As we shared in our last Off-Season Insights blog, Summer 2019 has a number of program updates as a result of the feedback from our parents, tzevet, and chalutzim. Year after year, we hear about the power of relationships our chalutzim develop while on their masa’ot, how important the friendships made each summer are, and the role our madrichim (counselors) play in being positive influencers. Yet, we also learn that some chalutzim occasionally struggle to develop these strong relationships with all the excitement and activity going on in base camp programs.
Our addition of Ohel Koby last summer gave our chalutzim a new space in which to grow friendships. Whether over games of ping pong, foosball, or cards, campers engaged with each other and found ways to make connections both within and across all our edot.
Continuing this trend, we are putting an additional emphasis
this year on the relationships developed within our ohel and edah
communities. A former member of our tzevet,
Sky Yardeni, brought the idea of “radical tzchokim” (laughter) as an
important tool in group bonding. In an
effort to help facilitate radical tzchokim in all our edot, we
are planning specific bonding programs for all this summer.
These classic camp activities will give our campers the
chance to bond through both laughter and silliness as edot and within
their ohelim. Some of the
activities our chalutzim will enjoy include tie dying, backcountry pizza
making, carnival nights, and capture the flag!
We hope these classic activities will complement the wonderful adventure
experiences our chalutzim already have, while giving all a chance to
relax and laugh at the end of the day.
As with all our programs and activities at camp, we reflect
on how these changes align with our core values of kavod (respect), simcha
(joy), s’micha ishit (personal growth), and k’sharim (connections),
and we hope these opportunities for edot to develop k’sharim
through simcha will permeate through the whole camp experience.
We look forward to seeing our chalutzim connect and
laugh together and want to know, what activities do you want to see for edah
and ohel bonding?
I write this letter having just returned from our ranch where we enjoyed the opportunity to meet as a leadership team and go over some changes we are implementing for this summer. As we look forward to opening our tenth summer, we want to ensure that our program remains successful for the next ten decades to come. We know that change is always hard, but are very excited to introduce these improvements to our camp.
Being a screen-free environment simply does not make sense in today’s wired world! Our campers and parents rely on screens of all types to communicate with each other and too many of both our staff and camper populations have withdrawal-like symptoms when camp starts. Seeking a solution to this problem, we were delighted to learn of the new cable channel launching this summer called Camp TV. Executives from this channel were searching for five camps to pilot their reality TV program and, of course, we signed the contract!Over the past month, Camp TV has installed cameras and microphones throughout our chava (ranch) so that crews can televise our children at all times. All conversations (other than those in the bathroom or showers) will be recorded and beamed to parents (and producers) in real time. This way, our parents will know what is happening with their child(ren) at camp without ever having to ask our camper care team to check in on them or reading any of our weekly emails. Producers are bound to put together the events of the summer in an amazingly compelling narrative.But, we did not want to stop there. We also wanted our campers to get in on the
action, and this summer we are issuing smart phones to each so that they can communicate in real time with those at home. No longer will meals be marked by animated conversations across tabletops. Campers will keep a steady view of their screens and text/Whatsapp/Instagram (whatever) with those who are not present.
Clearly, the lack of high-speed internet is an issue in making all of this technological change come together. Here, too, we have found a solution by working with our friends at Alphabet (Google’s parent company). Their moonshot company, Loon, is putting balloons in the air to beam high-speed internet to the masses. While their focus is linking the African continent, we convinced them that campers at Colorado summer camps are in even greater need of high-speed internet. We have agreed to serve as their trial case in North America and expect to have their balloons floating above our camp beaming a high-speed signal to all.
We pride ourselves in running one of the most amazing rock climbing programs in the Jewish summer camp movement, teaching it on both an artificial bouldering wall and a real granite cliff. To ensure that safety always comes first, we purchase top-level gear and maintain impeccable logs. A few years ago we made this video to highlight our “hard core” program, anchored by our climbing program. But for our chalutzim (campers) and climbers, ropes always seem to get in the way.This summer, our climbing program moves to the next level. Alex Honnold introduced the world to Free Soloing in his Oscar-winning documentary, Free Solo. For those who missed it, Alex spent about four hours
climbing a 3,000 foot cliff with no ropes and, at one point, dangling 2,500 feet above the ground while holding a grip the size of a matchbox. Ever since seeing this, we have wondered whether our Challenge by Choice mantra means that we are inspiring the next Alex Honnold and what we can do to prepare them for this experience?! We know that we need to be more HARD CORE! This summer, therefore, we are proud to announce the country’s first free solo program! Working closely with two of our certifying agencies, the American Camp Association (ACA) and the Colorado Department of Human Services, we have devised a system whereby we will take campers with the most rudimentary climbing ability and put them directly on a granite slab. Brain researchers have told us that by changing a child’s amygdala (the part of the brain that creates the “fight or flight” response) at a young age, an entire generation of free soloists may be nurtured. Under the careful guidance of our lead rock climbers, campers will climb up a vertical surface of 1,000 feet or more with no ropes. By starting this process with our youngest campers, we believe we can train our kids to overcome their inherent fear of falling.The Free Soloing program will absolutely make our camp stand out, and is one step along the way to creating the next generation of Jewish
daredevils. Future growth of this initiative will include wing suit jumping (where campers jump off cliffs with wings attached), hang gliding, bungee jumping, and possibly even a winter expedition to K2. (Everest is too easy, and WAY too commercialized at this point and we know that K2 will provide our community with a real challenge.)Like all masa’ot (excursion) activities at Ramah, parents will be asked to sign a waiver.
