Posts

You Spoke, We Listened

Rabbi Eliav Bock

Eliav headshot

The better part of the past eight weeks or so since leaving the chava (ranch) have been spent reaching out to you, our camper families, to gather your thoughts about us and our camp program this last summer.  We did this by personally calling or emailing each of our over 350 camper families.  We also sought your input via an anonymous survey, which was administered by a third party foundation.  But we didn’t stop there.  We also asked all 90+ staff members for their perspectives as part of their exit interviews at the end of the summer.  And then we requested them to complete a similar survey as well.  

We heard from many of you and cannot thank you enough for your time and responses to our questions.  Now that we have had time to review and evaluate it all, here is what we have learned and our plans for the future.

(I apologize for the length, but firmly believe in sharing as openly with you as you have with us.)

 

TWO THUMBS UP:

Our Community

The geographic and religious diversity of our camp population enhances the warm and nonjudgmental community that we create each summer.  Many of our chalutzim (campers) have “never felt so welcomed”, never felt so accepted for who they are, and “never [felt] so able to pursue [their] own passions without fear of being judged by others.”  There is an overall feeling among those who responded that most people at camp share the same values as they or their children do.

Our Outdoor Programming

While there were a few masaot (excursions) that did not go as planned, this part of the program continues to be the most memorable and impactful aspect of camp.  Our chalutzim who participated in multi-day experiences felt challenged and returned to camp with a great sense of accomplishment. Equally as important as the venues was the peer-to-peer bonding that took place.

Although the weather at the start of summer put a damper on some base camp activities, we received many compliments on the excellent balance between program quality and content, skills instruction, and fun factor.  There were no complaints that our chalutzim had biked, climbed, or rode too much.  (In fact, many would have liked more opportunities to do these.) And while there was high praise for the equipment used at camp, there were also times when there were more chalutzim wanting to participate than the equipment could accommodate at a single time.

Our Quality Staff

Many parents commented, and many of our older chalutzim noticed, that not only was our staff older than they had expected but also how eager and motivated they were to be working at camp and with the campers. While there were some critiques of missed follow-ups, a few poor choices made by staff, and some less-than-ideal counselor pairings, the overall consensus was one of a stellar team running a safe, educational, and inspiring summer for their children.

From the staff side, 100% stated that they were working there to advance the camp’s mission. Nationally, only 80% of Jewish summer camp staff members answer this affirmatively.

MIXED REVIEWS (& WHERE WE CAN IMPROVE)

Our Food

Overall, we received the most comments about the food at camp.  Some loved it, others wanted more meat, some wanted nuts, and others wished for more menu variety.  Our food program is an integral part of our camp’s mission.  At the same time, we know that little else matters if our chalutzim are hungry or wondering about the menu for the next meal.  During the off season we continue to refine our menus, replacing less popular choices with new options, integrating more mainstream plant-based proteins, and improving our between-meal snack variety.  This past summer we learned that while some campers were aware of readily available snacks, many of our younger campers did not know that they could grab something from the Ohel Ochel (dining tent) whenever they were hungry.

Improving our communication to campers about snacks is an easily accomplished goal.  Other menu challenges, particularly meat availability, have multiple variables involved.  Each year, a farm family in upstate New York raises free-range (organic) chickens for our summer needs.  We made the switch to free-range chickens in 2012  after receiving negative feedback about serving factory farmed meat that did not fit in with the values we are living by as a community. In 2015, however,  due to the unusually colder winter and spring in the northeast, the chickens were not of eating size and not schechted (ritually slaughtered) until late June, delaying meat on the camp menu until early July.

Acquiring additional organic chicken and meat from other sources and making it more often would answer that need, but would ignore the reality of our available facilities.  Quite simply, we do not have a suitable meat kitchen at camp.  Until we are able to build a new, $3+ million dining hall/commercial kitchen, we do what we are able which means that our only method to cook meat is on an open grill.  And while we use the main kitchen to keep things warm (double wrapped in the dairy warmers) and to prepare parve side dishes, meat meals require us to shut down most of the regular kitchen and cover it in plastic for much of the day resulting in simplified dishes served for breakfast and lunch on those days.

While the shortage of meat/chicken is not readily fixed, we continue to offer eggs at most breakfasts and include protein options during the week as part of the salad bar.  Meanwhile we continue to review our menus with a nutritionist to ensure that our community’s nutritional needs are met.  We realize that this situation is not ideal, but hope our clarity helps explain why our meat situation is the way it is.

Our Younger Camper Experiences

Each year we continue to grow our camp programs for all our edot (groups), however, this summer it was clear that our younger campers needed us to rework their schedule to accommodate more of the popular base camp activities and incorporate additional outdoor adventure experiences particularly for our Ilanot chalutzim.  The wet start to the summer did not help their adventure opportunities!

To address these issues, starting kayitz (summer) 2016, we are:

  •  Forgoing most day trips, which will enable our younger campers to participate in more base camp activities including horseback riding, mountain biking, and rock climbing.
  •  Conducting more outdoor-based overnight experiences that are age-appropriate to take advantage of our ranch and surrounding national forest, leading to an increased appreciation for all nature has to offer.
  •  Ensuring that any additional equipment needed for our youngest campers are available BEFORE any campers arrive.
  •  Aspiring higher in each of our program areas, ensuring that our younger campers are learning the basic skills needed as foundations for their progress in the current summer and future seasons.

Our Interpersonal Connections

Jewish summer camp works as an educational medium in large part because campers develop close, personal connections with their counselors and friends.  This summer we noticed that, especially among our two-week participants, these connections did not take root as we hoped they would.  For many of these chalutzim they had fun activities but not emotionally memorable experiences.  Although we have had four-week campers in tents with mixed 2-week and 4-week campers, the transition of saying goodbye to one set of friends and welcoming another proved more difficult than in years past.

Moving forward, we will improve our staff training to ensure that social connections are being made within the ohelim (tents) and require counselors to complete regular socio-grams 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 are all being worked into the programming vision for summer.  Our goal is for each ohel, when they are in base camp, to have a minimum of one peulat erev (evening activity) just to themselves and then other activities with the broader edah (age group) or entire camp.  Plus we will be adding more ohel time on Shabbat before havdallah.

Two-week programming will continue to be available to our edot through their Bogrim summer for 2016.  However, we are evaluating the feasibility of requiring our Bogrim chalutzim to register for four weeks starting with the 2017 season.  While we continue to believe that it is possible to create memorable and impactful experiences for our younger campers within two weeks, independent research has proved that longer sessions result in greater impact, deeper relationships, and additional personal growth.  For our older chalutzim we may need to make this change to fully realize the outcomes we strive to achieve in our program.

