Posts

March 16, 2022 | Adar 14 5782


I write this email from the front porch of my log cabin, gazing out across the frozen kfar. Most of the tents have been removed for the winter. While I have not had any running water since September, due to frozen pipes, I do have electricity. I decided to spend this season, in solitude, up on the ranch living a more “simple” life. Each morning, I break apart ice in the frozen streams for my drinking water, I light a fire to stay warm and connect to my satellite internet. In the fall, as the rest of the world was moving on from the COVID pandemic, I decided the only way to remain truly safe was to head to the mountains and cease in-person contact with anyone. Instead of masking and remaining six feet away from other people, I unmasked and remained thirty miles away from the closest human! I have been capturing my time on the ranch on Instagram and developing a number of new dances that I have uploaded to Tik Tok. Henry David Thoreau waited years to publish his treatise, Walden; my up-to-the-minute blog has already enjoyed a wide audience.  What better way to live a simple life than by posting every moment to social media?!  Tomorrow, Purim, is the day on the calendar when I begin to transition psychologically to pre-summer mode; the quiet that permeates my days is going to be broken by the sounds of joyous children re-entering their home away from home and I, along with the rest of the Ramah  leadership team, had better be prepared! While there are so many exciting developments to our program, in this Purim update I wanted to highlight just three: 


Fracking Masa

Our masa (excursion) program is one of the key elements of our camp experience. We spend untold numbers of hours planning our trips. Most of them take place in the National Forest, which is controlled by the U.S. Department of the Interior. To minimize our impact on the land, we practice LNT (Leave No Trace) camping; this makes us one of the most highly-regulated industries in Colorado. We have been hindered year after year in our efforts to expand our routes because there are almost no more available hiking or camping permits in many parts of the state (all this is actually true). And so, we needed to find a creative solution.

We realized that while LNT groups are being banned from federal land, companies focused on LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) are being welcomed AND have the full support of the Federal Court System. With oil prices well above $100 a barrel, we are swapping out the T for a G, and will now gain unfettered access to millions of new acreage. We are updating our motto “challenge by choice” to “drill baby drill.” Afterall, our forests belong to the people! Although the Federal Government is spending time and resources protecting its 21-inch wide hiking trail system, it allows anyone who claims to help Americans achieve oil independence to explore federal lands unencumbered. We can now take our campers to hike anywhere we want on “exploratory” masa’ot. We can totally ignore how our actions will affect the broader environment, as long as we wrap ourselves in the American flag and use words like “freedom,” “liberty,” and “patriots.”


Da’ Bears!

Recent headlines have featured Hank the Tank– an over 500 pound black bear breaking into houses in Lake Tahoe. It seems clear that like so many in California, Hank is not able to find the room he needs to roam and is being priced out of an exploding real estate market. We read these stories and knew we had to help. Thousands of people have been moving from California to Colorado over the past few years. Why not also have them bring their bears to us?! Working closely with the Department of Wildlife in both states, we have offered our ranch as a premier location for black bears. Our campers specialize in leaving trash around the ranch and rarely utilizing the bear bins. Why walk the extra 50 feet to a bin when you can drop a half-eaten orange into a trash can meant for bathroom paper towels knowing that a wild animal will knock it over and eat it later that night!? Our older campers have been flouting the “no food in tents” rule for years, thinking that none of us know they smuggle in food on opening day. We have embraced our identity in the ursine community as THE PLACE to find a good meal. 

Starting this summer, instead of teaching bears to fear humans, we will be welcoming our furry friends with open arms. During the off-season, our local bears have learned to open doors and walk freely in and out of our staff lounge. As seen in this video, one bear, upon exiting our staff lounge, realized that he forgot his keys to his truck, and simply jumped up, opened the door, and headed back in to get what he needed. This sort of independent, problem-based thinking is what we thrive to inculcate in our campers and staff! In preparation for this summer, we are training our bears to provide needed cuddles to campers who want a strong hug. We are also training them to work alongside our maintenance team to lift heavy objects, which will hopefully save us from some worker-comp claims for injured lower backs. We know Hank is going to find a welcoming place and cannot wait to welcome him to our kehillah kedosha.


