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Dear Ramah in the Rockies Kehillah,

We are excited to share “Kavanot Ramah l’Yamim Noraim,” a collection of resources to help enhance the meaning of the upcoming High Holidays. Ramah leaders from throughout our camps and Israel programs have created short videos—songs, prayers, and reflections. We hope that these resources will help inspire greater kavanah—meaning and introspection during these upcoming ten days of repentance. 

Check out all the wonderful videos, including these from our Rockies Tzevet.

Rabbi Eliav on Listening
Michael Harlow sings Or Zarua

May we all have a sweet new year!

Rabbi Eliav and the whole Ramah in the Rockies team

To our Ramah in the Rockies kehillah kedosha,

This year, as we prepare for our seders, we are thinking about numbers. We are thinking of the traditional Passover numbers – the eight days of Passover, four cups of wine, three matzot, and one Elijah’s cup. We are also thinking about the tragic numbers linked to the pandemic we are all living through – the number of people who have fallen ill with COVID-19, those who have recovered, and those who have tragically succumbed to the disease. We are thinking about the millions who are now unemployed and the devastating economic toll this virus is taking on families, businesses, and non-profits alike. With this in mind, we offer the following look inside our organization as we prepare for our 11th kayitz and the possibility that we will need to alter our summer plans based on the trajectory of the virus.

Ramah in the Rockies by the Numbers:

$890,000

Cost of opening our expanded Waster Water Treatment
plant in 2020 – bringing our total to $1.6 million spent
on our existing waste-water infrastructure for the chava.

$105,000

Need-based financial assistance awarded – thank you to our generous donors.

9,000

Gallons of drinking water available in our year-round water storage tank at any one time.

500+

Number of chalutzim and tzevet who call our kehillah kedosha home each summer.

70

Days until Kayitz 2020 is scheduled to begin!

43

JOLI chalutzim registered for 2020 – our most ever!

30+

Number of chalutzim who will receive their 5th-year shirts this kayitz.

28

Number of different states from which chalutzim are coming in 2020.

25

New masa tents purchased.

24

Days until we will make an announcement about our summer schedule

23

Ta’am Ramah (Taste of Ramah) chalutzim currently registered for 2020.

21

Horses under contract to come to camp – from two different herds!

16

Beds in our new Mirpa’ah (Health & Wellness Center).

12

New bikes purchased for Ilanot & Metaylim chalutzim.

5

Stalls in the new bathrooms across from the Chadar Ochel (Dining Hall).

3

The number of raised beds to be built in our kitchen’s new garden.

1

New Mercaz Gan-Teva (Garden and Nature Center opening this kayitz).

0

Dogs currently planning to be with us at camp for the whole summer.
Help us “adopt” a calm, kid-friendly camp dog this summer!

To our Ramah in the Rockies kehillah kedosha,

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

Exciting Changes to our Masa Program.

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

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

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

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

Unveiling Our New Chadar Ochel and New Food Options!

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

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

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

Our Newest Chug Option!

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

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

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

Chag Purim same’ach! Happy Purim!

– Rabbi Eliav

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

Ask any of our chalutzim (campers) and they will tell you that Ramah in the Rockies is an exceptionally green place. While many are simply drawn to camp’s natural greenery, as a camp, we are as equally proud of our “green” initiatives. We make a strong effort to limit our impact on the environment and utilize sustainable options whenever possible. Over our ten years on the chava (ranch) we have maintained a mostly vegetarian diet, we use reusable silverware, much of our schedule is dictated by the sun, and our camp structures have been built to maximize sunlight. All that being said, there’s another side to how Ramah in the Rockies “goes green” on a day-to-day basis. Instead of being green, one practice is a little more “brown” – that’s right, we are talking about food decomposition!

Chalutzim take turns spinning our compost barrels.

While in the “real world,” garbage and recyclables are simply tossed into their respective receptacles, Ramah in the Rockies has needed to handle our garbage disposal and recycling with a slightly different approach. Situated at just over 8,000 feet and more than 45 minutes from the closest gas station, bringing our trash and recyclables down the mountain regularly would not only be a timely endeavor, but it would also be a costly one. 

Enter Hadar Zeigerson – Ramah in the Rockies’ Sustainability Educator & Compost/Waste Manager for Kayitz 2019… 

Hadar hard at work.

After trying different composting methods over the first few years at camp, this summer, with Hadar’s help, Rockies elected to continue with our venture in “bokashi.” In comparison to regular composting, the bokashi method of food decomposition, which originates in Japan, is quicker, less labor-intensive, it can better handle camp’s high elevation, and (as a true bonus) it does not attract bears! 

We spoke to Hadar, who broke down the entire bokashi process from start to finish. At the end of every meal at camp, food waste is deposited into buckets in our chadar ochel (dining hall). Twice a day Hadar loads up “Lil Blue” – camp’s beloved baby blue pickup truck – and drives the filled buckets over to our bokashi shipping container. 

There, the waste is emptied out into one of our fifteen 55-gallon barrels, and then the “real fun” begins. During a normal week at camp, we can fill anywhere from three to five buckets for bokashi processing. After a pinch or two of our bacteria-rich natural decomposing agent, the barrels are then sealed. As a byproduct of this process, a liquid is created known as “bokashi juice.” The bokashi juice needs to be drained manually, which as Hadar explained, “If you don’t drain the juice, the bokashi becomes ‘puke-kashi!’” In other words, when you do not drain the bokashi regularly, the bokashi rots, leaving terrible smelling mush. Bokashi that is monitored is equally as mushy, but it has a less-intense fermented smell, “kind of like pickles or kombucha.”  

At the end of this two-to-three-week anaerobic process, the waste material inside our bokashi buckets is ready for the last stage of decomposition and is prepared to be repurposed. The contents of the buckets are buried about a foot underground and a month later our leftover granola, discarded banana peels, and used coffee grounds have all transformed into nutrient-rich soil that can be used anywhere at camp.  

Hadar’s impact goes beyond just handling our food waste. This past kayitz, Hadar created infographics on several environmental and sustainability topics. These informative graphics could be found in nearly every bathroom stall at camp, allowing chalutzim and tzevet (staff) alike to learn about the business of camp’s waste-management while taking care of their own “personal business.”

While keeping our camp sustainable (and bear-free) is of high importance for Camp Ramah in the Rockies, the lessons of waste-management and sustainability reach far beyond the chava. This kayitz we wanted to provide our chalutzim with more than just information. It was important to give them the opportunity to actively express how learning about sustainability and living green made them feel.

This was best displayed during last summer’s chalutzim-led demonstrations when campers learned about “holy protest” with Rosh Omanut (Head of Art) Yoshua Hooper. The lessons primarily focused on humanity’s impact on the planet and how we impact the wildlife living near camp. A prime example of this “values-to-actions” mentality was seen during the first week of camp, a few days before Hadar was hired. Camp was not yet ready to begin composting, and so our chalutzim protested, demanding that Ramah take responsibility and start composting. We hired Hadar soon after and the rest was history. 

All in all, waste-management and sustainability are at the core of Ramah in the Rockies’ midot (values). At our camp we not only show kavod (respect) for each other and ourselves, but also for the planet on which we live. Everyone who has a meal with our community knows that at the end of the meal we prepare our food leftovers to be repurposed. Additionally, leave-no-trace is one of camp’s principal ideologies when it comes to day-to-day life. Everyone buys into the “Ramah in the Rockies way.” We all separate our food-waste at the end of meals, we all have reusable water bottles, and we use bear-proof trash cans. Our entire kehila kedosha (holy community) plays an integral role in the size of the footprint that Ramah in the Rockies leaves behind on the natural world every summer.  

By Moss Herberholz,
Director of Inclusion Kayitz 2019

It’s Friday night at camp, and the singing after Shabbat dinner has begun. Chalutzim (campers), tzevet (staff) and orchim (guests) all stand up and move toward the center of the room enthusiastically to join in the celebration. As I watch from a table nearby, two young chalutzim come up to me and ask if they can have some earplugs. I pull two pairs out of my pocket and hand a pair to each of the chalutzim. Reminding them that they are reusable, I pull two pairs out of my pocket and hand a pair to each of the chalutzim. A few minutes later I have joined the gathering in the middle of the chadar ochel (dining room) and a tzevet member taps me on the shoulder, asking if there are any noise-reducing headphones left. I grab her a pair of headphones and mention to her that chalutzim have priority, so I may need to reclaim them from her later. 

This past summer in my role as the Director of Inclusion, I worked to expand what our inclusion program looks like, with the goal of providing extra support to campers who need it. One way I did this was by making personal sound-reduction equipment available to everyone at camp during meals, shira (singing), and other large group gatherings.

Meals at Ramah in the Rockies can be noisy; chalutzim and tzevet members engage with each other, reviewing the highlights of the day and talking about upcoming programming, All of this combines with the acoustics of our chadar ochel to make for a dissonance of sound. Although this level of sound is tolerable for many chalutzim and tzevet members, there are plenty of people whose dining experience is disrupted by the chorus of excited voices.

Any chalutz or tzevet member who will benefit from earplugs or noise-reducing headphones only needs to ask and they shall receive. Chalutzim are able to ask their madrichim (counselors) or any member of our camper care or support teams for ear protection and they will get it. 

We saw many chalutzim and tzevet members wearing their reusable earplugs or rocking a pair of noise-reducing headphones. With smiles on their faces and their ears protected, they enjoyed their meals and the company of those around them. Allowing them to socialize and get the fuel they need for a successful day at camp, all without getting overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the chadar ochel.

This accommodation, originally intended for specific chalutzim who needed additional support, has become a helpful resource for all of the chalutzim and tzevet in our community. By advertising this option to everyone, we have allowed anyone who needs, and may not have known how to previously ask, to easily get the support they require to be comfortable. What was once a resource reserved for a small number of individuals is now available to everyone. We, at Ramah in the Rockies, look forward to exploring more ways in which we can improve the camp experience and expand what it means to effectively support everyone in our kehilah kedosha (holy community). 

