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

 Yuval Sharabi riding a horse


Name: 
Yuval Sharabi

Job at Camp: Tzevet Susim (Horse Staff)

Summers at Ramah in the Rockies: 4

Favorite Camp Activity: Horseback Riding, of course!

Occupation: Therapeutic Horseback Riding Guide

 

Many of my friends in Israel ask me why I keep coming back to Ramah in the Rockies each summer. They say, “Yuval, you’re 30 years old. What are you still looking for out in Colorado?”

My answer is always the same. I tell them, “If you’ve never been to camp, you cannot understand the powerful experience of being in a place free from judgement, a place where everyone is equal. I come back to Colorado every summer because at Ramah in the Rockies, I can be my true self and not have to hide behind any mask.”

I think that in today’s world – a world full of technology so advanced that it is possible to do almost anything by pressing a button – sometimes we forgot what it means to be human. We forget what it feels like to interact with someone without having a cell phone get in the way. We forget the excitement of getting to know someone new and discovering that you have something in common with them. I think that for both chalutzim (campers) and for tzevet (staff), the experience of disconnecting from technology to spend a few weeks together in the mountains is so important. We all need to remember how to connect meaningfully, face to face. There is no better place to do this than at camp.

Especially on Friday evenings, when our entire community comes together to welcome Shabbat, that is when the real magic happens. Israeli and American, we all join together, singing and dancing as one kehillah kedoshah, one holy community.

When my friends in Israel ask me why I keep coming back, I ask them to show me another place who I can impact the lives of hundreds of chalutzim throughout the course of the summer; a place where I can help them acquire the tools they need to grow and learn, all while growing and learning myself.

When I was asked to reflect on my favorite memories from last summer, two occasions came to mind. The first is slightly mixed with sorrow, but is still a precious memory to me. The night the fire broke out and everyone was evacuated to a field far away from the flames, I sat on the sidelines for a moment and watched the amazing scene that was happening. I saw the entire team of counselors put their campers’ needs above their own, looking after their chalutzim by them by wrapping them in blankets so they would not be cold and singing songs with them so they would not be afraid. In that moment, I felt so at home that I forgot what a scary situation we were in. I saw in this place what we would call in Israel “Israeli Fraternity.” On that night, our community became a family.

The second memory that came to mind was Yom Kehillah, a day where the campers could connect with Israel. Myself and the rest of the Israeli delegation worked night after night to prepare for this day, because it is so important to all of us that our chalutzim feel close to Israel in their hearts, no matter how far away it is. To see the campers laughing, singing Israeli songs, and participating in conversations about Israel with their peers and their counselors was amazing.

Camp is a place where everyone can be themselves, celebrate Shabbat together, comfort each other when times are hard, and form a meaningful connection with Israel. For these reasons and so many others, I will continue to return every summer to my favorite place in the world, Ramah in the Rockies!

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

Name: Ryan “Lunch Pail” Fleischer

Job at Camp: Ilanot Madrich

Summers at Ramah in the Rockies: 6

Favorite Camp Activity: Mountain Biking

Occupation: Student at University of Colorado Boulder studying Neuroscience and Human Geography

I could feel the excitement in the air from the moment my Ilanot chalutzim (campers) – the youngest at Ramah in the Rockies – woke up that morning. They were bouncing off the walls of our ohel (tent), unable to talk or think about anything other than the amazing Peulat Erev (evening program) we had planned for that night.

Tonight was the Annual Ilanot Rocktion.

For those of you wondering what a “Rocktion” is, it’s simply a “Rock Auction.” But as mundane as that may sound, I can assure you that the Rocktion is a highlight of the summer for both chalutzim and tzevet (staff).

Every summer we start preparing for the Rocktion in advance by telling our campers to save any beautiful or interesting rocks they unearth during their mining chuggim (activity period). They discover chunks of smokey and rose quartz, iridescent crystals, and even the occasional piece of topaz. Ilanot chalutzim absolutely love collecting these beautiful stones, and stockpile their favorites in preparation for the Rocktion each session. Over the last week and a half their collections had started to take over our ohel!

We always hold the Rocktion in the middle of masa (backcountry excursion) week, when all of the older campers are away from base camp having amazing adventures. We invite all the staff who are not off leading masa’ot to come and participate, and the Ilanot chalutzim love to be the center of attention for the night!

We began the Rocktion that night by giving the campers a few minutes to set up their “stores.” They made signs advertising their great rocks and competitive prices, and then arranged their rock collections on the table before them, organizing their stones by size, color, or type. Finally, it was time for the Rocktion to begin!

Staff from every corner of camp showed up to support Ilanot! They were handed a small cup full of dried beans, which served as our currency for the evening. For the next half hour, our dining hall was transformed into a noisy, bustling marketplace. Counselors and campers bargained with each other, haggling over the best deals and most beautiful rocks. And when to sale was over, the auction began!

Campers counted the beans they earned by selling their rocks and then had the opportunity to spend these beans on a number of amazing prizes! Prizes that were available for bidding ranged from a personalized meal courtesy of our kitchen tzevet to an ice cream party on Rabbi Eliav’s front porch! Needless to say, everyone headed back to their ohel that night with a huge smile plastered on their face.

The Rocktion is always my favorite memory of the summer because it is a time for both chalutzim and tzevet to act silly and have fun together! Everyone who participates has a blast, and year after year I look forward to my favorite night of the summer… the Rocktion!

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


Name: 
Eliana Willis

Job at Camp: Bogrim Rosh Edah (Unit Head)

Summers at Ramah in the Rockies: 3

Favorite Camp Activity: Care of Magical Creatures (Animal Care)

Occupation: Jewish Engagement Coordinator at BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy

 

 

What do recent Bogrim campers and residents of the UC Santa Cruz Trailer Park have in common? A knack for slackjaw dance-off!

What is slackjaw dance-off, you might wonder? Try letting your mouth hang open with your jaw completely slack. If you can hold the expression while watching a friend do the same without bursting into laughter, I’m impressed. If you can hold it longer than them while you’re both dancing, you’ve just won slackjaw dance-off.

Before I came to Ramah in the Rockies, I was a student at UC Santa Cruz, living in a community known as the UC Santa Cruz Trailer Park. This amazing place is unlike any other trailer park and student housing option I’ve ever seen. We lived in artfully decorated trailers, shared meals, and played music together. The highlight of the year was always the Olympics, where we dressed up in our wackiest outfits and competed in a series of ridiculous games. It was a celebration of our community and the freedom to be silly!