Our chalutzim burn thousands of calories each day! In addition to the three meals and two snacks we currently serve, we are concerned that our campers are not getting the needed calories to see them through the day. We thought of adding more protein-based nutrients (meat, tofu, etc.), and perhaps even more fruits and vegetables, but then looked at our society out there in the “real world”. This made us realize that we were ignoring all those empty calories our campers rely upon in their regular lives. Seeking a solution to this problem, our culinary staff and nutritionist recently went on a group outing to some of the local grocery stores to view their products and the answer hit us like a ton of bricks! We need more candy, soda, and sugary drinks! We reached out to the American Beverage Association, and they were happy to help sponsor our latest project. At each meal (especially breakfast), we will now serve a curated line of products made by the Coca Cola Company,
including Coke, Sprite, and Fanta. For those who want a non-fizzy alternative, we expect to have Hi-C and Capri-Sun available also. Plus, we plan to install candy machines throughout camp. We are excited to work with a local Boulder company to make sure that the sugar provided in these products gives the illusion of being healthy by adding organic food coloring. We know that our efforts are successful if children are bouncing off the walls after meals and have so much built up energy that they yell while racing pell-mell from one peulah (activity) to another. We realize that bed time might become a challenge, but have heard that a cup of warm milk, with plenty of natural sugar to rot their teeth, helps calm things down. So starting this summer, in the evening outside the bathhouses, our rashei edah (unit heads) will give out hand-crafted cups of steamed milk to anyone needing it to unwind. Our success is the added trips to the dentist for our campers.
We know that change can be challenging and that some will wonder whether these improvements will affect our camp community and the values that we have nurtured since our founding. Only time will tell. But for now, know that it is Purim and we wish everyone a VERY HAPPY PURIM, ONE FILLED WITH LAUGHTER AND NONSENSE! (And a real camp update will be forthcoming next week.) – Rabbi Eliav and the entire Ramah in the Rockies team
https://www.ramahoutdoors.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/LOGO-300x167.png00Chatinoverhttps://www.ramahoutdoors.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/LOGO-300x167.pngChatinover2019-03-20 12:15:162019-03-20 12:15:16Putting Screens, Sugar, and Adventure Back into Camp
Below is a note from Moss Herberholz, our Director of Inclusion, regarding the expansion of our vocational education program. To learn more about this program, visit the Program page on our website!
As we expand our vocational education program, we hope to provide Jewish young adults with special needs an opportunity to receive job training, learn life skills, improve social skills, and engage in Jewish learning with peers, all while enjoying time in the beautiful Rocky Mountains.
We hope that expanding our program will allow our inclusion campers to continue being a part of our kehilah kedoshah (holy community) even after they have aged out of our inclusion program. Unlike our neurotypical campers, who we often welcome back as staff members, up until now this kind of opportunity has been inaccessible to many of our inclusion campers.
We also hope that expanding our program will open our kehilah kedoshah (holy community) to new faces. We are excited to provide the opportunity to spend an extended period of time living and engaging in meaningful work while in an outdoor environment to Jewish young adults who were not campers at Ramah in the Rockies.
This past summer it was a joy to watch our returning vocational educational participant as he pushed passed his comfort level and grew. He spent the summer effectively and independently completing tasks in pack-out and on the farm. In pack-out he helped prepare food and other materials for masa’ot (backpacking trips). On the farm he took care of the animals, helped cultivate crops, and independently lead campers in activities for the first time. It is my hope to see many more vocational education participants learning and growing just as this vocational education participant continues to do.
Douglas Wolf, our Business Manager, will be leaving Ramah in the Rockies at the end of February to pursue new challenges and to spend time with his family full time in Chicago. Thank you, Douglas, for all you have done for Ramah in the Rockies!
It was the winter of 2009 and I had recently been hired to be the Founding Director of Ramah Outdoor Adventure, when I met Douglas Wolf at a gathering in Denver. A Ramah alum, with a passion for the outdoors, biking, and all things Ramah, he offered his help, as a volunteer, to do whatever was needed to launch our new Camp Ramah in Colorado. In the late summer of that year, after he and his family had returned from a four-day family camp experience at the Ramah in the Rockies ranch, I again ran into him one night at Home Depot while trying to load a picnic table into my sedan. He offered to drive it home for me in his SUV. I thanked him and mentioned that I was looking to hire someone to help with some administrative tasks, wondering whether he knew of anyone looking. The next day, I received the call that changed my life, his life, and the trajectory of our camp forever. Douglas said that if I was willing to hire someone with no formal staff experience, who had been out of the full time labor force for 6+ years as a primary caregiver, but was eager for his next adventure, then he was the person I wanted.
As a partner in starting Ramah Outdoor Adventure, Douglas did whatever was needed to make camp a success. In the off-season, he helped with recruiting, hiring, and registration. He figured out which state licenses were needed to operate a child-care facility, how to respond to emergencies, and the logistics of getting both campers and staff to camp. There was never a task from which Douglas shied away.