Chag Chanukkah Same’ach from Ramah in the Rockies!

Without the chalutzim (campers) camp would be meaningless – each and every one of them is a light in our community. Every summer, our amazing tzevet (staff) work tirelessly to ensure that every chalutz and chalutzah have incredible and lifechanging experiences at Ramah in the Rockies. And so, in celebration of Chanukkah, we wanted to spotlight some of the individuals that keep the “lights” of Ramah in the Rockies “burning bright” for 8 amazing weeks every summer.


Ben
Toronto, Canada
Metaylim Madrich

Last summer was my fifth summer at camp, and my first as tzevet! I worked as a Metaylim (5th and 6th graders) madrich (counselor) and as an assistant to the Rosh Edah (Head of age group). I got to hangout with the kids all day, take them to their activities, run programs, and plan zman edah (age-group specific programming).

My favorite aspect of camp is kabbalat Shabbat, when the whole camp comes together having showered after a long week of activities, ready to sing and celebrate a change of pace from the normal week. I also love when the chalutzim come back from masa excited to share their adventures with me, and you can really see how much they have changed and grown from the experience.

Lihi
Tel Aviv, Israel
Inclusion Specialist

Last summer was my first at camp, and I worked on the Inclusion Team. I heard about camp through the Jewish Agency for Israel. I used to work at a day camp in Israel and I love working with kids, so I was excited by the adventure of summer camp in America.

Day-to-day I would roam around camp, making sure our inclusion campers are engaging with other campers and having a great time at their activities. My job was to give our campers the best summer possible. I didn’t have my own ohel (tent) of campers, so the first time I had my own group was on the rafting and biking masa. During the masa I got to really speak with the campers and get to know them. When they returned to base camp, the campers did a night activity where they created skits about their trips. I was so excited when they called me over to be a part of it. It made me feel like I really made connections with them.

The views were my favorite part of camp. The stars at night are so bright, the clouds are insane, and the mountains are so beautiful – especially the ones that are still covered with snow!

Edson
Puebla, Mexico
Kitchen Prep Cook

I worked in the kitchen helping to prepare the food. The first week was hard, but it became much easier to help with the food because I know what I’m doing. During meals, I enjoyed talking to the kids when they come up to the windows for refills. They would all say “thank you,” and I really appreciated that.

I wanted to come to camp to interact with kids, so I’ve started giving kids Spanish lessons on Tuesdays. I have loved getting to meet so many new people.

I really enjoyed the nature and the view of the mountains. I loved taking walks with my friends at night and stargazing. Living in the tents was an adventure in itself and something new. 

Avital
Teaneck, NJ
Metaylim Madricha

I ended up working at camp because I went to Ramah in the Rockies as a camper in 2016 for my JOLI year. After I went to camp in 2016, and understood how lucky I was to be part of such a unique community in an incredibly beautiful place, I knew I wanted to come back to work there. Shuli Bolton was the person who originally told me about Ramah in the Rockies, and we both ended up doing JOLI, and then working on tzevet together for the past 2 summers.

My favorite part about camp is having the opportunity to constantly explore my Jewish identity while being immersed in nature. I feel most connected to Judaism and my spirituality at camp, specifically during kabbalat Shabbat because I am surrounded by the mountains, the greenery, and an accepting and supportive kehillah (community).

Daniel
Budapest, Hungry
Kitchen Dishwasher

I found Ramah in the Rockies through the Camp Leaders Program [a program that matches potential staff members across the globe with camps in the United States.] I wanted to see the beauty of Colorado, and I knew someone who worked here in the past and they told me great things about this camp.

As Kitchen Dishwasher, I worked both day shifts and night shifts. during these shifts, all of the kitchen staff listened to music together and always helped each other out.

The part of camp I enjoyed most was the community – both inside and outside of the kitchen. Everyone was very friendly and helpful, and everyone trusts each other, which is different than what I experience in Hungary. I really enjoyed the fun atmosphere of camp community.

David
Milwaukee, WI
Tzevet Ofanayim/Solelim Madrich

This past summer was the second year that I worked at Ramah in the Rockies, and my fifth year overall. I have worked the past two summers as a Solelim (7th and 8th graders) madrich and ofanayim (biking) staff. 

Between 4th and 7th grade I stayed at home during the summer, and I would listen to my brother rave about his summer adventures at Ramah in the Rockies. Finally, in 8th grade I went second session for two weeks and fell head-over-heels in love with camp. Following my JOLI summer in 2016, I knew that I wanted to be a part of tzevet, as I was so excited to help develop the kehillah that had shaped me into a Jewish leader. 

My favorite part of camp is masa’ot. I live my life by the guiding principle my JOLI Rosh taught me: “To grow, you have to embrace the discomfort and put yourself in your ‘stretch zone’. The stretch zone may be uncomfortable and scary, but you will come out as an improved, more resilient individual.” Masa’ot are incredibly special opportunities for chalutzim to enter their own ‘stretch zones’ and accomplish goals that might seem impossible outside of the context of a masa. I know that I’ve grown to be the leader that I am today because of the 10+ masa’ot I’ve participated in and led over my five fulfilling years at camp. 

And finally, while I live far away from camp during the academic year, I consider Ramah Rockies as my second home which I always look forward to visiting. 

Sarah
Clearwater, FL
Sayarim Madricha

I ended up working at camp because I was working at BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy. While working at BaMidbar, they had a brief pause in their programming (they are back now and offering amazing programs!) and was graciously offered a job at Ramah in the Rockies for the second session last summer.

I loved living in the amazingly beautiful wilderness and experiencing Shabbat in the camp community.  My favorite part of camp is being a part of an enriching Jewish community in a beautiful, wild setting. It was deeply rewarding to be able to support campers’ connection to each other, Judaism and the natural world.

Nic
Olympia, WA
Tzevet Ofanayim

Ramah in the Rockies places a premium on hiring people who bring real expertise in outdoor education and adventure.  As such, they will often recruit outdoor professionals from outside the Jewish community, and that’s how I came to be a part of the Ramah community in 2015.  

Ramah in the Rockies places a premium on hiring people who bring real expertise in outdoor education and adventure.  As such, they will often recruit outdoor professionals from outside the Jewish community, and that’s how I came to be a part of the Ramah community in 2015.  

Although I am not a religious person, I find that the emphasis on creating a holy community where young people can focus on developing their relationship with their Judaism to be my favorite part of Ramah.  Even as a non-Jewish member of tzevet I have been generously welcomed into the community and I am grateful for the connections that have been offered to me. Many Ramah alumni consider ROA to be a second “home”, and I am one of them. 

Join our staff for Kayitz 2020 and learn more about working at Ramah in the Rockies here

By Risa Isard

*The following blog post was originally given as a speech during the Ramah in the Rockies 10-Year celebration in Denver, CO on December 7th, 2019.

I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. I distinctly remember conversations from the 1990s about a new Ramah camp in Colorado. I waited. Dreamed. Looked forward to the day I’d get to be a camper there. Ramah runs deep in my family – my great grandfather helped found Ramah in the Poconos, where my mom was a camper and staff member. Camp Ramah was this magical place I’d heard stories about. So I eagerly listened anytime someone at synagogue would talk about the Ramah in Colorado that was opening someday. 

Risa, during her first time on the Ranch back in 2009

Without Ramah in Colorado, I followed my brother to a Jewish overnight camp in Northern Arizona. Seeking a more robust Jewish experience, I asked to go to Ramah. For seven summers, Ramah Darom was my home. I wouldn’t change those summers for anything – except for maybe to have been able to be at Ramah in Colorado, or “Rugged Ramah” as Rabbi Eliav referred to it back in 2009 in comparison to my beloved “Spa Ramah.” 

If you’re good at math, you’ll notice I just said 2009. A year before camp officially opened in 2010. I’m forever grateful for the chance to have joined Rabbi Eliav for a week of pilot programming designed for prospective staff. If you think camp is rugged now, you should have seen it for 2009. We slept in literal camping tents on the ground. Cooked all our own meals on camping stoves. And enjoyed the luxury of the nearby compostable toilets, a cherished legacy of the Girl Scouts camp. We also dreamed about what could be the next summer. About how to make camp really come to life. About the values. Goals. Culture. Educational priorities. Programs. About Shabbat and shmirat ha’goof (morning physical warmups) and masa (backcountry excursions).

Risa and some of her chalutzot during the first summer of camp

And in 2010, it happened. Being on founding staff was the opportunity of a lifetime. Really, it was like a summer-long masa. Which is to say, when we get together, we like to trade stories: That time we had a single day off the entire summer. That time our campers tried to take razors and shaving cream on a backpacking trip. That time when campers cooked their own dinners at base camp. (We thought it was a good teachable moment?) 

It’s impossible to remember every detail, but it’s easy to remember the feelings.

Of purpose and responsibility: Without our own childhood connection to camp, staff signed on because of a belief in what Ramah Outdoor Adventure stood for. Because ROA’s values were – are – our values. We understood the responsibility at our feet – that the culture we set would matter. We hoped it would last. And we jumped in.

Of connection and community: With other staff, and with campers. The shabbat-o-grams and innovative tefilot. The masa families, ohel (tent) families, perek (activity period) families, and an entire kehillah kedosha (holy community) that embraced us as we showed up as our full selves. That held us as we adventured, explored, stargazed, prayed, danced, sang, played. All-day. Every day. 

Risa on masa in 2010. Note the familiar faces of chalutzim who would go on to be tzevet at camp years later

Of growth: Forged by the daily – sometimes hourly – opportunity to challenge ourselves. To try new things. To fail, and try again, and accomplish things never before dreamed of. To support each other in these pursuits. A new climbing pitch. A big hill on a bike. The first time we led a prayer. A new food we cooked. A new knot we learned and got to use in the backcountry. 