This year was my third summer at Ramah in the Rockies, and my first as a Rosh Edah (unit head). I was a couple years removed from college and missing the shenanigans of the trailer park days. As the Bogrim tzevet (staff) and I brainstormed program ideas, we knew we needed to plan an event that combined our favorite camp games and activities, such as “the Oreo challenge” and dancing to popular Israeli music, into one evening of silliness, laughter, and fun. Throw in some trailer park classics like the aforementioned slackjaw dance-off and finger jousting, and we managed to create an amazing new tradition… the Bogrim Balagan Olympics!

We ran the program as a Peulat Erev (evening program) once each session. During second session it happened to rain on the night we planned to hold the Olympics, so we ended up crowding all of Bogrim – the largest edah (age group) at camp – into a small, indoor program space. It was the last night of camp for our the two-week chalutzim (campers), so the energy in the room was full of excitement before the festivities even began.

Everyone showed up in their wackiest attire: tie-dye, onesies, and even an evening gown! Campers rotated through stations where they participated in hilarious slack-jaw dance-offs, challenged each other to competitive games of finger jousting, and attempted to disentangle themselves from a human knot, among other fun activities.

Counselors taught and refereed games, played high-energy Iraeli pop music, took pictures, and brought a ton of ruach (spirit) to the event. Though it was a cool night, we soon opened the big garage doors for some fresh air. The pine trees surrounding us sparkled with raindrops and our view of the huge, jagged rock face in the distance was stunning. Soon people were dancing and running around in the rain! It wasn’t long until the sky began to clear, and we spotted a rainbow emerging from the clouds above us. I recited a bracha on the rainbow, which was met with a resounding “Amen” by all.

Now that the rain had passed, we gathered in a circle outside and distributed prizes (in the form of tiny plastic reptiles) for winning games and for the most creative costumes. We sang and chanted all of our edah cheers (we had at least eight), affirming our self-proclaimed status as the best edah at Machane Ramah!

Throughout the summer, myself and my fellow Rashei Edah were challenged to bring our unique identities and our whole selves to our job. For me that meant a lot of things, from making up songs for the campers before bed, to teaching some of my most beloved Jewish texts, to sharing my favorite college tradition – the Olympics – with my chalutzim.

As an educator, I am continuously inspired by the communities I’ve been a part of, and strive to bring the best of what I learn from each of these experiences to my own work. Slackjaw dance-off may not seem like education, but we all experienced something powerful that night –  the vulnerability of looking ridiculous, a sense of unity and pride in our community, and just plain, pure simcha (joy).

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

Elana
Name: 
Elana Schrager

Job at Camp: Bogrim Yoetzet (Camper Care Staff)

Summers at Ramah in the Rockies: 3

Favorite Camp Activity: Backpacking – anywhere, anytime!

Occupation: Communications and Research Intern at End Citizens United PAC, a grassroots funded group dedicated to fighting for campaign finance reform

 

I drove to camp last summer. Vermont to Maryland to Colorado in five days. Campus to camp, student to graduate before Shabbat had time to roll around again.

College, I thought as I drove—college is a game played for and by yourself. Camp, though—camp is a place of utter self-abnegation. Camp is where you go—where I went—to give in ways that you can’t during the school year. But I hadn’t been at camp for any length of time in over a year, and I felt young and unprepared and wasn’t sure if I remembered, anymore, how to give in the ways camp required of me.

As I drove west I thought – am I old enough to do this? This summer, rather than returning as a madricha (counselor), I would be a yoetzet, a member of the camper care team – a small group of individuals who serve as parent liaisons, provide extra support for counselors, and connect one-on-one with campers who are struggling. Throughout my summers on staff I had looked up to the camper care team – I had trusted them, respected them, and valued their advice. Now I was about to be one of them.

After days of driving I finally arrived at Ramah in the Rockies, where I quickly discovered that I possess tools I didn’t know I had – tools I’ve gathered from books and friends and choices (good and bad) and personal history. They are the tools I use to sort and organize the goings on of the world and my reactions to them. My chalutzim (campers) I learned, are still acquiring those tools. They are utterly fragile and utterly sound, with bodies and minds that break and mend all at once in the split second that you look away. They are testing, always testing … you, and themselves, and their friends, and their parents. They are bundles of raw sincerity, a sincerity made even more obvious by their half-hearted cynicism.

And I had the opportunity to immerse myself in the worlds of these amazing kids. I got to talk with them and listen to them and work with them as they shattered and mended and shattered again over the course of minutes, hours, days. And, for the first time in my life, I got to hear from their parents—to hear from Real Adults, grownups whose very voices made my knees go trembly when I got on the phone. I realized that I am not yet a Real Adult and no longer a kid. As a member of the camper care team, I learned that the role I play as a kind of intergenerational translator is an essential one – one that I am uniquely qualified for in my confusing, post-collegiate liminality.

It is December now, and dark outside. I am not a kid, or an adult, or a student. I, like my teenage campers this summer, am at home, working and testing and probing to figure out what identity, what thing will define me as my life moves forward. And sometimes little gleams of memory float across my eyelids—of a camper this summer, turning his face up to me and asking in total sincerity: “But… how do I know that that’s really who I am?”

I don’t have an answer, and I didn’t have one this summer. And I can now accept that not having an answer is okay. In the end, our campers take care of each other, and our incredible counselors take care of them. And we in the camper care office, no matter our age, exist as support—as liaisons, as backup…safety nets to catch those who stumble, waiting hands ready to help them step back into everyday life at camp.

And that’s the way it should be.

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

Isaac Rosen Climbing rocks

Name: Isaac Rosen

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

Summers at Ramah in the Rockies: 5

Favorite Camp Activity: Rock Climbing

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

 

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

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

*FLASH*

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

*BOOM*

Less than a mile away.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Name: Danit Cohen

Job at Camp: JOLI Madricha (Counselor)

Summers at Ramah in the Rockies: 3

Favorite Camp Activity: Mountain Biking in Buffalo Creek

Occupation: Wilderness Field Guide at BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy & Ski Instructor in Breckenridge, CO


Monday, August 7, 2:24 a.m.

Talya: “Danit? Wake up, I think something’s going on outside.”

Danit: “What? It’s probably nothing, you can go back to sleep.”

It was just a few minutes later that I awoke once more to a voice outside of our ohel (tent) shouting, “Everyone has to wake up, make sure everyone is awake and out of the ohelim. There’s a fire. Get everyone up right now!

Strange as it may seem, I wasn’t surprised that the first responders telling me where to go and what to do were my own chalutzim (campers). After all, it was Week 4 of the JOLI Program; I had already witnessed tremendous growth and leadership from these amazing campers.

