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A Place to Be Yourself, The Place to Take on Life’s AdventureSONY DSC

The Ramah Rockies Experience 

 Rabbi Scott Bolton, Congregation Or Zarua, New York City

Writing from the beautiful Rockies, Basecamp


I believe that we need to find the right places for growing, reflecting, experiencing joy and awe. At every stage of our lives, we must find it for ourselves, and parents, to be good guides for their children, have to search out those environments. Finding a place, school, camp, or synagogue that encompasses them all is a challenge. What an incredible privilege to be able to become part of this sacred community at Ramah Rockies where I can see that everyone is in explorer mode and committed to the core values of community, individual growth, joy and honoring one another.

From this Rabbi’s perspective, when a camp is filled with people who are little like angels you have to share the blessings. Let me call out to fellow parents, Jewish community members and those wanting to contribute to the lives of children as camp staff – this is an inspiring Jewish place to be for two, four or eight weeks! Everyone here is accepted for who they are, what they stand for and how they express their Judaism, yet the commitment to community and finding common ground places everyone in a trust relationship. SONY DSC

With those trust relationships built through sacred attachments, the adventures themselves into the wilderness, up boulders, through forests, down paths both excite individual campers and create an understanding about teamwork and responsibility important both for summer adventures and for all of life.

At about 9,800 feet above sea level, at a trailhead, I saw a group of teens take on leadership under the careful supervision of dedicated adventure counselors. The gave each of the young leaders a different job and had them carefully sort out, equitably, all the extra equipment they would need to camp over five days and reach more than 12,500 feet above the tree lines. Their initiation into the ways of survival and skills for staying safe, and their celebrating Shabbat together got them ready for that journey. The leaders of the Jewish Outdoor Leadership Initiative (JOLI) empowered those teens from around the world, of one Jewish family, to each find their own inner strength and to create a team that could literally and figuratively realize new heights! JOLI bolton masa bierstadt

I am seeing that when those of all backgrounds, of one family, come to make magic here at Ramah Rockies there is a buzz and a peace all at the same time. There are physical heights and spiritual heights to ascend. Few places in my travels have inspired such an electricity as well as a sense of acceptance, potential growth and Jewish spirit. 

I know I am in the right place for these weeks I will be here! Hineini! “I am here,” as our ancestors responded to God when asked if they were ready for the next chapter. 

 

To register for Ramah in the Rockies today, please click this link. Register Now!

by Beth Hammerman

Ben Skupsky w/water tankIn recognition of Shemini Atzeret, the holiday we just celebrated, we share with you the various ways in which Ramah Outdoor Adventure works on conserving its precious water resource. This holiday, which follows the Jewish festival of Sukkot, marks the beginning of the rainy season after the harvest in Israel. The prayer for rain, Tefilat Geshem, is the only ritual that is unique to Shemini Atzeret. After the prayer for rain is recited, the phrase Masheev HaRuach U-Moreed HaGeshem (“He causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall”) is inserted into the Amidah prayer until Passover. This is the season of divine judgment for the future year’s rainfall, the time when we pray that God’s goodwill may afford us the appropriate amount.

Donald Skupsky, Chairman of the Ramah in the Rockies Board, and his son Ben, developed camps most significant water related initiative. They spent years researching an effective way to bring hot water to our shower house that would be both economical and practical. After years of research, they designed and implemented a passive solar system made up of two hot boxes housing two bladders that are continuously being filled from the creek water that is piped in. Each bladder holds 500 gallons of water and measures 7ft. X 9ft. X 16 in. high. The black color of the bladder absorbs more of the sun’s rays and heats the water inside more quickly. By having a large surface area and shallow depth, the water inside the bladder is able to heat more quickly than traditional upright storage tanks.

camp waterfallThe two bladders are plumbed in series, so that heated water from one bladder serves as input to the second, increasing water temperature. The bladders are housed in separate hot boxes, each covered with polycarbonate, which is often used for greenhouses and lets 90% of sunlight pass through. The top of each box is angled to catch the maximum amount of sun in the spring and summer months. Each box is lined with reflective insulation to direct sunlight inward and further heat the bladders. Even if the sun does not shine for a few days, storing water above ground significantly improves hot water availability over traditional water heating systems.

The advantages to this system are many. It significantly reduces the monthly water heating cost from the shower house. On Friday alone, over 200 showers occur. The system is designed to use up to 1,500 gallons of hot water in that 3-hour period. It is very eco friendly since there are practically no moving parts, which means that the system does not use any fossil fuels or electricity to operate. Further, this has been a great learning experience for our campers and staff.

