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
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
November 29th is Giving Tuesday. For those who have never heard of Giving Tuesday, it’s a reaction to the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Rather than spending money on something material, it is a chance for people to take part in a Global Day of Giving.
I am asking that this Giving Tuesday you consider making a meaningful gift to Ramah in the Rockies. In my nearly four seasons at Ramah in the Rockies (and another 15 with the greater Ramah movement), I have seen first hand what a blessing camp can be.
I have witnessed campers learn a new skill, overcome fears, make friends, form a community, and become better people! I know that camp can change lives because it has changed mine.
I am asking you to help us nurture the next generation of Jewish youth.
Your gift allows us to provide opportunities and experiences like these:
Campers from smaller Jewish populations feeling the power of immersive Jewish community for their first time,
Campers from cities like New York or Los Angeles actually seeing starry nights and hearing nature’s orchestra,
Groups of campers forming community and conquering challenges while hiking together through Rocky Mountain National Park,
Campers learning lifelong skills as they work to master fire building, rock climbing, mountain biking, and other techniques, and
An enduring love of the Colorado wilderness. Many of our campers and staff have planted roots in Colorado and grown the local Jewish community because of their time with Ramah.
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!
After a refreshing intersession with our staff and refocusing our energies on our goals at camp, the chava (ranch) is teeming with activity again. The past two days have been full programing with chalutzim biking, climbing, creating arts and crafts, zumba dancing, mining, and so much more. Each day during the past week has started with brilliant sunshine before clouds have rolled in for a late afternoon shower. We have had to adapt some of our programing, but are thankful for any moisture as the west is not a good place to be when it becomes too hot and dry.
As we prepare for our first Shabbat of the session, we are also here with our largest group of chalutzim ever assembled on the ranch (205!), including a large contingent from Mexico City’s Bet El congregation. Alongside their rabbi, Rabbi Leonel Levy, are here for the first two weeks of second session. We look forward to a continued partnership with the community in Mexico City and to seeing their numbers grow in future summers, even if we never plan to have more than 205 chalutzim on the ranch at any one time!
The first few days of a session are always a combination of excitement and trepidation; excitement at returning to camp, a second home for so many of our chalutzim (campers), and trepidation by both new and returning chalutzim about how the summer will be, what activities one will do, and whether one will make close friends. On Wednesday, our oldest chalutzim picked their activity areas that they will do throughout Session IIA and some into IIB. Our younger chalutzim were assigned activities that included archery, horseback riding, and animal care. While it is impossible to describe everything that transpires during the first few days of the session, we saw groups who dug up amazing rocks in mining, groups who rode horses out to Ramah Valley and around the perimeter of our ranch, and groups of mountain bikes who attempted our beginner and intermediate single tracks. (Next week they will ride the advanced track!) In all of these activities, our guiding ethos of “challenge by choice” has been front and center. Each chalutz has only been in competition with him/her self.
Each morning our chalutzim have awakened to the sound of “bo-bo-boker tov” yelled by a group who stand on the picnic table in the Kfar assisted by G-baby who usually is coming back from his hour long ride by 7:00am. After the chalutzim wash and dress, they all head to their m’komot t’fillah (prayer spaces) for shmirat haguf (morning exercise) and t’fillot (prayers). The t’fillot over the past two days have been incredible and inspiring. We had some groups singing along with guitars, others engaged in more movement-focused t’fillot, others doing art, and others engaged in a more traditional, full matbeah, t’fillot . Our second oldest edah, Bogrim, spent part of their first t’fillah learning about t’fillin, and actually having a chance to open a pair and to peek inside. Starting on the first day, and continuing over the course of the session, our hope is that chalutzim can experience an array of prayer options. This session we are blessed to have a number of rabbinic “guest stars” who are here to help with all educational aspects of the program.
Sadly, due to the rain on opening day, for the second time in our camp’s history, we did not have a camp-wide opening campfire on the first night of a session. On a personal level, I was sad about this, since this campfire is when we usually teach the camp song and it is the first time I have a chance to address our entire kehillah kedosha (holy community). Instead, we had a chance to do some opening remarks during dinner in the chadar ochel (dining hall). Last night our younger chalutzim had a campfire where they sang songs and heard some stories. Our older chalutzim had a chance to play capture the flag in Ramah valley, another programmatic staple of our camp.
As I finish writing this email, our entire Kehillah Kedosha is engaged in doing service projects for the camp. We believe that everyone in our community can contribute in some way to the betterment of camp as a way to prepare for Shabbat. At the moment our chalutzim are beautifying the chadar ochel for Shabbat dinner, creating a new trail in camp, giving the camp dogs a bath (they need it!), and more. As soon as each have finished their projects we will begin the rotations in the shower house, when everyone is “required” to clean themselves and ready themselves physically for Shabbat, which includes putting on clean clothes. In a few short hours, all will be dressed in white and gathering as an entire camp to dance and sing.
Next week is our masa week, when our older chalutzim leave for most of the week. Our younger chalutzim will have a chance to do a shorter excursion and will also have most of the ranch to themselves to further engage in our base camp activities.
On behalf of the entire Ramah team, I hope that you too have a relaxing and joyful Shabbat!
