We just concluded our Friday lunch of tofu stir fry. It was the third meal this summer that we all ate together in one chadar ochel (dining hall) as we said goodbye to our IA campers on Thursday. The sun is shining after a very wet and cold week, and we are all looking forward to welcoming Shabbat together in a few hours. Last Friday afternoon, we started our communal teffilot (prayers) in the Pardes Teffilah. The energy was electric, as it was clear that we had only minutes before the heavens would open up. We put on our rain jackets, put our siddurim away, and continued signing. The drizzle began during lecha-dodi, and by the end, when we turned around to welcome the Shabbat queen with bo-ee ve-shalom, the rain was coming down at a steady clip. We finished singing together and then went to four different spaces to complete the ma’ariv service. It was an awesome experience.

Despite the unseasonably cold and wet week (temps dropped to 39 degrees one night), we were able to run almost all of our activities. Campers rode horses, biked our single track, and milked goats. Campers spent time learning masa (excursion) skills, sewed stuffed animals in omanut (arts and crafts), and searched for rocks in Crystal Crack. After another round of negative COVID tests, we were able to hold numerous camp-wide activities, such as shira (singing), rikkud (dancing), and our first Yom Yisrael (Israel Day). Some chalutzim dipped in our river, others explored our wastewater treatment plant, as part of our tour of camp secrets, while others had a late-night baking party in the kitchen. Overall, the joy around camp is palpable.

For Ilanot and Metaylim, this week was bittersweet when a number of chalutzim left, as scheduled, after two weeks. These edot had a chance to reflect on their first two weeks together with a slide show and dance performances. Metaylim also had a chance to work on their badge program, a new curricular element we added to this year’s program. Sollelim spent a morning hiking at Cheesman Reservoir experiencing Abraham Joshua Heschel’s idea of radical amazement and Martin Buber’s concept of I-Thou relationship. They also had a teffilin workshop where all children had a chance to learn about and try on teffilin. Bogrim and Sayarim spent this week in various chugim (activities) and began pack out for their masa’ot (excursions) today. Our oldest chalutzim, JOLI, spent a few hours each day as CITs with a younger edah and had a number of late-night activities including a sushi night and a rockin’ dance party.

As we continue to test all campers for COVID on a regular schedule, the ability for us to do more “normal” camp activities continues to expand. We have adjusted our schedule to allow for more free time, and can have more campwide programs outdoors. Vaccinated campers have also started to help with serving meals in the chadar ochel. While we still maintain many of our restrictions, these changes have made for a more relaxed feel. As we get ready to welcome our third Shabbat on the ranch, we look forward to having more activities for campers tomorrow afternoon, and are planning a lengthened havdalah service and dance party for tomorrow night. 

Sunday is both July 4th and our Yom Democracy. We will be celebrating America’s birthday and having programs throughout the day that encourage our campers to appreciate and consider what it means to live in a democracy. Campers will vote on many issues both about camp as well as issues facing us in America and Israel.

As I finish writing this email, the pace of camp is shifting as campers shower, change into white and have a few hours of free time before Shabbat services. The chatter of young campers walking to and from the chadar ochel to enjoy snacks never grows old. We are hoping that the rain will hold off for this afternoon, but as we have come to accept in the Rocky Mountains, the weather can change on a dime. Fortunately, this week we have erected our ohel shachar (a large tent which served as our former dining hall), which can accommodate our whole camp in case of rain.