With the exception of our first-time Ilanot-Sollelim 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 are constantly seeking 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!

Reflections on a long awaited return trip to Ramah Canada.

IMAG1140

Rabbi Eliav driving a boat on Skeleton Lake at Ramah Canada during his recent return trip.

After my first summer as Director of Ramah Outdoor Adventure, I had a chance in November 2009 to return to the place where I started my Ramah career as a 17 year old lifeguard. Driving past the Palmer exit on the Massachusetts Turnpike, I decided to go visit Ramah in New England (aka Palmer). I wrote a blog post reflecting on the feelings I experienced roaming through an empty camp, as distant memories flooded back into my mind.

Last week I had another returning of sorts. This time it was to Ramah in Canada, where I spent five incredible summers (although one was only for a small portion of the summer), mainly working in their tripping program. This time, I was there with all of the Camp Ramah directors for our post‑summer meetings.

While most of the days were spent in meetings– reviewing the summer and planning for next year, the time I had to walk around the camp and swim/boat in the agam [lake] again unleashed a flood of emotions and memories. These memories were equally profound to the memories I experienced on my return trip to Palmer. If Ramah in New England taught me lessons about life and relationships that I could take with me through college, Ramah in Canada taught me lessons about being a Jewish educator that set me on the path to becoming a Rabbi, and ultimately to founding Ramah in the Rockies.

In 1999, as I was preparing for my final summer in college. I had convinced myself that I needed to get a “real” job that I could put on my resume to be an attractive candidate for an investment bank or a management consulting firm. But in my head, I knew that I needed to be in camp. I could not return to the camp of “my youth”, because all my other friends had outgrown Ramah Palmer.

My college friend (Rabbi) Ilana Garber convinced me to apply to work at Ramah in Canada where she was headed for the summer, as they were known for the best outdoors program in the Ramah movement and I could put my camping skills to use. A few months later, I found myself in Utterson, Ontario working for an incredible camp director, Rabbi Mitch Cohen, leading campers on multi-day back country canoe trips.

100_2014

Rabbi Eliav leading a group of campers on a canoe trip in Canada.

Throughout my time last week at camp, I had so many moments where I could stop and appreciate how much my life continues to be influenced by my experiences at Ramah in Canada.

As we took the barge out for a spin on the massive lake, I spotted Ramah Island for the first time in nine years. I can still picture myself back in 2000, standing on the cliffs at the back of the island 20 feet above the clear lake with a group of 12 year old boys. I translated Abraham Joshua Heschel’s idea of Radical Amazement to this group of young men. This notion that we can experience God in those moments of time when we are left speechless has become an integral part of my own theology, and it i s something we discuss regularly at Ramah in the Rockies. That moment of teaching theology high above the water was one of the first times I could see myself as a Jewish educator, even if I also had to convince myself that what I really wanted was a career on Wall Street (where I did eventually work for the next five years).

Walking around the camp I recalled one of the most important leadership lessons I continue to follow to this day. As a rookie tripper, I made numerous mistakes on the first trip I was asked to lead. What started as a series of small mishaps (or, “lemons” as we called them) resulting mainly from my poor planning, careened into a situation.  Starting around 1:00 a.m. I felt I had lost control and eventually had to flag down a passing boat around 6:00 a.m. to call the camp for help, and ask for a rescue. On our ride back to camp, the head of tripping, Daniel “Dice” Brandes, did not utter a word; his disappointment in me was palpable. I was wondering whether I would be fired or whether I would ever be allowed to lead trips in the future. Either way, I was certain I would no longer be seen as one of the best trippers of the summer.

It took some time once we arrived on shore, but eventually he asked me a simple question: “So what did you learn?” We processed the entire episode together and where I could have made any number of different decisions that would have led to a better outcome. Two days later, rather than benching me, Dice awarded me with leading the best trip the following week. I went on to lead numerous other trips, and never made those same mistakes again (I made plenty of others instead).  Dice’s lessons in leadership, and recognizing but not dwelling on mistakes, are something I continue to use to this day as I manage a staff of over 100 people. When people make mistakes, I use the same sort of imposed self-reflection to allow them to uncover where they erred. They will be their own harshest critic and their own best teachers. Had Dice lost confidence in me at that moment, I doubt I would have continued to lead trips and eventually go into this line of work year-round.

Walking into their newly remodeled tripping shed, seeing the names on all the plaques, brought back one of the most powerful images I have from my years on tripping staff. It came at the end of a 5 day canoe trip in Kilarney Provincial Park. Each morning after breakfast, we would take 20-25 minutes to go off on our own to pray. I told the fifteen year olds, whom I was leading, that they could pray using the words in the siddur or the feelings in their heart. The teens took this time very seriously and often I would hear their voices echoing from a distance off the water. On the last morning of the trip, one of the campers came up to me and asked: “can I keep this siddur?” I asked her why she wanted the old stained siddur we used on trips. She answered: “because this week I learned how to pray and I want to take this as a reminder of my prayers.” I was floored. After years as a camper at Ramah and even more years in Jewish education at home, it took her being on this intensive trip, given the freedom to express the words in her heart, to learn about real prayer. I knew at that moment that there was incredible power about teaching Judaism to people using the outdoors.

100_1431

Rabbi Eliav with his co-trip leader, Pam Wiznitzer, on top of Silver Peak in Kilarney Park.

Finally, there I was back during my early morning swim in the agam [lake] on Wednesday morning looking at the red roofed buildings on the shore, nine years since last setting foot in the camp. I looked towards camp from the center of the lake and felt an overwhelming sense of appreciation for the camp and the time spent there. I also know the 1200+ young people who have been part of our Ramah in the Rockies community continue to have their lives changed for the better because of my time in the Canadian Wilderness. Ramah in the Rockies emerged as a dream from a few of us who had experienced the Ramah in Canada tripping program. We knew that there was no better way to teach about Jewish values, traditions and texts than by being in the outdoors, connected with nature. Judaism was a religion started for an agrarian people and evolved into a religion for more urbanites. One of our goals at Ramah in the Rockies is to reconnect our modern youth to these agrarian roots.

It is funny how life works! I often wonder where I would be today had I taken that “fancy internship” back in 1999. I often wonder where my life would be had I really given up the dream of camp when I became an equity trader in September 2000, after camp ended. And I wonder where my life would be had the campers at Canada not transformed so magically on every trip I lead. I doubt I will ever know the answers to these questions, but do know that last week while spending time at camp, I had the opportunity to feel this overwhelming sense of gratitude for a place and a program that continues to affect my life today.