We use a lot of Hebrew at camp, and we do this intentionally. We teach our chalutzim Hebrew via everyday activities and announcements. As an example, in Soosim (horses) kids learn the names of parts of a horse and saddle in both Hebrew and English. Below are some of our most commonly used words in Hebrew, for your reference.
https://www.ramahoutdoors.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/LOGO-300x167.png00Adminhttps://www.ramahoutdoors.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/LOGO-300x167.pngAdmin2016-07-22 20:13:482016-07-22 20:13:48Hebrew At Camp: A Glossary
The sun is shining, groups are returning– it’s a beautiful late afternoon on the chava (ranch)! We had stunning weather this past week and it’s truly an incredible feeling to see this chava full of 300+ chalutzim (campers), tzevet (staff), and orchim (guests). Rabbi Mitch Cohen, the National Ramah Commission Director, who is visiting this weekend, commented to me, “How cool is it that 7 years later, it’s just routine to be able to visit Ramah in the Rockies!?”
A few photos from our new Mountaineering Masa
Last Sunday, we celebrated a meaningful “Yom Yisrael” (Israel Day). JOLI helped plan the day and run the different peulot (activities). Each edah focused on a different aspects of Israeli culture and history. The Ilanot chalutzim had activities relating to raising kids in Israeli society via life milestones such as birthday parties, bnai mitzvah, entering the army, and more. Metaylim and Sollelim together learned about pioneer spirit of the early chalutzim (pioneers) and the establishment of the State of Israel. The Bogrim chalutzim focused on issues about Israeli innovation and contributions to the world.
Ilanot had a week full of base camp activities, as well as a camp-out out under the stars. One of the highlights of their week was Rocktion. At the Rocktion (Rock-Auction), the campers collected rocks around camp that they would try to “sell” to staff and fellow campers, in exchange for popcorn kernel currency. The chalutzim created their own pricing system based on what value they found each rock to be worth. Dani, the Rosh Edah, excitedly shared with me about a moment where four campers pooled their rock resources and created a “store” together at the Rocktion. Other activities included a carnival complete with face painting, balloon animals, a photo booth, snow cones as well as a hike up one of our neighboring mountains.
Metaylim spent some time in base camp this week along with time out on a 2-day backpacking masa (backcountry excursion). One of the highlights of their week was a limmud (learning activity) where Nadav (a staff member) led them in a discussion about changes that campers would want to see in the world. These campers maturely and articulately discussed in small groups their personal passions: gender equality, religious ethics, gun control, and many other worldly topics. Campers had a lot of curiosity to learn and understand more. They shared their own opinions on the topics, how they think it affects their day-to-day, and how they can support each other’s beliefs.
For the final three days of the week, the group backpacked in Pike National Forest. One masa group shared that they encountered unexpected items on the trail including a cave in one spot, some animal bones in another, and more! The kids came back covered in charcoal “war paint” excited about their accomplishments and ready to celebrate Shabbat!
Sollelim spent the majority of this past week out on masa. Groups were spread across Western Central Colorado including groups who rock climbed near Canyon City, shot archery at Cheyenne Mountain State Park and biked in Pike National Forest. The biking trip left camp and returned four days later after biking numerous mountain passes and having ridden 37 miles just yesterday! The art masa, one of our newer additions, had a chance to hike and paint in the beautiful Colorado wilderness.
This past Shabbat, Bogrim did a Peulat Shabbat (Shabbat Activity) on Jewish Identity. The edah made bar graphs by voting with post-its on various important aspects of our Jewish identities. Categories included Israel, Hebrew, Jewish Education, having Jewish friends, pursuing social justice, Shabbat, Jewish observance/halakhah, eating Jewish foods, and remembering the Holocaust. The campers made new bar graphs of what our grandparents would have chosen within these categories. It was interesting to see trends of what chalutzim chose and similarities and differences to their grandparents. The discussion then moved into smaller groups based on the category and everyone shared stories of why they chose it. One chalutzah told the story of her grandma, a Holocaust survivor in Toronto, and how that has impacted her Jewish identity.
Bogrim left camp on Monday morning for their various masa’ot. This summer we pioneered the advanced climbing/mountaineering chug in basecamp, which pairs up with a mountaineering masa. We created this program to give campers who had been here for a number of years a new opportunity to grow and challenge themselves. In the same day on masa, that trip managed to go sledding down a patch of ice, cross over the Continental Divide, and spend the day swimming at an alpine lake (at 10,000 feet) in Rocky Mountain National Park! The participants on this new masa had a great time. They even said it could be harder so as to be able to push themselves more next time.
JOLI has been gone since early Monday morning, and experienced some incredible moments and achievements on “adventure masa”. While the majority of the edah was out on the masa, several chalutzim chose instead to be counselors-in-training (CITs) in different areas around camp, and learn more about what it means to be on staff. On the adventure masa, the chalutzim got to mountain bike, rock climb, hike, and even practice their WFA skills! Their madrichim (counselors) ran them through several medical scenarios to test their training on the trip. Yesterday, the group reached the summit of a high peak nearby, and were exceptionally proud of their accomplishments on the trip. Ari, our Communications Manager, joined them for two nights, and shared that he had many incredible conversations with this thoughtful and mature group of campers about their JOLI experience, school, hobbies, life, and how they got to Ramah. He appreciated watching the intentionality of every component of the trip and how much responsibility the chalutzim had to lead themselves throughout.
