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To our Ramah in the Rockies kehillah kedosha,

I write this email having just returned from a week of winter camping on the chava (ranch) where the Ramah year-round team met to work on some preparations for Kayitz 2020. We are having a fantastically snowy winter (30 feet and counting), which we hope will make for a very wet and green spring. With camp right around the corner, we are pleased to finally be able to announce a few major changes to our camp program.

Exciting Changes to our Masa Program.

Let’s face it – for many kids, Ramah in the Rockies is too rustic! We hear from so many parents that they love the values of Ramah in the Rockies, but wish their children were more pampered. This summer we are pleased to announce our very first glamping masa (backcountry excursions). Inspired by the five days our senior staff recently spent in Tulum, Mexico in an overpriced yurt – where warm bathing water was brought to our doors each morning and our days were filled with yoga and fine vegetarian raw meals – we decided that we need to expose our chalutzim (campers) to this sort of luxury camping. After some research, we partnered with a private outdoors camping company called Less Rocky: Rockies Camping Inc. (LRRC). LRRC has designed an incredibly unique glamping experience for our campers: chalutzim will experience the magic of the Rocky Mountains during the day, and enjoy the comfort of high-count Egyptian cotton sheets by night! 

On our masa’ot this summer, chalutzim will be treated to long meals, featuring some of the best vegan food available West of the Mississippi. One of the most significant reasons for partnering with this specific backcountry company, beyond the array of LRRC’s dietary options, was their beverage service. Each masa group will have a company employee who will carry 45 liters of crisp Fiji water insulated by a top-of-the-line YETI cooler backpack. Breakfast will include a variety of cold brew coffee options, while at lunch and dinner chalutzim can choose from two types of kombucha and San Pellegrino. 

After Kayitz 2019, we heard that a particular source of contention for our campers was the uncomfortable camping mats they slept on during masa. Well, at the request of our camp kehillah kedosha (holy community), we have made sure that LRRC provides individual memory foam cots that sit at least 18 inches off the ground to everyone on masa

In addition to the food and sleeping arrangements, the company has assured us that every desire or need our campers may have during masa will be met. No requests will be declined. For Kayitz 2020, our hope is that chalutzim realize that to experience nature means to find a place that costs more than a five-star hotel where one has the views and smells of the great outdoors without having to deal with the annoying elements like dirt, rain, or bugs.

Unveiling Our New Chadar Ochel and New Food Options!

For ten summers, we focused our attention on serving sustainable and healthy food. This kayitz, however, we have decided that while the healthy diet was fun in theory, in reality, our chalutzim and tzevet (staff) just want pizza, hamburgers, and diet soda. And so, I am excited to share our new camp motto – “Frozen is the new fresh.” 

While we will continue to cook meals in our main kitchen, we have decided to outfit our new Chadar Ochel (Dining Hall) with a bank of microwaves and three glassdoor freezers. This new addition will house a wide selection of packaged and pre-cooked dinners imported from a Brooklyn kosher food distributor. Campers will be welcome to leave their seats at any point of a meal, take a pre-packaged meal and warm it up for themselves. We want our campers to realize that they can have whatever they want whenever they want it.

We are also excited to announce a new special day at camp, Yom Fleish (Meat Day). Yom Fleish will be once a session (i.e. once every two weeks), and we will serve meat, and only meat, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We are so excited to spend this day teaching our chalutzim that their actions will have absolutely no effect on the environment. Our educational goal is to provide them with the foundational understanding that no matter what they do in the world, it is not possible to make any change, so we might as well just live life and let someone else worry about the big issues (like climate change). 

Our Newest Chug Option!

Since the beginning of time, humans have wondered what it would feel like for a person to fly through the air. Well, thanks to innovative fabrics, it is now possible with commercial flight wingsuits! We have watched each year as the sport of BASEjumping has taken off around the globe. For the past two years, we have worked with our licensing agencies, in both Jefferson County and the State of Colorado, to become the first summer camp in the world to offer children the opportunity to fly.  