Perhaps my favorite part of being a JOLI madricha (counselor) is the feeling that our edah (unit) is not simply a few staff members and 20 chalutzim – it is a cohesive team of Jewish Outdoor Leaders. There comes a point in the summer when the staff begin to step back and let the JOLI chalutzim lead the way with their own internal compasses. Don’t get me wrong – they don’t just arrive at camp on Day 1 with this initiative. We help them acquire the tools necessary with an intensive wilderness medicine course, programs based on healthy self expression and communication skills, and a curriculum of backcountry skill-building that includes making a fire, building a shelter, and throwing a proper bear bag. Once these basic skills are acquired, we step back and watch as our JOLI chalutzim utilize them in a real-world context, growing into leaders in our camp community. Like we tell them from the start of the summer: “This program will be what you make of it.”

In many ways, the fire that burned down the lodge this summer revealed the strength and determination of our entire community, from the leadership who coordinated our relocation to JCC Ranch camp to the remarkable volunteers who worked tireless to ensure that our campers remained safe and comfortable throughout the transition process. Still, the events of that week definitely took their toll on the staff. Counselors were running on fumes; desperately tired but determined to remain present and optimistic for their campers. It was at this moment that the JOLI chalutzim stepped up to the plate, showcasing the leadership qualities that we had been developing all session.

I’ll never forget their faces when we finally got an opportunity to sit down together at the Hebrew Educational Alliance in Denver after the evacuation. We were prepared to support them, hear their concerns, and give them some time to just be campers and hang out together. But these remarkable teenagers had something else in mind: they immediately started suggesting ways they could help the rest of camp. “Can we go to JCC Ranch Camp before everyone else to help set it up?” asked one JOLI chalutz. “We can make signs, give the tours, and be a warm welcome to this new place where they’ll be for the week.” And that is exactly what we did. JOLI made anxious campers feel at ease in a new environment and allowed exhausted tzevet to take a well-deserved break, knowing their chalutzim were in good hands.

I often hear people ask, “what do you folks really do in JOLI?” I always answer with this: we build leaders. Those who come through the JOLI program at Ramah in the Rockies leave with the skills, the confidence, and the initiative necessary to be great leaders in their academic, extracurricular, and professional lives. Furthermore, I am certain that when these chalutzim return to camp as staff members in just a few short years, they will be exceptionally prepared to nurture the next generation of Jewish leaders.

To learn more about our JOLI Program, click here or email info@ramoutdoors.org

 

Every morning at camp when our kehillah (community) awakens, we begin our day by reciting Modeh Ani, the morning prayer that starts with the words “I give thanks.” Our tradition teaches us that we should start each day by humbling ourselves and expressing gratitude for the food that we eat, the earth we walk upon, and the people around us. By engaging in this daily practice, we remind ourselves to pause and actively experience gratitude. This Thanksgiving, our team at Ramah in the Rockies wanted to reflect upon our many blessings and to say “Thank You” to the community that has supported us steadfastly through every obstacle and challenge.


Kehillah Kedoshah
(Holy Community)
Campers on Shabbat
Every summer, we are once again reminded how lucky we are to have such an incredible, caring community at camp. Our chalutzim (campers), tzevet (staff), and guest educators come from across the country and around the world to contribute their ruach (spirit). The result is a vibrant and diverse Jewish community unlike any other; a supportive and loving kehillah that encourages everyone to embrace who they are and grow into the person they want to become. And when we gather together to welcome Shabbat, the power of this community becomes almost tangible; an electricity that draws people back to our ranch summer after summer.


Natural EnvironmentCamper in Nature

Our location in the heart of the Rocky Mountains is one of our favorite things about camp. We are so grateful to be located in the middle of Pike National Forest, where our chalutzim have the opportunity to witness the splendor of the natural world every single day. On their masa’ot (backcountry excursions), chalutzim experience Colorado’s beauty as they bike scenic trails, raft through rapids, climb natural rock faces, and even summit mountains. By the end of their time at camp, our chalutzim gain an appreciation for all living things, and better understand their place in the world.


Ongoing Support Camper and Counselor

The impactful, high-quality programming that is the signature of Ramah in the Rockies would not be possible without the support of our extended community. Thanks to over 700 unique donations since our fire, we are able to raze the burned structures and build temporary facilities to welcome our campers and staff in 2018. Additionally, an anonymous donor has given us $1,000,000 to kick start our rebuilding campaign for our permanent, multi-purpose lodge, which will serve our community for 2019 and beyond! We are grateful not only for the physical improvements these donations will allow us to make, but for the generosity of spirit and commitment to the Jewish camping experience they demonstrate. Here at Ramah in the Rockies, we LOVE what we do. Thanks to you, we will continue the important work of nurturing the character development of Jewish youth for countless summers to come.

Over the past six weeks, our year-round team has reached out to hundreds of our camp families through emails, phones calls, and our annual feedback survey. Thank you to everyone who responded to our requests for honest feedback! Our goal is to provide our chalutzim (campers) with an amazing summer experience year after year. We know that in order to achieve this goal we must work to make each summer better than the one before, and continue to adapt our camp program to meet the needs of our community. Thanks to your feedback, we have a clear understanding of what aspects of our program have been successful and where there is room for improvement.

TWO THUMBS UP

Communications
This past summer, our team worked diligently to communicate clearly, concisely, and consistently with our parents through email, phone calls, and regular social media updates. We aimed to find a balance between keeping families informed and allowing our campers to experience the joy of living unplugged in the remote Rocky Mountains. Our communication systems were put to the ultimate test when the Lodge building fire broke out on August 7th, and we managed to keep our entire community updated in real time. We are committed to maintaining this spirit of transparency as we prepare to open in 2018 and determine short-term and long-term solutions for rebuilding our dining facility.

Connections
This year, we were delighted to hear that so many of our chalutzim made meaningful and lasting connections during their weeks at camp, both with their peers and with their madrichim (counselors)! In 2017 we made a number of changes to the role of our madrichim, including adding a third counselor to each tent and carving out more unstructured time for them to bond with their campers. We also added extra ohel (tent) and edah-wide bonding time. The difference these changes made was especially evident in our older chalutzim who spent a full month at camp. The deep bonds of friendship and mentorship these campers formed was incredible to witness! We will continue to encourage all children who are ready to be away from home for four weeks to join us for a month-long session in order to foster these connections across our entire community!