Finally, I want to acknowledge that we are having significant internet issues. Our T1 (3mb up/down) lines are down, and we are uploading this email via a backup satellite. Last night, none of our scheduled pictures uploaded; we are in touch with Centurylink about fixing our T1 lines, but until they do so, our communications will be limited to text emails and phone calls. In honor of Yom Democracy, PLEASE vote at the ballot box and contact your elected representatives to ensure that all Ameicans have access to reliable and affordable high-speed internet! Ramah in the Rockies spends over $700/month on our internet and still have slow and highly unreliable access. Let’s hope that by next summer, this can change

Shabbat Shalom

June 18, 2021

It happened! Yesterday morning, under a blazing hot sun, we swung open our gates to welcome the first of 425+ chalutzim who will be coming through our camp this summer. Tzevet (staff) lined up on the migrash (field), some in costume, to unload bags and welcome chalutzim back to our transformed ranch. They checked in at our new mirpa’ah (wellness center), met their new ohel (tent) mates, and had a delicious pizza dinner in our new chadarie ochel (dining halls).   Due to our Covid protocols, we did not have our traditional opening campfire, and instead opted for ohel bonding which allowed everyone to go to sleep having had at least a few conversations with their ohel-mates.

This morning, I was awoken by the sound of younger campers chatting with each other at 6:00 am.  While the tzevet (staff) and I would have prefered for everyone to have slept in later, their voices signaled the excitement felt by so many to be (back) at camp (as well as their apparent jet lag). This morning we started our regular programming with chalutzim riding bikes, climbing on the bouldering wall, learning outdoor skills, and caring for our farm animals. As planned, each ohel is rotating through activities with their ohel-mates and madrichim (counselors). Overall, chalutzim and tzevet are in incredible spirits; they are excited to be back in community and hanging out with friends old and new. Before sitting down to write this, I walked through our lower tent circle where I saw one bunk of boys playing in our Ohel Koby game tent and another playing in the gaga pit. On Sunday and Monday, we will be retesting all chalutzim for Covid. If we have no cases, we hope to expand our cohorts to include an entire edah (age group). In the meantime, it is nice to see everyone’s smiling faces outside, something that many of us have not seen in over a year.

As I sit here on my front porch, I can hear the sounds of happy children playing on the migrash (field) and watching our operations crew setting up for Kabbalat Shabbat in the Pardes Tefillah. Chalutzim are beginning to shower by ohel, changing into white shirts, and preparing to spend our first Shabbat together. Tonight we will have a more subdued Shabbat dinner, with singing, birchat hamazon and dessert happening by edah in a more socially distanced fashion. Tomorrow we hope to have a relaxing Shabbat with a late wakeup, teffilot by edah and organized freetime. The heat wave that we have been experiencing over the past ten days has finally broken with more seasonal temperatures expected in the coming days. Sunday brings a full day of programming in both our regular program areas, and some special activities such as cardboard fort building, bug-catching and spike ball. 

Since last August we have been preparing to reopen camp amidst this ongoing pandemic, and our planning has paid off. Our program is taking into account local health regulations, new scientific understandings about COVID, and most importantly, creating a warm and fun environment in which our campers and staff can flourish. Just over 24 hours into this unprecedented summer, I can say that we are on our way to having an amazing season where chalutzim and tzevet will grow spiritually, intellectually, and physically, all while being part of a joyous Jewish community.

Shabbat Shalom


We received this letter a few weeks ago from one of our amazing chalutzim, Ellery.  We are extremely grateful for this kind gesture, and amazed at the beautiful way she writes about the place we all call home. 

Ellery (third from right) with friends before Shabbat.

Ellery (third from right) with friends before Shabbat.

Dear Rabbi Eliav,

As you may recall, my bat mitzvah passed a couple months ago. For my bat mitzvah project, I had a really hard time choosing which community I wanted to help most; Ramah, of course, was included in the list of organizations. I ended up deciding to volunteer at a nursing home called Shalom Park that my zayda had lived at, but I still wanted to be able to give back to the place I call home for several weeks each summer. I had received quite a bit of money from my bat mitzvah and it only made sense to donate to Ramah. Ramah is such an important part of my life and Jewish identity, in many ways it had helped me reach my bat mitzvah as much, if not more, than weekly hebrew school.

