Rabbi Leo of Mexico City brought a delegation of twenty campers from his community this past summer. He wrote this during the summer about the experience of being at camp. We look forward to welcoming more campers from Bet El this summer, and our continued partnership with the Mexico City community.
An English version is below the Spanish.
Camp Ramah in the Rockies, una experiencia inolvidable
”Que bellas son tus tiendas Yaacov, tus moradas, pueblo de Israel”
Es un gusto y un privilegio estar aqui en Camp Ramah, en Colorado, con un grupo fantastico de niños y madrijim de Comunidad Bet-El. Por primera vez casi veinte campers de nuestra comunidad de la ciudad de Mexico pudieron tener la experiencia de venir juntos. Esto fue posible gracias a generosos donadores de nuestra comunidad y a Camp Ramah asi como Rabbi Eliav que tuvieron la vision de que jovenes judios mexicanos puedieran interactuar con amigos de Estados Unidos, Israel y otras partes del mundo vivenciando que el pueblo judio es uno, a pesar de las diferencias de idiomas costumbres y lugares.
Llegamos hace una semana y por lo que hemos vivido, ha sido increible!!! Los niños estan muy emocionados de estar aqui. Han podido crear nuevas amisatades y practicar su ingles. El Camp ofrece actividades increibles como montar a caballo, andar en bici, clases de arte, escalar, mineria, cocinar en el bosque, y muchas otras mas.
Por otro lado todos nuestros jalutzim estaban muy emocionados de ir a el programa de Masa que es cuando se van fuera del camp a acampar por varios dias y cada uno escoge a cual quiere ir y viven una experiencia inolvidable.
Hemos logrado unirnos a todas las tfilot diferentes que otorga el camp y aprendimos las diversas meoldias que tienen en sus canciones. Asi como ya pasamos nuestro primer Shabat en Camp Ramah y fue muy emotivo, nos identificamos mucho con esta Kehila kedosha y descubrimos que son muchas mas las cosas que nos unen que las que nos diferencian.
Esperamos que para el proximo año podamos regresar otra vez y vivir nuevamente esta gran oportunidad!!!
Rabbi Leo Levy – Comunidad Bet-El de Mexico
Camp Ramah in the Rockies, an unforgettable experience
”How good are your tents, O Jacob, your dwellings, O Israel”
It’s a pleasure and a privilege to be here at Camp Ramah in the Rockies, with a fantastic group of kids and madrichim from the Bet-El Community. For the first time, almost twenty campers from our community in Mexico City have the experience of coming to camp together.
This was possible thanks to the generous donors of our community, Camp Ramah, and Rabbi Eliav who all had the vision of bringing young jewish Mexican kids to camp so the could interact with other Jewish kids from America, Israel, and all over the world; acknowledging that the Jewish people are one– no matter the different languages, customs, and places.
We arrived a week ago and for what we have experienced it has been an amazing time. The kids are really excited to be here. They have been able to create new friendships and are practicing their English, this camp offers incredible activities such as riding horses, mountain biking, arts and crafts, climbing, mining, outdoor cooking, and many others.
All of our chalutzim were very excited about the Masa program which is when they go camping outside of camp for a couple of days. Each camper had the chance to choose which Masa they wanted to go on, and they get to have unforgettable experiences.
We have been able to join the different T’fillot that camp has to offer and we have learned all the different melodies of the different songs. We had our first Shabbat in Camp Ramah, it was very emotional, we had become part of this Kehilla Kedosha and we have discovered that there are more things that unite us than things that set us apart.
We hope that next year we can come back and enjoy this great opportunity once again!!!
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A few weeks before coming to Ramah in the Rockies, Sous Chef Jeffrey Harris was out to dinner with a friend of a friend. Jeffrey was telling his dinning companion about the job that he had just been offered in the Colorado Rockies. They replied, “Working at a summer camp will be life changing,” and at the time Jeffrey was hesitant – after all, how could one summer surrounded by hundreds of Jewish kids in the Colorado Rockies be life changing? But by summer’s end, that same Sous Chef had a very different perspective on Ramah in the Rockies, as he shared, “This is a unique place… I believe I have met people here who will be in my life forever.”
Just as Ramah in the Rockies is a unique summer camp, so too is Sous Chef Jeffrey Harris. Jeffrey has taken to learning about Judaism – he is learning Hebrew, he has gone to t’fillot, learned in limmudim, and has even studied Talmud in chevruta. Normally, these are fairly normal things for the tzevet at Ramah in the Rockies to take part in – what makes this situation extraordinary is that Sous Chef Jeffrey Harris is not Jewish.
Jeffrey Harris was raised Protestant Christian, and prior to coming to work at Ramah he only knew a handful of Jews, and knew very little about Judaism as a religion. As Jeffrey disclosed, because of his religious differences he was worried that he would, “be an outsider from the rest of the community,” but he is now an integral member of the Ramah in the Rockies family.
Jeffrey explained that Judaism is not so different from Christianity in many ways, “Rituals are rituals – they are just different depending on the religion.” And likewise he can relate to the t’fillot we do at camp, as he recalled that even in Church he was taught to repeat words that he had been instructed to say. Sous Chef Jeffrey did however note some differences between the two major religions, as he pointed out Christianity is a religion established in faith, whereas Judaism is, in his assessment, a religion grounded in practice. Moreover, he was drawn to Judaism’s approach to right and wrong; that is, Jews will often choose to do what they believe to be ethically or morally right. This is juxtaposed by Christianity’s ideology of sin, which was/is determined by the church not by the individual.
In a similar vein, Jeffrey recalled a conversation he had with Rabbi Eliav where Eliav explained that, “Judaism only has one unifying belief – that there is one God; other than that we [Jews] argue about everything.” This model was one which fascinated Jeffrey, and is why he ultimately took a stab at learning Talmud. Because, “The New Testament is vague, but the Talmud goes into complex details about everything,” Jeffrey found learning Talmud refreshing.
Jeffrey started this journey at the beginning of the summer; his first week in the kitchen he spent some time researching the laws of kashrut, as they would be significant in his line of work. This however only sparked his interest, and he soon dug deeper. Jeffrey began to explore various facets of Judaism – by the first day of the first session he had started learning Hebrew using flashcards, and later in the summer he continued his learning.
He attended a few services, but found that they were not as interesting as other parts of Judaism because he was not able to understand what was being said. However, he did recognize the allure of singing in services, as he believes singing offers more of an emotional connection, which in his perspective it is more enjoyable, “seeing people be connected to something.” Moreover, at a certain point in the summer he decided to try wearing a kippah and he even tried observing Shabbat with the rest of the Ramah in the Rockies community.
Although Jeffrey has found Judaism’s extensive laws and regulations a bit restrictive, thus far he has welcomed that challenge. And furthermore, he has his sights set on working for a Jewish organization which will allow him to come back to Ramah in the Rockies next summer. All in all, this job has become a lifestyle for Jeffrey, as he pointed out, “You can treat it as just a job, or dive in and be part of the kehilla.”
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November 29th is Giving Tuesday. For those who have never heard of Giving Tuesday, it’s a reaction to the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Rather than spending money on something material, it is a chance for people to take part in a Global Day of Giving.
I am asking that this Giving Tuesday you consider making a meaningful gift to Ramah in the Rockies. In my nearly four seasons at Ramah in the Rockies (and another 15 with the greater Ramah movement), I have seen first hand what a blessing camp can be.
I have witnessed campers learn a new skill, overcome fears, make friends, form a community, and become better people! I know that camp can change lives because it has changed mine.
I am asking you to help us nurture the next generation of Jewish youth.
Your gift allows us to provide opportunities and experiences like these:
Campers from smaller Jewish populations feeling the power of immersive Jewish community for their first time,
Campers from cities like New York or Los Angeles actually seeing starry nights and hearing nature’s orchestra,
Groups of campers forming community and conquering challenges while hiking together through Rocky Mountain National Park,
Campers learning lifelong skills as they work to master fire building, rock climbing, mountain biking, and other techniques, and
An enduring love of the Colorado wilderness. Many of our campers and staff have planted roots in Colorado and grown the local Jewish community because of their time with Ramah.
There is something primordial about carving a space out from the wilderness. Backpacking in a national park this summer, I was struck by the persistence of the instinct.
This log is our kitchen. This branch is where we dry a towel. We enter the tent from this direction. Over here, just beyond camp, we store our food. We can’t help but to carve a space from the wilderness.
From within wilderness we organize, and shape and assemble. We look outside that space and say, “outside is wilderness and in here something seperate.”
When we are children, we delineate such spaces. We conjure caves, we play home, we build fortresses. We duck under sheets to escape the terrors of a wilderness.
Leaving Egypt, the Jewish people are young and newly free humans. They are flung into a vast wilderness and from within it, they carve a space for themselves. They fashion a moving encampment and dwell in smaller spaces therein.
A sukkah is a space assembled at precisely that time of year when one begins to draw inward, bringing together those things that you might need in the winter ahead. A sukkah is a cozy, autumnal comfort. You adorn it with symbols of the harvest and gaze at a swollen moon. You consider the universe and the vast wilderness in which you live.