Summer Skiing

On the one hand, we never want to make our campers feel unsafe by indoctrinating them with the left-wing socialist idea that human actions are causing a climate crisis. On the other hand, it’s hard to argue with the fact that snow is becoming harder and harder to come by these days and that the traditional ski season is getting shorter each year. We recently noticed an upsetting article that Vail Resorts had sold so many Epic Passes (unlimited seasonal ski-passes) that lines at winter ski areas were over 200 people deep on many days. Given all that is going on in the world these days, this is a travesty; we love corporations and are always looking to help out the big guy!

After reaching out to Vail Resorts to see how we could help, we learned that to appease their unhappy customers, they were looking to expand their season into the summer months. We knew just the place for them to do it: Givat Ilanot! Modeled on two two famous indoor ski areas, the Snow Dome in Newark, NJ and the indoor ski slopes of Dubai, we recently broke ground on an incredible 200-acre dome. The dome will cover the entirety of Givat Ilanot and the adjacent hilltops. We have covered the roof with solar panels which will power eight, 200,000 BTU units of air conditioning to ensure that our hill remains at a brisk 30 degrees all summer long. We were so inspired by the winter Olympics in China, which showed us that even arid places can provide world-class slopes and half-pipes, that we too decided to divert much needed water from farmers downstream to fulfill our own vanity project. We have tapped into our remaining historical water-rights and plan to blast our temperature-controlled hill with snow for 19 hours a day until we have eighteen inches of packed powder. We are going to focus on free-style skiing and half-pipe snowboarding, understanding that a dome will never provide the conditions needed for slalom skiing. We hope the snow guns will be installed and blow snow no later than May 15th, just about the time when the last of the mountain resorts in Colorado close for their normal season. Because we are committed to inclusivity, we negotiated with Vail Resorts to allow holders of both an Epic Pass and their rival, the Ikon Pass, to come enjoy the slopes on Sundays throughout the season and any day thereafter once campers leave in August.


We are so excited for all the upcoming changes happening at Ramah this season. We hope that you are having a wonderful Purim and that you have enjoyed reading our farcical ideas as much as we enjoyed writing them.
Chag Purim Sameach!

Rabbi Eliav and the Ramah in the Rockies Team

PS. While 98% of the above is farcical, there are two elements of truth. 

1. We really do spend 100s of hours applying for masa’ot permits, and most trails in Colorado are not accessible to us as commercial outfitters.
2. The video of the bear walking out of our staff lounge is real and was captured on camera in September 2021. The footage was filmed by a game camera set up by the Colorado Department of Parks & Wildlife next to one of their bear traps. Unfortunately, that bear is no longer in the land of the living, having broken into other buildings and caused thousands of dollars in damage. The bear had been captured and tagged in a previous year and likely relocated to our forest, meaning it had already been labeled “a nuisance” and could no longer be retrained. We are partly at fault that the bear became so comfortable around camp. We must do better with disposing of food only in bear bins. When we ask families not to send food to campers to keep in their cabins, and plead with staff and campers to dispose of their waste only in bear-proof garbage cans, this is why!

Thursday July 15, 2021

6 Av 5781

The sun is shining and the air is cool. The ranch is silent, except for the sound of our backup generators at the sewage treatment plant and the kitchen which are humming amidst an area-wide power outage(!!). Staff are returning from their days off, during which they chose from several COVID-conscious activities such as camping, attending a Ramah-only private movie screening at a local theater, and visiting a local park.

The past four weeks have flown by. We sweated in the initial days of the session, when temperatures were above 90 degrees, and then threw on extra layers for much of the remainder of the session, when temperatures dropped far below what is typical for late June/early July.  We played hours of Connect Four in Ohel Koby, hiked lush mountain peaks, and biked miles of single track. We danced outdoors, sang lecha-dodi outside in a rainstorm, and spent hours hanging out with friends during free-time and at campsites on masa’ot (excursions). Overall, perhaps what was most noticeable about session I, was how normal it all felt at camp, even as  a pandemic continues just beyond our gates.

While it is impossible to sum up four action-packed weeks in a few paragraphs, I hope that the three vignettes below provide a glimpse of life at Ramah in the Rockies during the first session. 