 


This past summer our camp grew in a number of ways not just the size of our staff and the number of chalutzim [campers].  We also improv
ed and expanded several of our basecamp activities, particularly our farm program.

One of the first things our chalutzim both noticed was that our dilapidated “Red Shed” in the middle of camp had been given new life as our goat barn. We have spent a lot of time and effort making the farm program a central part of camp, both in activities and location.
farm 2farm 7

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our goal is simple and significant: for our chalutzim to experience the garden and animals every day in their walks between their activities and the chadar ochel. Two years ago, we created a new garden in the center of camp. This summer, we moved our goats into a newly refurbished loafing shed. Our ducks and chickens also relocated to their new homes alongside the garden and migrash. We hope to continue this expansion in the years ahead.


Two of our goats this summer were newborn, so in their honor we held a naming ceremony.
Chalutzim in Metaylim (5th/6th grade) named the kids “Chalav” [Milk] and “Dvash” [Honey]. If you missed the video from the naming, here it is:

Campers participating in our farm program do more than caring for our many animals; they also plant and harvest our garden and greenhouse produce. This year we began harvesting items from our garden nearly four weeks earlier than last year, giving our chalutzim a chance to experience “farm to table” in the most literal sense of the expression.

farm 6

farm 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the ways our campers gained firsthand knowledge of this connection was  Ilanot’s (3rd/4th grade) farm masa. In a single day they learned how to milk the goats, make goat cheese, and cook their lunches all with produce from the farm.  That night, our chalutzim camped under the stars, surrounded by the comforting sounds from our farm.

We are proud of our tzevet chava [farm staff] who worked tirelessly to bring our food values to the forefront this summer. Our chalutzim and tzevet all benefitted from the integration of our friendly goats, ducks, alpacas, and chickens to the heart of our camp!

farm1farm 8

Shabbat Shalom Ramah Family and Friends!

It seems like just yesterday, our chalutzim were arriving at the ranch and now we are about to start the last Shabbat of the 2015 camp season.  Our chalutzim are back from their masa’ot [backcountry excursions], and changing into their Shabbat whites. After the frenzied morning and afternoon of the trips returning followed by crazy lightning storms, we are looking forward to  a calm Shabbat.

We want to share a few highlights from this past week’s happenings at camp, and get you ready to welcome your chalutzim [campers] home.

Sunday we had an awesome Yom Sport competition, where kids spent the day competing in hockey, gaga, ultimate soccer (a game of our own invention), basketball, cheering/cheer writing, and plaque making. The day was full of ruach [spirit] from all, and we want to especially acknowledge the hard work of the JOLI captains and judges who ran the day, and made everything happen. One of the most exciting events of the day is the JOLI fire burn competition, where they have to build a fire tall enough to burn a rope strung between two chairs. This session, JOLI, completed it in the fastest time in ROA history!  As soon as one team succeeded, they joined the other teams’ chalutzim in cheering on their fellow JOLI captains. This is the one day each summer that we engage in friendly competition, and it was amazing to see each team act with sportsmanship and menschlichkeit.

Ilanot spent a day with Metaylim at Wellington Lake, and had a day of fun in the sun until the weather turned and the thunder rolled in.  They returned to camp, happy and dry. Ilanot also went on a horse masa around our ranch before heading out the back gate to our neighbors’ buffalo ranch where they spent the evening in the barn’s hayloft.

Metaylim was divided into three different groups for their masa’ot:  Payne Creek, Rolling Creek, and Wigwam. They spent two nights in the backcountry learning basic masa skills.  For many of our Metaylim campers, this was their first extended backpacking trip.  It is always a pleasure to see their smiling faces return with an added sense of accomplishment, knowing that they had just spent three days in the back-country.

Sollelim spent the week backpacking, biking, climbing and performing service projects.  Al, a Sollelim madrich, held a discussion on trail crew masa about theology and how people connect via traditional sources or nature.  Some kids spoke about their connection via nature when spending time alone, others feel connected when they are in a community praying all together. One chalutz shared a story about how they do not connect to traditional views of God, though when they are scared, they find themselves saying the Shma prayer.

Bogrim headed out on horseback riding, rock climbing and biking masa’ot.  A highlight from the biking masa was a pizza-making and Jewish identity activity. The talk was about how each person defines Jewish identity and how they find their connections to community, tradition, history, and God. Bogrim backpacking masa summitted a 14’er (mountain peak over 14,000ft) during their trek through the Sangre de Christo Wilderness.

JOLI participants had a choice of either heading out for a five day adventure masa, where they did some mountain biking, rock climbing and also climbed a 14’er, OR remain back at camp as CIT for Metaylim and help lead a masa for the younger campers.   Both groups had incredible weeks.

As I complete this weekly email, our last masa group just rolled in from State Forest State Park.  Sadly, it also has begun to rain very heavily, which means that our weekly rikud [dancing] will likely be cancelled, and we will daven under our Ohel Moed [tent], instead of our open-air Pardes T’fillah.  Nonetheless we are sure that Shabbat will be as spirited as usual, especially given that this is the very last one of the 2015 camping season for everyone in our Kehillah Kedosha [holy community].

In summary, it has been an incredible week thus far, and we are looking forward to a pleasant and relaxing Shabbat here with our adult campers who have joined us. We will be sad to say goodbye to everyone on Tuesday, and can’t wait for them to return next kayitz. A reminder that registration for next summer has already opened, and you can register here.

Shabbat Shalom,

-Eliav

Rabbi Eliav Bock and the Ramah in the Rockies Team

Inline image 4
Photos –  Youtube –  Facebook
Shabbat Shalom Ramah Family and Friends!
For the last time this kayitz [summer], a group of our tzevet [staff] made the trek to Denver International Airport, and picked up 41 chalutzim [campers] that were coming in from all corners of North America (and Israel too!) for our final two weeks at camp. This summer has been an incredible one thus far, and the next two weeks will be no different.

This past week started out on an amazingly strong note- we celebrated Yom Yisrael [Israel Day]. The day’s events were put on by our Israeli staff members to educate and engage various aspects of their homeland. At Yom Yisrael, there were stations that taught about kibbutz life, the Bedouins, religious issues in Israel, and Tel Aviv beach culture.