As we get ready to send this email, everyone is showering and changing into their clean white clothes. We are going to be gathering in a few minutes in the Pardes T’fillah for dancing and Kabbalat Shabbat. It is hard to believe that this is the final Shabbat of first session. Our time together has been flown by. Tonight, in my D’Var Torah, I will be emphasizing the importance of cultivating friendships that last a lifetime. Indeed, we have seen that many of our chalutzim who have been with us for multiple years are forming and nurturing these friendships and our hope is that, over time, as our younger chalutzim return to camp each year, they too will have these cherished friendships on which they can rely.
Some photos are already online at Smugmug and on Facebook. We will be adding more after Shabbat. You can check out a video of a few of the masa’ot photos here: 2016 Masa Week Session 1B
Can you believe it? After months of planning, filling out forms, going over packing lists, and getting ready for the summer, camp is FINALLY here! Our chalutzim arrived at the ranch over the course of the day on Wednesday. In a true Colorado fashion, we experienced both sunny skies and drizzling throughout the day as chalutzim (campers) met their madrichim (counselors), their fellow chalutzim, and acclimated to life at 8,000 feet elevation.
Our Rashei Edot (Unit Heads)
That night, our Sollelim campers (7th and 8th grade) and Bogrim campers (9th and 10th grade) heard all about our different offerings and leveled into their chugim (specialty areas). Our Ilanot (3rd and 4th grade) and Metaylim (5th and 6th grade) campers spent time around our medurah (campfire) singing songs and being introduced to camp traditions.
Ilanot had an awesome activity last night where they played some get-to-know-you games. Dani, Rosh Ilanot, described it as featuring “an epic game of sharks and minnows, and a massive human knot activity”. She also reported that all the Ilanot campers are “super-pumped” about horseback riding. At t’fillot this morning, Ilanot was joined by Metaylim, and were led by one of our guests, Rabbi Elana Kanter (also known as G-Baby’s mom). She used storytelling to talk about all the different brachot. During birkot hashachar (a morning prayer), the group acted out all the different things they were thankful for upon waking.
Metaylim started off the summer with the fun activities of horseback riding, outdoor cooking, biking, and hanging out with our baby goats. Vanessa, Rosh Metaylim, shared a great story about how some of our returning campers taught the new campers our favorite game of Gaga. They had a blast learning the game and joining in the friendly competition. Last night, Metaylim had a fun icebreaker activity asking each other questions and getting to know their fellow chalutzim.
Thursday morning, Sollelim trekked up Givat Ilanot (a hill overlooking our property) and held their morning services looking onto camp. The entire hike up, the edah sang and shouted their Sollelim cheers. Last night, they had a special peulat erev (evening activity) – a fashion show where campers dressed up their counselors, painted faces, and did their hair. Each counselor was supposed to represent a variety of themes (Frozen, wizards, America, fireworks, etc) . The campers had to introduce the counselors and the theme to a panel of judges. Our panel of judges (including Rosh Omanut- Head of Art) gave feedback and the chalutzim loved the activity. Rami, Rosh Sollelim, shared about a camper who did a freestyle rap to present their counselor.
Last night, Bogrim had a rousing game of capture the flag on the Kikar(an open field in camp). Earlier in the day, they had a limmud (text study) on social issues and brainstormed what actions they could take to address some of them (such as treatement of animals or unity of the Jewish people). This morning our Bogrim chalutzim held an unusual type of t’fillah, which Rosh Bogrim Dave described as a “spiritual chevruta”. In pairs, they discussed what parts of prayer are difficult for them, what parts they enjoy, and what they were looking to get out of their prayer experiences this summer.
Since JOLI’s (11th and 12th grade) arrival on Monday, they have been certified in Wilderness First Aid and learned basic backcountry skills. These are the first steps in the Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute’s process of transforming campers into outdoor leaders. Putting all their skills to the test, JOLI cooked their dinner and slept out in Ramah Valley last night. They practiced setting up tarps, tents, bear bags, and more!
For all our campers, this week we introduced a new perek (activity block) into the schedule: Mifgash (Meet Up). This activity takes place right before dinner with the goal of creating a daily time in our busy days to recognize the awesome things that happen here. We share some highlights of the day and sing and dance a bit. After Mifgash, the entire camp washes hands and heads into dinner.
As our camper population has continued to expand over the years, so too have some of our facilities. In order to accommodate this growth, we built three new tents this summer, as well as a brand new bathroom and shower house. We are excited for our campers to “break it in” as they get ready for Shabbat– cleaning up and changing into their Shabbat whites. We look forward to our first Shabbat with campers this summer, full of ruach (spirit) and joy!
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.
If it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes leaders and elders to help set the tone for the community. Ramah in the Rockies is a magical village that opens its doors for nine weeks each summer and transforms the lives of the hundreds of youth who walk through our gates. And, if our chalutzim (campers/pioneers) are our village members, then our village leaders are the madrichim (counselors) and the village elders are Hanhallah (senior staff). The Hanhallah of our camp form an extraordinary group of passionate Jewish educators. They are the ones who work tirelessly throughout the summer ensuring that your children have impactful, fun, and safe experiences at Ramah in the Rockies.
With only weeks until we welcome our first chalutzim, it is with great pride that we introduce the members of our 2016 Hanhallah.