And so much fun. The inside jokes and late-night stories. The early morning runs. The made-up games like Ultimate Soccer and Capiscular Avengers. The camp song’s unofficial lyrics. The Shabbat everything.

I remember getting our paychecks that first summer – on the porch of the old lodge – after campers had left and being surprised. I had forgotten this was technically my summer job. I can promise you, for staff, camp is so much more than a job. And for chalutzim (campers), it’s so much more than “just camp.”

Risa co-leading services in 2010

I was back on staff in 2011 and 2012. Of course, there’s nothing like those earliest years. Still, there’s something equally as special. And that’s having a front-row seat to watching camp grow. 

In 2018 I had the privilege of joining the board. Camp has grown – in numbers of campers and staff, in activities offered, and even in infrastructure. It’s grown because today’s campers and staff have embraced the idea that we all felt so deeply that first summer: Ramah in the Rockies is a place you can make yours. 

That idea has made the past 10 years but a dream. We’ve been so lucky to have an entire community dreaming with us – and making it happen. Making Ramah in the Rockies yours. So, yes, I’ve been deputized to remind you that every donation you’ve made matters. I’m biased – and proud – that former staff, most of us who are not yet 30, have raised several thousand dollars in just the past month in honor of this momentous occasion – and all that’s still to come. 

All that’s still to come is the real reason to celebrate. Because there is such a bright future for this camp and for the generations who will get to experience it. That’s why Ramah in the Rockies is participating, along with many other organizations, in a Grinspoon Foundation program called Live On Life and Legacy. It is a way to leave a gift behind to camp to ensure that campers can continue to benefit from the rich experiences camp provides for years to come. It’s a “challenge by choice,” as we say at Ramah in the Rockies. I hope you choose to join me.

I’ll close with these words I wrote in an email to Rabbi Eliav and our pioneering staff after the 2009 week of pilot programming: 

“I have a confession to make. I’m an activist. I believe in social change and am very passionate about a lot of various causes and movements. And while I like the environment and care about it… I’d be lying if I told you it was one of my priorities when it comes to social change and progressing our society….
Well, that was me before ROA. Post-ROA Risa told her mom, ‘It’s bad for the environment,’ more times than I can count in the past few days as I was shopping for things for my [college] dorm room. I like to think that even though I’m older than the campers we’ll be welcoming next summer the same shift in mindset can and will occur. My perspective changed this much in just a week. Imagine the power a month will have.
Love the Earth,
Risa”

It’s not just about the environment, of course. Ramah in the Rockies was the first place I went backpacking, the first place I lifted the Torah in hagbah, and the first place I came out. That’s the trifecta of self-actualization that’s possible at a place like Ramah in the Rockies. We all have the chance to live into ourselves, even if everyone’s new frontier(s) are different.

2010 camp tzevet during shavuah hachanah (staff prep week before campers arrive)

Today we know the power of a month. Better even, we know the power of 10 years. 

A todah rabah to everyone who made these past 10 years possible – with a deeply personal thanks to Rabbi Eliav and the 2010 kehillah, from my chalutzim (hey Ohel Carmel!) to the tzevet (staff) I’m so proud to have had as my friends and partners. 

*Insert Wet Hot American Summer 10-Year Reunion quote here*

If you would actually like to see the clip from “Wet Hot American Summer,” you can click here.

As we approach the end of 2019, we, the Ramah in the Rockies community, have a lot to be thankful for. With this in mind, we wanted to share a reflection from this past summer written by JOLI chalutza (camper), Cameron Fields, who took the time to not only share her experiences at camp, but also offer her gratitude.  

Cameron Fields, JOLI Session 1, Kayitz 2019

“This past summer at Ramah in the Rockies was undeniably one of the best summers of my life. That is a major statement to say, but I do not say this loosely. This summer has definitely changed me as a person, friend, and as a leader in both my everyday life, and in the Jewish community. When I boarded the plane the morning of camp, a bunch of emotions surrounded me. Mostly, I was excited for this summer – the summer I had been dreaming about all year long. There was a little bit of fear inside of me, but once our van pulled through the metal gates of camp, all of that changed. 

Most of JOLI from Session 1, Kayitz 2019

From the second I was in the JOLI huddle with the rest of the ‘JOLIers,’ everything just felt right. The group felt so close already, and with the first couple of days that feeling proved to be true. From being Wilderness First Aid certified, to having our first Shabbat together, we all became so close within four days that when it was time split into two groups to depart on masa (backcountry excursions), I was a bit reluctant to do so. But, masa changed me, and I will be forever impacted from just a five day, twenty-eight-mile trip. So many life-changing events occurred within those twenty-eight miles.

Through masa we faced many challenges, but as a team of seven leaders we overcame them. From having to hike off-trail down a mountain with the sun setting behind us, to crossing ten rivers within a mile, or hiking up what seemed like a never-ending hill, my group and I completed our masa with our heads held high, because we did it! This was, without a doubt, the hardest masa I have ever been on, but also the best, and the kesharim (connections) I made with my group will last a lifetime!

JOLI Captains of k’vutzah Kachol (Blue team), Cameron & Stevie, working together during our Yom Sport Relay Event

As amazing as these events were, my time at camp just continued to get better. A highlight of JOLI for me was Yom Sport. I was the captain of Kachol, the blue team, (go Mayim!) and it was one of the best experiences I had the whole summer! I was able to lead my fellow chalutzim in one of their favorite days of the summer and really make it something special for them. I think Yom Sport taught me what being a Jewish outdoor leader is all about. I was able to lead campers, help them when they needed an extra hand, learn new things about myself and what a leader should be, all while having fun with my fellow JOLIers. 

Cameron helping out during her time as a CIT this past kayitz

As my summer at Ramah in the Rockies came to a close, it felt unreal to be leaving camp. As I hugged my ‘Jamily’ at havdallah, I sobbed like I never had before. I was extremely sad that I had to leave them in two days, and I was also really upset to have to leave this kehillah kedosha (holy community) knowing I wouldn’t return as a chalutzah. I did, however,  know that I would be back as a madricha (counselor)!  

This summer taught me so many new things, whether that was through Wilderness First Aid, or on masa, while I was captain on Yom Sport, while I was a counselor-in-training for chalutzim in Ilanot (3rd and 4th graders) and Ta’am Ramah (our ‘Taste of Ramah’ program for 2nd to 4th graders), or just hanging around base camp. This summer has impacted me for the better, and definitely changed my life forever. So thank you Ramah in the Rockies for making me who I am today! Thank you for teaching me new things, and thank you for giving me the best summer of my life!” 

Cameron Fields
11th Grade
Ocean Township, NJ

We thank all of our camp families for their support, all of our tzevet (staff) for their hard work and dedication, and, of course, all of our chalutzim for spending each summer opening themselves up to all of the experiences that Ramah in the Rockies has to offer. 

Happy Thanksgiving, 

From the entire Ramah in the Rockies team

Over the past six weeks we heard from hundreds of parents, chalutzim (campers), and tzevet (staff) about their experiences at Ramah in the Rockies during Kayitz 2019.  We asked for honest feedback and thank everyone for sharing so that we may learn about what went well and where we need to improve. Below are some of the highlights from Kayitz 2019, and some of the areas for growth going forward into our 11th summer. 

Two Thumbs Up: Successes of Kayitz 2019

New Schedule

Our new camp schedule was widely celebrated. We moved breakfast earlier, added a fifth program time, and switched Nikayon (cleaning time) to after lunch. Lunch and dinner times were shortened, which ensured that our younger campers ended their days close to 8:00  PM. The Kibbutz and Kfar tent areas were quieter on most nights than in years past, giving chalutzim better nights of sleep because campers were going to bed earlier. While there were some unintended consequences as part of this new schedule – for example, some chalutzim only had a 45-minute biking activity, which was way too short – overall it was a welcome change to Ramah in the Rockies. Additionally, our new Sunday Yom Meyuchad (special day) schedule was well received. Chalutzim liked the ability to choose their Sunday activities, and they took full advantage of the opportunities for larger edah (age group) and camp-wide programs as well. 

Connections

We know that Jewish summer camp works best as an educational enterprise when children are making deep and lasting connections not just between themselves, but also with their madrichim (counselors). This past summer, we placed a greater emphasis on facilitating these connections and provided more opportunities for group bonding. In general, we heard that chalutzim felt closer connections to others – both chalutzim and tzevet – in their ohelim (tents) than in years past.

Shabbat: 

As Jewish educators, it is awesome to hear the sheer number of people, tzevet and chalutzim, who said that Shabbat is their favorite time at camp. We pride ourselves on providing young people a space where they can both live in concert with nature and the world around them, and have joyful Jewish experiences. As we have heard following our previous summers, a highlight for many of our chalutzim has been the ruach (spirit) of shira (singing) and rikkud (dancing) during Shabbat. Although both happen during our regular weekly programming, during Shabbat these activities are especially meaningful. So much so, that often hear that these experiences continue to resonate with campers weeks and even months after leaving the chava (ranch). In addition to adjusting our Shabbat schedule, we added more Shabbat afternoon options, and changed a number of tunes in tefillah (prayers). All of these were welcome enhancements, and, as one nine year old told us, “I wish every day at camp could be Shabbat.”