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During the past six weeks, our year-round team has reached out to hundreds of camp families by email, phone, and survey. Many of you responded to our requests for honest feedback, including a record number to our online survey. We know that we can only continue to provide an amazing summer experience to our campers and staff by constantly working to make each summer better than the one before it. The way to do this is by always being open to adapting our camp program to meet the needs of our community. Our mission might remain the same, but aspects of our program have to change and improve from year to year.
We cannot thank you enough for your time and thoughtful responses to our questions. Now that we have had the opportunity to review and evaluate all the feedback, here is what we have learned and our action plan for the future.
TWO THUMBS UP
Values Based Community
The comment heard most often from campers, staff, and parents is that ours is a warm, intentional community, where people are kind, welcoming, and accepting. So many remarked on how newcomers and returning campers are able to bring their full personalities to our camp. We frequently also heard about the benefits of having a geographically diverse camper population. While our younger campers particularly enjoyed earning and bringing home the stickers with our four core values home, these concepts stood out to all that Ramah in the Rockies is a place where we strive to treat everyone and everything with respect. This is something that so many parents (and campers) appreciated.
Ramah in the Rockies continues to be THE Jewish camp for rustic outdoor living. So many families observed how their children were able to express the sensation of awe and grandeur that comes from living in the Colorado Rockies. While there are always some questions before camp starts concerning our not allowing any screens or earphones around camp, once engaged in the program, parents and campers realize that this is one of the more powerful aspects of our camp. And, of course, our outdoor program is best on display as exhibited by the various masa’ot (excursions) in which our campers participate throughout the summer. Masa’ot allow campers to bond with each other and challenge themselves in ways that they could not ordinarily do if they always remained in the relative comforts of base-camp.
Song and Dance
So much of the formal teaching in our children’s lives is directed towards obtaining further knowledge. At camp, we have the opportunity to also affect a child’s spirit and soul. This year, we made an extra effort to improve our song, dance, and visual arts programs. Many families noted how much their children loved these additions, including our daily dances at Mifgash. By the end of the summer, we also had switched to playing modern Israeli hip-hop as part of our Havdallah dance party for the older campers. We know that the culture of dancing that took off this summer will take a few more years to fully institutionalize, but we are eager to continue to invest resources in this area, including hiring a Rosh Rikud for the summer of 2017, a position we have never formally had. Additionally, parents told us that their children had been onto SoundCloud and Youtube to continue listening and dancing to some of their favorite camp songs.
MIXED REVIEWS (WHERE WE NEED MORE EMPHASIS)
During the summer you are entrusting us with your single most beloved treasure – your children – confident that we are providing your child with a safe, enjoyable experience. This is an incredible responsibility which we daily appreciate and continually strive to earn. While we pride ourselves on having the most mature staff in the Jewish camping industry, we know that we cannot rest on our laurels. To ensure and improve camper care for our families, including communicating well, we plan to make a number of changes going forward that will address specific areas where we know we could have done better. Two main areas of change include:
Medical Facility and Medication Distribution:
While complying with codes and regulations, our health center is pushed to its limits. We are now designing a new facility and raising funds to build a Wellness Center that should be open for the 2018 season. (Let me know if you would like to contribute to this important project.) In the interim, we plan to expand our medical space into the adjacent staff building known as “Don’s House”, giving us more room for sick campers to heal and another working bathroom.
We are re-examining our medication dispensing procedures, including assigning dedicated medical staff to pulling, logging, and distributing the medication rather than making this one of the many daily tasks for the camp nurse. We will continue to work with CampMeds or another pharmacy that individually packs pills for appropriate dispensing.
Our goal this summer was to communicate personally with every parent of a new camper in the younger edot (age group) within the first few days of camp. While we did call most parents, we know that we missed some and for this we are truly sorry. We are also working on systems to ensure that parents hear information about their children in a more timely fashion and have a chance to collaborate more closely with us when their child is struggling. To follow up after the session ends, we are working on ensuring better feedback letters from our counselors describing aspects of the camp program and including a list of questions to help parents engender more of a conversation with their camper concerning their experiences.
We will work to improve our mail system. While we will remain a few miles from the closest mailbox (where our USPS & UPS carriers drop all mail and packages), we know that campers deserve to get their packages and letters in a more timely fashion once they arrive at the ranch. For next summer we plan to hire a staff member who will oversee all parts of the mail operation, including sorting and delivering mail and printing emails. We also expect that this person will check outgoing mail to ensure it is properly addressed and stamped so that it reaches its destination sooner.
Teaching More Outdoor & Naturalist Skills
We have a beautiful remote ranch and all our campers spend some time sleeping in tents and under the stars. With that said, we need to work more intentionally at teaching outdoor and wilderness skills, especially to our younger campers. We heard from many parents who were surprised that their child did not learn how to put up a tent or use knives. While we cannot teach everything one needs to know to survive in the wilderness in two – or even four – weeks, we are spending time this year working on a five-summer curriculum whereby each age group will have specific outdoor skills in which they will gain proficiency. We are basing our curriculum on the merit badge system used in the Boy Scouts of America, and will include items like setting up shelter, using knives, creating fires safely, navigation techniques, and knot tying. While elements of each will also be taught in the different chugim (activities), we also plan to add a regular chug called camping skills where campers can practice these skills at base camp in a more relaxed atmosphere than they could when they are out on masa, where too often time is of the essence. We also hope to build upon some of the more naturalist activities often taught in the farm program and teach them in other areas of camp as well. This includes a greater appreciation for plant diversity and learning more about the natural history of the land around us.
Jewish summer camp works as an educational medium in large part because campers develop close, personal connections with their counselors and friends. While improving this area was a goal going into the summer, and we did better in 2016 than ever before, we have yet to fully realize our vision.
Moving forward, we will continue to improve our staff training to ensure that social connections are being made within the ohelim (tents) and require counselors to complete regular socio-grams (an activity to aid them in identifying and encouraging healthy group dynamics). We will also encourage more activities that foster positive early connections and adapt our scheduling to include more bunk-specific bonding activities. Our goal is for each ohel, when they are in base camp, to have a minimum of two scheduled peulot ohel each week where the counselors will have a chance to oversee some sort of intentional bonding program or discussion to help draw campers together.
We also intend to include more scheduled times for counselors to be with their campers in less formal environments, outside of the dining hall. We know that counselors can have incredible impact and influence on their campers, and want to help foster these positive relationships.
Finally, while our two-week programming will continue to be available to our edot through their Bogrim summer, our older two-week campers will no longer be able to select their activities at the base-camp. Instead, they will travel by “mishpachot” (coed families) to each activity and be able to experience most of the fourteen base camp opportunities we offer each two-week session. We have made this change to give our short-term campers more chances to bond within a smaller group and also to give our four week campers the ability to experience a few activities in greater depth along with a similar group of friends for their entire time at base-camp.
With the exception of our first-time Ilanot and Metaylim campers, we will continue to encourage families to consider the four-week options over two-week sessions. No matter how incredible we make our two-week program, it simply cannot live up to the magic experienced over four weeks.
We feel incredibly privileged that so many families have entrusted us to care for their children each summer. We know the awesome responsibility that this entails and are aware that a child’s experience at camp can influence decisions throughout life. We constantly seek to improve our camp and to fully realize the values that guide us throughout our summer. We also know that there will be times when we fall short of expectations, and cannot thank our parents, chalutzim, and tzevet enough for continuing to push us make our camp better and stronger!
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A Place to Be Yourself, The Place to Take on Life’s Adventure
The Ramah Rockies Experience
Rabbi Scott Bolton, Congregation Or Zarua, New York City
Writing from the beautiful Rockies, Basecamp
I believe that we need to find the right places for growing, reflecting, experiencing joy and awe. At every stage of our lives, we must find it for ourselves, and parents, to be good guides for their children, have to search out those environments. Finding a place, school, camp, or synagogue that encompasses them all is a challenge. What an incredible privilege to be able to become part of this sacred community at Ramah Rockies where I can see that everyone is in explorer mode and committed to the core values of community, individual growth, joy and honoring one another.
From this Rabbi’s perspective, when a camp is filled with people who are little like angels you have to share the blessings. Let me call out to fellow parents, Jewish community members and those wanting to contribute to the lives of children as camp staff – this is an inspiring Jewish place to be for two, four or eight weeks! Everyone here is accepted for who they are, what they stand for and how they express their Judaism, yet the commitment to community and finding common ground places everyone in a trust relationship.
With those trust relationships built through sacred attachments, the adventures themselves into the wilderness, up boulders, through forests, down paths both excite individual campers and create an understanding about teamwork and responsibility important both for summer adventures and for all of life.