I will never forget that first summer when Douglas came to camp for a month with his kids in tow, both too young to be campers yet. They each had walkie-talkies with them so that they could communicate with their dad while he was at work, allowing them to run around the ranch unattended. In that first year, we did not have running water at the sinks outside our dining hall, instead using hand pumped portable sinks. One of our many issues was not having anyone whose responsibility it was to fill and empty the sinks. Enter Douglas! He took it upon himself, sometimes radioing his kids for help, to pull the plugs on the sinks, allowing them to drain on the ground, and then refilling them with water.
After our first summer, Douglas and I began to formalize our organizational structure. He took over all business and operational functions, effectively becoming business manager (although he spent a few weeks as Assistant Director and then Associate Director before we settled on business manager). In this role, he has helped grow and sustain Ramah in the Rockies from our ragtag group in 2009 to a more formal, but equally passionate, team in 2019. Douglas has overseen our accounting, liaising with our eight(!) licensing agencies, while continuing to maintain an excellent attitude and appreciation for how his behind-the-scenes work affects hundreds of young people each summer. All the while he insists that no task is below him and that he will help with whatever is needed to make camp a success. A Friday night this past summer suddenly comes to mind, when in the middle of Shabbat dinner the toilet trailer clogged; it was Douglas who donned his Wellies, took a deep inhale and ventured into the muck with gloves and plunger in hand.
Douglas never seeks the spotlight. Indeed many of our campers probably do not know who he is or what he does for camp. But the rest of us know how Douglas has been the invisible force keeping us moving forward and ensuring that money is collected, bills are paid, and camp remains safe.
After our 2018 season, Douglas told me he was looking to retire, and asked how he could do so without jeopardizing the future of the organization that he had helped build. His heart remains with Ramah in the Rockies, but physically, he needed to move on. We agreed that he would remain with us through the end of February, which would allow for a seamless transition to the person following in his footsteps. Over the past few months, we reworked our organizational chart, better integrating our BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy program into our year round team, and relooking at how we operate our summer camp. Douglas has remained a vital part of our team, though we know that in a few short weeks he will begin a much more relaxing, probably slower paced, adventure. (Indeed, two people will replacing what Douglas accomplished alone; Matt Levitt will be taking over as COO and Avram Pachter as Director of Operations).
As Douglas’s tenure with Ramah in the Rockies comes to an end, I know that I speak for the 1000+ families and the 800+ staff who have been part of our community and whose lives have been made better by Ramah in saying THANK YOU!! While I, personally, have received many accolades for the successes of our camp, I know that without Douglas guiding us, Ramah in the Rockies would not be where it is today as the premier Jewish outdoor adventure camp in the country.
Douglas, I will miss working with you each day. The energy, system, and vision you bring and have brought to our organization have made me a better director and our camp a better community. THANK YOU!
Below is a note that Douglas wrote about his impending transition.
Rabbi Eliav Bock
Dear Ramah Community As many of you have heard, my adventure as the Business Manager for Ramah in the Rockies is drawing to a close. I have chosen to leave Ramah at the end of February and will transfer my responsibilities into the capable hands of Matt, Sandra and Avram. I am very proud to have helped successfully bring Ramah camping to the Rocky Mountains and am confident about the direction and future of Ramah in the Rockies and BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy.
My primary goal has been to help build Ramah in the Rockies into a thriving Jewish camp, and along the way I have been fortunate to work with committed, engaged colleagues who have made the journey special. I would like to thank the year-round staff for their incredible energy and work, and the board of directors for their leadership and support over the years. We would not be where we are without everyone on this team. And I would like to particularly acknowledge Rabbi Eliav for his partnership since he and I first began working together in 2009 to make this dream a reality.
My family has literally grown up with Ramah in the Rockies. When camp opened, my sons Ben and David were staff kids, too young to be among the first Chalutzim. My wife Jennifer was camp’s first medical director. Ben is now touring colleges and David is eager to return for Sayarim, his 8th summer as a camper.
I am looking forward to new challenges and to being in Chicago full time with my family. I will continue to support Ramah as a parent and BaMidbar board member. From the moment the first campers arrived in 2010 until today, I always knew that we were and are part of something very special. It has been my privilege to have played a part in building this kehillah kedoshah (holy community), over the past 10 years. Thank you.
Morah Nehamah Liebowitz, the late Torah commentator, is said
to have hated the concept of Mother’s Day; she thought it crazy that we would
take one day to be nice to mothers— according to her, every day should be a
celebration of mothers! When thinking about Tu B’Shevat, what has become
Judaism’s annual version of Earth Day, I sometimes feel the same as Morah
Tu B’Shevat began as a fringe Kabalistic tradition
celebrated by mystics. In the past few decades, through a number of Jewish
communal initiatives, it has become a mainstream holiday; a time for all of us
to take meaningful actions to incorporate Jewish environmental values into our
lives. And let’s be clear, it’s a good
thing that the Jewish community has days like Tu B’Shevat where we can think
about how our actions affect the environment. But, to echo Morah Liebowitz, one
day is not enough!
For us to fully commit ourselves to changing the way in
which we interact with the natural world, we are going to need more than a day
to make these changes. We are going to need to see how our lives, most of which
are lived in urban environments, affect the natural world around us.
At Ramah in the Rockies, our community comes together each
summer to spend ten weeks living consciously with nature, although our campers rotate
in and out every two to four weeks. Yes,
we use many of the modern conveniences found in our urban lives – electricity, fossil
fuels, and satellite phones. Yet, at the same time, we go out of our way to be
intentional about our relationship with the natural world. Our campers live in bunks with no power. We use
a method of fermenting garbage, called Bokashi, for most food scraps that are
composted for our garden. We pre-heat our shower water using the sun’s rays.