Mixed Reviews: Where we Have the Opportunity to Grow

Communications: 

We continue to pursue a better balance between allowing chalutzim to be independent at camp and keeping our parents and families in the loop about their daily and weekly activities. We received overwhelmingly positive responses to our weekly Friday emails. Yet, there was also a desire to hear more, especially about our younger chalutzim and their activities during the week. You also appreciated the twice-weekly photo uploads, but asked that we instead have more group snapshots over individual portrait ones. For next year, we plan to implement a system that will allow madrichim of our younger edot to regularly update parents, at least once every session, via written communication with specific updates on their child(ren). That being said, we continue to encourage parents to email or call us directly with questions about their children. If you do not receive an answer within 24 hours, then we are not living up to our commitment, and ask that you escalate your request to Rabbi Eliav, Julia Chatinover, and/or Stacy Wasserman. We also know that letters continue to take too long to reach you at home. While we cannot solve USPS issues, we plan to add our own dated stamp to letters placed in our outgoing mailbox so parents can see when a letter leaves camp.

Masa:

The cornerstone of what makes Ramah in the Rockies unique is our masa (backcountry excursion) program. It is a time for chalutzim to challenge themselves, form deep connections with each other, and gain a new appreciation for nature and the environment around them. It is also a time to learn how to be safe in the backcountry, how to step up and lead, and how to encourage others in times of adversity. You told us that the masa experience is not uniform, and that we need to work on improving the areas that we do control, such as gear, programmatic expectations, and logistics and route planning.

Over the next few months, we will examine all of our masa systems and programs in an effort to further refine what has worked and implement solutions for what has not worked. We plan to invest in new gear to ensure that there is enough for every group and that our chalutzim all have the correct sized packs. We will evaluate the training for our trip leaders and make sure that they are prepared to implement the educational goals of our masa’ot. We are fortunate that we have a very strong safety record from which we can build, and while this is laudable, it is certainly not something we take for granted. Regardless of how we improve the masa experience, safety will always be our number one concern.   

Food: 

We received more positive feedback on our food – its quality, quantity, and variety than in any previous year. That being said, we continued to struggle to deliver a consistent product throughout the second session. For a variety of reasons, we changed our menu midway through the summer and while our first session chalutzim gave our food rave reviews, the same was not the case during the second session. As we look towards next summer, we will take a critical look at our menus and ensuring that we are offering balanced meals throughout the summer, including enough traditional and alternative protein options. Additionally, some families were voiced concerns about our kitchen running out of food at various meals and we want to reassure you of our commitment to not run out of the main course at any meal throughout the summer. We plan to continue providing robust salad bars at lunch and dinner and breakfast bars in the morning. We will also be continuing our efforts in moving towards a “less seasoning, more sauce” philosophy, where campers can choose the flavors they would like to add to their meals, rather than have food that is too spicy or seasoned. While we will continue to serve meat weekly (except for the first nine days of the Hebrew month of Av), we also hope to add additional non-soy plant-based protein meals such as Beyond Meat, which was recently certified kosher. We also hope to refocus on our camp values by utilizing locally sourced produce and products as much as possible. For our masa menu options, we will continue to tweak our new food system to ensure that all trips have enough food, regardless of the length of trip or the number of people on the trip.

Thank you for being a part of our kehillah kedoshah (holy community) and for taking the time to share your feedback with us so that we may continue to improve. As always, please be in touch with any specific questions, comments, or concerns. All of us on the year-round team are available to speak via phone, email, or in person.

During our ten summers on the chava (ranch), Ramah in the Rockies has been the site of hail and wind storms, a fire, and even a helicopter landing, but now, after Kayitz 2019, we can also say that we have hosted peace talks. 

As a camp and a community, we place a great deal of value on individual identity and self expression. Outside of camp, many chalutzim (campers) do not have the opportunity to physically build things and take calculated risks. At camp, they are not only allowed but encouraged, to explore and test their creative boundaries. These values can easily be seen in one of camp’s guiding principles, “challenge by choice.” As a result, many chalutzim have been naturally drawn to the construction of, and gameplay surrounding, what we at camp call “tree-forts.”         

While Ramah in the Rockies strongly encourages free play and independent pursuits, sometimes conflict arises that requires a helping hand. This kayitz, the tree-forts were extremely popular, and when conflict did arise within the gameplay our tzevet (staff) was prepared to help ease the tension.    

In one such situation, Jacob Chatinover from Camper Care cleverly helped chalutzim establish some basic ground rules within the realm of tree-fort building instead of merely policing a conflict between two fort “nations.” Jacob was able to successfully facilitate, “the Camp Jacob Accords,” allowing all of our tree-fort-building chalutzim to continue in the fun and creativity of tree-fort building. 

Jacob Chatinover with Chalutzim this summer

During the Camp Jacob Accords, topics discussed and voted on included the guidelines for inter-tree-fort trading, the establishment of a “neutral zone” and a “non-aggression pact,” and the continued use of the “Zetley Border” – a fallen nearby tree that had been introduced as a border with the help of tzevet member David Zetley earlier in the summer. Additionally, a new rule was instituted known as the “Tourism Rule,” which allowed for chalutzim and tzevet to visit tree-forts, providing they identified themselves as a “tourist.”  

Looking back on the Camp Jacob Accords, the Tourism Rule stands out for Jacob, not only because of its progressive and forward-thinking take on the situation, but also because of how it connects to the upcoming holiday of Sukkot.

An integral part of Sukkot is the experience of shared personal and communal spaces. As the Talmud explains, “All of Israel are fit to live in one sukkah,” Sukkot 27B. Many scholars take from this that it would be appropriate for every Jew in the world to dwell in one sukkah, and from this we learn that every individual sukkah is part of the “larger Jewish collective sukkah.” This idea, of a shared space, seems especially relevant considering the conflict Jacob helped settle.  

On an even deeper level, the value of “challenge by choice,” which every chalutz and chalutzah experiences at camp, can also be linked to the celebration of Sukkot. Just as Ramah allows campers the space to explore and create, so too does Sukkot provide children and adults the opportunity to take a risk-sharing in the vulnerability of constructing a temporary structure that is exposed to the elements.

Wishing you a Sukkot filled with joy, vulnerability, and healthy risks.

Chag same’ach!

We kicked off the final full week of the Kayitz (Summer) 2019 with Yom Sport. Everyone in camp was decked-out in kachol (blue), adom (red), or yarok (green), and the atmosphere on the chava (ranch) shifted to intense competition and fun which progressed throughout the day. The day was filled with a lot of sweat and a lot of smiles. Following a win by kevutzah (team) kachol, things at camp again shifted to anticipation as a majority of chalutzim (pioneers/campers) prepared for their masa’ot (backcountry excursions).

While masa weeks at basecamp are relatively quiet, this masa week we welcomed our Ta’am Ramah (2nd to 4th graders), “taste of Ramah” program, to the chava for four days, where they briefly experienced what being chalutzim at Ramah in the Rockies is like. They all had a wonderful time and we are looking forward to welcoming them back here at camp next summer for a full two or four weeks.   

Personally, my favorite part of masa week is Friday mornings. The excitement for this morning is more and more palpable as the week progresses, reaching its peak as the stream of white 12-passenger vans return to the chava. As each masa unloads their van, I have a first-row seat to one of the greatest spectacles Ramah in the Rockies has to offer – huge smiles, loud laughter, joyful reunions, and, of course, epic masa stories. This morning was no different, and this round of masa’ot featured some awesome experiences that I would like to share. 

In particular, what makes our second round of masa’ot so special is that our JOLI (11th and 12th graders) chalutzim begin their final transition from campers to CIT (Counselor In Training). After JOLI chalutzim had a chance to learn with current tzevet (staff) in the Moadon Tzevet (Staff Lounge), they were split up amongst the edot (age groups), and put everything they have worked on throughout this kayitz to the test with actual hands-on experience.

The JOLI chalutzim who worked with Ilanot (3rd and 4th graders) were treated to one of Ramah in the Rockies best (and most awesome) kept secrets – the twice-a-kayitz “Rocktion” (rock auction). Tzevet members, JOLI, and Ta’am Ramah all dressed up in their finest attire and perused their options before the bidding began. Once rocks were purchased, Ilanot chalutzim had the opportunity to trade in their profits for prizes like an ice cream party with Rabbi Eliav or being Rosh Edah (age group Unit Head) for a day.

On masa, Metaylim (5th and 6th graders) left our ranch for three days, with gear on their backs. For many, this was the first time that they had experienced a multi-day hike. While all of our masa’ot were within 15 miles of our camp, most reached the peaks of local mountains which provided unforgettable vistas of Pike National Forest. Additionally, a highlight for many of the chalutzim, was learning about wild vegetation and actually getting to snack on some wild raspberries, strawberries, and onions. 

Solelim (7th and 8th graders) had incredible masa experiences to share from all their masa’ot, including omanut (Art), tipus (climbing), and backpacking. All three of the Solelim masa’ot went significantly challenging hikes, but ever group said it was worth it in the end as every day included at least one beautiful vista. Our Bogrim (9th graders) chalutzim chose between kayaking and a dual tipus (climbing) and ofanayim (biking) masa. Many of the Bogrim chalutzim on kayaking masa had never been kayaking before, and despite being a little hesitant at first, everyone had an amazing time.       

As the second oldest edah, Sayarim (10th graders) got to choose from four different masa’ot chava (farming), tipus (climbing), ofanayim (biking), and a challenging backpacking masa. Some highlights from these masa’ot included chava masa’s new best friends – goats, a “bottomless” cooler of food and snacks in the back of ofanayim masa’s bike-truck, and the special guest who accompanied backpacking masa – Ash, one of our tzevet’s dogs.   

As we pack away our gear, shower, and put on our finest white outfits, everyone is excited about our final Shabbat together. As a result of the gathering clouds, we will be moving our tefillot to the Ohel Mo’ed, where the sound is incredible, and where we will be safe from rain. We have so many more peulot (activities), games, and conversations to be had before we say goodbye to our chalutzim, and we will be in full “camp mode” until Tuesday afternoon. Tonight, as we gather in our pre-Shabbat circle, I will address our community urging them to take the values that permeate our kehillah kedosha (holy community) home with them and integrate them into their own families and communities. In this week’s Torah portion, we read about Moses gathering the Israelites for a final retelling of our national narrative. Similarly, on our final Shabbat together this summer, we will all be crafting our own masa and camp stories, and weaving them into a narrative that can be shared with our friends and family for weeks, months, and years to come.