Grit & Resilience
This summer, our campers faced a number of challenges that encouraged them to stretch their limits, take calculated risks, and ultimately accomplish more than they ever thought possible! Part of this process of personal growth, however, is failure and perseverance. When the going got tough, our chalutzim could have chosen to focus on the frustration of a scraped knee or a rainy hike. However when they arrived home, the stories they told were not about defeat, but about the joy of overcoming obstacles. Ramah in the Rockies has created a culture where grit and determination are celebrated. This positive ethos allowed those of us who experienced the fire to remain hopeful and undaunted in the face of a seemingly insurmountable challenge. As one parent said when his children arrived home at the end of the summer, “they forgot the challenges and focused on the positive… it is because of the experiences they have had at Ramah Rockies that they are prepared for the challenges life will throw at them… it is amazing to see the transformation that occurs.”

MIXED REVIEWS
(WHERE WE NEED MORE EMPHASIS)

Food
Our food program fell short this year, especially during the first session of the summer. While we had an incredible kitchen staff, too often the meals were geared towards the palates of adults, and not the taste buds of our chalutzim. Towards the end of our first session, we reworked our menu considerably. From adding a “breakfast for dinner” option to including a pizza dinner each week, the changes we implemented were made with your feedback in mind. As we design and build our temporary kitchen for next summer, we will continue to plan menus that balance the comfort of a main dish such as pizza with the innovation and creativity of side dishes like kale or seitan. This way, we will be able to ensure that everyone is nourished while giving our campers the opportunity to try new things.

We also learned that many chalutzim reported being hungry between meals and before breakfast. To remedy this, we intend to do the following in 2018:

  1. We will continue to provide snacks in the morning before breakfast at a central location.
  2. We will continue to improve the protein options at meals, including more eggs, fish, and legumes. We will also continue our Sunday night chicken cookouts, which were a huge hit this year!
  3. We will ensure that chalutzim never have to go out of their way to get wholesome, nutritious snacks throughout the day by placing bear-proof coolers of snacks around the property and by offering snacks at the beginning of each program period.

Outdoor & Environmental Education
At our core, we are an outdoor adventure camp that seeks to educate and inspire the next generation of Jewish outdoor and environmental leaders. However, too many of our chalutzim are graduating our program with a love of the outdoors, but lacking in specific camping skills necessary to succeed in the backcountry. While we made vast improvements to our backcountry curriculum this past summer, we will redouble our efforts in 2018.  We will devote the day before each masa(backcountry excursion) to outdoor training, during which our chalutzim and trip leaders will complete various age-appropriate stations such as fire building, stove maintenance, rope skills, first aid, and outdoor cooking. We also hope to expand the environmental education found in our farm program throughout our entire machane (camp), reemphasizing the ways in which our actions affect the natural world around us.

Sunday Programs
Throughout the Summer of 2017, we listened to your feedback and made major changes to our Sunday Yomai Meyuchad (special day), programing. We learned that our Yomai Meyuchad first session, while engaging for our younger chalutzim, left some of our older campers feeling bored and restless. Second session, we piloted a new program in which each Sunday had a theme that our edot explored through age-appropriate activities. The feedback we received confirmed for us that this change was a step in the right direction.

Every summer, our campers love Yom Sport (Color War). They eagerly anticipate traditions such as the all-camp relay race, and aspire to be a team captain one day. Our vision is that in future summers our campers will look forward to all of our Yomai Meyuchad the way they look forward to Yom Sport. We will also continue to allow our oldest chalutzim to take on additional leadership roles during these special days, with the understanding that they will be more invested in programming they helped to create and facilitate. These 16/17 year olds are the future leaders of Ramah in the Rockies, and Sunday programs allow them to practice some of their leadership training in a real-world context.

IN CONCLUSION

We are so excited for another magical summer in the mountains, and have been preparing to implement all of the positive changes and improvements outlined above. We have also been working diligently with architects and contractors to ready our site for next summer! Our early bird enrollment is still open, and any child who registers before the end of October will receive a free piece of embroidered Ramah in the Rockies outerwear. Register Today!

We are honored that you choose to send your children and spend your summers as part of our community at Ramah in the Rockies. As we look ahead to 2018, we know that our camp will look and feel different. Our beloved Lodge is gone; we will be eating in a new area of camp, and will be packing out for trips in a new facility. Yet, as we proved in 2017, our camp is so much more than a physical space. It is the people, the attitudes and the lessons that we experience day in and day out. We know that 2018 will bring new challenges, but we also are certain that by staying focused on what we do best – while continuously remaining open to change and improvement – next year will be the most transformative summer we have ever had at Ramah in the Rockies.

As always, please be in touch with any specific questions, comments or concerns. All of us on the year-round team are available to speak via phone, email or in person.

Sincerely,

The Ramah in the Rockies Team

 

Although our kitchen facilities were lost in the fire on August 7th, Ramah in the Rockies remains committed to providing our camp community with delicious, farm-to-table options while drawing parallels between the food we consume and Jewish context. If you are interested in making a donation to our rebuilding effort, please click here. 

Ramah in the Rockies cares deeply about its food sources and production. Here on the ranch, every meal is made with love, care, and intentionality. But what does that mean? How does our camp model this philosophy? In order to learn more about the ways we interact with food at Ramah in the Rockies, I talked to people all along the camp ‘food chain,’ and what I discovered renewed my appreciation for each and every meal we share together on the chava (ranch).

To begin, I ventured to the most obvious place for my research; the kitchen, or the mitbach, located right off the dining hall. There I had the opportunity to speak with Phreddy, a restaurant chef for 15 years who now serves as one of our head chefs at camp. As we spoke, he massaged lemon juice, salt, and olive oil into a big bowl of kale. I was struck by what a labor intensive project this salad was! Indeed, every aspect of the work done in the kitchen is treated with tremendous care and attention. “We try and put a lot of love, intention, and creativity into each meal so that everyone feels cared for,” Phreddy told me. “We want everyone to feel like there’s an abundance of options, and not a lack of choice.” Here at camp, our kitchen staff designs every meal to include at least one protein, starch, and vegetable. Their goal is to keep everyone healthy, happy, and properly nourished!

It was clear, however, that there was more to this food than just nourishment. Phreddy spoke of honoring each step in the process of preparing a meal, from planting the seeds to cooking the harvest. He explained, “Judaism is about knowledge. At every step of the process we want to know where our food is coming from, whether it’s organic, and whether it’s local.” This awareness of and appreciation for the process of food production is much of why the kitchen reuses and repurposes untouched leftovers, minimizes our waste with reusable milk and cereal containers, and composts all organic leftovers. Phreddy referenced this season of Sukkot, saying, “one week in the Sukkah infuses the whole year with thanks and appreciation for the food on our plates.”