Most importantly, each camper spends time during camp
experiencing nature up close. There is no better way to appreciate the great
outdoors, than to surround oneself with the phenomena of our living world. On a
multi-day backpacking trip, campers view incredible vistas, drink in the warmth
of sun on their faces, and encounter the thirty-degree temperature swings
common in the Rockies in July. We often see our younger campers playing with
rocks, sticks, and dirt, and building forts using fallen branches.
An activity I love to lead is part of our morning t’fillah,
where we take ten minutes for campers to stop, explore a single tree, and its
surrounding area. I ask the campers to hug, smell, and stare at the tree. I ask
them to reach down to the ground and grab a handful of dirt, smelling, feeling,
and sometimes even tasting it. We do this as part of our morning prayers,
because it helps raise our awareness of just how alive the world around
us is, and how magnificent and complicated nature can be. We do this as part of
our t’fillot because, as a Jewish educator, I believe our Torah has a
role in answering many of the issues facing our people and society.
I see Ramah in the Rockies serving as a lab for young people
to develop a Jewish love and appreciation for the natural world around us, creating
a society living in concert with nature and helping it continue sustaining
human life for the next ten thousand years – answering an acute challenge of
our time. Having our campers and staff translate their summer experiences into
lifetime engagements with others working to protect, grow, and sustain our
living world, that is our goal.
https://www.ramahoutdoors.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/LOGO-300x167.png00Rabbi Eliavhttps://www.ramahoutdoors.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/LOGO-300x167.pngRabbi Eliav2019-01-21 05:00:252019-01-21 05:00:25Nature Up Close
The most common question heard by summer camp professionals is: What do you do during the rest of the year? And, while we like to joke that we twiddle our thumbs and wait for June, the truth is that our nine months of “off season” are full and busy. Lots of planning goes into making camp the fun, magical, kehillah kedoshah we create each summer, including camper recruitment, program planning, masa permitting, and staff hiring. We are eager to give you a glimpse into our winter office through a series of upcoming blog posts.
As mentioned, one aspect of our off-season revolves around program development. We examine the previous summer: what worked really well, what was a flop, and what could use some revision. Each year, right after the summer has ended, we read through hundreds of pages of feedback collected from our chalutzim, parents, and tzevet. Our annual “You Shared, We Listened” email delivers the results of what we have learned and explains how we are moving forward towards the following summer.
For Kayitz 2019, we are excited to share our new daily schedule, which you can view here. Three highlights from this are – breakfast before tefillah, an extra daily perek, and a scheduled afternoon snack time. Our hope for these changes is to provide our campers the opportunities for more active engagement in tefillot and to experience either more base camp activities or dive deeper into their favorites.
Program changes like these seem simple and straightforward, but there are many factors which impact the flow of a day at camp. Some of our considerations are:
Is there enough time to prepare breakfast without requiring our kitchen staff to wake up exceptionally early?
What do our mumchim (specialists) need time-wise within a perek to allow our chalutzim to really dive into an activity? If we adjust the length or number of prakim during the day, does this allow us to offer more double prakim to our older chalutzim?
How does switching breakfast and tefillah first thing in the morning impact nikayon (cleaning)?
When should each edah (age group) have their z’man edah (edah-based learning time)?
We are eager to try out this new schedule with our 2019 chalutzim and tzevet, and appreciate your feedback in helping us to continually improve our program! If you would like to learn more about our new schedule or other program changes, give us a call or an email – we are always happy to discuss.
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)
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.
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 email@example.com.
– 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.
https://www.ramahoutdoors.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/LOGO-300x167.png00Adminhttps://www.ramahoutdoors.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/LOGO-300x167.pngAdmin2018-10-19 12:02:012018-10-19 12:02:01We Asked, You Shared, We Listened
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.
Each 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!
In 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.
Deena Cowans (Director of Jewish Education 2016-2018)
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 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.
This 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.
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.
This 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
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
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.
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 email@example.com or call (303) 261-8214.
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! – Caryn Shebowich, JOLI Staff
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
https://www.ramahoutdoors.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/LOGO-300x167.png00Adminhttps://www.ramahoutdoors.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/LOGO-300x167.pngAdmin2018-09-09 12:43:462018-09-09 12:43:46Sweet Summer Stories for a Sweet New Year!
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.
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.
In 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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:
“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.”
“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:
“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.”
“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 peulatShabbat (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:
“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.”
“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:
“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.”
“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:
“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.”
“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.”
With the help of a most supremely generous gift of $20k from the OREG Foundation and an anonymous donor, we are excited to announce the completion of our newest addition to our farm: an 18-by-26-foot Farmtek hard sided polycarbonate greenhouse! Over the past week, our chalutzim (campers) have been able to witness the construction of the greenhouse, from the first steel poles that went into the ground, to the hard shell outside to the final product with planter boxes. Finally, we are SO excited to be able to elevate our farm with new planting grounds in order to continue to promote organic food options, sustainability, and consumer awareness amongst chalutzim.
