campers return to camp. On the other hand, almost 85% of our older four-week campers return to Ramah in the Rockies year after year.
We believe that in the long run, our community and the lives of those affected by it will be stronger if we foster stronger relationships between its members.  Sadly, this will mean that some of our chautzim who have split their time between multiple camps and programs will have to decide where to spend their full month. We are committed to raising additional funds for those families who have been coming for two weeks out of a financial necessity.
Creating a New 10th Grade Edah   
Bogrim has become so big that it is difficult for all of the chalutzim to form deep connections with each other. With larger enrollments, we have seen cliques emerge in Bogrim – something we are fortunate to have rarely seen at Ramah in the Rockies. Additionally, while combining age groups works very well for most ages, the one age group where we see a tremendous distinction in just one year is Bogrim, where some campers are entering high school and others already have completed a year of high school.  Campers with a year of high school under their belt often are more mature than those without, and our rising 10th graders deserve a summer experience that reflects their growth and independence.
Reframing the High School Experience
Over the past year, we have been busy reexamining the educational and experiential aims of Ramah in the Rockies, especially when it comes to our high school programs. While JOLI has been (and will remain) the pinnacle of the Ramah in the Rockies experience, we realized that much of the outdoor skill development currently taught in JOLI should be emphasized earlier. We know our rising 10th graders are ready to take on greater challenges, therefore our newest edah will focus on developing outdoors skills, which campers will have the opportunity to practice and perfect on their masa’ot. 
In 2018, our JOLI program will continue to function like it did during second session of 2017.  This means there will be equal emphasis on backcountry skills and counselor-in-training skills. In 2018, we will continue to accept new applicants to JOLI who have not come through the Ramah in the Rockies community.  However, beginning in 2019 we expect JOLI to focus far more on leadership skills at our base camp.  JOLI’ers will continue to do an intensive 5-day masa for the first masa, but will then spend the second part of camp as “ozrim” (helpers) in a specific program area. They will have the opportunity to co-lead on a masa for one of our younger edot.  Starting in 2019, admission to JOLI will be contingent on successful completion of our new 10thgrade edah.

 

 

 
THE WHAT

Additional Skills Training
Starting in 2018, our rising 10th graders will choose a “major” for each session. In the first year, the four majors will be: farming, biking, survival, and climbing. 10th graders will spend half the day in their major, and half the day working on backcountry skills development and Jewish environmental learning.  Chalutzim will also go out on their first masa with their major, led by the same people who have been teaching them at the base camp. This model will allow campers to form close relationships with madrichim(counselors), and find Jewish outdoor role models to learn from and look up to. For the second masa, all chalutzim will go out on an intensive hiking experience in the backcountry, where they will practice the skills they have developed at base camp. Chalutzim will also have a chance to experience their first six-hour solo!
Additional Privileges at the Chava (Ranch)
We will be constructing a new meeting tent with lights and walls behind the upper bathhouse.  This will be a place where our 10th grade edah will be allowed to hang out until 9:30 each evening (an hour later than other campers).  Additionally, we expect to add a 10th grade oneg on Friday nights, where chalutzim will be able to celebrate Shabbat with some sweet treats after the rest of the campers have gone to bed.

 

THE HOW

Register now
When registration opens, please register for our new edah for rising 10th graders! In the spring, we will send out more specific explanations of the different majors. Once at camp, we will ask each rising 10th grader to rank their choices in order of preference.
Naming Contest!
Stay tuned for our upcoming Naming Contest – all that our new edah is missing is its name, and you can help us chose! This fall, we will be posting a poll and sending out a survey so that every member of our community can make their voice heard and vote for their favorite name. Don’t miss out on your chance to influence the future of Ramah in the Rockies for years to come!
Share your Feedback 
We are happy to answer any questions you may have! We’d also love to hear your feedback. In summers to come, we have the opportunity to improve upon the foundation we have established here at Ramah in the Rockies. In order to continue to provide our chalutzim with impactful experiences year after year, we ask that you please take a moment to fill out a brief survey about your child’s experience at camp. Click here to take our 2017 Summer Feedback Survey!

We are so excited about our newest edah – we hope you are too!

Eliav Bock, Executive Director
Julia Snyder, Program Director

This past session was incredible! The energy was high throughout as chalutzim (campers) learned new skills, made new connections, and challenged themselves in new ways. This week, as our campers arrive from all over the country, as well as from Israel, Mexico, and Canada for session 2A, our rashei edot, (division heads) reflect on the past four weeks and share their hopes for the rest of the summer.