Outdoor CookingIt turns out that the kitchen is not the only part of camp that emphasizes food appreciation. Out on masa, our backcountry excursions, food takes on a whole new role. Rather than having their meals prepared for them, chalutzim (campers) are tasked with packing up all their food in the right measures and quantities, as well as helping to prepare each of their meals. Like everything else on masa, this proves to be a team-building activity, and one that leaves campers with “a new sense of appreciation for where their food comes from,” according to Alex Hamilton, head of masa ‘pack out’ here at camp. “It brings people together,” says Hamilton, “It’s like a little mini Thanksgiving.” Having this unique opportunity to partake in the food process is not only a collaborative activity – it also gives our chalutzim a newfound investment in their dinner. Oftentimes campers will try foods they would normally avoid when they’ve cooked the meal themselves!

Camper and Counselor with chickenA similar phenomenon can be observed on our farm, where even the pickiest of eaters can be found munching on veggies they helped to grow themselves! On the farm, chalutzim have the opportunity to interact first hand with the garden, the chickens, and the goats. Each day ripened veggies must be harvested, freshly layed eggs must be collected, and goats must be milked. Our chalutzim play a vital role in these tasks, getting their hands dirty, stepping outside of their comfort zones, and interacting with their food first hand.

“It’s about interconnectedness” says Blair, the head of our farm here at camp. She spoke with me as we harvested produce for that night’s Shabbat dinner. She explained to me how the chalutzim used composted liquids to help with soil fertility, and soon began “thinking of different ways  the food that they eat both comes from this place, but also is going back into it.” By emphasizing this cycle of growth, sustenance, and compost, our kitchen and farm staff have joined forces to encourage a camp culture of gratitude and ‘ain biz-buz’ – no waste.

In the context of Sukkot, Blair, a Rabbinic student, talked about what a festival of the harvest really means to her. She stressed laborious cycle of planting, saying “you only get to have a harvest if you put in all the hard work during the season. I think that reinvigorating the sense that Judaism really cares about and takes responsibility for the whole food chain, and not just what we put into our mouths, is a valuable lesson.”

-Rachel Blau

As the season of Sukkot comes to an end, may we all consider with gratitude the journey our food took to reach our tables! 

 

 

Picture two boys running after each other – laughing and smiling as they dart through the tent circle. Picture a group of girls sitting crosslegged in their ohel (tent), shuffling a deck of playing cards. One of them calls out to a girl sitting on her bed and invites her to play with them. It may appear as though there is nothing extraordinary about these interactions, and yet these were some of the most remarkable moments of the summer.

Summer 2017 was full of countless new adventures; I’d like to tell you about one of them.

In years past, Ramah in the Rockies has offered an Amitzim edah (special needs group). However, this summer we made the decision to implement a full inclusion model for our special needs campers instead. What does a full inclusion model mean, exactly? It means that all campers, no matter their ability, are included into their age appropriate edot and participate in all the wonderful activities our machane (camp) has to offer alongside their peers.

To ensure the success of this program, the Director of Inclusion, three phenomenal Inclusion Specialists, and the rest of our Camper Care team worked together to support not only our inclusion chalutzim (campers), but also their madrichim (counselors), activity staff, and the rest of our kehillah (community).

This support came in many forms. The Inclusion Team would float throughout camp helping to support the campers and the staff as needed. They provided training sessions to both staff and campers about what it means to be inclusive. They were there to lend a helping hand or to be an ear to listen to campers and staff.

When reflecting on the summer, one of our Inclusion Specialists said, “It filled me with joy to witness how the chalutzim in our inclusion program excelled and grew during their time at camp this summer. I look forward to watching this program expand and transform as we accept new chalutzim into our inclusion program in future summers, and as we see the overall inclusivity of our camp grow to be even greater than it already is.”

Why did we decide to implement this model – a model that brings about logistical hassles and additional work? Ramah in the Rockies decided to go the way of the full inclusion model because we know that inclusion benefits everyone.

  • Inclusion benefits neurotypical campers because it teaches them to be accepting of all people, no matter who they are. It teaches patience, understanding, and gives them an amazing opportunity to interact with individuals who are different from themselves, broadening their perspective in the process.
  • Inclusion benefits campers with special needs because it gives them an opportunity to socialize with their neurotypical peers. Our special needs campers have the chance to get out of their comfort zone and practice being independent!
  • Inclusion benefits staff as it teaches them how to work with a wide range of individuals. They are challenged to be more creative as they plan programs, problem solve, and serve as a leader and a role model. It teaches our tzevet (staff)  to be patient and pushes them to be the best counselors they can be.

Furthermore, inclusion benefits you at home, because the lessons that chalutzim learn at camp are lessons they will carry with them for years to come.

Those boys that we asked you to picture? One of them had been a shy, quiet camper in our special needs edah in previous summers. As an Amitzim camper he had not wanted to participate in activities and had difficulty making friends. But this summer, in his age appropriate edah, you would find him eagerly participating in group activities and creating and maintaining friendships. And those girls? One of them struggles with creating friendships at home. Thanks to the inclusion model, she was able to form friendships and connections that she will continue to deepen in summers to come.

Inclusion is not easy. It takes time, effort, energy and work. However when an inclusion model is implemented and supported by a team of dedicated specialists, the results can be life changing for everyone involved.

Two campers wearing rock climbing helmets face away from the camera with their arms around each other.

Written by Abby Gavens, Director of Inclusion

This week we had the honor of welcoming Noga Korem, who is “racing as a privateer,” and Dan Craven, of the professional Israeli Road cycling team, to the chava (ranch)! The duo came to our machane (camp) to visit, teach, and enjoy the beauty of the chava (ranch) through Melinda Goldrich, longtime Ramahnik, supporter of Ramah in the Rockies. She recalls the way she got involved with this team, saying, “the Colorado pro challenge came through Aspen two years ago, that was the first year of the team, and I was asked to gather some members of the Jewish community to be supportive of the team and cheer them on.” Since then, she has built a relationship with the team and has familiarized them with the Colorado Jewish community.

International biking superstar Noga Korem was so excited to get to spend some time in our little corner of the Rocky Mountains. “It’s a really really nice place.” She said. “I love it. I feel sorry I wasn’t here when I was their age.” This morning, Bogrim Advancing Biking had the opportunity to take a double perek (period) lesson from the bike team members, where they learned how to steer, brake, pedal, and stand up on mountain bikes more effectively. “It was a lot of fun.” Noga says, “It looked like the kids really enjoyed it. They loved riding and they loved learning new things.” This wasn’t her first time teaching kids biking. Back in Israel, Noga teaches girls cycling and works with them to hone their skills.