We look forward to seeing our chalutzim back on the chava again in the Kayitz of 2020!

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Eliav Bock

As we finish the second full week of Session 2, I have enjoyed watching the rhythm of camp life kick in as our chalutzim (campers/pioneers) have had days of exciting “regularly” scheduled activities. As they skip to chugim (activities), and enjoy a variety of tefillot (prayer) options each morning, I see them building kesharim (connections) jumping into new and challenging experiences. 

On Sunday, chalutzim chose from a variety of special sessions organized by our tzevet (staff). Choices included ofanayim (biking), mining for stones on Givat Ilanot, a hill overlooking camp, playing a camp-wide game of Embassy (ask your child about the complicated rules!), and a shechita (kosher preparation of meat) demonstration for our older chalutzim. JOLI (11th and 12th graders) spent the day in Wilderness First Aid (WFA) training with Cliff Stockton, who also trains our tzevet Wilderness First Responders (WFRs). Luckily, JOLI didn’t need to use their new medical training on their hike up the fourteener Mount Bierstadt! The group camped out the night before their ascent at the base of the mountain, and woke up at 5:30 AM to make it up and down the mountain before the afternoon rain swept through the mountainside. 

On Sunday evening JOLI and Sayarim (10th graders) participated in a “simulation of exile.” The peulah (activity) began when madrichim (counselors) escorted their chalutzim out from their ohelim (tents) and brought them to another area of camp. Once the chalutzim settled into the new space, the madrichim then changed chalutzim’s names to be “less Jewish,” put out the fire JOLI and Sayarim had built to cook on, and forced them to again move to another location. Throughout program they learned about different times in history when Jewish communities were forced to leave their homes.  In Ramah Valley, at the conclusion of the peulah, after some marshmallows, hugs, and a campfire, the group processed the experience, and both edot (age groups) then slept out under the stars.

Ilanot (3rd and 4th graders) and Metaylim (5th and 6th graders) had special programming to mark the end of Session 2A, as we said goodbye to some of our chalutzim. Ilanot held a bingo night in the Chadar Ochel (dining room). Everyone walked with “aching” backs dressed up like the elderly – complete with white unibrows, walking sticks, and clothing stuffed undershirts. Midway through the rousing rounds of bingo, a “special” snack of mushy food was even served. 

For peulat erev (evening activity) one night, Metaylim held a mock bar mitzvah party in Ohel Shachar for their madrich Jarred, complete with backstories for all costumed characters involved – “Jarred,” the bar mitzvah boy, “Rachele,” the mother, “Giardina,” the grandmother, and “Moishe,” the best friend. The group danced the hora and played games like Coke & Pepsi. And finally, as the sun faded behind the mountains, the group had a “candle lighting ceremony” with paper printouts of candles. 

On Wednesday, we said farewell to our two-week chalutzim and were equally excited to meet our new friends who arrived for Session 2B, who quickly unpacked their bags and jumped right into our special programming for Yom Yisrael (Israel Day). Our Chadar Ochel was decked out in Israel flags, and Israeli tunes blared over the speakers.  In a departure from our usual scheduled camp meals, our Israeli tzevet served falafel, hummus, Israeli salad, and pita. Individual edot led Israel-focused activities throughout the day. Bogrim (9th graders) analyzed bumper stickers in Israel as a way of exploring different aspects of Israeli identity. The camp-wide peulat erev was a tour of our “Israel Museum,” which included exhibits about Israeli arts, politics, and a special display of photos of our Israeli tzevet from when they served in the military.  

While our chalutzim have been filling up their days in their chugim including tipus (climbing), susim (horses), chetz v’keshet (archery), and omanut (arts), our peulot erev have been the highlight for many campers. Solelim (7th and 8th graders) had an “Iron Chef” cake-pop making competition in the mitbach (kitchen).  On Thursday, after aruchat erev (dinner), our chava (farm) team constructed a “Farmer’s Market” for Solelim, Bogrim, Sayarim, and JOLI.  Booths were set up with food grown at camp, including crackers and goat cheese made from milk from our goats, kombucha, pickles from the farm, and banana bread. Other highlights from the peulah include Rosh omanut’s (Head of the arts program, Hooper) booth of herbs and spices, and Summer Assistant Director, Achinoam Aldouby, dressing like a witch and giving out apples to chalutzim – all while speaking Hebrew of course! The “Farmer’s Market” was a ton of fun, and provided our whole kehilah (community) with a lot of laughs and memories. What a celebration to end the week and lead us into Shabbat!

As we head into our last two weeks of Kayitz (Summer) 2019, there are still so many more memories to be made! Ahead of us still lies, the arrival of our Ta’am Ramah (2nd to 4th graders) “taste of Ramah” program, the JOLI counselor-in-training (CIT) week, our final masa’ot (backcountry excursions), and everyone is eagerly anticipating Yom Sport coming up this Sunday. 

While our schedule is always packed with programming that is both fun and educational, it is still the unplanned moments of smicha (joy) and kesharim (connections) that make me smile most. It is seeing people walking into the Chadar Ochel and break out into song and dance as they set the tables. It is watching the chalutzim hanging out and playing games in Ohel Koby (our game tent), and it is seeing madrichim and chalutzim walking to-and-from chugim and meals engaged in conversation. These less-structured moments are often the most transformative at camp, and the ones that, coupled with our formal programming, come together to create the magic that is Ramah in the Rockies. 

As I conclude this email, we are wrapping up our formal peulot for Friday, and everyone is getting into their best white Shabbat attire. We hope to be davening in the Pardes Tefillah tonight, but based on our almost daily late afternoon showers, we will wait until the last minute to make that decision. Either way, along with our giant post of photos from today, we will post pictures Monday evening, which will include photos from both Shabbat and Yom Sport!

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Eliav Bock

As our session 2 kehillah (community) has settled into life on chava, it has been such a joy to get to know and learn from all of your children this past week. While it has been a quiet week at basecamp due to our masa’ot, today I was delighted to watch the stream of our white vans enter through the front gate, each filled with excited chalutzim returning to camp, eager to share their stories. 

But let me start at the beginning of the week. On Sunday, we took a break from our usual programming. While our chalutzim and tzevet (staff) that were participating in the Fast of Tammuz had limmudim (learning sessions) throughout the day, our other chalutzim had a choice of participating in a wide variety of activities, including fishing at nearby Cheesman Reservoir, learning about Israel from our Israeli tzevet (staff), making glass mosaics at Beit HaYitzeirah (the Art Pavilion), and playing capture the flag in Ramah Valley. 

Usually aruchat erev (dinner) lasts about an hour, but on Sunday camp experienced a major storm and as a safety precaution the whole camp stayed in the ohel ochel (dining room) for an extra two hours! Halfway through dinner, we felt a rumble through the canvas walls, and the sky opened up, demonstrating the truly spectacular power of nature and Hashem. Rain and hail fell like waterfalls, and white flashes of lightning filled the sky. I took this opportunity to lead our kehillah kedosha (holy community) in two brachot (blessings), as all of camp is rarely in the same location during a thunder and lightning. The first bracha on hearing thunder (a blessing that praises God’s power and might), and the second bracha on seeing lightning (a blessing that celebrates God as The creator).   

As we kept warm and dry inside the ohel (tent), we passed the time by cleaning up our plates and tables as usual, and then took part in an epic session of rikud (dancing). Then, with members of our kehillah linked arm in arm, Michael Harlow, our Racaz Shira (Camp Song Leader and Music Coordinator) brought out his guitar and led the camp in more shirim (songs). Our voices, contained only by the four walls of ohel, drowned out the thunder. The simcha (joy) I felt in that room was inspiring. I was impressed to see our chalutzim making the best of a less-than ideal situation. 

The next morning, camp was quiet as the older chalutzim left on their masa’ot, and all of our trails and streams became the domain of our youngest edot (age groups), Ilanot (3rd and 4th graders) and Metaylim (5th and 6th graders). Both edot went horseback riding with our susim (horse staff) tzevet, spent time on the archery range with our chetz v’keshet (archery) tzevet, and in the afternoon Ilanot went on a masa to the aquatics center while Metaylim went whitewater rafting. 

Solelim (7th and 8th graders) spent their week on a variety of masa’ot including omanut (art), chetz v’keshet (archery), rafting/ofanayim (biking), chava (farming), and backpacking. Some highlights from the masa’ot include playing with goats, making homemade pizza with fresh-picked herbs, gorgeous sunrise hikes, and intense (and in tents) card games during some lengthy storms.   

Bogrim (9th graders) set out on two different trips – a backpacking masa to Great Sand Dunes National Park and the other a kayaking masa. For Bogrim masa’ot, many chalutzim had opportunities to face their fears. Whether it was fear of heights or fear of flipping over in their kayak, everyone embraced the Ramah in the Rockies mantra of “Challenge by Choice,” and they all had an incredible time!

Not to be outdone by the adventures had by our younger edot, all of Sayarim (10th graders) went on challenging backpacking masa’ot. Some of these chalutzim not only had to deal with minor hailstorms, but also hat-stealing marmots (think large squirrel, but cuter). Unfortunately, the marmots bested our chalutzim, as some of them did have their hats taken for good.  

Finally, JOLI (11th and 12th graders), our oldest edah, split into two groups, both spending their week in Carson National Forest in New Mexico, marking only the second time that Ramah in the Rockies has had a masa cross state lines! The highlight of this masa was, without a doubt, the incredible 360-degree views encountered at the top of several peaks. 