One of the amazing benefits of this greenhouse is that it will lengthen our farming season. Right now, most of our growing takes place over the summer, as the cold winters present rather challenging planting circumstances. But with the introduction of our new greenhouse, we will be able to harness the energy from the sun to sustain warm crops all year around. We are especially grateful to the BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy program, the program that will take place over the 9-month off-season at the Ramah in the Rockies ranch, which is committed to “incorporating horticulture therapy into the[ir] program and maintaining the greenhouse through the winter months.”
We are also incredibly thankful for this gift, as the greenhouse will diversify our harvesting crops! Right now, our garden predominantly grows cold crops: kale, cauliflower, broccoli, herbs, etc. But by April of next year, we hope to have our greenhouse fully green and bursting with warm crops such as eggplant, tomatoes, strawberries, corn, beans, squash, cucumbers and more! These crops will serve as supplements to our organic produce that we use in the kitchen, making Ramah in the Rockies even more of a farm-to-table operation!
The expansion of our crop production will also enable us to broaden our consumption and garden education.”Because this is a three season greenhouse, we will be able to start planting earlier in the season, which will allow chalutzim see different stages of growth.” says Sammy Schwartz, part of our tzevet chava (farm staff) here at camp. By doing so, chalutzim will have the opportunity to expand their knowledge and understanding about the process of food production.
At Ramah in the Rockies, we believe that it’s so important to think and talk about where our ingredients come from, the conditions under which they were produced and harvested, and what happens to the organic waste. Our motto of “ain bizbuz,” or “no waste,” our commitment to eating organic wherever we can, and our food education program all aim to contribute to a culture that is intentional and environmentally conscious. It is our mission to raise awareness about the importance of these issues; the addition of our new greenhouse to our chava will play a major role in helping to ensure that this mission is reinforced in our community.
If you have a vision for how you can tangibly and practically improve the Ramah in the Rockies experience, CLICK HERE to donate, or contact Rabbi Eliav Bock at firstname.lastname@example.org
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).
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.”
https://www.ramahoutdoors.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/LOGO-300x167.png00Adminhttps://www.ramahoutdoors.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/LOGO-300x167.pngAdmin2017-06-30 17:20:502017-06-30 17:20:50An Interview with Michael Harlow, Rosh Shira
You could feel the anticipation in the air as nearly 20 staff members departed the ranch at 6am and headed to Denver International Airport. Weeks of preparation had led us to this point. Everyone from our incredible kitchen staff to our camper care team to our counselors was prepared and excited. We were ready. It was go time.
Upon our arrival at the airport, the staff sprang into action unloading snacks, getting gate passes, going through security, and finding the gates. Flights began to touch down at 8am, and we were ready to receive each chalutz or chalutzah (camper) right off the plane as they came in. This was no small feat; flights were delayed, gates were changed, and baggage was misplaced. Moreover, this session alone, Ramah in the Rockies welcomed arriving chalutzim from nearly 40 separate flights. But our expert staff, armed with spreadsheets and group chats galore, handled it with ease. Every camper in a dark green “Ramah in the Rockies” tee was quickly spotted and welcomed.
Three buses, two 12-passenger vans, two trucks, and one Subaru pulled out of the airport that afternoon. Meanwhile, the bus from the Hebrew Educational Alliance (HEA) in Denver was well on its way, and local families packed up their cars and set off towards camp to drop off their campers in person. Bus rides from all over were full of laughs and songs, and soon chalutzim and tzevet (staff) alike were headed up the dirt road towards the ranch, approaching 8,000 foot elevation.
Each arriving vehicle was greeted with cheers, songs, and smiling madrichim (counselors), who swept up their chalutzim in a gust of energy and whisked them off to games, sports, and health checks. As the airport buses pulled up to the Ranch, those who had arrived from HEA or from home earlier in the day formed a tunnel with their arms for incoming campers to walk through, singing and cheering as each new camper joined our kehillah kedoshah (holy community). Squeals of excitement were heard as chalutzim reunited with friends they hadn’t seen all year.
Following a dinner filled with ruach (spirit) and pizza, chalutzim made their way to their ohelim (bunks) where they had a chance to unpack and relax after a long day of travel. Counselors led their bunks in writing the ohel brit, the bunk contract, to ensure that our summer is built upon a foundation of kindness and respect. Finally, every ohel sang the Shema before going to bed early, knowing that tomorrow would be the first day of the best summer of their lives.
And just like that, Kayitz 2017 at Ramah in the Rockies began.
Today marks our 75 day countdown until we welcome our first Chalutzim(pioneers/campers) to the Ramah in the Rockies Ranch. In this time of Pesach, when we think about 4 cups of wine, 3 matzot and the numbers in “Who Knows One,” I want to reflect on some of the key numbers we are thinking about as we prepare for the summer.
27,000 Amount of clean drinking water (in gallons) available at any moment in 4 holding tanks
438 Campers currently registered for the 2017 summer season
146 Campers who are coming to Ramah in the Rockies in 2017 for the first time
200 Maximum number of campers at camp at any one time
103 Staff members who are working at camp this year
95 Liters of grape juice we will use on this summer for Kiddush on Friday nights
40 Additional campers we hope to enroll before opening day
21 Israeli staff members coming as part of our mishlachat (up from 9 in 2014)
15 Hens who will be laying eggs at camp this summer
10 New folding cafeteria tables we have ordered for the summer
8 12 passenger vans we will have on site at any one time this summer
3 Dogs we will have living with us on the ranch (the smallest number in a while)
2 Goats coming to camp this summer (on loan from a local goat farmer)
https://www.ramahoutdoors.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/LOGO-300x167.png00Chatinoverhttps://www.ramahoutdoors.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/LOGO-300x167.pngChatinover2017-04-06 03:07:292017-04-06 03:07:292017 Camp By the Numbers
On most mornings over the past eight weeks, I have risen well before our chalutzim (campers) and left my log cabin to walk to the office. In this three minute walk, the words of “Modeh Ani” usually come rolling off my tongue, almost naturally, as I stop and take in the amazing physical beauty I am blessed to be part of each summer.