One of the activities was a discussion on the religious and secular divide in Israel, led by our Rosh Chinuch [Head of Education] and Rosh Omanut [Head of Art].  Mushon and Rachel were married this past winter in Israel, religiously, though they chose not to get married under the ultra-orthodox monopoly on weddings in Israel.  As a result, their wedding is not recognized by Israeli law. They had planned to have a civil, courthouse wedding here in the States this summer that would then be recognized by Israeli law.  However, a camp wedding and educational opportunity proved to be more appealing. The end of the day we celebrated a civil wedding, conducted by one of our tzevet. We celebrated into the night, with yummy wedding cake and cookies made by our awesome kitchen staff. Mushon was particularly excited to teach some of his favorite ‘80’s songs and dances!

This week the chalutzim have been busy participating in our fun base camp activities: rock climbing, mountain biking, horseback riding, mining, archery, hockey, art, and much, much more!  In addition to regular camp activities, each edah has also had some special programs.

As I am writing this, I am watching groups get ready with “packout”- a process of packing personal and group gear for their masa’ot [backcountry excursions].  Everyone from Ilanot [3rd and 4th graders] to JOLI [11th and 12th graders] will spend at least one night this week under the stars camping out.

Ilanot this week in their limmud [learning activity] made “Shmonsters”- creative monster stuffed animals made of felt. They learned about the Shma prayer (hence, Shmonsters) and included a text of it inside the stuffed animals for them to have with them.

Metaylim had an awesome art/nature t’fillah [prayer service] led by one of our tzevet chava [farm staff].  They made artwork reflecting their experiences with nature, and later featured a nature walk through camp with meditations.

Sollelim began their limmud [Jewish learning] activity just as the two week buses were arriving up to camp. Rather than continue their activity, they got up and actively greeted the new arrivals, and practiced the value of Hachnasat Orchim [welcoming guests]. Rather than just learning about values, they were living them!

Bogrim enjoyed a rousing and spirited “sing-off” followed by a talent show.  Their energy and voices could be heard throughout the office building and this side of camp.

JOLI had an exciting night learning how to make sushi from some of our particularly talented staff. They came up with creative rolls and learned all about the ins and outs of the art of sushi making.

One of the aspects of our camp in which we take pride is the way we lift the veil on the food choices we make at camp.  We start most meals with a food tour about what we are eating, or how the food came to our plates.  This week, we had two interesting experiences with our food program that we shared with our chalutzim.  We began the summer with over 400 gallons of organic milk, donated by a local, private labeler.  On  Thursday morning, we finished using all our organic milk, and for budgetary reasons will finish the summer serving regular 2% milk.  We explained to the chalutzim the shift in the product that they will be served in our final two weeks.

Also, last night we had a camp-wide barbecue with an enormous amount of organic chicken.  Due to the cold weather in the northeastern U.S. this winter, the chicks that were supposed to hatch in late winter and then graze for a few months were delayed in hatching and growing to a size where they could be schechted [ritually slaughtered].  Instead of taking delivery of all 500 chickens in early June, we were only able to get a few in the early spring, and the rest were schechted and sent here in early July.  With the 9 days when we do not serve meat remaining, we are now left with more meat than expected. This means that our chalutzim who came in the first part of the summer ate less meat than usual, and the ones now at camp are eating more meat than usual.  We expect to have another 2-3 barbeques before the end of the summer!

To let you in on a little surprise, Sunday will be our infamous Yom Sport competition. (But shhh, don’t tell your children, it’s a surprise!) We are excited for this energetic day of friendly competition and camaraderie.

We are looking forward to this Shabbat, and the stunning weather we have been having.

A reminder to all that campers cannot receive or send mail while they are on their masa’ot next week. Also, we will only post photos of campers when they are in camp.

Registration is officially open for 2016, and you can sign up on our website (ramahout.s466.sureserver.com) by clicking “Register Now” at the top.

As always we do our best to post regular photo updates both on Facebook and Smugmug, and we will post Shabbat photos on Sunday.

Wishing you all a wonderful Shabbat!

Rabbi Eliav and the Ramah in the Rockies Team

Shabbat Shalom Ramah Families,

This has been an unseasonably warm and dry week here at the Chava, leading to a similarly pleasant masa [backcountry excursion] week for all of our chalutzim [campers].  Ironically, last Friday night was the first one where we gathered under our Ohel Mo’ed for dancing and t’ffilot because of the rain.

Last Saturday night  was a more somber occasion than usual, as we marked Tisha Ba’av, the Ninth of Av, which commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem. Typically, Saturday night is a joyous occasion, filled with dancing, but not this past week. We read the Book of Eicha, a narrative of the destruction, by candlelight in the Ohel Ochel [dining hall] that evening and framed the next day for the chalutzim. Sunday was full of reflective programming, including one peulah  [activity] where chalutzim discussed their motivation in life and what values they live by.  The peulah asked them to think about why activism is important to their lives or what they stand for.

Ilanot’s highlight of the week was their “Farm Masa”, where they spent an entire day in farming activities:  milking goats, making goat cheese, and creating their own lunch with a harvest from the farm – a real “Farm to Table” experience!  They then slept out in tents, next to the farm.  Today, they visited the local farmer’s market and had a chance to speak with local farmers and sample some Colorado produce.

Metaylim had a blast this week rafting down the Arkansas River and taking a day trip to both Cave of the Winds and Mueller State Park. Be sure to check out some awesome GoPro footage from the rafting on our Facebook page! At Cave of the Winds, they explored the many “rooms” of Colorado’s famous 500 million-year-old cave system, learning about bats and cave formation along the way. They even got to zipline across a scenic canyon!

Sollelim campers headed out for a 4-day masa.  The masa’ot included climbing, biking, hiking,  art, and service projects.   This morning, those of us at camp were awoken by the Payne Creek masa who opted to do a night hike under the full moon back to camp.  They left their campsite,

a few miles from camp, at 3 am under a brilliant clear moon, arriving back at the Chava around 6 am and setting up a makeshift campsite on the on the migrash [sports field], where they camped out and made breakfast.

Bogrim campers went kayaking, hiking, climbing, farming, and archery masa’ot.  The kayaking group had a chance to be on the water more than usual because of the amazing weather, while the rock climbing masa at Sheeprock accomplished quite an impressive feat – a multi-pitch climb to the top of Helen’s Dome.  They were treated to a stunning view at the top and reported beautiful weather.

JOLI went to Indian Peak and, as has become tradition on the JOLI masa, they had a prolonged solo experience. Many reported the highlighs of their week being the solo experience and swimming in a freezing cold lake that was fed by snow melt only a few hundred feet away!  They were also inspired and awestruck during this morning’s sunrise t’fillot [prayers] atop the Continental Divide.

Questions to ask your chalutzim this week:

— Ilanot: What was your favorite part of farm masa? What did you do at the Woodland Park Farmers’ Market?

— Metaylim: How was Cave of the Winds? What did you or your friends perform at the lip sync battle?