Dan has also really enjoyed his experience at camp. “I only started racing my bike when I got to university because it took me that long to find it,” he told me. “And here are these kids who are being exposed to all of these things; it’s really amazing.” In regards to the culture of the camp, Dan has a real appreciation. “They’re up in the mountains; you don’t see a single kid walking around with a cell phone. We need more of that.”

Raz Paul, Rosh Ofanayim (biking) here at camp, was thrilled that they came to visit, saying, “it’s awesome to see Noga jump and do tricks on the bikes. Every time she goes to a competition or anything, the Israeli Facebook goes crazy. She’s one of the best in the world in downhill biking.” Indeed, being Israeli himself, Raz has a special appreciation for Dan, Noga, and their accomplishments, and he aims to spread his enthusiasm throughout the camp community. Raz is also especially glad that they will get to spend time teaching all of the different edot (age groups), saying, “they are joining all our perakim…one perek of each edah. They taught us some bike skills, how to properly stand on the bikes, how to turn, how to jump safely. The kids love them.”

Indeed, our chalutzim (campers) found the experience of learning from, talking to, and riding with professional cyclists to be invaluable. Yonah, 14, found their instruction to be tremendously helpful, and is hoping to utilize the skills they taught him on future mountain biking masa’ot (backcountry excursions).  He explained, “I learned in general how to go down single tracks and bike better.” A highlight for Yonah was getting the opportunity to follow Noga down a single track and witnessing a world class athlete in action. “It was really cool, she’s so good,” Yonah said, with awe and admiration written on his face. For a kid from New York City who looks forward to mountain biking here at camp every summer, it was truly a once in the lifetime opportunity.

Israeli Cyclists with Campers

This year, we are so excited to welcome to Ramah in the Rockies a delegation of fourteen chalutzim (campers) and three madrichim (counselors) from Mexico City! Here, the head Rabbi of the Beit El Conservative Congregation in Mexico City, Rabbi Leonel Levy, shares a bit about the Mexican experience at Ramah in the Rockies.

How did you learn about Ramah in the Rockies?
I met Rabbi Eliav; we have a friend in common that connected us. Rabbi Eliav came to Mexico in order to advertise the camp. We really enjoyed his enthusiasm and his great personality and his leadership, and decided to come [to camp]! At the beginning, we the group was only a few chalutzim and we sent them alone. This year we are fourteen chalutzim, plus three madrichim, so now that we have a larger group I decided to come and share this wonderful experience with them. This is my second year at camp.

How is American-Jewish culture different from Mexican-Jewish culture?
For us it’s very important to be an egalitarian community and a Kehillah Kedoshah (holy community). Mexico City is not so egalitarian. In Mexico, most of the Jews of the city belong to an Orthodox community, but they are not Orthodox; they belong because it is the tradition of their families. We don’t have a Reform [synagogues] in Mexico City, we only have two Conservative synagogues, and Beit El is the larger Conservative synagogue in the city: it has 1,000 families. So I think it’s really good to have this [egalitarian] experience. Also, we don’t have these kinds of camps in Mexico City, and I think it’s very important, in a time when we are discussing walls… to build bridges instead of walls.

What do your chalutzim get from this experience?
One of the things that our chalutzim get from this experience is an understanding that we are all the Jewish people and we all share links and connections. We have the same traditions here in the states and in Mexico and in Israel. Seeing the diversity of the Jewish people is very important to their experience. Also the connection with nature. Mexico City is a very urban place, and being here with nature and connecting with G-d and the tradition and the custom of the Jewish people in this environment is something that enriches their lives a lot.

What keeps you coming back?
It’s a wonderful experience. The t’fillot here are something very special. We don’t have the same kind t’fillot in Mexico, and I hope that our chalutzim will take advantage of this opportunity and will bring to Mexico some of this spirit. And I am looking forward to encouraging this spirit in our congregation in Beit El.

Last thoughts?
Thank you! Thank you to Ramah, to Reshet Ramah, to Mitch Cohen, to Rabbi Eliav. It’s such a privilege to be here in the Rockies at Camp Ramah and to meet the staff… it’s something so unique. I hope to have more chalutzim from our community come next year to strengthen the links with American-Jewry and with Camp Ramah.

Compiled by Rachel Blau

With the help of a most supremely generous gift of $20k from the OREG Foundation and an anonymous donor, we are excited to announce the completion of our newest addition to our farm: an 18-by-26-foot Farmtek hard sided polycarbonate greenhouse! Over the past week, our chalutzim (campers) have been able to witness the construction of the greenhouse, from the first steel poles that went into the ground, to the hard shell outside to the final product with planter boxes. Finally, we are SO excited to be able to elevate our farm with new planting grounds in order to continue to promote organic food options, sustainability, and consumer awareness amongst chalutzim.

One of the amazing benefits of this greenhouse is that it will lengthen our farming season. Right now, most of our growing takes place over the summer, as the cold winters present rather challenging planting circumstances. But with the introduction of our new greenhouse, we will be able to harness the energy from the sun to sustain warm crops all year around. We are especially grateful to the BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy program, the program that will take place over the 9-month off-season at the Ramah in the Rockies ranch, which is committed to “incorporating horticulture therapy into the[ir] program and maintaining the greenhouse through the winter months.”

We are also incredibly thankful for this gift, as the greenhouse will diversify our harvesting crops! Right now, our garden predominantly grows cold crops: kale, cauliflower, broccoli, herbs, etc. But by April of next year, we hope to have our greenhouse fully green and bursting with warm crops such as eggplant, tomatoes, strawberries, corn, beans, squash, cucumbers and more! These crops will serve as supplements to our organic produce that we use in the kitchen, making Ramah in the Rockies even more of a farm-to-table operation!

The expansion of our crop production will also enable us to broaden our consumption and garden education.”Because this is a three season greenhouse, we will be able to start planting earlier in the season, which will allow chalutzim see different stages of growth.” says Sammy Schwartz, part of our tzevet chava (farm staff) here at camp. By doing so, chalutzim will have the opportunity to expand their knowledge and understanding about the process of food production.

At Ramah in the Rockies, we believe that it’s so important to think and talk about where our ingredients come from, the conditions under which they were produced and harvested, and what happens to the organic waste. Our motto of “ain bizbuz,” or “no waste,” our commitment to eating organic wherever we can, and our food education program all aim to contribute to a culture that is intentional and environmentally conscious. It is our mission to raise awareness about the importance of these issues; the addition of our new greenhouse to our chava will play a major role in helping to ensure that this mission is reinforced in our community.
If you have a vision for how you can tangibly and practically improve the Ramah in the Rockies experience, CLICK HERE to donate, or contact Rabbi Eliav Bock at eliavb@ramahoutdoors.org

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By Rachel Blau

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.