Before Kayitz 2020 we will receive our first-ever shipment of Ramah flight wingsuits. Our Ramah wingsuits weigh under 20 pounds apiece and can withstand speeds of over 200 MPH. BASEjumping, or as it will be called at camp “Alef Beis Jumping” or just “Beis,” will be offered to all of our chalutzim as a chug (elective) option. Campers who choose Beis, will hike up Prospector Mountain on the backside of our property – it is the perfect cliff for a long-running start. Chalutzim will perform deep-dives off the edge and land safely in Ramah valley. Campers who successfully complete jumping from Prospector will have the opportunity to do four more jumps from different mountain tops throughout Pike National Forest.  

We have arrived at the halfway point of the Hebrew month of Adar, and as such, Purim has undoubtedly brought out our sillier side. It is with this, that we hope we can share many more laughs with you throughout the year(s) to come! We cannot wait to welcome your children back to the chava in less than 100 days and we will have more updates coming soon.

Chag Purim same’ach! Happy Purim!

– Rabbi Eliav

(P.S. Yes, 99% of what is written above is a joke.)

A Purim Letter from Rabbi Eliav

Rabbi Eliav Bock

I write this letter having just returned from our ranch where we enjoyed the opportunity to meet as a leadership team and go over some changes we are implementing for this summer. As we look forward to opening our tenth summer, we want to ensure that our program remains successful for the next ten decades to come. We know that change is always hard, but are very excited to introduce these improvements to our camp.

CAMP TV

Being a screen-free environment simply does not make sense in today’s wired world! Our campers and parents rely on screens of all types to communicate with each other and too many of both our staff and camper populations have withdrawal-like symptoms when camp starts. Seeking a solution to this problem, we were delighted to learn of the new cable channel launching this summer called Camp TV. Executives from this channel were searching for five camps to pilot their reality TV program and, of course, we signed the contract!Over the past month, Camp TV has installed cameras and microphones throughout our chava (ranch) so that crews can televise our children at all times. All conversations (other than those in the bathroom or showers) will be recorded and beamed to parents (and producers) in real time. This way, our parents will know what is happening with their child(ren) at camp without ever having to ask our camper care team to check in on them or reading any of our weekly emails. Producers are bound to put together the events of the summer in an amazingly compelling narrative.But, we did not want to stop there. We also wanted our campers to get in on the

The new scene in the Chadar Ochel

action, and this summer we are issuing smart phones to each so that they can communicate in real time with those at home. No longer will meals be marked by animated conversations across tabletops. Campers will keep a steady view of their screens and text/Whatsapp/Instagram (whatever) with those who are not present.

A Loon internet balloon

Clearly, the lack of high-speed internet is an issue in making all of this technological change come together. Here, too, we have found a solution by working with our friends at Alphabet (Google’s parent company). Their moonshot company, Loon, is putting balloons in the air to beam high-speed internet to the masses. While their focus is linking the African continent, we convinced them that campers at Colorado summer camps are in even greater need of high-speed internet. We have agreed to serve as their trial case in North America and expect to have their balloons floating above our camp beaming a high-speed signal to all.

FREE SOLOING

We pride ourselves in running one of the most amazing rock climbing programs in the Jewish summer camp movement, teaching it on both an artificial bouldering wall and a real granite cliff. To ensure that safety always comes first, we purchase top-level gear and maintain impeccable logs. A few years ago we made this video to highlight our “hard core” program, anchored by our climbing program. But for our chalutzim (campers) and climbers, ropes always seem to get in the way.This summer, our climbing program moves to the next level. Alex Honnold introduced the world to Free Soloing in his Oscar-winning documentary, Free Solo. For those who missed it, Alex spent about four hours  