At about 9,800 feet above sea level, at a trailhead, I saw a group of teens take on leadership under the careful supervision of dedicated adventure counselors. The gave each of the young leaders a different job and had them carefully sort out, equitably, all the extra equipment they would need to camp over five days and reach more than 12,500 feet above the tree lines. Their initiation into the ways of survival and skills for staying safe, and their celebrating Shabbat together got them ready for that journey. The leaders of the Jewish Outdoor Leadership Initiative (JOLI) empowered those teens from around the world, of one Jewish family, to each find their own inner strength and to create a team that could literally and figuratively realize new heights!
I am seeing that when those of all backgrounds, of one family, come to make magic here at Ramah Rockies there is a buzz and a peace all at the same time. There are physical heights and spiritual heights to ascend. Few places in my travels have inspired such an electricity as well as a sense of acceptance, potential growth and Jewish spirit.
I know I am in the right place for these weeks I will be here! Hineini! “I am here,” as our ancestors responded to God when asked if they were ready for the next chapter.
To register for Ramah in the Rockies today, please click this link. Register Now!
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On most mornings over the past eight weeks, I have risen well before our chalutzim (campers) and left my log cabin to walk to the office. In this three minute walk, the words of “Modeh Ani” usually come rolling off my tongue, almost naturally, as I stop and take in the amazing physical beauty I am blessed to be part of each summer.
This ranch is awe inspiring in so many ways! During my brief walk, I pass the camper tents, still silent from the outside at this early hour, but soon to be brimming with the sounds of children preparing to begin a new day of activities. I pass the horse pasture on my right, still wet with dew, a creek running through it, 24 majestic animals huddled in the morning brisk air finishing their nightly hay. After passing the towering Buffalo Peak against a brilliant blue background on my left I turn to see Prospector Mountain and its soaring cliffs, a peak so many set as a goal to climb each summer. Often the moon is still up, even though the light is bright and clear. Early mornings are truly a magnificent time at Ramah in the Rockies.
Today, I again woke early, but my hour of quiet was not to be as our chalutzim rose shortly thereafter to begin their long trip home. As I sit here looking out over our horse pasture some eight hours later, all of our chalutzim have left, returning to one of thirty-two States and seven countries. Our ranch is again poignantly silent. Another season has come and gone at Ramah in the Rockies, another summer has drawn to a close. Our long 42 week “masa” (excursion) in the “real world” has begun.
It is impossible to summarize all that happens in a single season in one email. Indeed, it is impossible for any one person to experience all that camp has to offer, for there are so many micro-communities within our one broad “kehillah kedosha“ (holy community). Each masa group, ohel (tent) and chug(activity) has its own stories, jokes, and memories. Rather than try to capture all that transpired these past eight weeks, Iwill instead focus on three activities that most of us have experienced this summer.
Mifgash, Singing, and Dancing
Each day this summer at 5:45pm our community gathered on our basketball court for a new camp tradition called “Mifgash“ (meeting).
During these fifteen minutes we announced y’mai huledet(birthdays), heard a rega shel yisrael (fun fact about Israel) and made camp-wide hoda’ot (announcements). Most importantly, we danced! While only fifteen minutes long, this new ritual became a cornerstone of our summer community. It was the one time that everyone could gather in a single place; a time when the youngest camper to the most senior staff member could interact with one another on a regular basis to release some energy and dance together to some modern Israeli music. The coordinated and the uncoordinated became one as long as we were smiling and having fun. Two songs that became a staple of this tradition were Hashem Melech and Bein HaBodedim. Click on either and ask your chalutz to show you his/her moves.
But Mifgash was only one part of our reinvestment in the Arts this summer. Throughout the summer, our talented Rosh Shira, Michael Harlow, along with so many other amazing musicians at camp, taught and led us us in some of the best shira sessions we have ever had on this ranch. From new tunes inspired by the training of the URJ movement, such as Dan Nichols’ Esa Enai,to original tunes written by our own tzevet members (Michael Harlow’s Modeh Ani), music infused our program throughout the day and became an integral part of our kehillah this summer as everyone from Ilanot through JOLI and staff embraced new melodies with excitement. Last night’s final shira and dance session was one I will remember throughout the off-season and one that will hopefully become the new standard at Ramah in the Rockies.
While the people in our camp can change from year to year, the values that anchor our community remain the same. As part of our strategic planning process, our board of directors reworked our “Core Values” to become four basic principles: Honor, Joy, Personal Growth, and Connection.
Building upon these core values, we created “midah“(value) stickers that chalutzim worked to earn during their time at camp. Each Friday night, we asked those chalutzim who had earned all four stickers to rise and be acknowledged publicly for exhibiting these traits. Their names were added later in the week to our permanent “Midah Board” in the Pardes T’filah. Throughout the summer, most water bottles were adorned with these stickers.
While the stickers were a gimmick to enable us to acknowledge the accomplishments of our chalutzim, on a deeper level they truly reflect what it means to be a member of the Ramah in the Rockies community. Each summer so many come to camp and leave transformed in countless ways as they push themselves to their physical emotional and spiritual limits. Yet this community is so much more than our roster of activities. Yes, we bike, climb, and do arts and crafts, but at the center of our Kehillah Kedosha are these enduring values. Ones that we hope our chalutzim and tzevet will hold dear not only while at camp, but, perhaps most importantly, beyond our gates and throughout their lives.
Because of our commitment to these values and their role in our community, we are asking all of our chalutzim, tzevet members, and visitors to participate in a new initiative called “The Midah Project.” More information can be found here, but in short, we would like to ask every person who set foot on our ranch this summer to draw a picture representing one of our core values. These pictures will then be turned into tiles which will be mounted as part of murals that will adorn our ranch for many years to come.
Of course, no discussion of a season at Ramah in the Rockies would be complete without mention of our masa (excursion) program.This summer we sent out a record 75 masa’ot. Some trips traveled farther than ever from base camp into regions of Colorado such as State Forest State
Park and the Spanish Peaks Wilderness area. Our 2016 chalutzim hiked, climbed, and biked farther than any groups in previous summers. Whether it was our Ilanot who hiked to the Buffalo Ranch and then up Prospector Mountain, or our Metaylim who spent time rafting and backpacking,orour Sollelim who climbed new routes in Boulder Canyon, or our Bogrim chalutzim who “summited” a fourteen thousand foot peak on bikes, or our JOLI group who spent a full night sleeping alone on a “solo” in the Indian Peaks Wilderness area, each chalutz had his or her own adventure.
My favorite day at camp comes every two weeks when the chalutzim return from their masa’ot tired, smelly, and often with bruises, yet smiling ear to ear, so full of excitement and pride in their accomplishments over the week. I love watching their dirty faces as they return to the relative comfort of our ranch, eager to tell everyone about their unique experiences on the trail. As I go out to greet the chalutzim and ask them about their masa’ot, I am invariably met by a cacophony of stories and giggles. While some groups might have hiked longer, climbed higher, or eaten more delicious food, each and every chalutz(a) will be left with memories of personal transformation and enduring friendships.
And to Wrap Up. . .
And now, we must close this chapter of Kayitz 2016. It has surely been one of best ever and one that has impacted more people than ever before.
Closing camp is always bittersweet since we know that there are still peaks to climb, friendships to deepen, and songs to sing. While the “real world” calls, we can take heart that there are only 306 more days until next summer! Our registration for 2017 is already open, and spots are in high demand!
As we pack up our summer office and prepare for tonight’s staff banquet, I want to thank all of our families, chalutzim, tzevet, and raving fans for continuing to support us and enabling us to assemble one of the most remarkable Jewish communities in the country. While the camp season must come to an end, I know that the lessons and friendships developed over the past 9 weeks will continue for years to come.
–Rabbi Eliav and the entire Ramah in the Rockies team
We sent this email out yesterday to all of our camp families.
Dear Camp Families and Friends,
We hope the school year has started off well for you. With the opening of our Summer, 2017 registration, we have some updates to share also.
We are enjoying reading the survey responses so far received and will be publishing results once we finish compiling them all. If you have not yet completed our survey and would like to give us the gift of feedback on your summer experience with us, please click here. Your responses to our surveys help us shape our program updates and changes for next summer.
Midah Tile Project
Throughout the summer, we told our campers about the new Midah Murals we will be creating around camp, using their artwork to fashion mosaics around their summer experiences. If you have not yet created a tile as a part of our Tile Project, it’s not too late to submit one! If you chose to create digital artwork, you can send that to us via email at email@example.com. Please read the full instructions on how to participate at ramahout.s466.sureserver.com/tileproject.
Registration and Program Updates
Registration for Kayitz 2017 has been open for a month now and we already have a number of registered campers. If you want to receive your super comfy Ramah fleece, please register before October 31st! While we still have room in all sessions and all bunks, we do expect to begin filling some by the end of September. To register now, please click here.
While we are using this time immediately after camp to still fully evaluate our 2016 program, we want to let you know about a few upcoming changes that might affect your registration choices. We hope these modifications for 2017 will improve the Ramah in the Rockies’ experience for all of our chalutzim (campers).