 

By Rachel Blau

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 2017 Hanhallah.

Our Year Round Team (Click on Photo to read Bio)

Rabbi Eliav Bock, Executive Director                                                Douglas Wolf, Business Manager

 

Julia Snyder, Program Director                                                             Lisa Holstein, Office Manager

 

Sandra Yaron, Registrar                                                                      Rafi Daugherty, Director of Camper Care  

Abigail Gavens, Tikvah Director

 

 

 

 

  

Summer Senior Staff

Achinoam Aldouby, Summer Assistant Director

I grew up in Israel, now living in Jerusalem.  I work with LOTEM- a non-profit organization that makes nature accessible to people with special needs.  I also research at the Hebrew University theater performances incorporating Jewish texts and lead Torah study sessions at Elul- a pluralistic Beit Midrash…and best of all, I love making ice cream.  I’m excited to come back to camp and to see how the camp has grown from the first time I came in summer 2010. I’m looking forward to see our chaluzim and tzvet choose to challenge themselves physically, spiritually and socially.

 

Jacob “J-Chat” Chatinover, Director of Logistics ‘Car Czar’

I am from West Hartford, CT, and now live in Denver.  When not at camp, I read comic books.  Also, I am a math teacher (to pay for the comic books).  I am most looking forward to slowly gaining the trust and respect of the tzevet, and as the one in charge of all camp walkie-talkies, being feared and loved in equal measure.

 

 

Deena Cowans, Rosh Chinuch (Director of Education)

I grew up in the Chicago area, but now I live in New York City, where I am a Rabbinical student at JTS.   I am looking forward to singing on Saturday night and for sunrise yoga!

 

 

 Rashei Edah (Unit Heads)

Lexi Marcus, Rosh Ilanot (3rd and 4th grade)

I am a born and raised Denver Coloradan. I am currently studying human development, soon to become an elementary educator. I dance, laugh often, and pet puppies whenever I can. I am very excited to watch and grow alongside everyone at camp, and guiding the campers towards internal, external, and Jewish self discovery.

 

 

Liza Elkin, Rosh Metaylim (5th and 6th grade)

I am originally from Newton, Massachusetts but will be moving from New York City to Denver this fall to begin my Master of Social Work! This is my first summer at Ramah Rockies and I am really looking forward to helping create a summer rich in exploration, learning, and lots of fun for our campers. And I’m excited to experience the beauty of the Rocky Mountains! 

 

Ronni Gurwicz, Rosh Solelim (7th and 8th Grade)
I am originally from the dark wasteland that is the North of England, and now am a Storytelling Coach and Program Developer working for a Dutch based organization. I can’t wait to be part of the wonderful Ramah community spirit again, after having worked for Ramah Seminar last summer in Israel.

 

 

 

Eliana Willis, Rosh Bogrim

I’m originally from Los Angeles. Since graduating from UC Santa Cruz in 2015 I have spent my time traveling, working in environmental education, and currently, studying at Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. I’m most looking forward to Friday evenings at camp, when the whole community comes together for Shabbat with song, dance, blessings, and great challah!

 

 

Eli Witkin, Rosh JOLI

Born and raised in Minneapolis, MN I spent the last year in the Holy city and will be returning to Boston in the fall.  Outside of camp I like to smile at strangers and learn Torah – I like to think of myself as a professional community builder. I am looking forward to lightning storms, getting into that deep place in my mind that only a long trail provides access to, and trying out a new t’filla curriculum 

 

 

 

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

         12 passenger vans we will have on site at any one time this summer

         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)

         Registered campers coming from: Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia,

           Wyoming, Kansas, Hong Kong and The Netherlands.

חג שמח!!!

Rabbi Eliav

Masa 2016
Mushon Samuels, Tikvah Summer Director

For chalutzim (campers) at Ramah in the Rockies, the masa (outing) is an integral part of camp. This summer, our Tikvah campers spent three days and two nights at Chatfield State Park, a very well-organized site with all of the necessary facilities for our campers, including showers, toilets, lake, playground, etc.  

After setting camp up, our group headed over to the lake and took a stroll along the beach. When we returned to ourcampsite, we cooked a delicious meal of veggie burgers accompanied with roasted sweet potatoes and onions. We played some games by the campfire and headed to bed early. The following morning, we hiked along the dam overlooking the lake and then went swimming. After lunch, we met up with Amber, one of the park’s rangers, and she taught us about the wildlife in the park. She showed us skulls, skins, and furs of the different animals. Then Amber took us to clean the beach of the lake as part of our service project. We concluded with a scavenger hunt along one of the park trails. That night, we had a Mexican fiesta, complete with salsa, chips, guacamole, rice, and beans. Each of our campers enjoyed a different part of their masa experience. The facts that we had such an organized site and that our vans had all of the food and games needed to keep our campers occupied and entertained made it very easy! 

Other than some rainy moments, our campers had a great time. All agreed it was a positive experience and that they would happily do it again! 

Howard Blas, director of the National Ramah Tikvah Network, was very impressed when he learned details of our masa during a recent visit to Ramah in the Rockies. “I have been taking Tikvah campers on masa (we call it “Etgar”) for the past fifteen years at Ramah New England. Many Tikvah programs don’t have such camping trips. I thought our one-night, two-day hiking, canoeing, and rafting trip was impressive. But, wow! The Rockies’  three-day masa is amazing!” 

This blog is being reposted in honor of Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month.

 

Deena Cowans, Rosh Chinuch (Head of Education) 

You’ve heard it before, “Jews are the People of the Book”. Our religion is transmitted through books. Our religious practices rely on books. Our ethnicity values book smarts. But how many of us spend any significant time with “our” books?

Modern Judaism is a practice of rabbinic Judaism, or the Judaism first discussed by the rabbis of the Talmud. Anyone who has ever tried to learn Talmud, whether they are a beginner or a yeshiva bocher, knows that the Talmud is hard. The reasoning is often opaque, much of the Talmud is written in a mostly dead language (Aramaic) and the subject matter is sometimes seemingly unrelated to our modern lives.

Yet those who stick with it, who allow themselves to dig into a text and consider its meanings and lessons, describe the experience as transformative. In part this is because the Talmud (and other Jewish texts) contain a wealth of wisdom. But in part this is because the effort it takes to understand the text and the intimacy that comes from engaging in consistent study are part of the reward. Just like with people, the more we invest in a relationship, the more meaning we find in it.

