Dear Shavuoton participants,
Unfortunately we regret to inform you but due to recent weather conditions our Shavuot Retreat is cancelled. 

As you know we have received record rain fall in Colorado.  Our ranch has been hit particularly hard.  In the middle of the night, the stream by the front gate, overflowed its banks and washed away both culverts and the road above it.  We contacted a construction crew with heavy equipment to come fix the road at first light, and they have been here since this morning.  At this time, they hope to open the road within a few hours but have also told us that if/when it rains, the road will likely wash away again, as we need a few days of dry weather to make a permanent fix.  At this point, the only access to our ranch is through our emergency egress, which requires a high clearance 4 wheel drive vehicle.  Miki Forsyth, our former care taker who has been working with us all week to ready the ranch, says that she has never seen so much water on the ranch since she came on board in 2008.  Indeed, we have a few new streams that are flowing now that have never flowed before.

Additionally, our food for this weekend, was not able to be delivered because Albert Cohen, who was catering most of it, could not access our site in his delivery van.

As much as we wanted to make this weekend work, we do not feel comfortable having a large group here knowing that when it rains we will likely be left with only one emergency egress.

We know that cancelling this weekend is a huge inconvenience to everyone, and we truly apologize.

Because most of the food was being catered by Albert Cohen, and is already prepared, we invite anyone that would like to have food for the chag to head over to HEA between 4:00-5::30 PM to take food for your family.  We also will post the Tikkun Leil Shavuot Arrangements in Boulder, HEA and Rodef Shalom below.

I know that we all had looked forward to a weekend of fun and learning together, and I truly hope we will be able to “rain check” for Shavuot next year when we will make sure to have better weather, and also a reinforced culvert system by the front gate.

Of course, if anyone would like their money back, we will issue full refunds.  And if you prefer to roll your registration fees into a tax-deductible gift, of course we will welcome any help in offsetting what is inevitably turning into an expensive weekend for us.

Below you can find information about several Shavuot programs happening around the Denver/Boulder community.

Thank you for your understanding. Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!
Rabbi Eliav & Matt

Rodef Shalom: Shavuot Without Borders, Saturday, May 23, 2015, 9:00 p.m.

Enjoy an evening of worship, study, and food, as Rabbis Yaakov Chaitovsky and Bernard Gerson renew their friendly spirit of collaboration.

All are welcome to conclude Shabbat with Mincha & Seudat Shlishit at 7:45 pm,
under the Traditional Auspices of BMH-BJ

9:00 pm Maariv Service (Orthodox & Conservative options)
9:30 pm Text Study with Rabbi Chaitovsky & Rabbi Gerson
“Moses in the Academy of Rabbi Akiba”
10:15 pm Delicious Dairy Dinner
11:00 pm Text Study with guest teacher, Ms. Leora Pushett
Who Knows Seven?

FREE OF CHARGE to Rodef Shalom members and their guests,
but RSVP’s are a must …

Information: 303-399-0035

Bonai Shalom – Boulder, CO
We have Shabbat services at 9.30 tomorrow morning led by Rabbinic Intern Hannah Kapnik Ashar and here is a link to all the rest of the Shavuot offerings.
Take care of yourself!
Shabbat Shalom and chag sameach

Hebrew Educational Alliance – Tikkun Leil Shavuot
Standing at Sinai: Diversity and Difference in the Jewish Community
Saturday, May 23

This post was originally featured on the Jewish News of the Greater Phoenix Area.  Debbie was a guest of ours at Shavuot this past year, and we are touched and amazed at her words here.  If you are interested in coming for Shavuot camp this year, please contact Matt Levitt.


For one week in June 2014, I made aliyah. Not to Israel, but up the mountain to Ramah, my spiritual home, where the mountain meets the sky. It had been many years since I stepped onto the hallowed ground of any Ramah campus, and though this ascent was not to my home camp of Camp Ramah in the Poconos, I was instantly in my element at Ramah Outdoor Adventure in the Rockies (ROA) in Deckers, Colorado. Because my daughter had been a member of the brave “Chevrat HaMeyasdim” (founding/pioneering staff members) in 2009 and 2010, I already recognized some names and faces and was familiar with landmarks from her photos and descriptions. I had heard her sing ROA songs and chants, and knew a bit about what made this Ramah camp similar yet different from the original Ramah prototype.

There is no mistaking the ruach of Ramah, the ineffable bond that exists among generations of Ramah-niks all across the country. Shared values, curiosity, connection to the place and each other. Even as a camp that is only four years old, all of this is part of ROA. This is a place to feel Jewish and be Jewish in a way that reaches deeper inside than any experience you can have back in your everyday school-year world. What makes ROA extra special is the exploring spirit brought to just about every activity. Everyone hikes, bikes, climbs, rappels, kayaks, works on the farm and backpacks in the rugged, yet serene, Rocky Mountain wilderness. Founded on the principle of “challenge by choice,” Ramah Valley is like a vortex where campers and staff learn things about life and themselves, creating a kehillah kedosha — a holy community.

The gardens for fruits and vegetables (enjoyed at meals) are built and maintained by campers and staff. The horse pastures are accessible in the center of the camp. The sounds of tefillah (prayer), limmud (learning), shirah (singing), rikud (dancing) and amanut (arts) may be concentrated in rooms adjoining the Chadar Ochel ohel (dining room tent), but the life of this camp is breathed everywhere among acres of both semi-developed and undeveloped land.

Shavuot Shabbat CampI knew most of that, or thought I did, before I arrived. But I didn’t fully get it until I found myself living it. Last spring, I opened an email newsletter from ROA. It contained a small announcement inviting interested families to contact the camp for more information about a new Shavuot study opportunity. There would be holiday-specific programming as well as free time for these visitors to the ranch. They would be joined by senior tzevet (staff) who were readying the camp for the beginning of the summer season. Right away, I signed up, encouraged by my daughter and her formative experiences as a young adult.