2-Week vs 4-Week Programs
Traditionally when our campers have arrived for their sessions, whether attending for two or four weeks, all of our older campers would spend over an hour “leveling” into (choosing) their electives at camp. While this is useful for our four-week campers, we realized that our two-week campers were passing over an hour choosing activities in which they would participate for a total of three hours in the following days at base camp. Additionally, our four week campers were not able to experience the full programmatic arc of our speciality programs because there were often two week campers transitioning either in or out of their activities.
To improve this system, we are making the following change for our 2017 programs: our two week campers (all ages) will travel to our different activities in camp as members of “mishpachot” (families). This will give our new and returning campers the opportunity to experience all that base camp has to offer in their two weeks with us. We think this will enable our two-week campers opportunities to do more activities while also creating a more communal feeling among our four-week campers.
Two and four week campers in our older age groups will continue to live in different, but adjacent, tents. Our rising 3/4th grade campers will continue to live in mixed tents, while most of our rising 5/6th grade campers will live in separate tents, unless our registration numbers warrant otherwise (likely in our August session).
Please note that our six-week campers will spend their four-week session as four-week campers and their two-week session with the different activities.
If you have any questions about this, please feel free to reach out to Rabbi Eliav Bock or Julia Snyder, and we will be glad to answer your questions about these improvements to our program.
The goal of our JOLI (Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute) program is to create future Jewish outdoor leaders. As such, the program is designed to push participants physically, spiritually, and mentally to take on new challenges and find new areas of growth. While our JOLI program is incredibly rewarding for those who complete it, it is not suitable for all rising 11th/12th graders.
For a number of years, we have required JOLI applicants new to our community to have an interview and complete essay questions. Because of this
process, these individuals have often been the best prepared because they fully understand the challenges that they are going to undertake while participating in JOLI. For our 2017 season, we will expand this intake procedure to include our Bogrim graduates wanting to join the JOLI program.
For those who have applied or will be applying to JOLI 2017, we will be sending information about interviews and essay questions, and will begin the interviewing process in early October. In the meantime, anyone who registers for JOLI 2017 will have a spot saved for them, but no one will be confirmed until after we decide, together, whether JOLI is a good fit for each applicant. (Don’t worry, anyone who registers prior to October 31, whether or not s/he has gone through the interview process will still receive a free Ramah in the Rockies fleece).
To read more about the program, please visit https://www.ramahoutdoors.org/about/joli/
We are currently re-evaluating our Tikvah program to figure out the best model for our camp and our participants.
We invite all of our current and potential Tikvah families to discuss their child and what type of program is the right fit for them with our former Tikvah Director, Elyssa Hammerman (firstname.lastname@example.org). Rabbi Eliav will be convening a group of stakeholders in the coming weeks to discuss the future trajectory of this program. If you would like to be part of this group, please be in touch with him directly.
In an effort to move the process of need-based financial aid along more efficiently, we are starting the application process three months earlier this year. Requests for financial aid are reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis. Families are encouraged to apply as soon as possible. If you have any questions, please visit ramahout.s466.sureserver.com/scholarships or email Douglas Wolf at email@example.com.
https://www.ramahoutdoors.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/LOGO-300x167.png00Adminhttps://www.ramahoutdoors.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/LOGO-300x167.pngAdmin2016-09-07 14:23:372016-09-07 14:23:37What’s New at Camp Ramah!
Greetings from a cool and cloudy day at Ramah in the Rockies! For the first time in probably several weeks, our temperatures have dipped, the clouds rolled in, and much needed rain fell. This has been another transition week for us here on the chava (ranch) as we said lehitra’ot (goodbye) to our 2A campers, and bruchim haba’im (welcome) to our 2B chalutzim (campers). We bid farewell to our incredible delegation from Congregation Bet El in Mexico City, which was recently featured in this news article. (Please note: We are sorry for any misspelled names or incorrect facts in the article. Our kids were interviewed over the phone by an outside reporter.)
This is our smallest session of the summer, to the point that we have been able to consolidate from eating in two seperate dining halls to eating in one. As is the case on the Friday of every other week here at camp, our older chalutzim are “packing out” – preparing their food and gear for their five-day backcountry excursions. They are measuring out their ingredients; checking and rechecking their tents, packs, stoves, and other gear; and making sure all is ready for the trip.
This past Sunday, our Tzevet Chetz V’keshet (Archery Staff) hosted a medieval-themed archery tournament on the range. Our chalutzim and tzevet all came out to cheer and support the competitors, many of whom came in costume and carrying banners representing their teams. I even managed to join for a round or two of shooting. (Though admittedly, I probably missed the target more than hitting it!) Check out the pictures, by clicking this link.
For our Ilanot and Metaylim chalutzim, we had our end of session carnival, always a crowd favorite, complete with balloon animals, face painting, snow cones, a photo booth, and more! These two groups welcomed new friends this week, and, last night, Metaylim had an “ecstatic dance party” as Rosh Edah Julia described it. At the party, they heard a mix of English and Hebrew upbeat dance music and had judgment-free dancing, letting their bodies move to the music. The kids loved it!
Sollelim said goodbye to a bunch of chalutzim earlier this week and welcomed a new cohort as well, our last transition week of the summer. Led by Rami, an incredibly talented and musical Rosh Edah (unit head), the t’fillot (morning prayers) have become a real highlight experience for all. While this might be unusual to say, this edah has really been hitting it out of park when it comes to t’fillah. They have had musical and spirited traditional services as well as deeply meaningful alternative t’fillot, exploring meaning through a variety of options. Another highlight of the week from Sollelim was their glow-in-the-dark gaga game!
While other edot were welcoming new friends, we made a decision this year NOT to offer 2-week Bogrim registration at the end of the summer. The Bogrim group has continued their excellent programming for 4-week chalutzim. We welcome a number of “guest stars” (visiting rabbis) throughout the summer and they have led Bogrim in a variety of activities and limudim (text-based discussions). For example: Rabbi Scott Bolton and Dr. Hartley Lachter did an activity around Jewish leadership styles as they contrast with more top-down religious leadership approaches. Dr. Jessica Cooperman spoke about Jews & Race. Rabbi Elyse Winick led a session on Tikkun Olam. Evenings for our Bogrim chalutzim were filled with silly and fun peulot erev like Pillowcase Charades, where we did impersonations and created costumes using random items placed in a pillowcase. Last night we held a sing-off where the MC picked one word like “sun”, “road”, or “shake” and then thought of different songs with that word. You could hear the singing all the way across camp!
Yesterday evening I watched JOLI participate in a pretty awesome peulat erev (evening activity) – Iron Chef. The JOLI contestants were given a set list of ingredients that had to be included in their two dishes, and everything was cooked and prepared using typical masa gear – camping stoves, cutting boards, and knives. Each of the teams than ate their creations for dinner and presented an extra plate to a panel of judges, including our Head Chef Avram who ran the evening and he gave them some pointers to improve their dishes.
This week we also welcomed another group of chalutzim — our Adult Campers! This summer we have 11 campers joining us who will participate in our base camp activities, spend a spirited Shabbat with our entire kehilla kedosha, and go out on their own masa (backcountry excursion). Leading this esteemed group is the Director of Camp Ramah in Northern California (and a founding Rockies staff member!), Rabbi Sarah Schulman and her husband, Nate Bankirer.
We are looking forward to a wonderful Shabbat with our friends from Adult Camp and our entire kehilla. This Sunday (SHHH, it’s a surprise!), we will be celebrating a camp favorite: Yom Sport! Yom Sport is our color-war competition that we do twice a summer and is always a highlight for our chalutzim and tzevet. It will surely be an exciting day of cheering, singing, dancing, sports, and friendly competition!
I am sitting in the chadar ochel an hour before lunch, Israeli music is blaring from the loudspeakers, and the sounds of chalutzim (campers) returning from masaot (excursions) fill the air outside. Over the next three hours all our chalutzim will return from their masa’ot. After the initial shrieks of delight and quickly paced stories, all will unpack, shower, change, and be ready for another Shabbat at camp.
Our youngest two edot spent most of their week on our chava (ranch) where they had a chance to ride horses, shoot archery, ride bikes, and also go mining. Masa weeks tend to be much quieter at camp since half our kehillah kedosha (holy community) is away which allows us a chance to do programs that might not be possible when everyone is in camp. For example, this week our staff from the Mexican delegation treated us to real Mexican food for dinner and we had two shira (singing) sessions that were incredible because all the chalutzim and tzevet (staff) were able to fit into the small chadar ochel (dining hall) where the acoustics are so much better than our larger dining tent.
Yesterday and today, Ilanot has been on a masa of their own. On Thursday morning, they hiked out to Ramah Valley where they set up a base camp. Half the group then spent the afternoon hiking up Prospector Mountain and the other half of the group hiked to our neighboring buffalo ranch. On Prospector, the wild raspberries are in season, so hikers had a chance to eat their way up the mountain. At the Buffalo Ranch, chalutzim had a picnic overlooking a gorgeous pond before heading into the pasture on a UTV to feed the buffalo and cattle (the cows, by hand). In the evening, everyone met back in Ramah Valley for dinner and a campfire. Today the groups switched.