(To read about our year round team, please visit Our Team.)
Julia Snyder – Program Director
Julia is originally from Seattle, and joined ROA as a madricha in 2012, and later as Rosh Ofanayim (Biking). She is a passionate cyclist, lover of vegetarian cooking, and avid explorer. Julia is thrilled to be moving to Denver and returning to the wide open spaces of the West after spending time in New York City. She has experience teaching both Jewish studies and environmental science to learners of all ages, and is excited to combine her academic background of Talmud and Earth Science with the energy and joy of camp.
Rafi Daugherty – Director of Camper Care
Rafi is excited to be returning to camp as the Director of Camper Care with his baby daughter, Ettie! Rafi is a Colorado native who is working towards a graduate degree in Counseling. He also organizes the largest LGBTQ Passover Seder in the world called Queer Seder, held in Denver. Rafi went to camp as a kid and worked in camp as a teen and young adult- he is thrilled to be a part of the Ramah Rockies community.
Melannie is thrilled to be returning to ROA for her 5th summer and, thus, is eagerly anticipating the bestowal of the 5th-year swag item (oh, and her job at camp as well, of course!). For almost a decade, she has lived out of a backpack while studying and working abroad. In this time, Melannie has come to look forward to her time at ROA as a chance to reconnect with friends, nature, Judaism, and the amazing program that camp offers. After a several year hiatus, she is returning to school at Brandeis University in Massachusetts to pursue to her master’s degree in Sustainable International Development and is currently seriously contemplating making her life much more difficult by undertaking a second degree at the same time, of which is an MBA in Nonprofit Management.
Moshe “Mushon” Samuels –Interim Tikvah Director
I am an experienced informal Jewish educator, with vast experience in both Israel and North America. Specifically, I have spent 16 summers on staff at Camp Ramah- I’ve spent 12 summers at Camp Ramah in Canada, where I served as both the unit head and the Jewish educator for the Tikvah program (8 summers with the Edah in total), and for the past couple of summers I’ve served as Rosh Chinuch (Educational Director) at Camp Ramah in the Rockies. Currently, I am the Shaliach (Israeli Emissary) at Bnai Jeshurun Congregation in New York.
Deena Cowans – Rosh Chinuch (Education Director)
Deena is excited to join Team Rockies after seven summers on staff at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin and one summer on staff with Ramah Israel Seminar. She will graduate from Columbia University in May with a Masters in Public Administration- Development Practice (aka International Development, aka helping the developing world). Deena graduated from Duke University in 2011 and then made her way through the Jewish social justice world: she was a corps member with AVODAH in Washington DC, then worked in Israel with the JDC, then in Nepal with an Israeli organization called Tevel B’Tzedek.
Leora Kling Perkins – Rosh Mumchim
Originally from the Boston Area, Leora is entering her third year of rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, and will be returning to camp for her second summer. She is a graduate of Gann Academy and Brandeis University, and worked for several years at the Jewish Community Relations Council in Boston coordinating a literacy volunteer program. She is loves hiking, singing, and cooking delicious vegetarian food, and is especially proud of the garden she planted with her classmates in Jerusalem.
Ben Braunstein – Rosh Logistics
This will be my second summer at Ramah in the Rockies, and I could not be more excited! I am a Jewish Studies major with a background in technology and teaching. I love the outdoors and frequently hike and camp in my home town of Los Angeles. Can’t wait to see you all soon!
Zack Slavkin- Co-Rosh Masa
I was born and raised in Southern California, but came home to Colorado in 2008. Finishing up my psychology degree at CSU, after which I hope to travel and volunteer before coming back and working in alternative therapy environments. I love the outdoors, especially backpacking and mountain biking which are my two main hobbies at the moment. I also like to make music, and I love sharing my passions with others.
Bri Andersen – Co-Rosh Masa
I was born and raised in Colorado. This will be my 6th summer up at Ramah and I LOVE the outdoors. I love to hike in the mountains, bike around Denver, and read a good book by the fireplace. I’m currently studying meteorology at MSU Denver.
It seems like just yesterday, our chalutzim were arriving at the ranch and now we are about to start the last Shabbat of the 2015 camp season. Our chalutzim are back from their masa’ot [backcountry excursions], and changing into their Shabbat whites. After the frenzied morning and afternoon of the trips returning followed by crazy lightning storms, we are looking forward to a calm Shabbat.
We want to share a few highlights from this past week’s happenings at camp, and get you ready to welcome your chalutzim [campers] home.
Sunday we had an awesome Yom Sport competition, where kids spent the day competing in hockey, gaga, ultimate soccer (a game of our own invention), basketball, cheering/cheer writing, and plaque making. The day was full of ruach [spirit] from all, and we want to especially acknowledge the hard work of the JOLI captains and judges who ran the day, and made everything happen. One of the most exciting events of the day is the JOLI fire burn competition, where they have to build a fire tall enough to burn a rope strung between two chairs. This session, JOLI, completed it in the fastest time in ROA history! As soon as one team succeeded, they joined the other teams’ chalutzim in cheering on their fellow JOLI captains. This is the one day each summer that we engage in friendly competition, and it was amazing to see each team act with sportsmanship and menschlichkeit.