Havdalah at the Mirpaah

What started as an afterthought has now become tradition. For years, we have gathered on our basketball court to sing havdalah as a community and then dance to Israeli music. Because of COVID restrictions, we could not gather as one group for the first Shabbat of the session.  Instead, we decided  to set up a sound system on the porch of our new Mirpaah (Wellness Center), and asked each ohel cohort to come together in a circle, eight feet from the next group. Twenty-five administrative staff donned fluorescent vests to act as human cones between groups and ensure that groups remained adequately spaced. To our surprise, that first Saturday night, havdalah was magical! While our community spanned 400+ feet on the road, the new setup made it possible for chalutzim to dance with plenty of room. For most of us, that Shabbat was the first time we had celebrated Jewish ritual in a large in-person community in over 15 months. Although we were socially distanced, our voices and energy came together in ways we could not have imagined only a few weeks earlier.  Each subsequent week, we gathered along the road, this time in edah-wide cohorts, singing and dancing together. Older campers hopped onto the porch to help lead the younger chalutzim in dancing to Israeli music.

Eating in the Chadar Ochel

For years, our camp meals have been shared in a large white dining tent where the decibel level frequently reached that of a jet-engine. While our dining tents served us well, we never saw them as a permanent solution. In addition to the noise, none were truly weatherproof, and we often had to spend significant amounts of time clearing tent floors of floods after rainfalls.  Since the lodge fire of 2017, we have been planning to welcome our community to a newly rebuilt dining hall, one that would protect campers from the elements and enable us all to gather in one place. This summer, our dream was realized, albeit a little differently than we had planned. While our new dining hall is designed to seat 350 people at a time, with COVID social distancing requirements we had to expand onto our dining deck and an adjacent administrative center that also opened for the first time in 2021. Meals were a time for chalutzim and tzevet to eat and also bond. Because of our COVID restrictions, only one person per table was permitted to stand up at a time, which meant that meals were far more orderly than ever before. And the food, by most accounts, has been better than most years, including what has become a camp-wide favorite, Impossible Burger night!

Masa

Coming into this summer, we set a framework that would encourage campers to see their entire camp experience as a masa, or backcountry excursion. We identified five key elements of camp that apply both at the chava (ranch) and out on actual masaot. We trained our staff around these five key elements, and used them to evaluate our program. Each session, a highlight for me is being present as our masa’ot return from their days away. This year, because of COVID, we sent masa’ot by ohel for the first two weeks, and then by edah for the final masa of each session. Sitting on the porch of our new Mirpaah, I watched as groups hiked into camp singing the songs they had written while on the trail, or returned in white vans, dirty yet happy and excited about all they had accomplished on their trips. I watched campers who had left only a few days earlier as individuals returned as a cohesive and supportive group. Some completed their routes; others had to turn around because of unmaintained trails or high water crossings. Yet all had learned a crucial lesson, namely that the point of masa is not the route itself but their experiences and the resilience they develop on the trail. One memorable moment was welcoming our youngest campers back from their first ever two-day masa. These 8/9 year olds had only hiked a mile or so with packs but felt as though they had completed an epic journey because they had camped out for two nights, and spent a day hiking a nearby peak. In their smiles, I saw campers who hopefully will be with us for years to come as chalutzim and then trip-leaders themselves in ten years or so.

In an hour, we will gather to process our first session as a full staff. Just as we do with our chalutzim most nights, we will recount our highs and lows of the past month. We will reset our goals for this next month, imagining all that we hope to accomplish as leaders and role models for our second session campers. This summer would not be happening were it not for our dedicated tzevet, our camp families who entrust us with their children, and our hundreds of donors who enable us to do  whatever it takes to make camp operate this summer. To all of you,THANK YOU for continuing to believe in our community and to support our mission. 

For those whose children just returned from session IA or IA+IB, please help us improve our program by either sending us a note about your child’s experience and/or filling out this third- party survey about their experience. We grow each year based on honest feedback and appreciate you helping us continue to improve the Ramah in the Rockies experience for both second session chalutzim and those who will join us in 2022 and beyond!

If your child was with us for only session IA, please complete the survey here

If your child was with us for session IA+IB please complete the survey here

It is now Friday morning, having failed to hit send last night. Wishing everyone a Shabbat Shalom and a meaningful Tisha B’Av on Sunday.

-Rabbi Eliav

Ps. The power came back on yesterday around noon. The $125,000+ we have spent on three backup generators seems to have paid off since we could keep our vital systems running even without power..