— Sollelim: Did you get to know anyone new on masa this week? What did you talk about?

— Bogrim: What was something about this masa experience that was new for you? What was the hardest part?

— JOLI: What were you thinking about during your solo experience? What was your biggest challenge on the masa?

We are looking forward to wonderful Shabbat together, and hope that this beautiful weather holds out for the weekend.  Sunday is going to be “Yom Yisrael” (Israel Day), where our 12+ Israeli mishlachat  [emissaries] plan a day to teach about their homeland.  We hope you all have a pleasant and relaxing weekend.

As always, photos from the excursions will be uploaded after Shabbat; you can find them on our Facebook page and Smugmug. A video of some photos from the excursions can be viewed by clicking here.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Eliav and the Ramah in the Rockies Team

Shabbat Shalom Ramah Friends!

First session flew by, and here we are already a few days into second session!  After a rejuvenating inter-session, we are all back at the chava [ranch], our chalutzim [campers] are here, and we are ready to have another awesome four weeks! On Wednesday, we welcomed chalutzim from all over the world: Oklahoma, Washington, New York, California, Israel, Mexico, Florida, and more.

Something unique happened this year on arrival day, easily one of our smoothest in 6 summers! The airport buses arrived within minutes of the buses from HEA in Denver, leading to a sudden wave of purple filling up camp with smiles, hugs, cheers, and ruach [spirit]!  And perhaps best of all, it was perfect Colorado mountain weather (hi 70s) with NO rain.  Camp magic is happening non stop, and I want to share a few magical moments.

Ilanot and Metaylim have been starting off each morning at 7:30 with an awesome Shmirat HaGuf [exercise] routine on the basketball court, as a part of the revamp of this program we mentioned in our last email.  Ilanot has already had biking, climbing, mining and archery.  In addition to the above activities, Metaylim chalutzim have also had art and farming.  This morning, when I went to visit our campers on the farm, I saw them cleaning up the goat pen and feeding and grooming our resident goats: Grace, Buttercup, Chalav and Dvash.  

Sollelim (7th and 8th grade) have been showing their presence, as one of the largest edot [age groups] we have ever had. Yesterday and today they have been having their elective prakim, where each chalutz has chosen three activities on which to focus during his/her time at camp.  As I write this, Sollelim chalutzim are out with the rest of the camp doing service projects as part of our Tikkun Ramah [camp improvement] program; projects range from painting fences to giving baths to some of our camp dogs.    

Yesterday was a full programing day for Bogrim (9th and 10th grade), but this morning they moved into masa (excursion) mode and began the process of bonding with their group. Each group tested their equipment and packed their dry food for next week.  The groups have put their gear in piles for Shabbat and will come back into their masa groups on Sunday afternoon.  

JOLI (Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute- our 11th and 12th graders) this week completed a Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course, administered by our friends at SOLO Wilderness Medical School. Last night they had a mini masa to Ramah Valley where they practiced setting up tarps and tents.  They were “back” in camp for t’filot at 8:00am.

In a few moments, camp-wide service projects will come to a close and our entire camp will begin to clean up and shower for Shabbat.  Although we have a single shower house (with individual stalls) for all our campers, everyone should be able to take hot showers using our custom made solar hot-water heater system.  If the weather holds, we will be doing Kabbalat Shabbat outdoors in the Pardes T’filah.  Tomorrow will be a terrific Shabbat, followed by Eicha [The Book of Lamentations] reading on Motzei Shabbat [after Shabbat].  Sunday is a special day due to the Tisha B’av fast.  Although the older chalutzim are encouraged to fast at least half the day, we will be serving meals throughout for anyone who wants to eat.  Monday morning, we move into full masa mode with groups headed all over Colorado for one to four nights of camping and fun in nature.

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.
Rabbi Eliav and the Ramah in the Rockies Team

–Written earlier today, but sent once ALL chalutzim have returned from Masa–

Each Friday morning, when I sit down to write these letters, I wonder where the week went. They say that each day of camp is like three in the “real world” which makes these weekly updates more like 21-day summaries. This past week was no exception.

We began the week with a touching Havdallah on the basketball court followed by an awesome Yom Sport breakout consisting of flaming torches and blazing logs. Sunday was perfect weather for our monthly Yom Sport event. Ultimately, when all the points were tallied from the games, songs, and banners, Kachol [Blue] emerged victorious. Of course, point values did not matter much because everyone had a fun and exciting day.

Sunday morning also brought a joyous occasion: we were FINALLY able to name our goats. Despite our best efforts, the goats were not able to join us for Friday night tfillot. (Our goat farmers had to rush their “aunt” to the vet just before Shabbat due to a spreading infection, which is now under control.)  The baby goats will forever be known at Camp Ramah as Chalav and D’vash (Milk and Honey).

This week was our final masa week of the session. On Monday, the JOLI (11/12th graders) and Bogrim (9/10th graders) campers set out on separate 5-day masa’ot. While JOLI spent some time biking and climbing, they also took the opportunity yesterday to rise before dawn (at 3:00 AM!) to summit of one of Colorado’s beautiful—and challenging—14’ers (peaks higher than 14,000 feet above sea level).  Bogrim campers went on masa’ot including horseback riding, hiking, rock climbing, and farming.  All had their own adventures and special stories that they told about getting wet in the backcountry, seeing incredible vistas, and having deep dinner discussions.

Sollelim (7/8th graders) split into groups between rock climbing, biking, archery shooting, hiking, and service projects at the Pueblo Mountain State Park. Now in its second year, our Archery Masa has become one of the more popular choices for this age group; chalutzim [campers] are able to spend four days doing intense shooting at the Staunton State Park Archery range, which features numerous 3-dimensional targets set up in the beautiful Colorado terrain. On the biking masa, chalutzim hone their skills over miles of forest service road and trail on our front-suspension mountain bikes. While some sections of this ride are relatively smooth, most of the journey is spent climbing impossibly high peaks or descending at rapid speeds into beautiful valleys. While pausing at the tops of difficult hills, many riders wondered whether the Forest Service could (or would) ever build paved bridges across these mountains.

All Metaylim (5/6th grade) chalutzim spent Monday at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, where most were able to feed the giraffes by hand. They then left for a three-day backpacking trip into the Lost Creek Wilderness. Watching Metaylim chalutzim pack-out on Wednesday morning is always a pleasure because I see the looks of apprehension and excitement on their faces. As a younger edah, many embark on their first or second trip into the backcountry with the knowledge that, for three days/two nights, they will not be able to return to the comfort of their own beds. Madrichim [counselors] double and triple check that everyone’s packs fit and that each chalutz/a has all the gear they will need (especially rain jackets and water bottles). Every chalutz/a also carries a portion of the group gear, adding a level of importance and responsibility to each camper and each pack. Around 9:00 AM, groups hiked out into the wilderness or boarded busses to reach the trailheads, which led them home over the course of three days. The only thing that might compare to watching Metaylim pack-out was watching them return to us dirty, tired, and incredibly proud of the miles they hiked and the skills they learned along the way.