Last Shabbat, Assistant Director Julia Chatinover gave a d’var torah on the power of kesharim (connections), and encouraged our chalutzim to go into their individual masa’ot with the active intention of creating kesharim. Our chalutzim did not disappoint! The kesharim that they formed between each other, nature, and within themselves flooded out (no pun intended) as they returned to the chava. It could be seen and heard through their smiles and laughter as they rejoined camp. They shed their mud-encrusted hiking boots, washed their sweat-soaked hair, and prepared their minds and bodies to join the rest of the kehilah kedosha in the Pardes Tefillah for the beginning of Shabbat. 

After a “stormy” start, our kehillah spent this week embarking on individual and group masa’ot to return home to a peaceful Shabbat where we can reflect and come together. I am continuously reminded of the power of nature, both at basecamp and bamidbar (in the wilderness), to make memories and friendships that last a lifetime. I am excited for the week to come at Machaneh Ramah as we continue to build our kehillah.

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Eliav Bock 

Session 2 of our 10th year at Ramah in the Rockies has officially arrived! The hot July day did not dampen the excitement felt by all as we welcomed our chalutzim (pioneers/campers) to the chava (ranch). Returning chalutzim happily reunited with friends and tzevet (staff) from past years, and new campers quickly experienced the warmth of camp’s kehillah (community) as they danced and sang with their madrichim (counselors).

At our welcome medurah (bonfire) Thursday night, Michael Harlow, our Racaz Shira (Camp Song Leader and Music Coordinator) taught our chalutzim some of this summer’s new camp songs, and he went over a few classics from past summers to make sure that everyone was on the same page. Before bed, each ohel (tent) spent time creating an ohel brit – a communal contract outlining expectations by which they should treat each other. By nightfall, chalutzim eagerly fell into their beds after a long day of travel and excitement, getting some much needed rest before we jumped right into regular base camp activities Friday morning. 

This session I can’t wait to see our four midot (values) continue to play a central role in the experience of camp and in the hearts of our chalutzim

Machaneh (camp) is a community, and the kesharim (connections) we make with each other have the potential to make a real impact on the lives of our chalutzim. I have full confidence that they will make many kesharim with each other, with tzevet, and with Judaism, both intellectually and spiritually. 

Tzmicha ishit (personal growth), is a goal that is realized every single day of camp. Chalutzim have the opportunity to challenge themselves in regular base camp activities, whether it be making it up a particularly grueling hill on a mountain bike, volunteering to lead tefillah (prayer), or learning to work as a team on the Migrash Cadorsol (basketball court). Masa (backcountry excursions) weeks provide even more of a chance to grow as the chalutzim tackle the unique experience of being in the backcountry. We want our chalutzim to stretch beyond the limits they have previously set for themselves, and take pride in their accomplishments. 

Simcha (joy), is so prevalent throughout camp. I have already seen chalutzim eagerly running to their chugim (electives), singing at the top of their lungs during musical tefillah , and jumping around during pre-dinner rikkud (dance). I know this joyous atmosphere will continue to permeate the chava over the next four weeks. 

Lastly, we hope to cultivate a culture of kavod (respect) at camp – for others, for ourselves, and for the environment. This midah plays out in so many ways here at camp, including mindfulness of what we put into our bodies, the words we use to speak to each other, and the way we take advantage of what the earth has to offer us. 

Right now, the normal hustle and bustle of camp is beginning to subside as everyone prepares for Shabbat. Our bathhouses are full and everyone is changing into their finest white clothing. Chalutzim and tzevet alike are eagerly anticipating dancing in our Pardes Tefillah, and welcoming in Shabbat with our ruach-filled (spirited) Ramah in the Rockies style Kabbalat Shabbat service.

I am so inspired by the kehillah kedoshah (holy community) that I experience at camp each summer, and this summer is no different. I cannot wait to gather with the entire machaneh, as we raise our voices to welcome the first of many wonderful Shabbatot here at camp this kayitz (summer). 

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Eliav Bock

We kicked off the final week of Session 1 2019 with Yom Sport. Everyone in camp was decked-out in kachol (blue), adom (red), or yarok (green), and the atmosphere on the chava (ranch) shifted to intense competition and fun which progressed throughout the day. The day was filled with a lot of sweat and a lot of smiles. Following a win by kevutzah (team) yarok, things at camp again shifted to anticipation as a majority of chalutzim (pioneers/campers) prepared for their masa’ot.

While masa weeks at basecamp are relatively quiet, this masa week we welcomed our Ta’am Ramah (2nd to 4th graders) “taste of Ramah” program to the chava for four days, where they briefly experienced what being chalutzim at Ramah in the Rockies is like. They all had a wonderful time and we are looking forward to welcoming them back here at camp next summer for a full two or four weeks.   

Personally, my favorite part of masa week is Friday mornings. The excitement for this morning is more and more palpable as the week progresses, reaching its peak as the stream of white 12-passenger vans return to the chava. As each masa unloads their van, I have a first-row seat to one of the greatest spectacles Ramah in the Rockies has to offer – huge smiles, loud laughter, joyful reunions, and, of course, epic masa stories. This morning was no different, and this round of masa’ot featured some awesome experiences that I would like to share. 

In particular, what makes our second round of masa’ot so special is that our JOLI (11th and 12th graders) chalutzim begin their final transition from campers to CIT (Counselor In Training). After JOLIchalutzim had a chance to learn with current tzevet (staff) in the Moadon Tzevet (Staff Lounge), they were split up amongst the edot(age groups), and put everything they have worked on throughout this kayitz (summer) to the test with actual hands-on experience.

The JOLI chalutzim who worked with Ilanot (3rd and 4th graders) were treated to one of Ramah in the Rockies best (and most awesome) kept secrets – the twice-a-kayitz “Rocktion” (rock auction). JOLI, tzevet members, and Ta’am Ramah all dressed up in their finest attire and purused their options before the bidding began. Once rocks were purchased, Ilanot chalutzim had the opportunity to trade in their profits for prizes like an ice cream party with Rabbi Eliav or being Rosh Edah (age group Unit Head) for a day.

On masa, Metaylim (5th and 6th graders) left our ranch for three days, with gear on their backs. For many, this was the first time that they had experienced a multi-day hike. While all of our masa’ot were within 15 miles of our camp, most reached the peaks of local mountains which provided unforgettable vistas of Pike National Forest.

Solelim (7th and 8th graders) had incredible masa experiences to share from all their masa’ot, including: omanut (Art), ofanayim (biking), tipus (climbing), and backpacking. The Solelim omanut masa ate s’mores at the American Continental Divide, saw a double rainbow, and the cherry on top of it all – saw a moose taking an early morning dip in a lake. One masa also went on Ramah in the Rockies’ first ever fly fishing masa. While the group caught several fish, unfortunately, no one caught fish large enough to cook in the evening, which was going to be an option for dinner for those who wanted. Our Bogrim (9th graders) chalutzim chose from an array of masa’ot as well, including: farm masa, backpacking masa, kayaking masa, and the first ever tipus (climbing) and ofanayim (biking) masa. The group that went on this masa had an amazing time that included a tough multi-pitch climb and a cheese fondue birthday celebration for one of their chalutzim.        

In preparation for their JOLI summer, when they will return as CITs and help to lead their first masa’ot, our Sayarim (10th graders) went on challenging backpacking masa’ot. These masa’ot are the best way to hone backcountry wilderness skills. Besides running into some moose and elk, Sayarim chose to challenge themselves on masa while partaking in individual, six-hour, solo wilderness experiences. These solo exercises serve as the culmination of the Camp Ramah in the Rockies experience for our oldest chalutzim before they return as CITs the following summer.  

As we pack away our gear, shower, and put on our finest white outfits, everyone is excited about our final Shabbat together. We have so many more peulot (activities), games, and conversations to be had before we say goodbye to our chalutzim, and we will be in full “camp mode” until Monday afternoon. Tonight, as we gather in our pre-Shabbat circle, I will address our community urging them to take the values that permeate our kehillah kedosha (holy community) home with them, and integrate them into their own families and communities.  

We look forward to seeing our chalutzim back on the chavain the Kayitz of 2020!

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Eliav Bock

As we wrap up the third week of Session 1, I sense that the simcha (joy) of our chalutzim (pioneers/campers) is as strong as ever! I can’t help but smile when I see them eagerly running to their chugim (activities), singing at the top of their lungs during musical tefillah (prayer), and jumping around during pre-dinner rikkud (dance).

This week we said, “le’hitraot!” (“see you later!”) to our Session 1A chalutzim as they returned home following an action-packed, growth-oriented two weeks. While we will miss their contribution to our kehillah (community), we also gave a warm welcome to our Session 1B chalutzim as they arrived to camp. Arriving on Tuesday, they jumped right into basecamp activities and preparing for the upcoming masa’ot (backcountry excursions).

This week was full of exciting and memorable peulot erev (evening activities). Ilanot (3rd and 4th graders) prepped for their upcoming Harry Potter Day with a relaxed movie night. Metaylim (5th and 6th graders) competed between ohelim (tents) in minute-to-win-it activities and excitedly made welcome signs for arriving new campers. Solelim (7th and 8th graders) had a tie-dye night and learned the 1978 Israeli Eurovision song, “A-Ba-Ni-Bi” in preparation for camp’s edah (age group) against edah sing-off, Kol Edah. Bogrim (9th graders) spent a peulat erev around the medurah (campfire) playing guitar, singing, and eating s’mores. Sayarim (10th graders) played bar and bat mitzvah games with Bogrim, which evolved into their own “Saya-rave.” They also did a community mapping activity in which they used natural resources to construct a physical map of camp.

This week JOLI (11th and 12th graders) had a chance to intimately experience one of Ramah in the Rockies’ core values, tzmicha ishit (personal growth), or as we like to say at camp, “challenge by choice.” JOLI chalutzim laced up their hiking boots and tackled Mount Bierstadt, a peak of over 14,000 feet! They also began CIT training, preparing to work with tzevet (staff) to run omanut (art), lead ofanayim (biking), attend activities with the younger edot (age groups), and more!