Due to transportation issues, we combined our entire Metaylim edah and sent them to the Arkansas River for their rafting masa. The group camped out together by the river on Tuesday night, and then spent Wednesday on the water. All reported that it was an incredible experience and the weather was perfect throughout. Our rafting company, Noah’s Ark, are some of the best trained and most responsible guides on the river, and so even when one boat flipped, the guides pulled all the campers into accompanying rafts just as they are trained to do. Campers in the flipped boat all called home, but most, whether in the water or on other rafts, just thought it would be an awesome story to tell. Sadly, this will be our last rafting trip of the summer since the water level will drop considerably by IIB.
Sollelim chalutzim had a chance this week to choose a masa that would challenge them on bikes, by foot (on one of three hiking masa’ot), at a 3-D archery range, and on the cliffs of the surrounding mountains. When I asked some of the Sollelim chalutzim what the highlight of their trip had been, I heard combinations of: the meals and camaraderie in the evenings at the camp sites, summiting some beautiful mountains and of course setting personal goals and achieving them. I heard from a few madrichim (counselors) who told me that they were so impressed by how well the chalutzim worked together to accomplish a number of challenges and encourage each other, especially when walking/riding up steep hills.
Our Bogrim chalutzim spent time on Earth Mountain Farm, climbed in two areas near our camp, biked on miles of road and single track, and hiked throughout Pike National Forest and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. One group also spent the week kayaking near Salida, Colorado. For many of our Bogrim chalutzim this was their 5th or 6th masa at Ramah in the Rockies, and each year we seek to add additional challenges, especially for those chalutzim who have been “growing up” with us. One of the biking madrichim mentioned to me that this was the strongest group of bikers he had seen and they completed their initial route by Wednesday at lunch before tacking on two extra days of biking yesterday and today. On one of the backpacking masa’ot, their leader reported how self sufficient the chalutzim were a few days in and that they had taken charge of setting up camp and cooking each day. That is truly one of our goals for our chalutzim- that they learn all the skills necessary to backpack on their own and lead trips one day!
As has become the tradition with JOLI in the first set of their masa’ot, they returned to the Indian Peaks Wilderness where they had five magnificent days of hiking and camping. The group split into two and made a figure eight hiking loop so that they barely overlapped with each other. All had a chance to spend a night and day on their solo where they sit in one area and appreciate how far they have come (literally and figuratively) and have a chance to journal, meditate, and relax in the magnificent Colorado backcountry. Each JOLI participant also had a chance to be “a leader of the day”, where they had a chance to guide the entire group – deciding on the pace, when to eat, and the best route given the camp site they had to reach each night.
We will wait to hit “send” on this email until all our chalutzim are back on our ranch. Tonight is going to be the final Friday night at camp for almost 75 of our chalutzim and 12 of our tzevet members. When we gather tonight in our circle and sing our niggunim, we will be feeling an enormous amount of gratitude for having had another terrific week at camp and a sudden realization that the final 18 days of the summer are likely to fly by, so we need to savor each and every one them.
As always please be in touch with any questions or comments. We have posted pictures on Facebook and Smugmug and plan to add more on Sunday evening.
A quick slideshow of some of the photos we have received back from our Masa’ot can be found here!
After a refreshing intersession with our staff and refocusing our energies on our goals at camp, the chava (ranch) is teeming with activity again. The past two days have been full programing with chalutzim biking, climbing, creating arts and crafts, zumba dancing, mining, and so much more. Each day during the past week has started with brilliant sunshine before clouds have rolled in for a late afternoon shower. We have had to adapt some of our programing, but are thankful for any moisture as the west is not a good place to be when it becomes too hot and dry.
As we prepare for our first Shabbat of the session, we are also here with our largest group of chalutzim ever assembled on the ranch (205!), including a large contingent from Mexico City’s Bet El congregation. Alongside their rabbi, Rabbi Leonel Levy, are here for the first two weeks of second session. We look forward to a continued partnership with the community in Mexico City and to seeing their numbers grow in future summers, even if we never plan to have more than 205 chalutzim on the ranch at any one time!
The first few days of a session are always a combination of excitement and trepidation; excitement at returning to camp, a second home for so many of our chalutzim (campers), and trepidation by both new and returning chalutzim about how the summer will be, what activities one will do, and whether one will make close friends. On Wednesday, our oldest chalutzim picked their activity areas that they will do throughout Session IIA and some into IIB. Our younger chalutzim were assigned activities that included archery, horseback riding, and animal care. While it is impossible to describe everything that transpires during the first few days of the session, we saw groups who dug up amazing rocks in mining, groups who rode horses out to Ramah Valley and around the perimeter of our ranch, and groups of mountain bikes who attempted our beginner and intermediate single tracks. (Next week they will ride the advanced track!) In all of these activities, our guiding ethos of “challenge by choice” has been front and center. Each chalutz has only been in competition with him/her self.
Each morning our chalutzim have awakened to the sound of “bo-bo-boker tov” yelled by a group who stand on the picnic table in the Kfar assisted by G-baby who usually is coming back from his hour long ride by 7:00am. After the chalutzim wash and dress, they all head to their m’komot t’fillah (prayer spaces) for shmirat haguf (morning exercise) and t’fillot (prayers). The t’fillot over the past two days have been incredible and inspiring. We had some groups singing along with guitars, others engaged in more movement-focused t’fillot, others doing art, and others engaged in a more traditional, full matbeah, t’fillot . Our second oldest edah, Bogrim, spent part of their first t’fillah learning about t’fillin, and actually having a chance to open a pair and to peek inside. Starting on the first day, and continuing over the course of the session, our hope is that chalutzim can experience an array of prayer options. This session we are blessed to have a number of rabbinic “guest stars” who are here to help with all educational aspects of the program.
Sadly, due to the rain on opening day, for the second time in our camp’s history, we did not have a camp-wide opening campfire on the first night of a session. On a personal level, I was sad about this, since this campfire is when we usually teach the camp song and it is the first time I have a chance to address our entire kehillah kedosha (holy community). Instead, we had a chance to do some opening remarks during dinner in the chadar ochel (dining hall). Last night our younger chalutzim had a campfire where they sang songs and heard some stories. Our older chalutzim had a chance to play capture the flag in Ramah valley, another programmatic staple of our camp.
As I finish writing this email, our entire Kehillah Kedosha is engaged in doing service projects for the camp. We believe that everyone in our community can contribute in some way to the betterment of camp as a way to prepare for Shabbat. At the moment our chalutzim are beautifying the chadar ochel for Shabbat dinner, creating a new trail in camp, giving the camp dogs a bath (they need it!), and more. As soon as each have finished their projects we will begin the rotations in the shower house, when everyone is “required” to clean themselves and ready themselves physically for Shabbat, which includes putting on clean clothes. In a few short hours, all will be dressed in white and gathering as an entire camp to dance and sing.
Next week is our masa week, when our older chalutzim leave for most of the week. Our younger chalutzim will have a chance to do a shorter excursion and will also have most of the ranch to themselves to further engage in our base camp activities.
On behalf of the entire Ramah team, I hope that you too have a relaxing and joyful Shabbat!
We use a lot of Hebrew at camp, and we do this intentionally. We teach our chalutzim Hebrew via everyday activities and announcements. As an example, in Soosim (horses) kids learn the names of parts of a horse and saddle in both Hebrew and English. Below are some of our most commonly used words in Hebrew, for your reference.
https://www.ramahoutdoors.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/LOGO-300x167.png00Adminhttps://www.ramahoutdoors.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/LOGO-300x167.pngAdmin2016-07-22 20:13:482016-07-22 20:13:48Hebrew At Camp: A Glossary
I am sitting on the porch of the dining hall in the late afternoon watching a late afternoon rain. To my left is a very wet Givat Ilanot. The shadow of Sheeprock (a local climbing mountain), the slick basketball court, and the cool breeze seem like the perfect way to wrap up, the final day of Session I. This morning our entire camp was buzzing at 6:15 am with last minute packing after most chalutzim (campers) had slept out under the stars with their edot (age group) in various places throughout camp. Now, our staff is off: hiking, relaxing, and savoring the many amazing moments from Session I. Most of our chalutzim have already arrived home or are en route and the airport staff are getting the final campers on their flights. All is quiet on the ranch.
How does one sum up four weeks in the mountains? Four weeks of friendships, four weeks of laughs, four weeks of scrapes and boo boos, four weeks of intense Jewish living, four weeks of camp. Well, while no email can capture a whole month of highs and lows, I hope these three vignettes will offer a glimpse into our community for those who were not fortunate enough to physically be here
for the duration
We Reached Capacity!