Ilanot spent a day with Metaylim at Wellington Lake, and had a day of fun in the sun until the weather turned and the thunder rolled in. They returned to camp, happy and dry. Ilanot also went on a horse masa around our ranch before heading out the back gate to our neighbors’ buffalo ranch where they spent the evening in the barn’s hayloft.
Metaylim was divided into three different groups for their masa’ot: Payne Creek, Rolling Creek, and Wigwam. They spent two nights in the backcountry learning basic masa skills. For many of our Metaylim campers, this was their first extended backpacking trip. It is always a pleasure to see their smiling faces return with an added sense of accomplishment, knowing that they had just spent three days in the back-country.
Sollelim spent the week backpacking, biking, climbing and performing service projects. Al, a Sollelim madrich, held a discussion on trail crew masa about theology and how people connect via traditional sources or nature. Some kids spoke about their connection via nature when spending time alone, others feel connected when they are in a community praying all together. One chalutz shared a story about how they do not connect to traditional views of God, though when they are scared, they find themselves saying the Shma prayer.
Bogrim headed out on horseback riding, rock climbing and biking masa’ot. A highlight from the biking masa was a pizza-making and Jewish identity activity. The talk was about how each person defines Jewish identity and how they find their connections to community, tradition, history, and God. Bogrim backpacking masa summitted a 14’er (mountain peak over 14,000ft) during their trek through the Sangre de Christo Wilderness.
JOLI participants had a choice of either heading out for a five day adventure masa, where they did some mountain biking, rock climbing and also climbed a 14’er, OR remain back at camp as CIT for Metaylim and help lead a masa for the younger campers. Both groups had incredible weeks.
As I complete this weekly email, our last masa group just rolled in from State Forest State Park. Sadly, it also has begun to rain very heavily, which means that our weekly rikud [dancing] will likely be cancelled, and we will daven under our Ohel Moed [tent], instead of our open-air Pardes T’fillah. Nonetheless we are sure that Shabbat will be as spirited as usual, especially given that this is the very last one of the 2015 camping season for everyone in our Kehillah Kedosha [holy community].
In summary, it has been an incredible week thus far, and we are looking forward to a pleasant and relaxing Shabbat here with our adult campers who have joined us. We will be sad to say goodbye to everyone on Tuesday, and can’t wait for them to return next kayitz. A reminder that registration for next summer has already opened, and you can register here.
Rabbi Eliav Bock and the Ramah in the Rockies Team
For the last time this kayitz [summer], a group of our tzevet [staff] made the trek to Denver International Airport, and picked up 41 chalutzim [campers] that were coming in from all corners of North America (and Israel too!) for our final two weeks at camp. This summer has been an incredible one thus far, and the next two weeks will be no different.
This past week started out on an amazingly strong note- we celebrated Yom Yisrael [Israel Day]. The day’s events were put on by our Israeli staff members to educate and engage various aspects of their homeland. At Yom Yisrael, there were stations that taught about kibbutz life, the Bedouins, religious issues in Israel, and Tel Aviv beach culture.
One of the activities was a discussion on the religious and secular divide in Israel, led by our Rosh Chinuch [Head of Education] and Rosh Omanut [Head of Art]. Mushon and Rachel were married this past winter in Israel, religiously, though they chose not to get married under the ultra-orthodox monopoly on weddings in Israel. As a result, their wedding is not recognized by Israeli law. They had planned to have a civil, courthouse wedding here in the States this summer that would then be recognized by Israeli law. However, a camp wedding and educational opportunity proved to be more appealing. The end of the day we celebrated a civil wedding, conducted by one of our tzevet. We celebrated into the night, with yummy wedding cake and cookies made by our awesome kitchen staff. Mushon was particularly excited to teach some of his favorite ‘80’s songs and dances!
This week the chalutzim have been busy participating in our fun base camp activities: rock climbing, mountain biking, horseback riding, mining, archery, hockey, art, and much, much more! In addition to regular camp activities, each edah has also had some special programs.
As I am writing this, I am watching groups get ready with “packout”- a process of packing personal and group gear for their masa’ot [backcountry excursions]. Everyone from Ilanot [3rd and 4th graders] to JOLI [11th and 12th graders] will spend at least one night this week under the stars camping out.
Ilanot this week in their limmud [learning activity] made “Shmonsters”- creative monster stuffed animals made of felt. They learned about the Shma prayer (hence, Shmonsters) and included a text of it inside the stuffed animals for them to have with them.
Metaylim had an awesome art/nature t’fillah [prayer service] led by one of our tzevet chava [farm staff]. They made artwork reflecting their experiences with nature, and later featured a nature walk through camp with meditations.
Sollelim began their limmud [Jewish learning] activity just as the two week buses were arriving up to camp. Rather than continue their activity, they got up and actively greeted the new arrivals, and practiced the value of Hachnasat Orchim [welcoming guests]. Rather than just learning about values, they were living them!
Bogrim enjoyed a rousing and spirited “sing-off” followed by a talent show. Their energy and voices could be heard throughout the office building and this side of camp.
JOLI had an exciting night learning how to make sushi from some of our particularly talented staff. They came up with creative rolls and learned all about the ins and outs of the art of sushi making.