As we do each week, we had Israeli-themed activities throughout camp, including a blue and white contest at dinner, a Shulchan Ivrit (Hebrew only table) at lunch, and some Israeli tunes added to our always-growing song repertoire. We also had a terrific 4th of July celebration here at camp yesterday. Throughout the day, we danced and sang American folk songs. We said the prayer for our country, recited blessings in Hebrew, English, and Spanish, and also spoke about the values that make America the country it is. We ended the day with a 4th of July bar-b-que.

In true Ramah in the Rockies style, the weather has been keeping us on our toes! This week the chalutzim have been donning hats, slathering on sunscreen, and refilling water bottles as the sun shines strong in the mornings. By late afternoon, the sky sometimes darkens as the chava (ranch) has often been washed with much-welcomed rain, cooling off camp in time for a good night’s sleep. An added benefit of the weather patterns has been that the flowers this year are more vibrant than ever. Many chalutzim have noticed the bluish purple columbine flowers that have bloomed for the first time in recent memory. Our Ramah Valley is awash with hues of purple and orange mixed with the vibrant green of the grass.

There is something about the hours leading up to Shabbat that brings a palpable energy to the chava. I feel the buzz and excitement of chalutzim as they wash off the sweat and dirt that marks a successful day here at camp, and prepare to refocus their minds and hearts to the change of pace that Shabbat brings. 

Next week the chalutzim will go off on various masa’ot and take on the outdoor adventures that makes Ramah in the Rockies so special. For now, the approaching calm of Shabbat awaits us. 

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Eliav Bock

As I write this, our chalutzim (campers/ pioneers) are returning from their masa’ot. There is a shrill of excited gabbing and laughter emanating from our packout area as vans unload and chalutzim arrive back into camp. The weather here at the chava(ranch) is finally beginning to resemble summer, and our chalutzim are shedding their jackets and knit hats for t-shirts and bucket hats.

Our youngest edah, Ilanot (3rd and 4th graders), spent their masa week visiting the local aquatic center, camping under the stars in Ramah Valley, and hiking Prospector, a local peak. Metaylim campers (5th and 6th graders) enjoyed their own campout in Ramah Valley after an exciting whitewater rafting trip on the Arkansas River. They returned from their rafting trip raving about the incredible white water, undeterred by the mountain runoff that kept river temperatures in the 40s and rapids at the maximum intensity permitted for their age group. During tefillot (prayers) throughout the week, they also worked on personalizing their siddurim (prayer books).

Solelim (7th and 8th graders) spent their week on a variety of masa’ot including omanut (art), chetz v’keshet (archery), rafting/ofanayim (biking), and backpacking. I heard from the omanut masaa bout their tasty food, and the archery masa about using compound bows at the nearby Scouts BSA camp plus the miles of epic uphill and downhill runs on their two-day journey back to camp. Bogrim (9th graders) had two different backpacking trips – Great Sand Dunes National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, and kayaking and tipus (climbing) for their masa’ot options. Although we changed the routes of both hiking trips late last week because of snow, both groups still got to hike through the white stuff and had to adjust their route during the week because of the poor (summer) trail conditions.

Not to be outdone by the adventures had by our younger edot, Sayarim (10th graders) went on their masa’ot according to their megamot (majors).They continued to develop their basecamp skills on masa for backpacking, tipus, and ofanayim. Earlier this afternoon, I spoke to some Sayarim chalutzim in the chadar ochel (dining tent) as they were discussing how their masa group could have made an aruchat tzohorayim (lunch) that was far superior to our “normal” camp lunch. They explained to me that one of their masa tzevet was a master at cooking in the backcountry and taught the group all kinds of tips and tricks they could use to make some seriously elegant outdoor meals.

JOLI (11th and 12th graders), our oldest edah, split into two groups, both spending their week in Carson National Forest in New Mexico, marking the first time that Ramah in the Rockies has had a masa cross state lines! Unique to this masa was the variety of terrain encountered – from desert to dense forest to wide open meadows. And, yes, there was still lots of snow, even in June!

With most of camp relatively quiet, our remaining tzevet (staff) had several opportunities to partake in their own programming, including, new for this kayitz – Spanish 101, led by our Mexicantzevet who are part of the national Camp Leaders program.

As we enter our second Shabbat with chalutzim, I am so excited to finally return to rikkud (dancing) and Kabbalat Shabbat in our Pardes Tefillah after an almost two-year break. Last week, we were hunkered down and bundled in jackets and hats in our Ohel Moed where the energy was palpable and the rain coming down. Last year we experimented with moving Friday night services to Ramah Valley, one of the most beautiful places in camp, but the logistics of moving everyone out there and the lack of shade made it challenging most weeks. Tonight we return to our original Friday night location, which many consider to be their inspirational place of prayer at Ramah.

Finally, an anecdote. Just yesterday, during lunch with one of our new nurses, she mentioned how much and how quickly she felt herself a part of our community compared to her previous sleepaway camp experiences. Every kayitz sees new faces join returning ones, and every summer they are welcomed with open arms. The comment by our nurse speaks to one of the things that makes me proud to be director of Ramah in the Rockies – welcoming new faces not just into our community, but embracing them as part of our kehillah kedoshah (holy community) so that they call our chava home. We are so lucky to have over 300 people calling our chava home this Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom, 

Rabbi Eliav Bock

Our 10th year at Ramah in the Rockies is officially a-go! The rain that greeted our chalutzim (pioneers/campers) as they arrived at the ranch on Tuesday had little effect on the joy of opening day. Returning chalutzim happily reunited with friends and tzevet (staff) from past years, and new campers quickly experienced the warmth of camp’s kehillah(community).

Getting off the van's on the first day!

While the rain made it impossible to have a welcome medurah (bonfire), it gave the chalutzim an opportunity to bond with everyone in their ohelim (tents). Each ohel spent time before bed creating an ohel brit – a communal contract outlining expectations by which they should treat each other. By nightfall, chalutzim eagerly fell into their beds after a long day of travel and excitement.

Wednesday morning, camp was in full swing! Ilanot (rising 3rd and 4th graders) went biking and climbing, and were assigned a Bogrim (rising 9th graders) buddy who they will get to know through shared Shabbat meals and other activities. Metayalim (rising 5th and 6th graders) created their own tefillah (prayer) journals in which they can reflect on the Shacharit (morning) prayers. Solelim (rising 7th and 8th graders) jumped right into picking their masa’ot (backcountry excursions) as well as their chugim(electives) which include: chavah (farm), ofanayim (biking), susim (horseback riding), and more! Bogrim took in the picturesque landscape of Ramah Valley as they created an edah (age group) banner with paint balloons. Lastly, Sayarim (rising 10th graders) hiked up Givat Ilanot (Ilanot Hill), while JOLI (rising 11th and 12th graders) spent the day in a wilderness first aid training course to prepare them for medical situations in the backcountry.

New and old camp friends

If there is one word to describe the atmosphere at camp, it would be “simcha” (joy). Since the first night, we have been dancing in the chadar ochel (dining room) before every meal, having incredible shira (singing) sessions, and enjoying the spirit felt throughout camp. I have loved walking through the ohalim areas listening to the chatter of the chalutzim and watching the constant games of ping-pong, foosball, and spike ball.

Shira in the ohel ochel

Right now the normal hustle and bustle of camp is beginning to subside as everyone prepares for Shabbat. Our bathhouses are full and everyone is changing into their best white outfits. Chalutzim and tzevet alike are eagerly anticipating dancing in our Pardes Tefillah and welcoming in Shabbat with our ruach-filled, Ramah in the Rockies style Kaballat Shabbat service (although the weather might make us move our services undercover into the Ohel Moed).  

I am so inspired by our kehillah kedoshah (holy community) that I experience at camp each summer, and this summer is no different. I cannot wait to gather with all of our machaneh (camp), as we raise our voices to welcome the first of many wonderful Shabbatot here on the ranch.

Shabbat shalom

Rabbi Eliav Bock

Shavua tov! Our staff Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course feels as if it happened months ago, Shavuot has come and gone, our Shavuah Hachanah (Week of Preparation) is ending, and all of our staff are eagerly awaiting their chalutzim (pioneers/campers). Our tzevet (staff) have just celebrated their second Shabbat at camp, and while things have been incredibly enjoyable, we are missing the most important people – our chalutzim.

Thankfully, within about 24 hours, our first chalutzim arrive! After months of planning, our 10th kayitz at Ramah in the Rockies will officially begin. We are looking forward to a summer filled with adventure, personal growth, and loads of fun. New for this summer are some updates to our property including adding campsites for ohel (tent) overnights, adjusting our daily schedule, and bringing the biking and masa (excursion) programs into the center of camp. The tzevet we have assembled this summer is our best yet, and I am thrilled for them to become teachers and role models for your children.

Things at Ramah in the Rockies have changed quite a bit since our inaugural summer when we had nine tents, eight showers, and a toilet trailer. Every year since has brought new challenges and opportunities, and this summer is no different. As we put the final touches on our preparations for this season, I would like to share how grateful I am for the opportunity to guide and support this amazing kehillah kedoshah (holy community) that we have nurtured over the last ten years. Thank you for choosing to send your children to Ramah in the Rockies.

As our chalutzim arrive, our focus turns to providing an incredible, fun, and safe experience for all of them. Please feel free to email or call with any questions, and know that we will continue to communicate via email, social media, and phone as needed.