Back in 2008, when a group of us drew up the plans to create a rusticoutdoor adventure camp we set a goal to grow our community to 200 campers and 110+ staff at any one time. From a communal standpoint we thought this was the perfect number to allow for a critical mass in all our age groups. From a business standpoint, the conventional wisdom is that a camp needs to have this capacity to be economically sustainable. Thanks to the generosity of our amazing donors, at the close of last summer, we were able to finish our wastewater system ($440,000), build a second bathhouse ($420,000), and complete our three final tents ($75,000) which allowed us to reach our targeted capacity. And with this growth, we expanded beyond our single dining tent and, for the first time ever, we split our community between our newer dining tent and our older chadar ochel (dining hall). While we began meals together with our food tours andcommunal brachot (blessings) eating in two chadrei ochel allowed the younger campers and older campers to eat and sing at their own paces and also to tailor cheers and announcements to each group. Up in the kfar/kibbutz areas (where the tents are located), we have had a few summers of overcrowding in our single bathhouse. But with our new second bathhouse this summer, we finally had appropriate sanitation for all our chalutzim. Also this summer, our Kehillah Kedosha (holy community) began to feel more like a small village a-buzz with various activities rather than just a large family with multiple services happening each morning. Every programming space was occupied during Peulot Shabbat, and enough gaga, basketball, and ultimate frisbee happened during free time to keep everyone busy.
Advanced Biking and Mountaineering
This session, we had our largest group of Bogrim (9/10th) grade campers. Because so many of our Bogrim chalutzim were returning for their 4th or 5th years, we knew that we had to improve our older camper program and make it more challenging. And so, this year we unveiled two new advanced programs: biking and mountaineering. Working with a local trail building company and the Oreg Foundation, we built a mile long advanced bike trail complete with table-top jumps, banked turns, and a small technical climb. Our goal was was to create a place on our ranch where chalutzim can practice some technical biking skills before heading out to the world class terrain at Buffalo Peak. Indeed, last week the Bogrim bikers actually left camp on Monday, biked to Buffalo Creek (up a huge vertical climb) where they spent time riding the single tracks before biking back along the backroads to camp on Friday. Given its terrific reputation, the advanced biking trail was in use throughout the past two weeks by those going on the biking masa as well as those who just wanted to do some more difficult terrain.
In addition to advanced biking, this session we ran our first ever mountaineering group. In this activity, chalutzim spent four mornings climbing at local crags improving their technical skills. Then, last week, on their masa they headed to Rocky Mountain National Park and the Sangre de Cristos mountains where they had a chance to tackle some pretty technical and difficult peaks. All who completed the masa said it was one of the best they had ever experienced here at Ramah in the Rockies and certainly one of the hardest.
While we were working to improve our older camper experiences, we also spent considerable time in the offseason revamping and hiring appropriately trained counselors for our youngest campers, those in Ilanot (rising 3/4th graders). We hired staff who specifically wanted to work with this age group. We brought back the Ilanot Masawhere they slept out under the stars and spent a day hiking on Prospector Mountain. And we had a myriad of age-appropriate camp activities for them like our Rocktion (Rock-Auction), carnival, and some horse trail rides. This session, our Ilanot program was sold out, and indeed on Wednesday, for the first time, we have two male tents for this age group. A personal highlight for me is watching the Ilanot campers become more comfortable with the birkat hamazon (grace after meals), camp wide Israeli dancing, and Friday night services. The first few times we do these each session, many of our Ilanot chalutzim have a look of puzzlement on their faces. By the end of the session, most were participating fully at whatever level they could. Whereas at the beginning of the session, our Ilanot chalutzim are literally just trying to figure out their way around our ranch, by the end, they are full members of our community, leading cheers, prayers, and giggling at their own inside jokes. This session, our Ilanot program was terrific, and we certainly hope that this is just the beginning of a long camp career for most of the participants.
Soon after sending this email, I will be going off line for 16 hours, hopefully to sleep, hang out with my family, and mentally prepare for the next session. Camp is a rollercoaster, and while we certainly had some down moments this session (like the suspected Norovirus outbreak), so much of the past few weeks were spent in states of total jubilation. We had untold moments of higher highs where we were truly living out our mission statement which demands that we be a place that nurtures the character development of Jewish youth by providing them a space to challenge themselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
While we are delighted to have had such a terrific first session we know that half of the 480 chalutzim who will pass through our gates this summer have not yet arrived. We are basking in the success that was our first session and gearing up for an equally, if not more, impactful second session.
We sent out a feedback survey to all of our camper families via email. If you would like to share feedback, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
The sun is shining, groups are returning– it’s a beautiful late afternoon on the chava (ranch)! We had stunning weather this past week and it’s truly an incredible feeling to see this chava full of 300+ chalutzim (campers), tzevet (staff), and orchim (guests). Rabbi Mitch Cohen, the National Ramah Commission Director, who is visiting this weekend, commented to me, “How cool is it that 7 years later, it’s just routine to be able to visit Ramah in the Rockies!?”
A few photos from our new Mountaineering Masa
Last Sunday, we celebrated a meaningful “Yom Yisrael” (Israel Day). JOLI helped plan the day and run the different peulot (activities). Each edah focused on a different aspects of Israeli culture and history. The Ilanot chalutzim had activities relating to raising kids in Israeli society via life milestones such as birthday parties, bnai mitzvah, entering the army, and more. Metaylim and Sollelim together learned about pioneer spirit of the early chalutzim (pioneers) and the establishment of the State of Israel. The Bogrim chalutzim focused on issues about Israeli innovation and contributions to the world.
Ilanot had a week full of base camp activities, as well as a camp-out out under the stars. One of the highlights of their week was Rocktion. At the Rocktion (Rock-Auction), the campers collected rocks around camp that they would try to “sell” to staff and fellow campers, in exchange for popcorn kernel currency. The chalutzim created their own pricing system based on what value they found each rock to be worth. Dani, the Rosh Edah, excitedly shared with me about a moment where four campers pooled their rock resources and created a “store” together at the Rocktion. Other activities included a carnival complete with face painting, balloon animals, a photo booth, snow cones as well as a hike up one of our neighboring mountains.
Metaylim spent some time in base camp this week along with time out on a 2-day backpacking masa (backcountry excursion). One of the highlights of their week was a limmud (learning activity) where Nadav (a staff member) led them in a discussion about changes that campers would want to see in the world. These campers maturely and articulately discussed in small groups their personal passions: gender equality, religious ethics, gun control, and many other worldly topics. Campers had a lot of curiosity to learn and understand more. They shared their own opinions on the topics, how they think it affects their day-to-day, and how they can support each other’s beliefs.
For the final three days of the week, the group backpacked in Pike National Forest. One masa group shared that they encountered unexpected items on the trail including a cave in one spot, some animal bones in another, and more! The kids came back covered in charcoal “war paint” excited about their accomplishments and ready to celebrate Shabbat!
Sollelim spent the majority of this past week out on masa. Groups were spread across Western Central Colorado including groups who rock climbed near Canyon City, shot archery at Cheyenne Mountain State Park and biked in Pike National Forest. The biking trip left camp and returned four days later after biking numerous mountain passes and having ridden 37 miles just yesterday! The art masa, one of our newer additions, had a chance to hike and paint in the beautiful Colorado wilderness.
This past Shabbat, Bogrim did a Peulat Shabbat (Shabbat Activity) on Jewish Identity. The edah made bar graphs by voting with post-its on various important aspects of our Jewish identities. Categories included Israel, Hebrew, Jewish Education, having Jewish friends, pursuing social justice, Shabbat, Jewish observance/halakhah, eating Jewish foods, and remembering the Holocaust. The campers made new bar graphs of what our grandparents would have chosen within these categories. It was interesting to see trends of what chalutzim chose and similarities and differences to their grandparents. The discussion then moved into smaller groups based on the category and everyone shared stories of why they chose it. One chalutzah told the story of her grandma, a Holocaust survivor in Toronto, and how that has impacted her Jewish identity.
Bogrim left camp on Monday morning for their various masa’ot. This summer we pioneered the advanced climbing/mountaineering chug in basecamp, which pairs up with a mountaineering masa. We created this program to give campers who had been here for a number of years a new opportunity to grow and challenge themselves. In the same day on masa, that trip managed to go sledding down a patch of ice, cross over the Continental Divide, and spend the day swimming at an alpine lake (at 10,000 feet) in Rocky Mountain National Park! The participants on this new masa had a great time. They even said it could be harder so as to be able to push themselves more next time.
JOLI has been gone since early Monday morning, and experienced some incredible moments and achievements on “adventure masa”. While the majority of the edah was out on the masa, several chalutzim chose instead to be counselors-in-training (CITs) in different areas around camp, and learn more about what it means to be on staff. On the adventure masa, the chalutzim got to mountain bike, rock climb, hike, and even practice their WFA skills! Their madrichim (counselors) ran them through several medical scenarios to test their training on the trip. Yesterday, the group reached the summit of a high peak nearby, and were exceptionally proud of their accomplishments on the trip. Ari, our Communications Manager, joined them for two nights, and shared that he had many incredible conversations with this thoughtful and mature group of campers about their JOLI experience, school, hobbies, life, and how they got to Ramah. He appreciated watching the intentionality of every component of the trip and how much responsibility the chalutzim had to lead themselves throughout.