Lexi, Rosh Ilanot:

Looking Back:
“The great thing about Ilanot is that you can be whimsical and imaginative, and it makes this place so exciting. You can use the woods and pretend there are fairies. It’s just so fun. I read a story from the Torah about the wrongs of stealing, and I told them that at the end of the story if they were good listeners they would get cookies. And at the end, I opened the box and the cookies were gone because the ‘jabberwockeys’ took them. Staff from all over were dressed up as jabberwockys and [the kids] had to answer the riddles in order to get the cookies back.”

Looking Forward:
“We’re doing more food peulot erevs, which I think is great because this age group loves to experiment with food, and so we’re gonna play that up and really explore that more. We’re also doing a camper- counselor switch day, which I think will be really exciting. I’m also really excited to bring more outside backpacking skills to masa, (Backcountry excursions).”

Liza, Rosh Metayalim:

Looking Back:
“This past session, t’fillah was incredible. We learned early on that our kids love song, and they love to sing, and they had great things to say about what they’re thankful for during birkot hashachar, and they take it really seriously; it’s really beautiful. They also love hitbodedut; they go and they sit in the trees and they talk about the kind of pine cones they found… it’s awesome.”

Looking Forward:
“This coming session I’m really looking forward to making Shabbat really special for them. Since they’re young, the magic around Shabbat is still new to them, and I’m really looking forward to making our peulat Shabbat (Shabbat activity) and our ‘sikum shavua,’ (the review of the week) a really special time for them to reflect and connect with each other.”

Ronni, Rosh Solelim:

Looking Back:
“One of my favorite memories from last session was having the wonderful opportunity to go on masa with the chalutzim and do t’fillot in the morning. It was very relaxed- every day we prayed on the river bank while watching the water rush by. Singing songs in a less formal setting was really special for the chalutzim.”

Looking Forward:
“Very excited to incorporate the kids’ own talents into things much more, so whether that’s a talent show, or hearing what the kids have to say for limmud (Jewish learning). From the start of next session, we’re going to start allowing chalutzim who want to speak on a topic of their choice to do so.”

Eliana, Rosh Bogrim:

Looking Back:
“Last session, Bogrim got really into this game called slack jaw dance off where you have to make your jaw slack and not laugh while the other person dances. It was really silly and a lot of fun.”

Looking Forward:
“I’m really excited for next session to be exploring the idea of machloket bshem shamyim in limmud; how do we have an argument that’s for the sake of heaven, and how do we disagree constructively and respectively with each other.”

Eli, Rosh JOLI:

Looking Back:
“One thing that went really well the last session was really handing over adventure masa to the group and letting them run with it and plan their program. Watching them go about trying to figure out how to divide the work and really facilitating each and every person’s growth…. it was really inspiring.”

Looking Forward:
“I wrote a new t’fillah curriculum for this year, I’m excited about doing it this session. It’s a spiraling curriculum that starts with the Shema and Amidah, and every day we add a new t’fillah and we start by picking it apart. And some of them we learn a niggun (melody) for it, and some of them we start by translating it and figuring out what it means for us, and some of them we learn a piece of halacha about it; really a different way to connect for each person every day. Hopefully, by the end of the summer, we’ll have the whole service, and there’s at least one gem in each prayer for each kid to hold on to.”

By Rachel Blau

This past Tuesday, Ramah in the Rockies was honored to welcome Rick Richt to our chava (ranch) for a Fourth of July concert! Rick Recht is known nationally for utilizing the power of song to foster communities, create unforgettable memories, and develop Jewish pride in audiences of all ages. Throughout Recht’s hour long set, he performed for and engaged our entire community in meaningful, spirited, song and dance. The ruach (spirit) was palpable as we gathered in the late afternoon sun, armed with homemade posters and dressed in our best red, white and blue.

Solelim camper Eitan Gotian has been playing guitar for nine years, and had the opportunity to play on stage with Rick Recht. He thought it was “really cool” that Recht came to Ramah in the Rockies, saying, “I think that everybody liked his performance because he got everyone involved; even the younger kids and the older kids were singing along.”

Tzevet (staff) member and musician Isaac Rosen also found Recht’s presence on campus to be wildly impactful. “Rick Recht is definitely a big name in the Jewish camper movement,” he said. “A lot of kids had heard of him, some of them had heard him perform at other camps, and the fact that he was coming to Rockies… people got really excited.” Rosen also had the opportunity to perform with Recht, saying, “It felt like it all came together. It was really incredible to get to play with him.”