Our Hanukkah Highlights series is an opportunity for tzevet (staff) from every corner of our community to share their favorite camp memories! For every day of Hanukkah we will be featuring a different staff member and a different wonderful story about what makes Ramah in the Rockies so special. 

Tamar Moss climbing rocks


Name: 
Tamar Moss

Job at Camp: Base Camp Intern

Summers at Ramah in the Rockies: 7

Favorite Camp Activity: Rock Climbing

Occupation: Student at Brandeis University studying Environmental Studies

 

This past summer, two other counselors and I had the opportunity to lead a group of Metayalim (5th and 6th graders) campers on a backpacking trip along the Goose Creek Trail. The route snakes through the beautiful Lost Creek Wilderness and involves summiting a few small mountains, but I was especially excited for this masa (backcountry excursion) for another reason – this was a route I had previously hiked as a camper just a few summers before.

I was back at Ramah in the Rockies as a base camp intern, my first summer on staff, and had the opportunity to experience one of my favorite trails as a madricha (counselor) instead of as a chalutza (camper). As we packed up our gear, I wondered what the next few days would bring. Would I be able to facilitate amazing masa memories for my campers the way my counselors had for me?

On our first afternoon out on the trail it immediately started to rain, and we were all a little bit cold and miserable. We decided it would be a good idea to stop for the night, even though there wasn’t a stream big enough to use as a water source right near our campsite. We helped the campers set up tarps and they changed into dry clothes as we cooked dinner.

After dinner, another counselor and I collected empty water bottles and hiked a down the mountain to get water from a bigger stream. As I trudged back up the mountain, my backpack heavy with full water bottles, I remember thinking that the first day of our masa had been more frustrating than fun. All I wanted was for our group to get some rest and start fresh in the morning. I hoped the kids were winding down and going to sleep.

As I got closer to the campsite, however, I was surprised to hear bursts of laughter and giggles. The kids, who I had presumed were cold, damp, and probably grumpy, were just the opposite! Huddled together in their sleeping bags under a dripping tarp, morale was high and they had been busy inventing a new game.

This game was sort of like a competition between two teams, where someone came up with a topic, and each team composed a satirical advertisement or skit about it. Then a panel of judges voted on which performance they liked best. The chalutzim continued to play this game throughout the rest of the masa. Every time we took a break and were ready to get back on the trail, they would beg for time to play just one more round.

I realized that while I had been busy worrying about making masa fun and memorable for the chalutzim, they had been busy creating their own fun! This experience taught me that sometimes being a great counselor isn’t about planning the best activities or being in control. Sometimes being a great counselor is about encouraging your campers to be creative and silly, and empowering their leadership by being an enthusiastic participant in the games they create themselves.

It was really special to watch these chalutzim come together over something that made them all laugh – to see every single one of them included and participating. I hope that someday those campers will be on staff themselves, having grown up at Ramah in the Rockies the way I did. And I hope that when they lead their first masa, they remember their hike along the Goose Creek Trail in 2017 and realize that as long as they give their campers space to be goofy and creative, the fun will find them!

Our Hanukkah Highlights series is an opportunity for tzevet (staff) from every corner of our community to share their favorite camp memories! For every day of Hanukkah we will be featuring a different staff member and a different wonderful story about what makes Ramah in the Rockies so special. 

Isaac Rosen Climbing rocks

Name: Isaac Rosen

Job at Camp: Solelim Madrich, Climbing Staff, & Masa Leader

Summers at Ramah in the Rockies: 5

Favorite Camp Activity: Rock Climbing

Occupation: Student at Tufts University studying English and Film & Media Studies

 

For as long as I can remember, my biggest fear has been lightning. If I was ever outdoors with even the threat of a storm on the horizon, I would tense up and figure out how, where, and when I would be able to get inside. I knew how to tell how far away a strike was, and which indoor and outdoor locations are the safest hideouts in case of an emergency. Needless to say, a deep-rooted fear of lightning and five summers in the Colorado Rocky Mountains set me up for some interesting situations.

Fast forward to the first time I ever lead a backpacking masa (backcountry excursion). Though I had participated in numerous masa’ot throughout my time as a camper at Ramah in the Rockies, I still felt as nervous as I did excited, stepping into this new leadership role for the first time. I spent the next few days exploring Colorado’s Lost Creek Wilderness with a group of 13 and 14 year old chalutzim (campers). Everything was going according to plan until, suddenly, it wasn’t.

