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.