One of the aspects of our camp in which we take pride is the way we lift the veil on the food choices we make at camp. We start most meals with a food tour about what we are eating, or how the food came to our plates. This week, we had two interesting experiences with our food program that we shared with our chalutzim. We began the summer with over 400 gallons of organic milk, donated by a local, private labeler. On Thursday morning, we finished using all our organic milk, and for budgetary reasons will finish the summer serving regular 2% milk. We explained to the chalutzim the shift in the product that they will be served in our final two weeks.
Also, last night we had a camp-wide barbecue with an enormous amount of organic chicken. Due to the cold weather in the northeastern U.S. this winter, the chicks that were supposed to hatch in late winter and then graze for a few months were delayed in hatching and growing to a size where they could be schechted [ritually slaughtered]. Instead of taking delivery of all 500 chickens in early June, we were only able to get a few in the early spring, and the rest were schechted and sent here in early July. With the 9 days when we do not serve meat remaining, we are now left with more meat than expected. This means that our chalutzim who came in the first part of the summer ate less meat than usual, and the ones now at camp are eating more meat than usual. We expect to have another 2-3 barbeques before the end of the summer!
To let you in on a little surprise, Sunday will be our infamous Yom Sport competition. (But shhh, don’t tell your children, it’s a surprise!) We are excited for this energetic day of friendly competition and camaraderie.
We are looking forward to this Shabbat, and the stunning weather we have been having.
A reminder to all that campers cannot receive or send mail while they are on their masa’ot next week. Also, we will only post photos of campers when they are in camp.
Registration is officially open for 2016, and you can sign up on our website (ramahout.s466.sureserver.com) by clicking “Register Now” at the top.
As always we do our best to post regular photo updates both on Facebook and Smugmug, and we will post Shabbat photos on Sunday.
This has been an unseasonably warm and dry week here at the Chava, leading to a similarly pleasant masa [backcountry excursion] week for all of our chalutzim [campers]. Ironically, last Friday night was the first one where we gathered under our Ohel Mo’ed for dancing and t’ffilot because of the rain.
Last Saturday night was a more somber occasion than usual, as we marked Tisha Ba’av, the Ninth of Av, which commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem. Typically, Saturday night is a joyous occasion, filled with dancing, but not this past week. We read the Book of Eicha, a narrative of the destruction, by candlelight in the Ohel Ochel [dining hall] that evening and framed the next day for the chalutzim. Sunday was full of reflective programming, including one peulah [activity] where chalutzim discussed their motivation in life and what values they live by. The peulah asked them to think about why activism is important to their lives or what they stand for.
Ilanot’s highlight of the week was their “Farm Masa”, where they spent an entire day in farming activities: milking goats, making goat cheese, and creating their own lunch with a harvest from the farm – a real “Farm to Table” experience! They then slept out in tents, next to the farm. Today, they visited the local farmer’s market and had a chance to speak with local farmers and sample some Colorado produce.
Metaylim had a blast this week rafting down the Arkansas River and taking a day trip to both Cave of the Winds and Mueller State Park. Be sure to check out some awesome GoPro footage from the rafting on our Facebook page! At Cave of the Winds, they explored the many “rooms” of Colorado’s famous 500 million-year-old cave system, learning about bats and cave formation along the way. They even got to zipline across a scenic canyon!
Sollelim campers headed out for a 4-day masa. The masa’ot included climbing, biking, hiking, art, and service projects. This morning, those of us at camp were awoken by the Payne Creek masa who opted to do a night hike under the full moon back to camp. They left their campsite,
a few miles from camp, at 3 am under a brilliant clear moon, arriving back at the Chava around 6 am and setting up a makeshift campsite on the on the migrash [sports field], where they camped out and made breakfast.
Bogrim campers went kayaking, hiking, climbing, farming, and archery masa’ot. The kayaking group had a chance to be on the water more than usual because of the amazing weather, while the rock climbing masa at Sheeprock accomplished quite an impressive feat – a multi-pitch climb to the top of Helen’s Dome. They were treated to a stunning view at the top and reported beautiful weather.
JOLI went to Indian Peak and, as has become tradition on the JOLI masa, they had a prolonged solo experience. Many reported the highlighs of their week being the solo experience and swimming in a freezing cold lake that was fed by snow melt only a few hundred feet away! They were also inspired and awestruck during this morning’s sunrise t’fillot [prayers] atop the Continental Divide.
Questions to ask your chalutzim this week:
— Ilanot: What was your favorite part of farm masa? What did you do at the Woodland Park Farmers’ Market?
— Metaylim: How was Cave of the Winds? What did you or your friends perform at the lip sync battle?
— Sollelim: Did you get to know anyone new on masa this week? What did you talk about?
— Bogrim: What was something about this masa experience that was new for you? What was the hardest part?
— JOLI: What were you thinking about during your solo experience? What was your biggest challenge on the masa?
We are looking forward to wonderful Shabbat together, and hope that this beautiful weather holds out for the weekend. Sunday is going to be “Yom Yisrael” (Israel Day), where our 12+ Israeli mishlachat [emissaries] plan a day to teach about their homeland. We hope you all have a pleasant and relaxing weekend.
As always, photos from the excursions will be uploaded after Shabbat; you can find them on our Facebook page and Smugmug. A video of some photos from the excursions can be viewed by clicking here.