There are many other initiatives the camp has implemented regarding water usage. Campers are encouraged not to flush the toilet after each use so the tank does not have to empty out and fill up unnecessarily after each use. Half of the sinks in the new shower house have facets with 15 second timed water release. This reminds campers when cleaning their teeth and washing up of the need to be conscious of their water usage. The showerheads have a reduced water stream, further saving on water usage. Excess water from the dining room table pitchers is reused in the gardens and greenhouse. There is a poster board outside the dining room indicating each day how much water is being used in the different areas of the camp. This public display has sparked discussion among campers and staff and the hope is that water consumption will decrease as a result.

hydroMickey Vizner, the camp’s environmental and sustainability project manager, is always thinking of new initiatives to conserve water. The latest is thru the use of Hydroponics. This is where plants are grown without the use of soil. The nutrients that plants normally derive from the soil are simply dissolved into water instead, and depending on the type of hydroponic system used, the plant’s roots are suspended in, flooded with or misted with the nutrient solution so that the plant can derive the elements it needs for growth. ROA is testing this concept with two camp-made vertical “water trees,” each able to hold 14 plants and camp-made nutrients (egg shells and banana peels soaked in water with some added purchased minerals).

There are significant environmental benefits to hydroponics use. Such a system requires significantly less water than soil-based plants because it recycles and reuses water and nutrient solutions, as it is continually pumped through the plant roots. Hydroponics requires little or no pesticides and much less nutrients. This represents not only a cost savings but also benefits the environment in that no chemicals or nutrition pollution are being released into the air. As the population increases and arable land available for crop production declines, hydroponics will allow us to produce crops in alternative places. Hydroponically grown foods not only taste better and are more nutritional, but you can change the properties of your food and monitor what goes into it.

Lastly, one of Mickey’s dreams is to build a water powered ner tamid (eternal light). He hopes to design a water wheel that will be turned by the flow of the creek water to create electricity to power the light. He sees this as a force of nature coming from G-d, which serves as a reminder that G-d is forever eternal.

 

 

 

 

 

Chalutzim [campers] at Ramah in the Rockies now understand how the expression “busy as a bee” came into being. Chalutzim learned all about bees through Rinat Levinson, a tzevet [staff member] from Israel, who studied biodynamic beekeeping. Rinat became interested in this field only a year ago and has become so passionate that she found a Denver beekeeper, Oliver Stanton, who donated a hive full of bees so she could teach our chalutzim.

Bee KeepingBiodynamic bee keeping is an approach that respects the integrity of the colony and was founded over 150 years ago. Its aim is to minimize stress factors and allow bees to develop in accordance with their true nature. There are many protocols one must follow so as not to exploit the bees for their honey and ROA followed them while mainting the hive. Examples include: bees are allowed to build natural comb, swarming is acknowledged as the only way to rejuvenate and reproduce a colony, the queen is allowed to move freely throughout the hive and sufficient honey is retained in the hive to provide for the winter.

Rinat’s goal was to make us more aware of the bee’s life cycle and its impact on the environment. Bees are useful in helping thousands of plants to exist and multiply, since they carry pollen from one flower to another, enabling them to form seeds and reproduce themselves. Campers learned about community from studying the bees as each bee and bee activity is integral to the whole. No single part, not even the queen, can be seen as isolated from the whole. Isn’t this what community is all about?

She taught how to respect and take care of the hive and the importance of its survival. Unfortunately, the honeybee is becoming an endangered species, with more than a 50% US decline in managed honeybee colonies due to parasites and disease, climate change and air pollution. The most serious of all is the impact of pesticides– an environmental hazard for any being. Campers discussed what they could do about this phenomenon.

Honeybees are the only insects that provide an important food for man. Interesting note is that the bee is a non-kosher insect, so why is its honey kosher?

So much Jewish learning can be taught through studying the bees. “Devorah” is Hebrew for “bee.” It’s also the name of two great women mentioned in the Torah. What is so special about a bee that these great women should be named after it? There are several citings in the Midrash where the Jewish people and the Torah are compared to bees. For example, just as bees swarm behind a leader, so too are the Jews led by the sages and prophets who teach and guide them. Just as the nature of a bee is to collect pollen and nectar for others, so do the Jews toil accumulating Torah and mitzvahs, not for our own benefit, but for a higher purpose.