This ranch is awe inspiring in so many ways! During my brief walk, I pass the camper tents, still silent from the outside at this early hour, but soon to be brimming with the sounds of children preparing to begin a new day of activities. I pass the horse pasture on my right, still wet with dew, a creek running through it, 24 majestic animals huddled in the morning brisk air finishing their nightly hay. After passing the towering Buffalo Peak against a brilliant blue background on my left I turn to see Prospector Mountain and its soaring cliffs, a peak so many set as a goal to climb each summer. Often the moon is still up, even though the light is bright and clear. Early mornings are truly a magnificent time at Ramah in the Rockies.
Today, I again woke early, but my hour of quiet was not to be as our chalutzim rose shortly thereafter to begin their long trip home. As I sit here looking out over our horse pasture some eight hours later, all of our chalutzim have left, returning to one of thirty-two States and seven countries. Our ranch is again poignantly silent. Another season has come and gone at Ramah in the Rockies, another summer has drawn to a close. Our long 42 week “masa” (excursion) in the “real world” has begun.
It is impossible to summarize all that happens in a single season in one email. Indeed, it is impossible for any one person to experience all that camp has to offer, for there are so many micro-communities within our one broad “kehillah kedosha“ (holy community). Each masa group, ohel (tent) and chug(activity) has its own stories, jokes, and memories. Rather than try to capture all that transpired these past eight weeks, Iwill instead focus on three activities that most of us have experienced this summer.
Mifgash, Singing, and Dancing
Each day this summer at 5:45pm our community gathered on our basketball court for a new camp tradition called “Mifgash“ (meeting).
During these fifteen minutes we announced y’mai huledet(birthdays), heard a rega shel yisrael (fun fact about Israel) and made camp-wide hoda’ot (announcements). Most importantly, we danced! While only fifteen minutes long, this new ritual became a cornerstone of our summer community. It was the one time that everyone could gather in a single place; a time when the youngest camper to the most senior staff member could interact with one another on a regular basis to release some energy and dance together to some modern Israeli music. The coordinated and the uncoordinated became one as long as we were smiling and having fun. Two songs that became a staple of this tradition were Hashem Melech and Bein HaBodedim. Click on either and ask your chalutz to show you his/her moves.
But Mifgash was only one part of our reinvestment in the Arts this summer. Throughout the summer, our talented Rosh Shira, Michael Harlow, along with so many other amazing musicians at camp, taught and led us us in some of the best shira sessions we have ever had on this ranch. From new tunes inspired by the training of the URJ movement, such as Dan Nichols’ Esa Enai,to original tunes written by our own tzevet members (Michael Harlow’s Modeh Ani), music infused our program throughout the day and became an integral part of our kehillah this summer as everyone from Ilanot through JOLI and staff embraced new melodies with excitement. Last night’s final shira and dance session was one I will remember throughout the off-season and one that will hopefully become the new standard at Ramah in the Rockies.
While the people in our camp can change from year to year, the values that anchor our community remain the same. As part of our strategic planning process, our board of directors reworked our “Core Values” to become four basic principles: Honor, Joy, Personal Growth, and Connection.
Building upon these core values, we created “midah“(value) stickers that chalutzim worked to earn during their time at camp. Each Friday night, we asked those chalutzim who had earned all four stickers to rise and be acknowledged publicly for exhibiting these traits. Their names were added later in the week to our permanent “Midah Board” in the Pardes T’filah. Throughout the summer, most water bottles were adorned with these stickers.
While the stickers were a gimmick to enable us to acknowledge the accomplishments of our chalutzim, on a deeper level they truly reflect what it means to be a member of the Ramah in the Rockies community. Each summer so many come to camp and leave transformed in countless ways as they push themselves to their physical emotional and spiritual limits. Yet this community is so much more than our roster of activities. Yes, we bike, climb, and do arts and crafts, but at the center of our Kehillah Kedosha are these enduring values. Ones that we hope our chalutzim and tzevet will hold dear not only while at camp, but, perhaps most importantly, beyond our gates and throughout their lives.
Because of our commitment to these values and their role in our community, we are asking all of our chalutzim, tzevet members, and visitors to participate in a new initiative called “The Midah Project.” More information can be found here, but in short, we would like to ask every person who set foot on our ranch this summer to draw a picture representing one of our core values. These pictures will then be turned into tiles which will be mounted as part of murals that will adorn our ranch for many years to come.
Of course, no discussion of a season at Ramah in the Rockies would be complete without mention of our masa (excursion) program.This summer we sent out a record 75 masa’ot. Some trips traveled farther than ever from base camp into regions of Colorado such as State Forest State
Park and the Spanish Peaks Wilderness area. Our 2016 chalutzim hiked, climbed, and biked farther than any groups in previous summers. Whether it was our Ilanot who hiked to the Buffalo Ranch and then up Prospector Mountain, or our Metaylim who spent time rafting and backpacking,orour Sollelim who climbed new routes in Boulder Canyon, or our Bogrim chalutzim who “summited” a fourteen thousand foot peak on bikes, or our JOLI group who spent a full night sleeping alone on a “solo” in the Indian Peaks Wilderness area, each chalutz had his or her own adventure.