*FLASH*

I instinctually start counting in my head. “One…Two…Thr – ”

*BOOM*

Less than a mile away.

The clouds overhead still looked light – far from the ominous dark gray of the typical Colorado thunderheads – and yet the thunder roared before I could even take a breath. The calm, pale sky had misled us, urging us to push onward toward the top of the saddle we had to pass, and now the lightning was much too close for comfort. If it had been five years earlier I would have been shaking in my hiking boots, closing my eyes, and hauling tuchus down the mountain towards safety. Even as an adult, I felt the familiar childhood terror creep into my mind. This time, however, I knew that I couldn’t let fear stand in the way of being the leader my campers needed me to be.

I looked at the faces of those middle schoolers behind me, and in that moment, I realized that I couldn’t be the shaky, whimpering kid anymore. It was my turn to become one of the level-headed role models that I had looked up to and trusted to protect me during my masa’ot as a camper.

I kept my cool, instructed everyone to turn around, and we quickly headed for lower ground. We found a small grove of aspen trees, all of which were evenly sized but weren’t the tallest trees in the vicinity I knew this would be the safest place to wait out the lightning storm; we had gone over lighting protocal time and time again during staff week and throughout the Wilderness First Responder training course that masa leaders participate in.

Together we sat down on our backpacks and assumed “lightning position,” watching the flashes of the lightning, listening for the crashes of the thunder, counting the seconds between them all, and waiting patiently for the storm to pass.

From that point forward the trip went smoothly, and the lighting storm became just another story for my campers to eagerly share with their friends when we returned triumphantly to base camp just in time for Shabbat that Friday. But for me, the memory of that storm is so much more than just another exciting masa story. In that moment, crouching in the aspen grove with those kids, I suddenly understood that the counselors I had looked up to as a chalutz all those summer ago were not super-human. They were ordinary people – people just like me – who rose to the occasion because they knew their campers were depending on them.

This is what makes masa’ot  at Ramah in the Rockies so special – for both the chalutzim and for their counselors. On these excursions into the unknown, we all have the opportunity to face our fears, overcome challenges, and emerge on the other side knowing that we are capable of more than we ever imagined.

Why you should go to Adult Camp

By Alan Levitt

AdultCamp RiverCrossingI’m guessing you know a kid who’s been to Ramah in the Rockies. I’m guessing you’ve had that wonderful, enthusiastic encounter, when they try to describe their experience: they’re talking a-mile-a-minute about the fantastic adventures they had, telling you about a new friend or three, perhaps singing a new Hebrew song or laughing at some inside joke. You’ve probably noticed a renewed sense of Jewish identity. And a fresh confidence.

And we all say the same thing: Man, I wish I could go to camp.

I said that. Three of my kids have worked multiple summers at Ramah Outdoor Adventure (ROA), and a couple of my nieces have attended as campers. So I had visited the camp and had seen the literature and watched the videos and heard the stories. Hiking. Biking. Climbing. Sleeping under the stars. A community Shabbat filled with singing and dancing and ruach. Archery!

AdultCamp RockClimbingLast year, ROA offered Adult Camp, and a dozen of us jumped at the chance to be part of the inaugural class. Most of us had some connection to the camp; we had children who either attended or worked there. Or we knew someone who did. We were from all over the country, from a variety of Jewish backgrounds and with a diverse range of abilities and experiences. In that sense, we were exactly like every group of campers that comes to ROA.

In truth, I think a lot of us did it to connect with our kids – to better understand what made ROA so special to them. We also did it because it sounded like fun. Yes, we did the stuff you see in the brochure: biking, climbing, singing, davening. Archery! We marveled at the deepest, clearest night sky most of us had ever seen. We enjoyed a wonderful Shabbat and then we embarked on a backpacking trip through the beautiful Pike National Forest.

AdultCamp TfillahBut here’s the thing the kids and the brochure won’t tell you: the activities are indeed a blast, but more than that the experience is also transformative. Even for an adult. You will bond with amazing, interesting people. You will learn from first-rate Jewish educators and outdoor leaders. You will be challenged and at times pushed beyond your comfort zone. If you let it, it will open and touch your heart.