Ilanot (3rd/4th grade) chalutzim spent Monday at the zoo with their older friends and then had an overnight with the horses on our ranch (despite their campsite being on property, we didn’t see them until they officially “returned” to us before lunch the following day). On Wednesday night, in a not-so-masa-like activity, the Ilanot girls enjoyed a private “spa-night.”  It was a great bonding activity, even if they appeared at Thursday morning breakfast as the cleanest chalutzot in the history of masa week! Today, the entire edah went to the local farmers market, where they interviewed the farmers and learned more about local agriculture.

Finally, our Amitzim chalutzim had their own three-day masa consisting of hiking, biking and a day at Wellington Lake. They slept out under the stars, cooked dinner over our camping stoves and enjoyed being in the outdoors. While every child in this edah has different abilities and sometimes they split into smaller groups for daytime activities, the incredible madrichim were able to ensure that they all came together in the evening for dinner, bonding, and resting.

As I am concluding this letter, the first of our trips are returning from masa. Over the next 4 hours 180 campers and 70 staff members will roll, walk and run into camp filthy, smelly and exceedingly happy. The washbasins are ready for everyone to clean and bleach their dishes and the solar water bags are filled (with over 1000 gallons of hot water) for everyone to shower. We will soon gather in the Pardes Tefillah for our final Kabbalat Shabbat of the session. It has been a magical beginning to this summer season, and we will be savoring our remaining few days together even as we look forward to next year.

As always, please be in touch with any questions, comments or concerns. Photos will be uploaded Sunday from the weekend and from masa’ot. In the mean time, please check out our video from the Masa’ot returning today.

Shabbat shalom!

Eliav

Shabbat Shalom for our first Shabbat of 2015!

The year-round team has been working towards this moment for 9 months: the moment we get to welcome back our chalutzim [campers] from their 11-month masa [excursion]– or what some refer to as the “off season.”

Our chalutzim are finally here, arriving from all over the United States, Israel, Canada, as well as the Philippines. After an unusually wet spring, the hills and fields are greener than they have ever been.  And since the constant rain stopped last weekend, this first week of camp has brought unseasonably warm temperatures with most days hitting over 85 degrees.

This week Chalutzim have been noticing some some of the updates that we have made to our ranch.   In addition to building a few more tents, including a new Tikvah Sensory tent, we moved our goat barn to the middle of the camp, so our chalutzim can see our four goats throughout the day and milk them in a more public space.  Less visible, but perhaps even more important is the completion of the first phase of our waste water treatment plant, which is now processing waste from Beit Kesher [our new staff lounge/retreat center] into clean water.  After the summer, we hope to complete the system and next year much more waste, will be sent back down stream.  (We are being mandated by the State to discontinue use of many of our septic systems).

Our food this summer has been a big hit so far and our tzevet mitbach [kitchen staff] have been hard at work cooking some delicious favorites like mac and cheese and quinoa sloppy joes–all without adding salt or sugar.  The first night Chalutzim enjoyed homemade whole wheat pizza!  We have also added oatmeal as an extra hot-option each morning for breakfast.  The tzevet from our farm have used this week to teach us about where our food comes from (like our very own garden) and what we can do with our food waste, such as composting or sharing with our goats and chickens.

And of course, this week our chalutzim have been enjoying the myriad of activities offered at camp from biking to farming to Frolf to climbing.  Our younger chalutzim have been rotating through these while our older chalutzim have chosen 3 activities on which to focus.  While the Wednesday’s later afternoon thunderstorm put a damper on the outside activities, we did manage to have an hour long impromptu Zumba-thon and sing along for those who sought shelter in our dining hall during the storm.

Next week, as early as Sunday, we’ll be saying a brief goodbye to all of our chalutzim as they embark on masaot (excursions). The water in the river has dropped low enough that we can send our Sollelim chalutzim out, and are still waiting on word on whether we can send our younger chalutzim rafting as well.   Between the success of this week and the prospect of next week, there is excitement in the air as we head into this Shabbat. We know that the singing, dancing, and resting that will take place over the next day is much needed and one of the best parts of the week. All in all, it’s been a beautiful first week and we’re looking forward to what looks to be a fantastic summer.

We will post a few pictures on Facebook of our pre-shabbat festivities before Shabbat, and then hope to add many more on Sunday evening.
Shabbat Shalom

Summer comm teamAri Polsky (l) is a member of our year-round team, and has been speaking with many of you this year about registration, transportation, and other camp logistics. Photography is a passion of his, and will be supervising the communications via email, website, and social media. He is a 17-year Ramah veteran, and excited to be welcoming a new batch of chalutzim!

Aaron Zetley (r)  just finished high school in Milwaukee and will be going to CU Boulder in the fall. This is his 5th summer at Ramah, and was in JOLI 2013. He is ecstatic to be back at camp and a part of the photography team this summer. 

 

We will be uploading photos this summer to both Facebook and our Smugmug.

From our 2015 Camp Guidebook:
At Ramah in the Rockies, we strive to provide an easy method of communications from parents/guardians to campers. We also post regular photo updates for everyone to share in the magic of camp. Our communications team works hard to cover all aspects, ages, and activities of camp in an efficient manner, while remaining unobtrusive in those activities. Please understand that not every camper will be in every photoupdate. Your camper(s) will not appear in photos when they are on their masa’ot [backcountry excursions].
Pictures can be easily downloaded and printed from the site.  
PLEASE NOTE: WE ARE NOT USING THE PHOTO SYSTEM THAT IS BUILT INTO THE CAMPMINDER SYSTEM, AND WE ARE NO LONGER USING PHOTOBUCKET.

On Sunday we marked 100 days until our first chalutzim arrive!

Why you should go to Adult Camp

By Alan Levitt

AdultCamp RiverCrossingI’m guessing you know a kid who’s been to Ramah in the Rockies. I’m guessing you’ve had that wonderful, enthusiastic encounter, when they try to describe their experience: they’re talking a-mile-a-minute about the fantastic adventures they had, telling you about a new friend or three, perhaps singing a new Hebrew song or laughing at some inside joke. You’ve probably noticed a renewed sense of Jewish identity. And a fresh confidence.