BeeHiveHoney is first mentioned in the Bible as one of the gifts sent by Jacob with his sons when they went down to Egypt to seek food during the famine. Moses, at his first encounter with God at the burning bush, hears God’s pledge for the first time: “I shall rescue them from the hand of Egypt and bring them up to a land flowing with milk and honey”(Exodus 3:8). Throughout the Bible, Israel is repeatedly referred to as the land of “milk and honey.” Manna, the most perfect food ever created, which sustained the Israelites for 40 years of wandering in the desert, is described as tasting “like a cake fried in honey” (Exodus 16:31)

“The Torah is sweeter than honey to my mouth,” sang King David. So just like a honeybee spreads the news of the sweet nectar it found to the rest of the colony, so too should we spread the word of Torah. A bee knows that spreading her knowledge is important for her entire colony to prosper. By spreading the sweetness of Torah and mitzvahs to others, you can enhance the capability of the Jewish people to fulfill its purpose, and to be a “light unto the nations.”

We all know that on Rosh Hashanah, honey is used in a symbolic way. We ask for a Shanah Tovah – “May we have a good and sweet year” as we dip apples into honey. It is not only for a good and sweet year in material blessings that we have in mind, but also a good and sweet year in our spiritual life of Torah and mitzvahs, which are “sweeter than hon
ey and the honeycomb” (Psalms). As we eat honey during these High Holidays, we hope campers will remember the labor of love that went into making that honey. There were a lot of honeybees, working very hard, as each honeybee will only produce about one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime. We are hopeful that our Ramah bees will provide a taste of honey for the upcoming New Year.

 

 

This post was originally posted here.

Kaspar M. Wilder, 12, is a published poet, National Latin Exam Gold Medalist, a mythology buff, and all-around science fiction geek. She was diagnosed with Asperger’s, Attention Deficit Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder while in early elementary school. She recently celebrated her bat mitzvah by leading services at Temple Beth El in her hometown of Portland, Maine.

For the past four summers, Kaspar has been a camper at Ramah Outdoor Adventure (ROA) in the Colorado Rockies. Kaspar has participated in ROA’s Tikvah Program for campers with disabilities, both as a participant in the Amitzim edah (division) for campers with disabilities and, most recently, as part of the camp’s inclusion program.

Ramah Outdoor Adventure has become her second home and, according to her parents, has been a big part of her everyday happiness and success. Kaspar hopes someday to become a member of ROA’s tzevet susim (“horse staff”). Below is her take on life at Ramah Outdoor Adventure.

Four summers. Four summers bursting with the harmony of cycles. Every year, the drive up, and up, and up. That in itself is enough to break some spirits.

But there it is: the homecoming. The cheering, the screaming of names. If you are a returning camper, you are passed around, admired, and soon bear the mark of a hundred dirt-encrusted hugs. Newbies are taken in, enveloped in a new universe that welcomes you with every ventricle of its beating heart.

The first day is a whirlwind. Pick your chugim (electives), be assigned your ohel (tent), unpack, meet new people, write your ohel brit (tent “covenant”), and crash into an unfamiliar bed. Even the hardness of the bunk feels like down pillows after your day. A million new names have overwhelmed your mind: kfar (village), amitzim (“brave”–the name of the division for campers with disabilities), mitbachon (cooking), beezbooz (waste, usually waste of resources).

This is the pattern of life at camp. Up at 6:30. The weight of your bakbuk mayim(water bottle) feels strange? Get used to it. Time to throw yourself into prayer, song, and dance. Some days this feels beautiful, even ecstatic. Other days you are only praying for breakfast.Kaspar dancing before ShabbatThen you wake up your body, wondering when your mind will catch up. Relax. You are home, in the calming shadow and soon-to-be-warm arms of the Rockies. Then finally breakfast, but it’s over all too soon. Your electives become normal, eventually. Things settle into a rhythm of heart and mind and body and soul. You grow stronger. You make friends. You begin to understand not only the dances at shira (singing activity), but the dance of the earth. You begin to realize why we eat everything we’re given, even those awful sun-nut butter sandwiches. (Be glad. My first year they had something even worse.) Dreams are a rarity. Sleep is essential. So is water. Your stomach hurts? Drink water. You’re dizzy? Drink water. You have a twisted ankle? Drink water. Trust me, do it. It’s not as crazy as it sounds.

Finally, after six days, there comes a soft undertone to this wild rhythm. It swells, overtakes you. Take a deep breath. There’s time for a shower now. The drumming stops. Finally, it is Shabbat.

This is a day that moves to a different song. Hours to yourself, to spend in the village playing cards or reading in one of the numerous hammocks that inevitably pop up. Prayer becomes less of an ordeal, even though you have to do more of it. You get to eat more, and better. It’s time to let your body rest and your soul soar.

Shabbat ends when three stars are in the sky. Havdalah begins. The drumming starts up again, filling your mind, awakening your heart. Another week. Masa week.