–Written earlier today, but sent once ALL chalutzim have returned from Masa–
Each Friday morning, when I sit down to write these letters, I wonder where the week went. They say that each day of camp is like three in the “real world” which makes these weekly updates more like 21-day summaries. This past week was no exception.
We began the week with a touching Havdallah on the basketball court followed by an awesome Yom Sport breakout consisting of flaming torches and blazing logs. Sunday was perfect weather for our monthly Yom Sport event. Ultimately, when all the points were tallied from the games, songs, and banners, Kachol [Blue] emerged victorious. Of course, point values did not matter much because everyone had a fun and exciting day.
Sunday morning also brought a joyous occasion: we were FINALLY able to name our goats. Despite our best efforts, the goats were not able to join us for Friday night tfillot. (Our goat farmers had to rush their “aunt” to the vet just before Shabbat due to a spreading infection, which is now under control.) The baby goats will forever be known at Camp Ramah as Chalav and D’vash (Milk and Honey).
This week was our final masa week of the session. On Monday, the JOLI (11/12th graders) and Bogrim (9/10th graders) campers set out on separate 5-day masa’ot. While JOLI spent some time biking and climbing, they also took the opportunity yesterday to rise before dawn (at 3:00 AM!) to summit of one of Colorado’s beautiful—and challenging—14’ers (peaks higher than 14,000 feet above sea level). Bogrim campers went on masa’ot including horseback riding, hiking, rock climbing, and farming. All had their own adventures and special stories that they told about getting wet in the backcountry, seeing incredible vistas, and having deep dinner discussions.
Sollelim (7/8th graders) split into groups between rock climbing, biking, archery shooting, hiking, and service projects at the Pueblo Mountain State Park. Now in its second year, our Archery Masa has become one of the more popular choices for this age group; chalutzim [campers] are able to spend four days doing intense shooting at the Staunton State Park Archery range, which features numerous 3-dimensional targets set up in the beautiful Colorado terrain. On the biking masa, chalutzim hone their skills over miles of forest service road and trail on our front-suspension mountain bikes. While some sections of this ride are relatively smooth, most of the journey is spent climbing impossibly high peaks or descending at rapid speeds into beautiful valleys. While pausing at the tops of difficult hills, many riders wondered whether the Forest Service could (or would) ever build paved bridges across these mountains.
All Metaylim (5/6th grade) chalutzim spent Monday at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, where most were able to feed the giraffes by hand. They then left for a three-day backpacking trip into the Lost Creek Wilderness. Watching Metaylim chalutzim pack-out on Wednesday morning is always a pleasure because I see the looks of apprehension and excitement on their faces. As a younger edah, many embark on their first or second trip into the backcountry with the knowledge that, for three days/two nights, they will not be able to return to the comfort of their own beds. Madrichim [counselors] double and triple check that everyone’s packs fit and that each chalutz/a has all the gear they will need (especially rain jackets and water bottles). Every chalutz/a also carries a portion of the group gear, adding a level of importance and responsibility to each camper and each pack. Around 9:00 AM, groups hiked out into the wilderness or boarded busses to reach the trailheads, which led them home over the course of three days. The only thing that might compare to watching Metaylim pack-out was watching them return to us dirty, tired, and incredibly proud of the miles they hiked and the skills they learned along the way.
Ilanot (3rd/4th grade) chalutzim spent Monday at the zoo with their older friends and then had an overnight with the horses on our ranch (despite their campsite being on property, we didn’t see them until they officially “returned” to us before lunch the following day). On Wednesday night, in a not-so-masa-like activity, the Ilanot girls enjoyed a private “spa-night.” It was a great bonding activity, even if they appeared at Thursday morning breakfast as the cleanest chalutzot in the history of masa week! Today, the entire edah went to the local farmers market, where they interviewed the farmers and learned more about local agriculture.
Finally, our Amitzimchalutzim had their own three-day masa consisting of hiking, biking and a day at Wellington Lake. They slept out under the stars, cooked dinner over our camping stoves and enjoyed being in the outdoors. While every child in this edah has different abilities and sometimes they split into smaller groups for daytime activities, the incredible madrichim were able to ensure that they all came together in the evening for dinner, bonding, and resting.
As I am concluding this letter, the first of our trips are returning from masa. Over the next 4 hours 180 campers and 70 staff members will roll, walk and run into camp filthy, smelly and exceedingly happy. The washbasins are ready for everyone to clean and bleach their dishes and the solar water bags are filled (with over 1000 gallons of hot water) for everyone to shower. We will soon gather in the Pardes Tefillah for our final Kabbalat Shabbat of the session. It has been a magical beginning to this summer season, and we will be savoring our remaining few days together even as we look forward to next year.
As always, please be in touch with any questions, comments or concerns. Photos will be uploaded Sunday from the weekend and from masa’ot. In the mean time, please check out our video from the Masa’ot returning today.
The year-round team has been working towards this moment for 9 months: the moment we get to welcome back our chalutzim [campers] from their 11-month masa [excursion]– or what some refer to as the “off season.”
Our chalutzim are finally here, arriving from all over the United States, Israel, Canada, as well as the Philippines. After an unusually wet spring, the hills and fields are greener than they have ever been. And since the constant rain stopped last weekend, this first week of camp has brought unseasonably warm temperatures with most days hitting over 85 degrees.