And we all say the same thing: Man, I wish I could go to camp.

I said that. Three of my kids have worked multiple summers at Ramah Outdoor Adventure (ROA), and a couple of my nieces have attended as campers. So I had visited the camp and had seen the literature and watched the videos and heard the stories. Hiking. Biking. Climbing. Sleeping under the stars. A community Shabbat filled with singing and dancing and ruach. Archery!

AdultCamp RockClimbingLast year, ROA offered Adult Camp, and a dozen of us jumped at the chance to be part of the inaugural class. Most of us had some connection to the camp; we had children who either attended or worked there. Or we knew someone who did. We were from all over the country, from a variety of Jewish backgrounds and with a diverse range of abilities and experiences. In that sense, we were exactly like every group of campers that comes to ROA.

In truth, I think a lot of us did it to connect with our kids – to better understand what made ROA so special to them. We also did it because it sounded like fun. Yes, we did the stuff you see in the brochure: biking, climbing, singing, davening. Archery! We marveled at the deepest, clearest night sky most of us had ever seen. We enjoyed a wonderful Shabbat and then we embarked on a backpacking trip through the beautiful Pike National Forest.

AdultCamp TfillahBut here’s the thing the kids and the brochure won’t tell you: the activities are indeed a blast, but more than that the experience is also transformative. Even for an adult. You will bond with amazing, interesting people. You will learn from first-rate Jewish educators and outdoor leaders. You will be challenged and at times pushed beyond your comfort zone. If you let it, it will open and touch your heart.

I don’t want to give too much away. You should discover for yourself. I’ll just say, when you march back into camp property on the final morning after your masa (“journey”) you’ll be different – you’ll be “more” – than you were when you arrived at camp a week earlier. Then, and only then, will you truly understand why your kids get so excited about Ramah in the Rockies.

For more information or to register now, click here.

In celebration of Tu B’Shvat this week, we wanted to share these words about the farm from 2014 Chalutzah, Sophie.  Tu B’Shvat celebrates the trees and is a planting holiday in Israel.  In her piece, she talks about the greenhouse and garden, and the planting we do at camp.

LIFE ON THE FARM AT RAMAH

Written by Sophie Raskin, Tulsa, OK

Planting at GreenHouseIf you make the decision to go to the farm during choice period these are the animals you might see there – 2 pigs, 4 sheep, 5-7 chickens and 3 ducks. And very soon there will also be a mother and baby goat. To get to the farm you have to walk along a long winding path past the horse’s barn. Sometimes if you are lucky you will see the horses in the field. You will also see beautiful views of the mountains and the creek as you walk along.

At the farm you will be taking care of both animals and the garden. If you are taking care of the pigs you will see them eating our camp Inside the Greenhouseleftover food so we don’t waste any food. They will be fighting over the food and you might even see them standing in the big food bowl. They are really pigs! Sounds crazy but one of their names is actually Kosher! We haven’t named the other pig yet but when you come, the other pig will probably be named.

If you are taking care of the sheep you will clean out their dirty pen. You have to rake the old bedding and hay and fill it with new. When you come their hair will probably be overgrown. Right now its very curly and knotty looking. The sheep all move as a pack, or all Sheeptogether. The male with the horns is the leader of the pack. Make sure not to scare one of them because they will run away. If you want to pet them, move up to them very slowly.

I don’t think the chickens look like regular chickens but I’m not sure how to describe them. The ducks don’t look like ducks either! I’m used to yellow ducks and these are not. Some of them have bald spots on their body because they came from a ranch where the roosters were mean to them. When you get to the farm its fun to Chetzi and Butter Cup- Goatscheck in the chicken coop and see if they laid any eggs. The most eggs we have had in one day are five. We don’t use the eggs for camp breakfast because they don’t lay enough to feed everyone. But we do use them as a special prize at camp. For the group who has the cleanest ohel, they get a special “Rocky Mountain Toast” for breakfast and they will use those eggs to make it.

If you like gardening, we have that too at camp. You can either do it at the farm or at the greenhouse. At the farm we grow all kinds of Pigvegetables like carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, corn, potatoes, and even more. We’ll get to pick them after they’ve grown more. In the greenhouse we are growing micro-greens like lettuce, arugula, spinach and kale. We picked some last week and it was used for our Shabbat salad. We use small containers and fill them with dirt and add compost for a natural fertilizer. We mix it up and then sprinkle the seeds and water them and hope they will grow.

Next to the greenhouse there is an outside garden. Part of it has a spice and herb area where we are growing peppermint, parsley, basil, chive, oregano and many others. There are also two wire above ground baskets to grow potatoes. Being above ground makes it easier for the campers to harvest the potatoes.

If you enjoy reading about the farm you should come and visit it yourself. The staff there are all super nice and will answer any of your questions. Robyn does the farm and she is great working with the animals. Dor is in charge of the garden and he loves working with the plants and he grows many delicious things in the garden. Kirsten helps out where she is needed.

 

2014 Tzevet Tipus [Rock Climbing Staff], Noah Kaplan, wrote this spoken word poem this summer about the power of the Masa [backcountry excursion] experience.  Words to the poem are below the video.  We hope you will enjoy this!

 

For five days we leave behind our phones, we forget about conventional conveniences, the clutter of the day, we sweep it all aside for a while to find what hides behind our eyes unclouded by wifi. For five days We breathe the fresh air cradled rocky and strained by aspen groves, sipping on the sweet smells of summer fed to us by our sky Hashem whispers to us, adventure is out there. We, who fly a whole mile high, there is nothing like this ride. We call this time Masa, the journey. We leave early and pack light, for we plan to travel far, wide, We give up our complex comforts for a simpler sense of service to ourselves, of preference and priority, of sound, Listen, adventure is out there, listen. It’s laping at your shore. This song never gets old.  We leave our watches, our roofs, and yes often our bathrooms, for a timeless place, a forever truth in nature. These ancient languages have not been lost, the trees still whistle and hum in the breeze with their lips bigger thaan SUV’s and their tongues that never get tired, are you listening? Can you hear it? We call this time Masa, this place, the Journey. We are in search of adventure, in search of god and each other, we are the Masa, the journey and for four nights the moon is our spotlight, watching as the stars nod across the sky to tuck us into that silver darkness, nothing is warmer, nothing is freer than this blanket this fire by our side, we, the pioneers of our own potential have  songs with their endless arms reaching upward, there is something magic about this circle, these hurtles, this path untraveled, you’ll find your potential is just as endless, listen as the wind plays the trees against the drumming, there is rhythm to discover in our feet. Learn what it means to feed yourself full to this beat, what it means to push yourself more, to take care of your core, to be apart of this team, born of a collective dream, we are all in this together, strip the white noise of the city from your skin, we should all know this everything, and to make memories that do not require batteries. Write stories with your every step. For five days and four nights we learn to take care of our bodies, our minds, our souls. Look up, Hashem is all around us out here, this air, this water, these lives and laughter let its voice fill you, climb its mountains, ride it smooth, move with purpose, groove, climb, bike, shoot, lace up your boots. It is time, Learn precision and how to sleep by its side, no lie, out here we are the pioneers of our own potential, the students of our surroundings, the reverent citizens of our world, there is no end to this road, us all a part of this team, this whole, this time, like an endless smooth sounding rhyme, with light hearts, and laughter, find us pushing our limits going faster choosing the challenge that will bring us forward, for there is no end to this road. This journey where we sing ourselves to sleep and awake in the morning with the possibilities simply at our feet, all around us, waking up to find that adventure is out here.