To be completely honest, Ramah is not picture-perfect. Fallen trees lay like collapsed soldiers, with their charred cores that had been defeated by the Hayman fire. A rare treasure are the colorful wildflowers that, like much of the plant life, are recovering from the threat of their home. The buildings are far from glamorous with chipping paint and rotting wood. And yet, despite all of the imperfections, I, and many others, will forever call Ramah beautiful. But Ramah is not beautiful because of its watercolor sunsets, or the way the white tents lay against the regrowing forest, or even the way the paths are lit in the dead of night by the starlight that can only be seen at 8,000 feet high and its guiding lights. No, Ramah is beautiful because of what happens there. At ROA smiles are contagious, connecting to nature is inevitable, and many recognize God in the world in ways they never had. At Ramah in the Rockies afternoon rainstorms can’t stop us from dancing, a bruise or scrape has never stopped one of Ramah’s campers to take on a new challenge, the line for the showers before Shabbat is worth the wait because the dirt has collected on skin and underneath fingernails from various adventures. Chilly mornings will never be a roadblock for the community of 8,000 feet to wake up with the sun, a group-hug can’t be stopped by the amount of mud on our clothing. Ramah changes people.

When I step off the bus each summer on the first day of camp, I come alive just as hundreds of others do the same. My heart is beating with the anticipation of spending my next weeks in nature and with friends that come from every corner of the world, my cheeks ache from the uncontrollable need to smile, and my world shifts back into place. I know that every year I return to my home-away-from-home where I can meet old friends and new-comers, I can greet the forest, and see the world in its best light. I know that every year I return to my home that a day won’t go by that cheering from the Ohel Ochel [dining tent] that can be heard on the basketball court, that a Shabbos will not pass without dancing, I know a day can’t pass that I won’t experience something new, or that the summer won’t go by without a competitive game of capture the flag. Because that moment when I step off the bus to join my friends I know the 11 months I was anxious to return to my family of friends were well spent because I am now where I belong. And every summer, after all hiking, rafting, climbing, painting, biking, hugging, singing, smiling, I return to my other family with tears in my eyes, marked up legs, and stories to share.

I chose to donate 10% of the money I had received for my bat mitzvah to Ramah because I know that it will go to many more summers of camp that many more campers can experience and know ROA the way I have. I chose to donate to Ramah because it has made me the person I am today. I chose to donate to Ramah because it is my family and my unofficial home.

I appreciate what you and the staff do at ROA more than I am able to put in to words.


Ellery Andersen

Rafi, our Director of Camper Care, has prepared this great list to help gear up for camp!

  • Rafi at Boulder Pride 2013If you think your kiddo might experience sadness or homesickness at camp, practice having more sleepovers at friends’ and family’s homes. Prepare your kid with ideas for self-soothing, bedtime routines that don’t include you, and how to get help at camp if they need it. Perhaps allow your child to pick out one comfort item to bring with them (eg. a stuffed animal, a special pillowcase, one of your shirts…)

  • Tell your kid/s about your fun camp memories, why you loved camp or wish you could’ve gone, and why you value it for them. (It Family photoshould go without saying do *not* tell them scary camp stories!!)

  • Read the Camp Handbook and go over the camp schedule and routine with your kids. Talk about the expectations that camp has of them and what expectations they can have of camp. For example, let them know about our food, trips, and electronics policy.

  • IMG_9091Make sure your kids know how to take care of their personal hygiene needs (ie. Showering, brushing teeth, changing their underpants daily) without you. Their counselors will help but the kids will need to self-direct to a certain extent.

  • Follow the packing guidelines listed in the Handbook, label all of your kid’s stuff, and let them help you pack or have them pack themselves so that they know what they are bringing and are less likely to lose belongings without realizing it.

  • Shabbat BoysMake sure that we at camp know everything we need to know to help your child have a successful summer. We will keep personal information confidential but knowing what’s going on in your child’s life can help us do our best job for them. (ie. Impending divorce, death in the family (including pets!), recent issues in school)