Alex Honnold in Free Solo

climbing a 3,000 foot cliff with no ropes and, at one point, dangling 2,500 feet above the ground while holding a grip the size of a matchbox. Ever since seeing this, we have wondered whether our Challenge by Choice mantra means that we are inspiring the next Alex Honnold and what we can do to prepare them for this experience?! We know that we need to be more HARD CORE! This summer, therefore, we are proud to announce the country’s first free solo program! Working closely with two of our certifying agencies, the American Camp Association (ACA) and the Colorado Department of Human Services, we have devised a system whereby we will take campers with the most rudimentary climbing ability and put them directly on a granite slab. Brain researchers have told us that by changing a child’s amygdala (the part of the brain that creates the “fight or flight” response) at a young age, an entire generation of free soloists may be nurtured. Under the careful guidance of our lead rock climbers, campers will climb up a vertical surface of 1,000 feet or more with no ropes. By starting this process with our youngest campers, we believe we can train our kids to overcome their inherent fear of falling.The Free Soloing program will absolutely make our camp stand out, and is one step along the way to creating the next generation of Jewish

On a climbing masa.

daredevils. Future growth of this initiative will include wing suit jumping (where campers jump off cliffs with wings attached), hang gliding, bungee jumping, and possibly even a winter expedition to K2. (Everest is too easy, and WAY too commercialized at this point and we know that K2 will provide our community with a real challenge.)Like all masa’ot (excursion) activities at Ramah, parents will be asked to sign a waiver.

ADDED CALORIES

Our chalutzim burn thousands of calories each day! In addition to the three meals and two snacks we currently serve, we are concerned that our campers are not getting the needed calories to see them through the day. We thought of adding more protein-based nutrients (meat, tofu, etc.), and perhaps even more fruits and vegetables, but then looked at our society out there in the “real world”. This made us realize that we were ignoring all those empty calories our campers rely upon in their regular lives. Seeking a solution to this problem, our culinary staff and nutritionist recently went on a group outing to some of the local grocery stores to view their products and the answer hit us like a ton of bricks! We need more candy, soda, and sugary drinks! We reached out to the American Beverage Association, and they were happy to help sponsor our latest project. At each meal (especially breakfast), we will now serve a curated line of products made by the Coca Cola Company, 

Our new beverage selection.

including Coke, Sprite, and Fanta. For those who want a non-fizzy alternative, we expect to have Hi-C and Capri-Sun available also. Plus, we plan to install candy machines throughout camp. We are excited to work with a local Boulder company to make sure that the sugar provided in these products gives the illusion of being healthy by adding organic food coloring. We know that our efforts are successful if children are bouncing off the walls after meals and have so much built up energy that they yell while racing pell-mell from one peulah (activity) to another. We realize that bed time might become a challenge, but have heard that a cup of warm milk, with plenty of natural sugar to rot their teeth, helps calm things down. So starting this summer, in the evening outside the bathhouses, our rashei edah (unit heads) will give out hand-crafted cups of steamed milk to anyone needing it to unwind. Our success is the added trips to the dentist for our campers.

CONCLUSION

We know that change can be challenging and that some will wonder whether these improvements will affect our camp community and the values that we have nurtured since our founding. Only time will tell. But for now, know that it is Purim and we wish everyone a VERY HAPPY PURIM, ONE FILLED WITH LAUGHTER AND NONSENSE! (And a real camp update will be forthcoming next week.)
– Rabbi Eliav and the entire Ramah in the Rockies team

Rabbi Eliav BockHello from the Ramah in the Rockies Ranch!

As I type these words, the weather is growing warmer and the snow banks are beginning to melt. Spring is in the air and that means summer is soon to follow! With our 2018 season quickly approaching, I wanted to take this opportunity to update our community on a number of exciting program changes that we will be implementing this coming summer.

As you may know, Ramah in the Rockies was recently awarded the 2017 Hazon Seal of Sustainability, which recognizes organizations that have worked hard over the past year to serve healthier food, reduce waste, and become energy efficient. This honor has inspired us to think about what else we can do to both reduce our carbon footprint and eat more intentionally, and we have come up with a plan of action that we think our chalutzim (campers) will LOVE. As of 2018, Ramah in the Rockies will only be eating what we grow in our garden. That’s right – kale, kale, and more kale! We will be upgrading our usual pasta to kale-based noodles and switching to powdered kale flour for our pizza crust. Though we know some of our campers may miss their usual standbys, we feel confident that even the pickiest eaters in our community will quickly adjust to our new camp-wide diet of organic, leafy greens.