My favorite day at camp comes every two weeks when the chalutzim return from their masa’ot tired, smelly, and often with bruises, yet smiling ear to ear, so full of excitement and pride in their accomplishments over the week. I love watching their dirty faces as they return to the relative comfort of our ranch, eager to tell everyone about their unique experiences on the trail. As I go out to greet the chalutzim and ask them about their masa’ot, I am invariably met by a cacophony of stories and giggles. While some groups might have hiked longer, climbed higher, or eaten more delicious food, each and every chalutz(a) will be left with memories of personal transformation and enduring friendships.
And to Wrap Up. . .
And now, we must close this chapter of Kayitz 2016. It has surely been one of best ever and one that has impacted more people than ever before.
Closing camp is always bittersweet since we know that there are still peaks to climb, friendships to deepen, and songs to sing. While the “real world” calls, we can take heart that there are only 306 more days until next summer! Our registration for 2017 is already open, and spots are in high demand!
As we pack up our summer office and prepare for tonight’s staff banquet, I want to thank all of our families, chalutzim, tzevet, and raving fans for continuing to support us and enabling us to assemble one of the most remarkable Jewish communities in the country. While the camp season must come to an end, I know that the lessons and friendships developed over the past 9 weeks will continue for years to come.
–Rabbi Eliav and the entire Ramah in the Rockies team
Greetings from a cool and cloudy day at Ramah in the Rockies! For the first time in probably several weeks, our temperatures have dipped, the clouds rolled in, and much needed rain fell. This has been another transition week for us here on the chava (ranch) as we said lehitra’ot (goodbye) to our 2A campers, and bruchim haba’im (welcome) to our 2B chalutzim (campers). We bid farewell to our incredible delegation from Congregation Bet El in Mexico City, which was recently featured in this news article. (Please note: We are sorry for any misspelled names or incorrect facts in the article. Our kids were interviewed over the phone by an outside reporter.)
This is our smallest session of the summer, to the point that we have been able to consolidate from eating in two seperate dining halls to eating in one. As is the case on the Friday of every other week here at camp, our older chalutzim are “packing out” – preparing their food and gear for their five-day backcountry excursions. They are measuring out their ingredients; checking and rechecking their tents, packs, stoves, and other gear; and making sure all is ready for the trip.
This past Sunday, our Tzevet Chetz V’keshet (Archery Staff) hosted a medieval-themed archery tournament on the range. Our chalutzim and tzevet all came out to cheer and support the competitors, many of whom came in costume and carrying banners representing their teams. I even managed to join for a round or two of shooting. (Though admittedly, I probably missed the target more than hitting it!) Check out the pictures, by clicking this link.
For our Ilanot and Metaylim chalutzim, we had our end of session carnival, always a crowd favorite, complete with balloon animals, face painting, snow cones, a photo booth, and more! These two groups welcomed new friends this week, and, last night, Metaylim had an “ecstatic dance party” as Rosh Edah Julia described it. At the party, they heard a mix of English and Hebrew upbeat dance music and had judgment-free dancing, letting their bodies move to the music. The kids loved it!
Sollelim said goodbye to a bunch of chalutzim earlier this week and welcomed a new cohort as well, our last transition week of the summer. Led by Rami, an incredibly talented and musical Rosh Edah (unit head), the t’fillot (morning prayers) have become a real highlight experience for all. While this might be unusual to say, this edah has really been hitting it out of park when it comes to t’fillah. They have had musical and spirited traditional services as well as deeply meaningful alternative t’fillot, exploring meaning through a variety of options. Another highlight of the week from Sollelim was their glow-in-the-dark gaga game!
While other edot were welcoming new friends, we made a decision this year NOT to offer 2-week Bogrim registration at the end of the summer. The Bogrim group has continued their excellent programming for 4-week chalutzim. We welcome a number of “guest stars” (visiting rabbis) throughout the summer and they have led Bogrim in a variety of activities and limudim (text-based discussions). For example: Rabbi Scott Bolton and Dr. Hartley Lachter did an activity around Jewish leadership styles as they contrast with more top-down religious leadership approaches. Dr. Jessica Cooperman spoke about Jews & Race. Rabbi Elyse Winick led a session on Tikkun Olam. Evenings for our Bogrim chalutzim were filled with silly and fun peulot erev like Pillowcase Charades, where we did impersonations and created costumes using random items placed in a pillowcase. Last night we held a sing-off where the MC picked one word like “sun”, “road”, or “shake” and then thought of different songs with that word. You could hear the singing all the way across camp!
Yesterday evening I watched JOLI participate in a pretty awesome peulat erev (evening activity) – Iron Chef. The JOLI contestants were given a set list of ingredients that had to be included in their two dishes, and everything was cooked and prepared using typical masa gear – camping stoves, cutting boards, and knives. Each of the teams than ate their creations for dinner and presented an extra plate to a panel of judges, including our Head Chef Avram who ran the evening and he gave them some pointers to improve their dishes.