Upon arrival, I learned that the other families who had expressed interest had not been able to come that week. I was the only person not on staff there, yet immediately I knew that I was not an outsider. Just as I had a sense of familiarity with ROA based upon my daughter’s involvement, all I had to do was introduce myself as Risa’s Mom and, immediately, I was embraced, literally and figuratively. Lucky me, I was invited to participate in every aspect of staff orientation, study sessions, discussion groups, and even wilderness first-responder training. I volunteered in the farm-garden, braided challah, and assisted in the kitchen. Soon, I wasn’t just my daughter’s middle-aged mother. I quickly became a member of a tight-knit family of young people, some in college, some recent grads, and some rabbinical students.

I hiked up the mountain with the entire community as we symbolically received the Torah from Sinai on a glorious Shavuot morning. Moses may not have brought dogs with him, but faithful pets accompanied us. Amidst the group of tallit-clad fellow hikers, wearing a kippah that I had crocheted decades earlier as a camper, I was called up for an aliyah as the Torah was read on the mountaintop.

Eliav ShavuotLike all Ramah camps, every meal began with hand-washing and motzi. But ROA goes further than that, by also beginning each meal with announcements by the food educator, a dedicated position on staff, who described what was on the menu, what the health benefits were of the locally sourced ingredients, and what the vegan/gluten-free option was. This was unlike any camp food I’d ever eaten. Every tasty dish was crafted with the intention to maximize nutrients, and was energy-fueling and appetite-quenching. Each table had a designated helper/cleaner, yet everyone pitched in. There was always room for one more person to sit on the bench. And of course we “benched” after every meal, conscious of which food groups were represented.

What ROA lacks in sprawling manicured lawns, paved sports courts, and cathedral gathering halls, it makes up for with rustic-but-civilized ohelim (tent-bunks) where windows are unzipped, and light comes from flashlights, headlamps and solar-powered lanterns. (Helpful tip for first-timers: place the solar-powered lantern outside in the sun during the day!) There is no need to clean the bathroom in your ohel, because there isn’t one; just walk up the hill to the bright and airy communal bathhouses. (Tip: DO remember to bring your bucket of toiletries.) While you won’t find yourself crossing perfectly sodded fields to get to your next activity, do allow time to hike up and down the rocky hills and valleys, and to stop to watch the caterpillar spin its silk, the aspen leaves flutter, and the deer in your midst. (Tip: DO wear sturdy shoes daily. DO carry your day-pack everywhere. DON’T try to capture these experiences with a camera; you simply can’t.) Most important tips: drink water, lots of water; apply and reapply sunscreen; and always wear your hat. ROA is located at serious altitude.

From one Jewish mother to another, if you think that your son or daughter might enjoy the challenges and confidence-building experience of developing outdoor physical skills while being supported by a Jewish-values-driven community, check-out the information about an upcoming meet-and-greet event being hosted here in Phoenix/Scottsdale on Tuesday Nov. 18th. See you there!

Dear 2014 Parents and Chalutzim,

In a few hours we will welcome Shabbat for the first time this summer at Ramah in the Rockies. While our chalutzim  [campers] do not arrive for a few more weeks, the first group of tzevet [staff] arrived this past Sunday to begin summer preparations. Many of the tzevet are here for an intensive Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course. This course, administered by an outside mountaineering school, is designed to help prepare our tzevet to lead masa’ot [backcountry trips].

While we are here for WFR and to prepare the Ranch for the summer, the past 48 hours have truly been a gift. In the middle of the week, we collectively took a break to celebrate Shavuot. This is the holiday where we celebrate the Israelites receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, and also where the Israelites used to bring the first fruits to the Temple in Jerusalem.

As is the tradition on Shavuot, we had an “all-night” learning session, as well as other studying opportunities throughout the holiday. Various members of our year-round and summer teams led the sessions. Topics included Musar, how we relate to our Jewish identity, priorities in giving tzedakah, and perspectives on the revelation events described in Exodus 19. These sessions reflected our value of creating opportunities for continued growth for all of tzevet and chalutzim.

On the morning of Shavuot, we tried something new in a true Ramah in the Rockies style. We hiked up to Givat Ilanot [a hill at the ranch] with a Torah. There, atop the mountain, overlooking the valley that houses our camp, we davened [prayed] the morning service and read from the Torah. While the Israelites might have gathered at Mount Sinai to hear the Ten Commandments for the first time, we gathered atop our own mountain to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments a few thousand years later! What a powerful experience to share this holiday with staff of such a variety of backgrounds coming together in nature!

Several different tzevet members took turns leading, teaching, and explaining the service throughout our Shavuot davening. The meals, which included our own famous homemade vegan challah, were served throughout the holiday. What a delicious way to be welcomed back to the Ranch!

While Shavuot is a one of the three pilgrimage festivals featuring extra readings and prayers, we also shared lots of downtime together. Because one can transfer fire on Shavuot (unlike Shabbat), on the second night of the chag, we lit a medura [bonfire], sang songs, made smores, and hung out savoring the mountain air. During the afternoons, our tzevet enjoyed games of basketball and hikes to Prospector Mountain.

When we gather tonight in the Pardes Tefillah, this time dressed in white for Shabbat, we will be finishing our first terrific week at camp, and thinking about to the next few Shabbatot. Next week we are joined by Hanhallah [senior staff], the following week all of our tzevet, and finally, in three weeks, our chalutzim.

We look forward to seeing many of our local chalutzim, families, and supporters this Sunday for our Volunteer Day and wish you all a Shabbat Shalom!