As we get ready to send this email, everyone is showering and changing into their clean white clothes. We are going to be gathering in a few minutes in the Pardes T’fillah for dancing and Kabbalat Shabbat. It is hard to believe that this is the final Shabbat of first session. Our time together has been flown by. Tonight, in my D’Var Torah, I will be emphasizing the importance of cultivating friendships that last a lifetime. Indeed, we have seen that many of our chalutzim who have been with us for multiple years are forming and nurturing these friendships and our hope is that, over time, as our younger chalutzim return to camp each year, they too will have these cherished friendships on which they can rely.
Some photos are already online at Smugmug and on Facebook. We will be adding more after Shabbat. You can check out a video of a few of the masa’ot photos here: 2016 Masa Week Session 1B
Can you believe it? After months of planning, filling out forms, going over packing lists, and getting ready for the summer, camp is FINALLY here! Our chalutzim arrived at the ranch over the course of the day on Wednesday. In a true Colorado fashion, we experienced both sunny skies and drizzling throughout the day as chalutzim (campers) met their madrichim (counselors), their fellow chalutzim, and acclimated to life at 8,000 feet elevation.
Our Rashei Edot (Unit Heads)
That night, our Sollelim campers (7th and 8th grade) and Bogrim campers (9th and 10th grade) heard all about our different offerings and leveled into their chugim (specialty areas). Our Ilanot (3rd and 4th grade) and Metaylim (5th and 6th grade) campers spent time around our medurah (campfire) singing songs and being introduced to camp traditions.
Ilanot had an awesome activity last night where they played some get-to-know-you games. Dani, Rosh Ilanot, described it as featuring “an epic game of sharks and minnows, and a massive human knot activity”. She also reported that all the Ilanot campers are “super-pumped” about horseback riding. At t’fillot this morning, Ilanot was joined by Metaylim, and were led by one of our guests, Rabbi Elana Kanter (also known as G-Baby’s mom). She used storytelling to talk about all the different brachot. During birkot hashachar (a morning prayer), the group acted out all the different things they were thankful for upon waking.
Metaylim started off the summer with the fun activities of horseback riding, outdoor cooking, biking, and hanging out with our baby goats. Vanessa, Rosh Metaylim, shared a great story about how some of our returning campers taught the new campers our favorite game of Gaga. They had a blast learning the game and joining in the friendly competition. Last night, Metaylim had a fun icebreaker activity asking each other questions and getting to know their fellow chalutzim.
Thursday morning, Sollelim trekked up Givat Ilanot (a hill overlooking our property) and held their morning services looking onto camp. The entire hike up, the edah sang and shouted their Sollelim cheers. Last night, they had a special peulat erev (evening activity) – a fashion show where campers dressed up their counselors, painted faces, and did their hair. Each counselor was supposed to represent a variety of themes (Frozen, wizards, America, fireworks, etc) . The campers had to introduce the counselors and the theme to a panel of judges. Our panel of judges (including Rosh Omanut- Head of Art) gave feedback and the chalutzim loved the activity. Rami, Rosh Sollelim, shared about a camper who did a freestyle rap to present their counselor.
Last night, Bogrim had a rousing game of capture the flag on the Kikar(an open field in camp). Earlier in the day, they had a limmud (text study) on social issues and brainstormed what actions they could take to address some of them (such as treatement of animals or unity of the Jewish people). This morning our Bogrim chalutzim held an unusual type of t’fillah, which Rosh Bogrim Dave described as a “spiritual chevruta”. In pairs, they discussed what parts of prayer are difficult for them, what parts they enjoy, and what they were looking to get out of their prayer experiences this summer.
Since JOLI’s (11th and 12th grade) arrival on Monday, they have been certified in Wilderness First Aid and learned basic backcountry skills. These are the first steps in the Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute’s process of transforming campers into outdoor leaders. Putting all their skills to the test, JOLI cooked their dinner and slept out in Ramah Valley last night. They practiced setting up tarps, tents, bear bags, and more!
For all our campers, this week we introduced a new perek (activity block) into the schedule: Mifgash (Meet Up). This activity takes place right before dinner with the goal of creating a daily time in our busy days to recognize the awesome things that happen here. We share some highlights of the day and sing and dance a bit. After Mifgash, the entire camp washes hands and heads into dinner.
As our camper population has continued to expand over the years, so too have some of our facilities. In order to accommodate this growth, we built three new tents this summer, as well as a brand new bathroom and shower house. We are excited for our campers to “break it in” as they get ready for Shabbat– cleaning up and changing into their Shabbat whites. We look forward to our first Shabbat with campers this summer, full of ruach (spirit) and joy!
As always please be in touch with any questions or comments. We have posted pictures on Facebook and Smugmug and plan to add more on Sunday evening.
If it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes leaders and elders to help set the tone for the community. Ramah in the Rockies is a magical village that opens its doors for nine weeks each summer and transforms the lives of the hundreds of youth who walk through our gates. And, if our chalutzim (campers/pioneers) are our village members, then our village leaders are the madrichim (counselors) and the village elders are Hanhallah (senior staff). The Hanhallah of our camp form an extraordinary group of passionate Jewish educators. They are the ones who work tirelessly throughout the summer ensuring that your children have impactful, fun, and safe experiences at Ramah in the Rockies.
With only weeks until we welcome our first chalutzim, it is with great pride that we introduce the members of our 2016 Hanhallah.
(To read about our year round team, please visit Our Team.)
Julia Snyder – Program Director
Julia is originally from Seattle, and joined ROA as a madricha in 2012, and later as Rosh Ofanayim (Biking). She is a passionate cyclist, lover of vegetarian cooking, and avid explorer. Julia is thrilled to be moving to Denver and returning to the wide open spaces of the West after spending time in New York City. She has experience teaching both Jewish studies and environmental science to learners of all ages, and is excited to combine her academic background of Talmud and Earth Science with the energy and joy of camp.
Rafi Daugherty – Director of Camper Care
Rafi is excited to be returning to camp as the Director of Camper Care with his baby daughter, Ettie! Rafi is a Colorado native who is working towards a graduate degree in Counseling. He also organizes the largest LGBTQ Passover Seder in the world called Queer Seder, held in Denver. Rafi went to camp as a kid and worked in camp as a teen and young adult- he is thrilled to be a part of the Ramah Rockies community.
Melannie is thrilled to be returning to ROA for her 5th summer and, thus, is eagerly anticipating the bestowal of the 5th-year swag item (oh, and her job at camp as well, of course!). For almost a decade, she has lived out of a backpack while studying and working abroad. In this time, Melannie has come to look forward to her time at ROA as a chance to reconnect with friends, nature, Judaism, and the amazing program that camp offers. After a several year hiatus, she is returning to school at Brandeis University in Massachusetts to pursue to her master’s degree in Sustainable International Development and is currently seriously contemplating making her life much more difficult by undertaking a second degree at the same time, of which is an MBA in Nonprofit Management.
Moshe “Mushon” Samuels –Interim Tikvah Director
I am an experienced informal Jewish educator, with vast experience in both Israel and North America. Specifically, I have spent 16 summers on staff at Camp Ramah- I’ve spent 12 summers at Camp Ramah in Canada, where I served as both the unit head and the Jewish educator for the Tikvah program (8 summers with the Edah in total), and for the past couple of summers I’ve served as Rosh Chinuch (Educational Director) at Camp Ramah in the Rockies. Currently, I am the Shaliach (Israeli Emissary) at Bnai Jeshurun Congregation in New York.
Deena Cowans – Rosh Chinuch (Education Director)
Deena is excited to join Team Rockies after seven summers on staff at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin and one summer on staff with Ramah Israel Seminar. She will graduate from Columbia University in May with a Masters in Public Administration- Development Practice (aka International Development, aka helping the developing world). Deena graduated from Duke University in 2011 and then made her way through the Jewish social justice world: she was a corps member with AVODAH in Washington DC, then worked in Israel with the JDC, then in Nepal with an Israeli organization called Tevel B’Tzedek.
Leora Kling Perkins – Rosh Mumchim
Originally from the Boston Area, Leora is entering her third year of rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, and will be returning to camp for her second summer. She is a graduate of Gann Academy and Brandeis University, and worked for several years at the Jewish Community Relations Council in Boston coordinating a literacy volunteer program. She is loves hiking, singing, and cooking delicious vegetarian food, and is especially proud of the garden she planted with her classmates in Jerusalem.
Ben Braunstein – Rosh Logistics
This will be my second summer at Ramah in the Rockies, and I could not be more excited! I am a Jewish Studies major with a background in technology and teaching. I love the outdoors and frequently hike and camp in my home town of Los Angeles. Can’t wait to see you all soon!
Zack Slavkin- Co-Rosh Masa
I was born and raised in Southern California, but came home to Colorado in 2008. Finishing up my psychology degree at CSU, after which I hope to travel and volunteer before coming back and working in alternative therapy environments. I love the outdoors, especially backpacking and mountain biking which are my two main hobbies at the moment. I also like to make music, and I love sharing my passions with others.