My first year at camp, when we were still young and over-simplified things, “masa” was defined for me as “outing.” This invoked, for me, undirtied picnic wear and parasols–even perhaps, since we were at camp, a tent, complete with a blow-up mattress for inside. Psych!

Masa

“Masa,” correctly defined, means “journey.” That means rain. That means sleeping on the ground and freezing your eyes out in your pitiful so-called sleeping bag. That means waking up at the crack of dawn to climb that mountain, by God. But it also means triumph. It means beauty. It means camaraderie and strength that will change you, inside and out. It means Ramah. High place (the literal translation of the word “ramah”).

Eventually you must return to the faraway world you once called home. Where showers are daily and machines a common sight. But you are different. You have returned from a high place. So when your friends ask, “You went to the mountains?” your response will be, “Even higher.”

This post is part of a three-part series sponsored by the Ramah Camping Movement. The National Ramah Tikvah Network of programs serves children, teens, and young adults with disabilities. All eight North American Ramah overnight camps offer programming for campers with disabilities. To learn more, click here.

This was written and sent out to all of our parents the day after camp:

Yesterday morning we said goodbye to the last of our 2014 chalutzim campers].  Our staff members spent the afternoon winterizing our tents, packing the tripping gear and cleaning camp for the long nine months until we reopen for our 2015 season. Our chalutzim have already arrived home,and many spent the day on airplanes heading to one of 27 states, Canada, Israel and Mexico from which they hail.  Last night we will gathered as a Kehillah Kedosha [holy community] for the final time this summer to celebrate our invaluable tzevet [staff] at our annual staff banquet.  These young men and woman have spent the past 9+ weeks providing the most incredible, educational and inspiring experiences possible for nearly 400 chalutzim who came to our camp this summer. 

At our slide show Monday night, I began to tear up while watching the faces of the chalutzim who have spent time with us this summer.  I saw pictures of smiling children climbing rocks, biking trails, building fires, throwing Frisbees and playing basketball.  I saw pictures of children dressed in white swaying to the music on Friday night and then gathered around the havdallah candles on Saturday evening.  I saw children perfecting old skills and acquiring new talents.  I saw the faces of hundreds of youth being positively impacted in an intense and intentional Jewish environment.

A summer is made up countless moments, and no two people at camp have the exact same experience.  Here are three vignettes from this past session that will forever stand out in my mind.

#1 The Rain: If there was one aspect of camp that we all experienced it was the rain.  This summer has been one of the wettest in decades.IMG_7216  Session IIA experienced the wettest two weeks of the summer, with almost 4 days of non-stop rain.  Amazingly, the rain did little to dampen people’s spirits.  Most Masa’ot continued as planned.  The afternoon of Yom Sport turned into a two hour “sing down” and dance party in our dining tent.  While most of the always epic apache relay was cancelled, we did manage to gather outside for the final rope burn.  The most common question heard over the staff radios was, “are we still in lightning mode?”  With the rain this summer, all of us were that much more appreciative when we had beautiful weather and blue skies.  All of us played a little harder, climbed a little higher and rode a little stronger when we had the chance to be out in the sun.  And at the end of the day, we all know that a wet summer in the West is a real blessing, as the region has suffered through too many scorching hot summers that have led to catastrophic fires and parched hillsides. 

#2 Hearing reflections from a 5th year Chalutz:  Each week at Havdallah, as we gather on our basketball court, I eagerly await the ritual of hearing one member of each edah [age group] reflect on the week that has passed.  This past Saturday night, Aaron, one of our JOLI chalutzim who has been here since our inaugural summer, read a short speech that sums up what so many of us are thinking and feeling:

 I’d like to introduce you all to a phenomenon I have noticed after 5 years [at Ramah Outdoor Adventure] called the “music distortion effect”.  You will notice it on the way home on Tuesday.  You’ll notice the sound of your headphones is surprisingly grainy.  Maybe this is just what happens when you don’t listen to your iPod for a month.  However, I think “music distortion effect” has a much deeper meaning.  When we call the world outside of camp the “real world” we are in fact mistaken.  The “real world” is just too loud for us to hear the truth about what is real.  What’s real is right here.  When we can finally hear, we figure out that the freedom and peace and happiness [we feel here]–is what’s actually real.  And when we go home, we have to try to stop just listening to the blaring siren of “real life”, begging us to believe it when it says that such bliss isn’t possible.  We have to try and sing the songs we learned here, and when we return from our ten-month masa, trust me, we’ll have so many more songs to sing.

Aaron sums up what so many of us are feeling and struggling with as we re-enter our lives away from the ranch.  How do we take the magic that exists here and apply it to our lives back home? 