This week we also welcomed another group of chalutzim — our Adult Campers! This summer we have 11 campers joining us who will participate in our base camp activities, spend a spirited Shabbat with our entire kehilla kedosha, and go out on their own masa (backcountry excursion). Leading this esteemed group is the Director of Camp Ramah in Northern California (and a founding Rockies staff member!), Rabbi Sarah Schulman and her husband, Nate Bankirer.
We are looking forward to a wonderful Shabbat with our friends from Adult Camp and our entire kehilla. This Sunday (SHHH, it’s a surprise!), we will be celebrating a camp favorite: Yom Sport! Yom Sport is our color-war competition that we do twice a summer and is always a highlight for our chalutzim and tzevet. It will surely be an exciting day of cheering, singing, dancing, sports, and friendly competition!
I am sitting in the chadar ochel an hour before lunch, Israeli music is blaring from the loudspeakers, and the sounds of chalutzim (campers) returning from masaot (excursions) fill the air outside. Over the next three hours all our chalutzim will return from their masa’ot. After the initial shrieks of delight and quickly paced stories, all will unpack, shower, change, and be ready for another Shabbat at camp.
Our youngest two edot spent most of their week on our chava (ranch) where they had a chance to ride horses, shoot archery, ride bikes, and also go mining. Masa weeks tend to be much quieter at camp since half our kehillah kedosha (holy community) is away which allows us a chance to do programs that might not be possible when everyone is in camp. For example, this week our staff from the Mexican delegation treated us to real Mexican food for dinner and we had two shira (singing) sessions that were incredible because all the chalutzim and tzevet (staff) were able to fit into the small chadar ochel (dining hall) where the acoustics are so much better than our larger dining tent.
Yesterday and today, Ilanot has been on a masa of their own. On Thursday morning, they hiked out to Ramah Valley where they set up a base camp. Half the group then spent the afternoon hiking up Prospector Mountain and the other half of the group hiked to our neighboring buffalo ranch. On Prospector, the wild raspberries are in season, so hikers had a chance to eat their way up the mountain. At the Buffalo Ranch, chalutzim had a picnic overlooking a gorgeous pond before heading into the pasture on a UTV to feed the buffalo and cattle (the cows, by hand). In the evening, everyone met back in Ramah Valley for dinner and a campfire. Today the groups switched.
Due to transportation issues, we combined our entire Metaylim edah and sent them to the Arkansas River for their rafting masa. The group camped out together by the river on Tuesday night, and then spent Wednesday on the water. All reported that it was an incredible experience and the weather was perfect throughout. Our rafting company, Noah’s Ark, are some of the best trained and most responsible guides on the river, and so even when one boat flipped, the guides pulled all the campers into accompanying rafts just as they are trained to do. Campers in the flipped boat all called home, but most, whether in the water or on other rafts, just thought it would be an awesome story to tell. Sadly, this will be our last rafting trip of the summer since the water level will drop considerably by IIB.
Sollelim chalutzim had a chance this week to choose a masa that would challenge them on bikes, by foot (on one of three hiking masa’ot), at a 3-D archery range, and on the cliffs of the surrounding mountains. When I asked some of the Sollelim chalutzim what the highlight of their trip had been, I heard combinations of: the meals and camaraderie in the evenings at the camp sites, summiting some beautiful mountains and of course setting personal goals and achieving them. I heard from a few madrichim (counselors) who told me that they were so impressed by how well the chalutzim worked together to accomplish a number of challenges and encourage each other, especially when walking/riding up steep hills.
Our Bogrim chalutzim spent time on Earth Mountain Farm, climbed in two areas near our camp, biked on miles of road and single track, and hiked throughout Pike National Forest and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. One group also spent the week kayaking near Salida, Colorado. For many of our Bogrim chalutzim this was their 5th or 6th masa at Ramah in the Rockies, and each year we seek to add additional challenges, especially for those chalutzim who have been “growing up” with us. One of the biking madrichim mentioned to me that this was the strongest group of bikers he had seen and they completed their initial route by Wednesday at lunch before tacking on two extra days of biking yesterday and today. On one of the backpacking masa’ot, their leader reported how self sufficient the chalutzim were a few days in and that they had taken charge of setting up camp and cooking each day. That is truly one of our goals for our chalutzim- that they learn all the skills necessary to backpack on their own and lead trips one day!
As has become the tradition with JOLI in the first set of their masa’ot, they returned to the Indian Peaks Wilderness where they had five magnificent days of hiking and camping. The group split into two and made a figure eight hiking loop so that they barely overlapped with each other. All had a chance to spend a night and day on their solo where they sit in one area and appreciate how far they have come (literally and figuratively) and have a chance to journal, meditate, and relax in the magnificent Colorado backcountry. Each JOLI participant also had a chance to be “a leader of the day”, where they had a chance to guide the entire group – deciding on the pace, when to eat, and the best route given the camp site they had to reach each night.
We will wait to hit “send” on this email until all our chalutzim are back on our ranch. Tonight is going to be the final Friday night at camp for almost 75 of our chalutzim and 12 of our tzevet members. When we gather tonight in our circle and sing our niggunim, we will be feeling an enormous amount of gratitude for having had another terrific week at camp and a sudden realization that the final 18 days of the summer are likely to fly by, so we need to savor each and every one them.
As always please be in touch with any questions or comments. We have posted pictures on Facebook and Smugmug and plan to add more on Sunday evening.
A quick slideshow of some of the photos we have received back from our Masa’ot can be found here!