I don’t want to give too much away. You should discover for yourself. I’ll just say, when you march back into camp property on the final morning after your masa (“journey”) you’ll be different – you’ll be “more” – than you were when you arrived at camp a week earlier. Then, and only then, will you truly understand why your kids get so excited about Ramah in the Rockies.

For more information or to register now, click here.

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

 

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

Wow! It is hard to believe that this time next week our ranch will be empty, except for the few people on our maintenance staff who will be helping to ready it for the winter.  What a summer it has been, and what a wonderful way to end the summer with this smaller once week program.

This weekend, our ranch has been filled with life!  All of our chalutzim returned from their Masa on Friday.  Overall, they had a wonderful time on their hike.  Like so many of the past few days, it rained for a few hours on their Masa, and the chalutzim had the opportunity to use their tarp building skills to stay dry.  I was told that they all slept out under tarps rather than put up tents.  Ironically, in rainy weather, a tarp will keep you dryer than a tent, and because we are so high in the mountains there are almost no mosquitoes to worry about.

In addition to the regular Metayalim (6th/7th grade program), we also have been running a small family camp here for the past few days.  For the most part, our two programs have remained separate, except for meals and some of the services (family camp sleep in a different part of the ranch about a 7 minutes walk from our chalutzim’s tents).  One of the nice aspects of having a family camp here at the same time as our chalutzim is that we really do feel like a big family.  Throughout the summer, the unifying element of every session has been the sense that we are one big Kehillah (community).  Even though many members have changed, the feeling has remained the same.  It is wonderful to see this same sense of community continue when we have so many “real” families here as well.

In what is perhaps a record for a Ramah Camp outside of California, we were able to conduct every Friday night service outside on our field, and not have to go to our rain plan even once for Kabbalat Shabbat.  This Friday, it looked as though we would be davening under our large white circus tent as it rained on and off all afternoon.  But about 20 minutes before services, when the sun broke through the clouds,  Stevo, our Rosh Shira, said that he would get some counselors to go and dry all the benches if it meant that we could conduct services outdoors.  And so sure enough, as the rest of us were up at the tents dancing our preshabbat Israeli dances, our staff readied our benches.  By the time we all danced down to the field, the sun shone brighter than it had all day, and the benches were completely dry.

In addition to the usual eating, singing and resting one of the highlights of Shabbat was the “Lorax” debate that the Metalyalim had about who should be responsible for the damage done by the people who cut down all the Truffela trees.  We actually had to cut off the debate after an hour and fifteen minutes because it was time to move to the next activity.  Given the pace of the camp on most other days, on Shabbat the chalutzim all appreciated being able to sleep in (until 8:00am) and having down time to sit and play cards or just to hang out and chat.

Today was a full day of programming including: paper making in arts and crafts, slack line and team building exercises in the low ropes, relay races in shmirat hagoof, soccer/ ultimate (our unique Ramah Outdoor Adventure sport) during sports, service projects on the farm (including time with the chickens) and much much more.  Tomorrow we have another full day– filled with biking, horseback riding and climbing– our last of the summer.  Our hope is that by the end of the session, each chalutz will have had a chance to experience each of the activities offered at camp.  Hopefully next year they will be able to return for a longer session and actually be able to choose a few activities in which to go in depth.

Over the past few days, I have also had an opportunity to speak with each member of our staff individually to hear about how they would like to continue with Ramah Outdoor Adventure.  It warms my heart to know that most of our staff want to return for another year, and many of them are planning on doing so (“sadly” some of our older staff members are beginning fulltime jobs that will not allow them to return for 8 weeks next summer).  As I have written so often in these blog updates, the success of this summer is due in a large part because of the extraordinary staff we have here at the Chava.  Our staff are some of the most committed group of camp counselors I have ever seen.  They each see the success of this camp as being part of the legacy they would like to leave.  And therefore, so many of them are working late into the night putting down their ideas and programs on paper so that on the off chance they do not return next year, whomever takes over their position will be able to continue the work they are doing, and not have to worry about recreating the programming that the inaugural staff already implemented.

The next update I will send, the last of the summer will be a much more nostalgic one.  For now, we are working to ensure that our last day of full programing is as well run, challenging and meaningful as our first few days.  We operate at 100% until our last chalutz leaves the chava  on Tuesday morning.