Bri Andersen – Co-Rosh Masa
I was born and raised in Colorado. This will be my 6th summer up at Ramah and I LOVE the outdoors. I love to hike in the mountains, bike around Denver, and read a good book by the fireplace. I’m currently studying meteorology at MSU Denver.
Matt Levitt, our Assistant Director, will be leaving Ramah in the Rockies in June. In his next adventure he will be pursuing graduate school as he and his wife, Sara, move to Tulsa. Thank you, Matt, for all you have done for Ramah in the Rockies!
I still remember in the Fall of 2009 receiving an email from one Matthew Levitt, then a junior at Indiana University, asking me how he could apply to work as a counselor at our yet-to-open Ramah Camp in Colorado. As a counselor during our inaugural summer, Matt showed innate leadership qualities that I knew could help us grow our camp. We offered for him to help us with logistics during the off season following camp and were eventually able to bring him on board full time in 2012 as Program Director.
It is hard to understate Matt’s impact on nearly every aspect of our organization. From recruiting to hiring and from program design to organizational infrastructure, he has accepted every challenge that has come his way and has constantly sought to improve our camp program. He has an incredible organizational mind and always finds creative solutions to complex problems. When we found ourselves in 2014 without a head chef and campers due to arrive in 24 hours, Matt stepped in and took over running the kitchen, often working 18 hour days since he still had his assistant director job to do, too. Although not a world-renown chef, he did organize, empower, and motivate others to help us through a tough summer in the kitchen.
Matt informed us last summer that he would be transitioning out with the intent of pursuing an MBA. He has spent the better part of this year working closely with our incoming Program Director, Julia Snyder. Over the years, Matt has become a good friend and mentor. I have relied on him for a listening ear, honest conversations, and good laughs. While I wish him and Sara only success in the next chapter of their lives together, I will miss working with him daily and know that his impact on Ramah in the Rockies will be felt for years to come.
Below is a note that Matt wrote about his impending transition.
-Rabbi Eliav Bock
Dear Ramah Community,
With gratitude my journey at Ramah in the Rockies will come to end on June 30th of this year as my wife Sara, Watford, and I begin the next chapter of our lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Sara has accepted a new position as the Director of Jewish Life and Learning at Congregation B’nai Emunah, a long time Ramah-supporting synagogue. Given the upcoming move and opportunity, I plan to return to graduate school for a degree in business in Tulsa. My passion and interest for business and operations was developed right here at Ramah in the Rockies and it is something I would like to pursue further.
Words cannot describe how appreciative we are for the tremendous opportunity Rabbi Eliav Bock, Douglas Wolf, Don Skupsky, and the entire Ramah community have given me over the last 5+ years. I could not be prouder of our growth over the past six summers. From my first days in 2010 as a rock climbing instructor for 120 campers to this season where we will welcome close to 500 campers, the power of this kehillah kedosha (holy community) truly shows.
It has been an incredible journey for Sara and me. The generous support, both personally and professionally, has left a special place for Ramah in our hearts. We feel confident in saying that Ramah will be in our future but for now this chapter will come to a close in June.
Rabbi Eliav Bock
Greetings 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.
As 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
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
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.
And 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.
Dear Families of Chalutzim (campers) in the Tikvah program,
I would like to introduce myself- my name is Moshe Samuels, also known as Mushon, and I am the new interim Director of the Tikvah Program at Camp Ramah in the Rockies. I am an experienced informal Jewish educator, with vast experience in both Israel and North America. Specifically, I have spent 16 summers on staff at Camp Ramah- I’ve spent 12 summers at camp Ramah in Canada, where I served as both the unit head and the Jewish educator for the Tikvah program (8 summers with the Edah in total), and for the past couple of summers I’ve served as Rosh Chinuch (Educational Director) at camp Ramah in the Rockies.
I am honored to lead this superb program, which offers more opportunities for inclusion, growth and challenge by choice for your children than any other Tikvah program nationwide. That said, while the foundation of the program is solid, there is always room for improvement. Based on my experience and observations over the past couple of summers.
I would like to inform you of three key changes to the Tikvah program we intend to implement this year:
Masa: Masa’ot (excursions) are the highlight of our camp and what sets it apart than any other Jewish camp in North America. They serve as an opportunity for our Chalutzim to leave their comfort zone and challenge themselves. This year we intent to run a 3 day Masa to a nearby State Park that will include spectacular day hikes, outdoor camping, swimming and participating in a service project along with the park rangers. Our campsite will include a bathhouse with toilets and running showers. We will also have a camp van along with us just in case we need to make any runs for camp.
Chugim (specialty tracks): Our daily routine at camp is divided into 4 Prakim (periods) a day in which our Chalutzim enjoy all of the great outdoor activities our camp has to offer. This summer we will be shortening the length of the Prakim to an hour each (instead of 70 min’) in order to allow a bit more rest time and a smoother transition time between activities. Our Edah will be offered all of the “trademark” chugim we offer- biking, wall climbing, farming, outdoor cooking, archery, and the Tikvah all-time favorite- mining. The chalutzim will be accompanied to
each of these by one of our trained Madrichim (counselors), who will remain with them throughout the Perek. In addition, we will have a Madrich covering the Tikvah sensory tent at all times, allowing any camper who might feel they need a break to leave their activity and head over to a quiet, familiar and supervised area.
Inclusion: One of the hallmarks of our camp is the inclusiveness of or Kehillah (community). We are hoping to take the inclusion of our campers in Tikvah to another level this summer. We are going to implement a buddy system, in which Chalutzim from our oldest Edah, Bogrim, will be voluntarily paired up with our campers in Tikvah. In rotation, these buddies will sit at our Edah during meals and attend the Chugim that Tikvah attends. They will also be spending time with the Edah during the daily rest hour and during free time on Shabbat, which tend to be less structured and often challenging for our Chalutzim. We are also intend to have a few Peulot Erev (evening activities) with the entire Edat Bogrim during the session.
Over the next few weeks I will reach out to each of you individually by phone, introduce myself in person, and be available to answer any question you may have. In the meantime please feel free to contact me, I would love your feedback regarding all of the above.
Last but not least- we still have room for a few more Chalutzim in our program, especially in our female camper bunk. If any of you know any potential camper that is suitable for our program please reach out to them and tell them about our camp! Please inform me as well and I will follow up on them ASAP.
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This is the second installment in a series of blogs from our camp staff. Each of the staff were asked how their area of camp (rock climbing, archery, horseback riding, etc) and Judaism was linked for them, and how they have brought the two together in their lives.
Gazing out of my college dorm window towards the yellow and orange leaves blanketing the beautiful Indiana University campus each fall, a few ideas swirling around in my head, I decided this would be my last “available” summer. A double major in Political Science and Arabic, soon I would need a summer internship with the state department, if my dream to work in Middle Eastern policy was to be realized post-graduation.
After some online digging, I found a new camp, a Ramah specialty camp, was scheduled to open in the heart of the Rocky Mountain during the summer of 2010. Intrigued by this idea, I contacted Rabbi Eliav to see if any positions remained. Luckily, he had several available positions and I found myself on the inaugural Tzevet [staff] in the summer of 2010 as a rock climbing instructor and madrich [counselor].
While much of the ground work for the educational program was put in place by Rabbi Eliav, Sarah Shulman (Former Ramah in the Rockies Assistant Director and now the Director of the new Camp Ramah in Northern California), and several others before our arrival, it was clear that my entrepreneurial spirit would thrive here. During our first summer I developed a rock climbing curriculum asking the essential question, how can the ancient texts of the Jews relate to the modern day rock climber?
Part of the program at Ramah Outdoor Adventure includes a five day backcountry excursion for our oldest chaluztim [campers]. One such trip culminated with a 5 a.m. climb up one of the most beautiful rock faces in the Lost Creek Wilderness. We woke up to the campers’ groans of an early morning, but soon after a little oatmeal and some hot tea, our group was ready to depart for our last day of climbing before heading back to camp for Shabbat. Several hours later, our group reached the top of our climb and sat atop a beautiful vista overlooking the entire Lost Creek Wilderness.
Atop that beautiful vista, we decided to engage our chalutzim [campers] in a discussion about Moses’ journey as a biblical climber. By the end of our discussion, our chalutzim [campers] had come to the conclusion that Moses acted as the “belayer” or safety, Joshua played the role of the “climber”, the explorer of new land, and God secured us as the “rope” and “gear”, linking the two through rope and safety.
It was in that moment, sitting atop that breathtaking cliff, I realized the true beauty of experiential Jewish education and the mission of Ramah Outdoor Adventure. Seeing the campers engage in Judaism that way, relating our past traditions to today, changed my life.
When I returned back to Indiana University, I changed my major to Jewish Studies and Education. Now I work for Ramah Outdoor Adventure at Ramah in the Rockies year round, continuing to follow my passion of experiential Jewish education, a passion developed here in the heart of the Rocky Mountains during our very first summer.
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