This summer, we will take on the challenge of becoming the People of the Book by dedicating ourselves to the sustained study of a book of Talmud (technically the Mishnah) known as Pirkei Avot. The book of Pirkei Avot– often incorrectly translated as Ethics of the Fathers, but more correctly translated as Selections of Principles– contains the transmitted moral and ethical one-liners of the early rabbinic period (around the year 0-200CE). Some of the material is timeless in its wisdom, other selections are troubling to our modern values. We’re going to study both parts, because an educated and thoughtful person does not shy away from what is hard.

At Ramah in the Rockies, we focus on developing the inner and outer selves. We take on physical challenges like rock climbing, mountain biking and backpacking; we also take on emotional and spiritual challenges like living in close quarters with others, practicing Judaism more intensely than many of us do during the year and living in close proximity to nature.

Our study of Pirkei Avot will challenge our inner and outer selves. We will explore forms of learning such as embodied learning, chevruta (partner) learning, theater, arts and discussion. We will learn to question and challenge each other respectfully, to try something we have never considered or valued.

 We believe that we can learn both from the text and from the process of study. We hope that learning this entire work together over the course of 10 weeks will teach us about patience, love, community and self. We will certainly be challenged, but Ramah in the Rockies embraces challenge by choice, and we will choose to persevere when the material pushes back at us. Along the way, we will celebrate our accomplishments with a siyyum, a joyful celebration of completing a unit of text study. Judaism links Torah study with food– a siyyum usually involves a feast, and children are often given honey when they study Torah to make their learning sweet.  

We hope that we will feel nourished by this endeavor, and that our learning will sweeten our lives.

 In early January, seven of our staff and Rabbi Eliav traveled to Camp Ramah in California to attend National Ramah’s Weinstein Winter Training Conference.  This is just one part of our ongoing commitment to staff training and education throughout the year. 
 
Here is what some of our participating staff had to say about the conference: 

Staff posing“My favorite thing about the Weinstein Conference was the ability to experience all the Ramah camps in one setting, where we could share how each camp is different in its own way. Furthermore, it was fantastic being able to form lasting friendships with staff from other Ramah camps that I would not have met if we both did not go to Weinstein. The sessions I attended were all interesting because I could hear how different counselors from different camps might plan entirely different activities with the same guidelines. One session that particularly sticks in my mind is this session about creating a bedtime ritual in the ohel that wraps up the day and creates a sense of family between everyone. This is an easy way to make the end of the day something everyone looks forwards to.”
-Kenny 

“My weekend at Weinstein is not one that I will soon forget. Not only was it a great opportunity to get to know some of the amazing Ramah Rockies staff but it gave me the chance to learn and grow with tikvah staff from all the camps. I can’t wait to put some of these great ideas from other Ramah’s into action. I didn’t think it possible, but my time at Ojai got me even more excited for kayitz 2017!!!”
-Abby 

“It was really nice to experience a national Ramah retreat. As someone who is relatively new to the Ramah culture, it was fun to connect to people from all different camps and also learn what makes Rockies unique. Two highlights for me was leading a hike in the green mountains of Ojai and meeting people in person, who I work with during the year.”
-Zach

“At Weinstein we met staff from all across the country, and had the opportunity to learn from each other, exchange program ideas, and find out what makes each camp unique. But the best moments were when you couldn’t even tell that we were all from different camps. Often, it was music that brought us together. During t’filla and shira, we all know many of the same melodies, and we catch on quickly to the new ones. Joining our voices together in song is a powerful and beloved part of every camp, and it was amazing to be able to share it with the wider Ramah community.”
-Eliana

Dear Camp Families,

Campers arriving at airportHappy New Year! In an effort to constantly improve, we have made some changes to our airport routine for this coming summer and want to explain both the “what” and the “why” behind these changes to you.  

The “WHAT?”

Starting with Summer 2017, we are no longer creating a recommended flight list for our major cities.  Instead, we expanded our arrival and departure flight windows.  The new arrival window is 9:00am – 11:30am and families are welcome to choose any flight that lands before 11:30am in Denver.  We will meet all arriving campers at their gates (except JOLI campers).  Campers waiting in airportOur staff will escort campers to collect their bags and then congregate at Baggage Claim #10 until it is time to load the shuttles for the drive to camp.  JOLI campers are expected to link up at Baggage Claim #10 with their bags.
The new flight window
departing Denver is 10:15am – 3:00pm.  Again, families are welcome to select any airline that departs from Denver International Airport in this travel window.  Instead of bringing all our departing campers to the airport at the same time, they leave camp in waves, based on their flight time. Flights to just about every city in the Continental US are available non-stop within this window. We recommend that families select the earliest available flight within the window.  

Friends meeting at airport

The “WHY?”

Quite simply, we made the window wider to accommodate earlier non-stop flights to the coasts. We noticed that the 4-5pm flights to Boston, Washington DC, and New York were the ones most commonly delayed, causing additional problems and leading to incredibly long days for our campers. To combat these issues, we adjusted our travel window to accommodate earlier non-stop flights to our larger US coastal cities.  Campers leaving on those flights will have to leave the ranch significantly earlier in the morning, but we hope that by enabling our East Coast families to select earlier flight times it will mean fewer delays and allow
campers to arrive home at a more reasonable time.  Again, please select the most appropriate flight for each city
within the travel window.  

As done in the past, we will create region/session based email lists (ex: New York area 1st session, Bay Area 2nd Session, etc.) so that families in the same region and session are able to  self-coordinate about details as well as Unaccompanied Minor status.

Our Unaccompanied Minor contact person is Kenny Shuster.  Please list his name and our main camp phone number (303) 261-8214 on any airline forms.  

If you have any questions, please email transportation@ramahoutdoors.org.

Thank you,

Rabbi Eliav Bock, Camp Director

Lisa Holstein, Office Manager

Melannie Levine, Airport Coordinator

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This week we will celebrate the miracles of Chanukah!  This summer, we celebrate the wonder of our 8th summer! 
Each summer, we celebrate the miracles of camper achievements:
  • Living out our Core Values of Kavod (Respect), Simcha (Joy), Tzmicha Ishit (Personal Growth), and Kehillah
    (Connection). 
  • The pride and joy of biking to the summit of Mt. Evans (elevation: 14,265), a Colorado 14-er! 
  • Chalutzim learning to milk goats, feed chickens, saddle horses, and and care for our fellow ranch inhabitants
  • The feeling of accomplishment when reaching the top of a climbing route for the first time!
  • Learning skills on backcountry excursions to become independent.
  • Meeting Jews from around the world and creating intense, meaningful, and lifelong friendships and connections.

We wish you and your entire family and community a wonderful Chanukah full of sufganiyot, miracles, and enjoying the glow of the candles!

Chag Sameach!