Camper playingFurthermore, in order to conserve water, we have decided to embrace the trailblazing innovation of our campers who avoid showering at all costs. Starting in 2018, we will be encouraging all of our chalutzim to cultivate a healthy layer of personal dirt, which will also help to repel any potential bugs. To aid in this effort, we are demolishing both of our bathhouses. Those who desire cleaner hands for eating may wash their hands every so often in one of the property’s streams. After all, if our chalutzim can survive without taking a shower while on masa (backcountry excursion), surely they can make it through a month-long session without touching a bar of soap!

Campers posing for a picture on a MasaWe realize that this change might cause the ohelim (tents) to smell a bit pungent and understand that not all noses are accustomed to this type of healthy aroma. Therefore, we have decided to do away with ohelim entirely! Rather than cozying up in their bunks at night, campers will deepen their connection with nature by sleeping beneath the stars – rain or shine.

You may be wondering – what will make masa’ot unique and special when our campers are already sleeping outside every night and forgoing showers? Never fear! In 2018 we will be introducing a variety of amazing new masa options! From skydiving and bungee jumping to swimming with sharks, our chalutzim will never be bored. We will also be offering a Virtual Reality Masa, which will allow campers to experience all the fun of outdoor adventure from the comfort of our new Arts Pavillion. Though they will appear to be laying on the floor in silence for days at a time, they will be summiting Pikes Peak in their imaginations!

The adoption of Virtual Reality Masa has encouraged us to reexamine our technology policy as a whole. After much deliberation, we are excited to announce that in 2018 we will be repealing our “no screen” rule and encouraging chalutzim to constantly livestream, tweet, Instagram, and Snapchat their Ramah experiences. In light of this change, we will no longer be uploading photos of your campers to SmugMug. After all, you can just check their social media accounts to see what’s new at camp!

One last development that I’m thrilled to share is the pilot season of our new Tot Ramah Program! As you may know, we have recently expanded our Ta’am Ramah (Taste of Ramah) program into a four day, three night sampling of all of the fun activities Ramah in the Rockies has to offer. When this new program filled up within 24 hours of registration opening, we got to thinking about how we can share the magic of camp with even more kids, and Tot Ramah was born. Accommodating campers from infancy through toddlerhood, our new Tot Ramah program will prepare your baby for the backcountry with an intensive curriculum of mountain biking, rock climbing, and horseback riding!

At Ramah in the Rockies, we are constantly trying to evolve and improve. I feel confident that all of these exciting new changes will ultimately make our kehillah kedoshah – our holy community – even stronger.

– Rabbi Eliav

P.S. 99.9% of the this update is made up. Wishing everyone a happy, silly Purim celebration!

Purim Update

Rabbi Eliav Bock
Rendering of Basketball courtGreetings from the Ramah Ranch where we are enjoying another beautiful late winter day. The snow is melting and the ground is turning soggy; spring is in the air. This winter has been a very productive one at the chava. In addition to the bathhouse we are completing for this summer, we are moving along nicely with our new indoor basketball court and sports complex. Covering 7,000 square feet on the area above the mitbachon (what some call Woodswoman), this new gymnasium will finally put Ramah in the Rockies on the map for families looking for a top level sports program. In addition to the parquet floors and fiberglass backboards, this gym will have an indoor running track so that no one ever has to trip over a rock again running on dirt roads. We have hired an incredible construction crew who have worked through the mild winter at a break neck speed. Hopefully, this building will be open by July 1.

Hang Gliding around SheeprockAs if this would not be enough to secure Ramah in the Rockies bragging rights, we believe that we will finally be able to introduce a long time Ramah dream – our new hang-gliding program. First proposed a few years ago, but needing to be shelved for regulatory reasons, this chug will be the first of its kind at any Jewish camp. Our chalutzim will hike up Prospector carrying the
ultra-lite gliders, then take a running jump off the cliffs. We expect the thermals coming off the mountains to carry our campers westward towards the Buffalo Ranch before they will need to do a hard easterly bank to land seamlessly in the valley. We are in final negotiations with two former staff members who have been reading diligently in the off season and watching YouTube videos on how to become certified instructors.   We will likely limit this program to Bogrim and JOLI, since the younger chalutzim will be too small for the harnesses.

