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