I look forward to greeting your children on the chavah (ranch) this summer.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Eliav Bock
Camp Director

Dani Wallace, 2019 Director of Camper Care, with her Ilanot chalutzim in 2016
Dani Wallace, 2019 Director of Camper Care,
with her Ilanot chalutzim in 2016

Kayitz 2019 is a few short weeks away, and I could not be more excited to welcome your children to the Ramah in the Rockies ranch! My name is Dani Wallace and I am so pleased to introduce myself as the Director of Camper Care. After beginning my journey at camp in 2016 as the Rosh Edah (Unit Head) for Ilanot (rising 3rd & 4th graders), I returned to work for Ramah year-round as the Communications Coordinator – better known as the person who posted those much-anticipated photo updates! As a Jewish summer camp veteran of more than a decade, I am a firm believer in the unique magic of overnight camp.

That being said, camp can also be challenging! While some of these challenges may be physical, like summiting one of Colorado’s famous 14,000 ft. peaks, others are emotional. Learning how to share a living space, cope with homesickness, and adjust to a new environment can be stressful. To help you help your camper,  here are my Top 5 Tips & Tricks to ensure successful summer experiences for our chalutzim:

1 – Talk About Camp Early & Often

Start talking about camp now, if you haven’t already begun! These conversations can be a chance to unpack anxieties, foster excitement, and prepare your child for a meaningful summer experience. While reassuring your child that they will have a great time is important, don’t be afraid to acknowledge that the first few days might be a little tough until they get used to the rhythms of camp. Be sure to let them know that these emotions are normal, and you are sure they can handle it. Remind them also that their counselors are there to help and support them! Acknowledging fears and concerns ahead of time affords you and your child the opportunity to brainstorm coping strategies before camp even begins. First time campers might find that practicing sleeping away from home with a sleepover or two is helpful.

2 – Include Campers in the Preparation Process

Ensuring that your camper feels prepared is a great way to ease the pre-summer jitters! Utilize our online packing list to make sure your camper has everything they need to succeed. For some campers, being involved in the shopping and/or packing process can help calm nerves, so hand over that sharpie and let them help label their belongings, or go for walks together to make sure their hiking boots are fully broken in!

3 – Nip Homesickness in the Bud

The transition from home to camp can be a big adjustment, and many campers experience homesickness as they settle in. Printing out a few photographs of family and friends, packing a special stuffed animal to squeeze when they miss home, or including a prewritten “for when you feel homesick” letter are all useful strategies that can ease your child’s mind. If your child is particularly nervous, send a letter or one-way email that is awaiting their arrival to be read, or include a note in luggage for them to discover when unpacking! Additionally, including some pre-addressed and stamped envelopes in their suitcase makes writing home quick and easy.

4- Help Us Help Your Camper!

Myself, along with the rest of the camper care, and our leadership team here at Ramah in the Rockies are your partners in the success of your child’s summer! If your camper has a particular challenge that might impact their experience, it is best addressed before camp starts. If we know about potential problems in advance, we are able to strategize together and set your child up for success. If there is any information that was not included on your initial application that might help us facilitate the best summer possible for your camper, please contact Julia Chatinover, juliac@ramahoutdoors.org.

5 – Research Reassures

The unknown can be daunting, but familiarizing your child with Ramah in the Rockies before they pack their bags can make the transition to camp less intimidating! On our website you and your camper can watch videos, click through photos, learn about the daily schedule, and get an idea of what to expect upon their arrival to our beautiful chava (ranch). If you have any questions or concerns feel free to reach out to Rabbi Eliav, eliavb@ramahoutdoors.org or Julia Chatinover, juliac@ramahoutdoors.org.

I am looking forward to sharing a summer of fun, friendship, and adventure with all of our amazing chalutzim (campers)!

B’simcha,

Dani Wallace

Director of Camper Care


Though Ramah in the Rockies is still young, it has already played cupid on a number of occasions! This Valentine’s day, we’re taking a look at three amazing Ramah in the Rockies couples, and the unique role that camp has played in their love stories. We wish everyone a day surrounded by love in all of its many forms! 

Sarah and Daniel “JuiceBoxx” Gavens

What role has Ramah in the Rockies played in your relationship?
We have always been passionate about Ramah. We each grew up going to Ramah camps on separate coasts: Sarah at Ramah Darom and Dan at Ramah Ojai. Being able to share our passion for Ramah in the Rockies together is such a special part of our relationship. We love the energy at camp, coming up to visit, and watching our campers grow every year.

What is your favorite camp memory as a couple?
We said “I love you” to each other for the first time at camp! Also, before camp we made our first big purchase together! We found a website that sold bulk sunglasses for cheap. We got a little carried away and bought 54 pairs that we split. For those keeping track at home, that’s 1 new pair of sunglasses every 1-2 days…

Why is camp such a special place to fall in love?
We both agreed that if we could make it through a summer at camp, we could make it through anything. When we worked at camp together, we had only been dating for a couple of months, and there were some lows, but more importantly incredible highs. We got to know each other through a range of situations, all with a Jewish background.

Rabbi Lauren Henderson and Joel Dworkin

Rabbi Lauren and Joel posing before ShabbatWhat role has Ramah in the Rockies played in your relationship?
Lauren: We met at Rockies! I was in my final summer of rabbinical school, and I hadn’t yet “done my time” working at a Ramah camp as is required of JTS rabbinical students. I showed up on the first day of senior staff weekend as a total newbie, and I remember sitting in the Chadar Ochel (Dining Tent) in a circle, watching this curly-haired guy – Joel Dworkin – who had everyone in rapt attention and laughter.

Joel: It was entirely by chance that I returned to work at Ramah in the Rockies in 2015. I had quit the previous summer after four years of building the masa (backcountry excursion) program and training the new Rosh Masa. In April, Eliav informed me that the new trips coordinator had gone AWOL. They asked if I would take my job back for a few more months… I agreed and when staff training began I was asked to help get a few people acquainted and moved into their tents for the summer. One of them was a young woman entering her last year of rabbinical school named Lauren Henderson.

Lauren: Our first “date” – if you can call it that – was a week later, during the staff outing to Woodland Park and the local Walmart. Joel drove me and a few other staff there in his Subaru (hot date), and we bonded over picking out the perfect coffee mugs. A few nights later, the night before the campers arrived, Joel and I were hanging out in the Chadar Ochel as we helped set up all the tables while listening to Indigo Girls, and I thought to myself, “Hmmm… maybe there’s something going on here…”

Our relationship was pretty secret from most people in camp for the first half of the summer, which we loved, and by mid-July, we started to talk about what would happen post-camp. I went back to finish rabbinical school, Joel went back to Denver, and a year later, we both moved to Chicago where I started my job working at Mishkan Chicago and Joel went back to school. We got engaged in April 2017, and we’ll be getting married this June right after Joel graduates! Ramah in the Rockies is the place we’ve kept coming back to, where we’re excited to celebrate this summer right after we get married, and where we hope to eventually send our future kids.

What is your favorite camp memory as a couple?
Lauren: Early in the mornings before masa’ot (backcountry excursions) would go out, we would meet at the lodge. Joel would bring me an espresso that he’d made with his fancy espresso machine, and we’d sit together on the porch and watch the rest of the camp wake up. I loved those early, quiet mornings together, and I was so devastated when the building burned down – this was the memory from that building that I held onto the most.

Why is camp such a special place to fall in love?
Lauren: I honestly believe that camp is the reason why we fell in love – it was the container that made the foundation of our relationship possible. Joel and I were the best versions of ourselves at camp, personally and professionally, and we got to watch each other thrive in doing the kind of work we most enjoyed, me as a rabbi and him as a wilderness professional. I was the goofiest, silliest, no-makeup version of my rabbinic self, not having to put on a show for anyone. And Joel was the calm in the eye of the storm.

Joel: Everything in camp happens in a bubble.  Eliav often refers to shabbat as an island in time, referencing Abraham Joshua Heschel’s “palace in time.” I think of the entire summer as an island in time; the world shrinks to a few hundred people, every single day has enough going on to fill a week, and every week goes by so fast it seems like a day. There is no time to try to be who you think people want you to be at camp which makes it the norm to be genuine. I learned how empathic Lauren was when working with a homesick child and how she responded to stress before I ever knew her favorite color. I fell in love with who she was, and is, before I had a chance to deal with anything trivial.

Melannie Levine and Jeffrey Harris

What role has Ramah in the Rockies played in your relationship?
We met at camp, and our friendship really started to develop when Melannie came into the kitchen, where Jeffrey was the Head Chef, to help make malawach (a bread kneaded thoroughly with butter). Since then, camp has become an intentional community that we have chosen to return to year after year. It is a place where we know our thoughts and ideals meld with those around us. At Ramah in the Rockies, we have had the opportunity to develop relationships as a couple and to watch each other grow in an encouraging and amazing culture.

What is your favorite camp memory as a couple?
A few weeks in to the summer, Jeffrey had decided he was going to propose to Melannie, and called Melannie’s parents to invite them to be there for the proposal. He spent the next month and a half planning out how he wanted to to it. Jeffrey decided that on August 12th, he would take Melannie on a walk and present a book with a momento from every date or outing we had ever been on. Rosh Susim, Chelsea Schwab, had signed on as Jeffrey’s secret agent with the mission of finding out Melannie’s ring size – a goal she pulled of with ninja-like smoothness. Office Manager Lisa Holstein hid the engagement ring in the safe and Jeffrey stored the handmade book in his office. But on August 7th, when the fire destroyed the Lodge building, the book and the ring were gone –  just days before the proposal.

While Jeffrey scrambled to order a new ring, Ranch Manager Jake Schwab and Ben Hall spent hours searching through the rubble. Miraculously, they managed to find the ring – blackened by the smoke but still as beautiful as ever! While the proposal was pretty much nothing like Jeffrey had planned, it was still incredible. We are so happy that it happened while we were surrounded by the community that brought us together!

Why is camp such a special place to fall in love?
Because it is an intentional community where you live and work alongside each other – an experience that can be very intense.  At camp, you often get to see the best and worst of people, creating bonds and a sense of understanding that would usually take much longer to develop.