Reflections on the Ramah Service Corps Fellows Conference:

Who says summer camp is only in the summer?

Ari Polsky

A few weeks ago, I packed a bag, ready to escape the cold, and hopped on a flight to California. I attended the Ramah Winter Training Institute at Camp Ramah in California, as a part of the Ramah Service Corps Fellows. At this conference I was blessed to be a part of a cohort of my peers from all the Ramah camps. Aside from the blessing of being back in the camp setting in the middle of winter (not to mention visiting my childhood camp), it was great to really see camp magic happening all around me.

Shacharit at Temple Beth Am with Josh Warshawsky

Shacharit with the Josh Warshawsky and the Pressman Academy Middle School, where I grew up.

The conference featured six different tracks, each with their own sessions and activities. In each track the cohorts gathered to sharpen their skills, and gear up for the summer. The Ramah Service Corps track was a little different, in that our focus was on bringing the summer into our year-round positions.

As a member of the RSC, we each work in synagogues, schools, and youth groups, to bring the magic of camp to the rest of the year. We use our skills as Rashei Edah, Madrichim, and Moomchim, and infuse synagogue, school, and youth group life with camp-style programs and Jewish learning.

A true highlight- on the second day of the conference, we woke up bright and early, and made our way to Pressman Academy at Temple Beth Am to see one of our fellow RSC Fellows in action. Josh Warshawsky led a spirited musical shacharit service for the middle schoolers, in which we got to take part. I and another fellow, Alan, were treated to catching up with many of our former campers briefly after shacharit. Afterward we heard a bit about Josh’s many hats within the synagogue and school, and what he has been doing to bring camp to school life.

Ramah Service Corps Fellows Group Shot

Ramah Service Corps Fellows 2014-2015 at the Zimmer Museum.

Our next site visit was at the Zimmer Children’s Museum at the Jewish Federation, meeting with Esther Netter. While taking us on a tour of the museum, Esther told us, “A day at a good museum is a lot like a good camp program.” We heard all about the thought, intention, and planning that went into the various parts of the museum, and making it accessible to a diverse population. Seeing all the kids and activities going on at this museum, it felt less like a “museum” and more like a collection of playgrounds and role playing sets. I guess that’s what Esther meant by museums being like camp. She gave us another piece of advice that stuck with the group, “Share your failures. Talk about them. It’s what you will learn the most from, more than your successes.”

Later, Alisha Pedowitz, from BJE-Los Angeles, joined us to talk about Service Learning, and using active service projects and debriefing sessions as experiential service learning. To model this, we took part in helping the Zimmer Museum prepare materials for a future workshop, and cleaning some of the toys. We cut out pictures and shapes, and cleaned the toys, and had a great time together.

The final part of the day involved an interactive cell phone and picture scavenger hunt throughout parts of Hollywood. We had a great time roaming the city and coming up with cool ideas for creating our own monitored scavenger hunts.

Zimmer Museum BJE Los Angeles Service Learning

Doing service learning with the Zimmer Museum and Alisha Pedowitz.

The conference itself really was an exercise in modeling activities that we could all use in our camp, synagogue, school, and youth group lives. We had a great time sharing our best practices. Of course, we also shared our failures and challenges, and crowd sourced ways to improve them. By bringing all of us together at this conference, we each strengthened our network of colleagues, of friends, and fellow camp people. Thank you to Amy Skopp Cooper, Dr. Zachary Lasker, Esther Netter, Alisha Pedowitz, Josh Warshawsky, Dan Messinger, and Rabbi Joel Alter for all facilitating, teaching, and presenting to the cohort.

 

 

The hour is late so this will be a very brief note.  As our first day of kayitz 2011 comes to an end, I am sitting here in the office with a large smile on my face.  Over 50 campers arrived this afternoon.  Once at the Ramah in the Rockies ranch, our campers participated in typical first day activities including medical checks, camp tours and ice breakers.  This evening we had a camp wide opening camp fire which featured skits by members of the various tents.  We ended the evening by making  smores.

Tomorrow morning, we are waking up at 6:00am for teffilot (prayers) followed by shmirat hagoof (physical exercise).   After breakfast we begin regular programming.

While our campers arrived only hours ago, our staff has been here for over a week preparing for the summer.  If it were not close to midnight, I would write much more about our staff (and certainly hope to do so at a future point), but suffice it to say that this group of 20 and 30 something’s is one of the most incredible camp staffs I have ever seen assembled in one place.   To begin with, they are enormously qualified: our head climber has been a professional mountain guide for close to 10 years leading trips in Israel, Jordan and Europe; our archery instructor placed 9th in the NCAA and 23rd in the US Olympic trials; our head equestrian has been working in summer camps for close to 20 years and is assisted by a young woman studying to be a equine vet.  In addition to their resumes, our staff have exhibited an amazing amount of passion: our song sessions usually turn into spontaneous dance parties; our teffilot (prayers) have been moving and inspirational; and our staff constantly return to our core values when planning the programming for the chalutzim (campers).  Time and again, this past week, I have taken a step back and watched our staff step up and take on new leadership roles.  I know that our success this summer will be because of the energy they will put into making sure that every chalutz/a who comes through our doors has the most incredible few weeks of their lives.

By the morning, we hope that our pictures will have finished uploading.  Please remember that you can access our photos online through the link sent to all our families last week.  If you are not a camper family, please email info[at]ramahout.s466.sureserver.com and we will send you the link (due to privacy issues we are not posting it on this blog).

Please know that during the summer we are available to speak by phone at 303 261 8214.  However, since we check email far more regularly than our voicemail messages, if you need a quick answer, please email us directly.