Centered around themes of community, peace, and tikkun olam, Rick Recht’s music leant a new meaning to our regular Fourth of July celebrations. Some of his most beloved songs from his new album, “Halleluyah,” to which our chalutzim sang along, focus on the values that Ramah in the Rockies holds dear, such as kesherim (connections) and kavod (honor). And in fact, Rick Recht’s personal goal in his performances is to do just that. “That’s the magic of Jewish music – the interaction, the singing, the dancing, and the powerful community connection. For me, it’s a dream come true to create and share in these powerful experiences,” he remarks.

Rick Recht has been a leader in the Jewish rock world since 1999, with the release of his first Jewish album, Tov. In addition to performing and inspiring the next generation of Jewish leaders through music, Recht  is the founding executive director of Jewish Rock Radio (JRR), which features a variety of music from all over the Jewish world. This year, thanks to the generosity of Michael Staenberg of St. Louis, Missouri, Jewish Rock Radio is launching the JRR Gift of Music – a major national initiative that will provide Jewish music to thousands of teens and young adults in Denver. This means we will be able to offer the entirety of our Ramah in the Rockies family with free downloads of popular Jewish music! Click here to get your JRR Gift of Music now!

Additionally, in response to the interest expressed by our chalutzim in the music from the concert, Rick Recht has generously provided the Rockies community with free music downloads with some of his greatest hits! Now, chalutzim can take their favorite tunes home with them and keep the magic of camp alive year round. Click here to take Rick Recht’s music home with you, and enter download code 7UBIK7TD to access.

Rick Recht’s performance, coupled with the arrival of our 1B campers and our traditional Fourth of July festivities (such as waffles for breakfast and barbeque for dinner) truly enhanced what was already a special day for our kehillah (community).  

Check out our slideshow from the concert here!

I had the chance to sit down with Michael Harlow, musician, performer, and Rosh Shira at Ramah in the Rockies. With his signature afro in braids, his feet bare, and his head spinning with new ideas, Harlow was the image of the next generation of musical creativity. How did he get here? I wondered the same thing.

“My parents started me on piano lessons in first grade,” he told me. Since then, he has learned to play the drums and the guitar as well. Furthermore, he has expanded his knowledge of music theory with the help of his parents and his older brother, all musically inclined by nature. “I grew up around music. My mom sang in the Zamir Chorale of Boston, a famous Jewish choir. My dad is also a singer and my brother is a jazz pianist who graduated from Oberlin Conservatory.”

Every day since those first piano lessons, Harlow has been practicing, learning “more and more songs, in order to learn more and more chords and more riffs and more notes to become more familiar with how notes interact with each other throughout the neck of the guitar.” His passion has taken him far. Right now, in the world beyond camp, his focus is on his musical duo with Brandeis University classmate Brian Rauch, called ‘Late Night Thoughts.’ The duo creates acoustic covers of pop songs, and right now they’re working on recording and releasing an EP comprised entirely of original music. A shameless self promoter (as any up-and-coming artist should be), Harlow encourages readers to “find us on Facebook and give us a like” (links below).

His passion for making music and spreading joy through music made him a natural fit for Rosh Shira at Ramah in the Rockies. This is his fifth summer at Ramah in the Rockies, his second summer as Rosh Shira. In the past, he told me, Harlow was essentially a one man band; the guy behind the ruach (spirit) of camp. This year, he’s interested in getting himself out of the equation. “I’m a born performer, and I know that about myself. But shira is not a performance; it’s a facilitation of musical exploration for all of our chalutzim (campers).” Ultimately, his goal is to “make it so that anyone with guitar skills and the ability to facilitate and organize humans could be Rosh Shira quite easily”

So, what drives Michael Harlow to keep going? How does he wake up early every morning with enough energy to share with our whole kehilah (community)? Why does he constantly strive to improve our musical experience at Ramah in the Rockies, working tirelessly every week to master new songs, melodies, and chords?

“Nothing brings me more joy in life than music. And if I can share that with others, if I can make just 10% of chalutzim realize that they love shira, or just two chalutzim realize that they absolutely love music, or change their thoughts on t’fillah, then I’ve accomplished my goal. I think there is nothing more powerful than humans singing together. And so if I can be a part of that, I’m happy.”

Click HERE for music from Harlow’s musical duo, Late Night Thoughts

Click HERE for camp songs written and recorded by Michael Harlow  

 

By Rachel Blau