Each year, the single biggest piece of feedback is “we want more meat.” Even long time staff members like Dor, Robyn, and Melannie, once ardent vegetarians, have demanded we change (enough tofu! they have told me). Many of us have accepted that global climate change is the new normal and we, as Jews, really should have nothing to say about it, so we are going all in. This summer, we have decided to switch our kitchen to mainly serve “fleischig” (meat).

The elusive vegetable

The elusive vegetable

While we are still lacking the funds to build two kosher kitchens, we have decided that the new standard will be meat meals for lunch and dinner; breakfast will be a vegetarian meal where the only animal protein will be eggs, something we can still make on our meat grills or in our meat pans. We have had to invest in new meat dishes and have put our milk dishes in storage to be taken out if/when we build our new $5million dining hall which might open by 2029. We know that some of our staff might be upset at the plethora of meat options that are now available, but thanks to a compromise worked out with our Ranch Manager, Jake, he will assist the kitchen staff to ensure that we continue offering healthy vegetarian options, including a full salad bar at each meal. We thank our friends at Hazon, and especially Rabbi Marc for helping us think through this important issue; we hope to become a model for other Jewish summer camps looking for ways to increase their carbon footprint through additional meat consumption. And finally, what is a meat meal without sweet, carbonated drinks? We hope to radically increase our consumption of Coca-Cola products and believe that our new policy of offering everyone smaller cups so that they have to refill more often will achieve this goal. As their marketing campaign suggests, “all calories matter,” and we want our beverage choices to really matter.

Our new staff cohort

Our new staff cohort

On the staffing side we continue to evolve our program and hiring practices. While we used to pride ourselves on having one of the oldest and most mature staff in the Jewish camping industry, we realized how unfair this was to younger, potential applicants. As a result, we have lowered the age needed to become a staff member to 16. Not only can we pay these teenagers much less money than our older staff (which adds to our bottom-line), we also do not have to worry about our leaders making “grownup” decisions since many are now officially still children. We also are trying to reduce the number of foreign workers we have at camp (including the Israelis who come as shlichim) because we are not sure of what will happen politically to the J1 visa program we currently use. We hope this puts us ahead of any upcoming changes. Because we continue to be a Zionist camp, we will have a few Israelis ready on standby in Israel who will join us for virtual meals via Skype a few times a week. This way our chalutzim still have the experience of meeting and interacting with Israelis, but we will have a sustainable way to continue this experience if/when the US government changes the visa restrictions.

istock_000018141330smallAnd finally, I am happy to report, that the Ramah in the Rockies experience will no longer be the technology-free haven that it has been all these years. At long last Verizon has constructed a cell tower on the upper piece of our property. We have been working with them for years, and knew that if we could assure them 250+ additional customers each day, they would pay the exorbitant leasing fees we are charging them for use of our electricity and land on which the tower was constructed. We hope our chalutzim, as young as age 8, bring their smartphones with them to camp so that they can spend more time interacting with the virtual world and less time with the actual humans around them. With the promulgation of technology in their mainstream lives, we do not want our campers to fall behind their peers who are spending their time at more traditional camps where technology is more widely used. Most importantly, we would never want their texting or Whatsapp skills to diminish due to a lack of practice while at Ramah. Furthermore, we hope that with greater cell access, parents will communicate directly with their kids, which should reduce the number of emails/calls that our camper-care team receive daily.

Paramount to all we, at Ramah in the Rockies, strive for is that when the day is done our campers return home realizing that it does not matter what they do in the world, it is simply impossible for them to make any changes. So we might as well just live life and let others worry about the big issues. In short, the same hopes our parents have.

Wishing everyone a happy Purim!

-Eliav

(and yes 99.9% of the above is made up!)