This week Chalutzim have been noticing some some of the updates that we have made to our ranch. In addition to building a few more tents, including a new Tikvah Sensory tent, we moved our goat barn to the middle of the camp, so our chalutzim can see our four goats throughout the day and milk them in a more public space. Less visible, but perhaps even more important is the completion of the first phase of our waste water treatment plant, which is now processing waste from Beit Kesher [our new staff lounge/retreat center] into clean water. After the summer, we hope to complete the system and next year much more waste, will be sent back down stream. (We are being mandated by the State to discontinue use of many of our septic systems).
Our food this summer has been a big hit so far and our tzevet mitbach [kitchen staff] have been hard at work cooking some delicious favorites like mac and cheese and quinoa sloppy joes–all without adding salt or sugar. The first night Chalutzim enjoyed homemade whole wheat pizza! We have also added oatmeal as an extra hot-option each morning for breakfast. The tzevet from our farm have used this week to teach us about where our food comes from (like our very own garden) and what we can do with our food waste, such as composting or sharing with our goats and chickens.
And of course, this week our chalutzim have been enjoying the myriad of activities offered at camp from biking to farming to Frolf to climbing. Our younger chalutzim have been rotating through these while our older chalutzim have chosen 3 activities on which to focus. While the Wednesday’s later afternoon thunderstorm put a damper on the outside activities, we did manage to have an hour long impromptu Zumba-thon and sing along for those who sought shelter in our dining hall during the storm.
Next week, as early as Sunday, we’ll be saying a brief goodbye to all of our chalutzim as they embark on masaot (excursions). The water in the river has dropped low enough that we can send our Sollelim chalutzim out, and are still waiting on word on whether we can send our younger chalutzim rafting as well. Between the success of this week and the prospect of next week, there is excitement in the air as we head into this Shabbat. We know that the singing, dancing, and resting that will take place over the next day is much needed and one of the best parts of the week. All in all, it’s been a beautiful first week and we’re looking forward to what looks to be a fantastic summer.
We will post a few pictures on Facebook of our pre-shabbat festivities before Shabbat, and then hope to add many more on Sunday evening.
In celebration of Tu B’Shvat this week, we wanted to share these words about the farm from 2014 Chalutzah, Sophie. Tu B’Shvat celebrates the trees and is a planting holiday in Israel. In her piece, she talks about the greenhouse and garden, and the planting we do at camp.
LIFE ON THE FARM AT RAMAH
Written by Sophie Raskin, Tulsa, OK
If you make the decision to go to the farm during choice period these are the animals you might see there – 2 pigs, 4 sheep, 5-7 chickens and 3 ducks. And very soon there will also be a mother and baby goat. To get to the farm you have to walk along a long winding path past the horse’s barn. Sometimes if you are lucky you will see the horses in the field. You will also see beautiful views of the mountains and the creek as you walk along.
At the farm you will be taking care of both animals and the garden. If you are taking care of the pigs you will see them eating our camp leftover food so we don’t waste any food. They will be fighting over the food and you might even see them standing in the big food bowl. They are really pigs! Sounds crazy but one of their names is actually Kosher! We haven’t named the other pig yet but when you come, the other pig will probably be named.
If you are taking care of the sheep you will clean out their dirty pen. You have to rake the old bedding and hay and fill it with new. When you come their hair will probably be overgrown. Right now its very curly and knotty looking. The sheep all move as a pack, or all together. The male with the horns is the leader of the pack. Make sure not to scare one of them because they will run away. If you want to pet them, move up to them very slowly.
I don’t think the chickens look like regular chickens but I’m not sure how to describe them. The ducks don’t look like ducks either! I’m used to yellow ducks and these are not. Some of them have bald spots on their body because they came from a ranch where the roosters were mean to them. When you get to the farm its fun to check in the chicken coop and see if they laid any eggs. The most eggs we have had in one day are five. We don’t use the eggs for camp breakfast because they don’t lay enough to feed everyone. But we do use them as a special prize at camp. For the group who has the cleanest ohel, they get a special “Rocky Mountain Toast” for breakfast and they will use those eggs to make it.
If you like gardening, we have that too at camp. You can either do it at the farm or at the greenhouse. At the farm we grow all kinds of vegetables like carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, corn, potatoes, and even more. We’ll get to pick them after they’ve grown more. In the greenhouse we are growing micro-greens like lettuce, arugula, spinach and kale. We picked some last week and it was used for our Shabbat salad. We use small containers and fill them with dirt and add compost for a natural fertilizer. We mix it up and then sprinkle the seeds and water them and hope they will grow.
Next to the greenhouse there is an outside garden. Part of it has a spice and herb area where we are growing peppermint, parsley, basil, chive, oregano and many others. There are also two wire above ground baskets to grow potatoes. Being above ground makes it easier for the campers to harvest the potatoes.
If you enjoy reading about the farm you should come and visit it yourself. The staff there are all super nice and will answer any of your questions. Robyn does the farm and she is great working with the animals. Dor is in charge of the garden and he loves working with the plants and he grows many delicious things in the garden. Kirsten helps out where she is needed.
https://www.ramahoutdoors.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/LOGO-300x167.png00Adminhttps://www.ramahoutdoors.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/LOGO-300x167.pngAdmin2015-02-03 20:38:052015-02-03 20:38:05Life on the Farm at Ramah