#3 60 Successful Masa’ot!  One amazing aspect of our camp is the masa’ot [excursions].  This summer we sent out a record 60 masa’ot — Postcard-commentsfrom overnight horseback trips on our ranch with the Ilanot (3/4th graders) to 6 day intensive high alpine backpacking trips for our JOLI (11/12th grade) participants.   Chalutzim return from masa with a contagious energy.  Those of us who stay back at camp during masa week look forward to their return– beginning around noon on Fridays.  As each group comes back to camp there are loud shrieks of delight as friends reconnect.  Aside from the energy present when groups return, it is incredibly special to see how new bonds are created when a group must work together in the backcountry.  People who left as near strangers come back as close friends.
Perhaps most importantly, our motto of “challenge by choice” is so clearly visible on these days, as each person feels that s/he achieved his/ her own personal goals during their time away from camp.  Some might have climbed a hill faster or scaled a more difficult route or carried more weight, but at the end of the day, everyone returned to camp secure with their own personal triumph.

We spend most of the year planning for the summer, and while each day at camp feels like at least three days in the “real world”, the end of the summer still seems to creep up on us way too quickly.  And just like that, we are set to close the curtain on Kayitz 2014. 

JOLI edit2This summer will go down as our best yet.  Our staff, once again, went above and beyond to provide an incredible experience for the chalutzim.  Our educational program was engaging and probing.  Our schedule had few
er issues than in years past, and the 
masa’ot were more varied than they have ever been.  From the youngest chalutz to the oldest tzevet member, we had an incredibly high caliber of people at camp this summer.  So many chalutzim commented to me over the past eight weeks just how nice and genuine everyone was at camp.  This is perhaps one of the greatest hallmarks of our unique community; a place that respects differences and celebrates diversity within our Jewish community.

Over the next few weeks, those of us that work year round for Ramah will be taking some time to sleep, relax, and reflect.  While today we will say goodbye to the most incredible group of staff ever assembled at a Jewish summer camp, we know that the 2015 season is just around the corner.  If you have not already registered your camper for 2015, you may do so here.  Over 40 chalutzim have already registered for next year.  While we will not be filled before the end of the month, we do expect to reach capacity once again in 2015 — so please do not wait too long to register.  Deposits are 100% refundable until March 1, 2015 AND campers enrolled before October 31, 2014 will receive a complimentary Ramah soft shell jacket.

As always, we welcome your comments or suggestions via email and phone.  Parents, we will also be sending a final customer satisfaction survey.  Please complete it if you have not yet done so, as it helps us continue to improve our program each year. 

And when we come back online, we look forward to reflecting more on kayitz 2014 and planning for an even better kayitz 2015.  

Rabbi Eliav Bock

Rabbi Eliav Bock, Director
Ramah Outdoor Adventure

Shalom Ramah families!

It seems like just yesterday that we were gathering for the first time during shavua hachanah [staff week] with our tzevet [staff] and speaking about how we are forming the basis of our Kehillah Kedosha [holy community]. In a few hours, we will gather as a Kehillah Kedosha for the final time of the season with our second session chalutzim [campers].  This summer has truly flown by!

The week started off with Yom Sport, our traditional color war competition. It was a rather wet, rainy, and thunderous Yom Sport, and as such many of the typical activities were altered for the day; after a morning of sports, the afternoon turned into a two hour sing down, dance party and other random indoor games.  The rain broke just in time to complete the last four stations of the Apachy Relay, including an epic rope burn!

One of my favorite aspects of Yom Sport is the JOLI (Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute – 11th and 12th Graders) participation as captains and judges.  It was inspiring to see the camp unite around the JOLI captains as they engaged in the final challenge: the rope burn.  During this competition, the JOLI captains must put their outdoor skills to use and build a fire high enough to burn a rope strung between two chairs, and they must do it all before the other teams can.  Yom Sport is always an exciting time at camp, and the day is charged with this ruach [spirit] and energy that is unparalleled.

Currently, our chalutzim are getting ready for Shabbat after an amazing, chaotic, energetic, and fun day of returning from their masa’ot [excursions].  Upon their return, they spend a few hours in de-issue, a process of unpacking, cleaning, and returning all gear checked out for their masa’ot. Aside from the unpacking and cleaning process, they trade tales among friends and bunkmates of their experiences roughing it.  Returning from masa is always a frenzied experience here, but it’s an incredible one to both be a part of and observe.

Ilanot, the 3rd and 4th grade edah [division], rode the horses to the Susan B. Anthony campsite, a rarely used campsite on our property.  They had a fun night of camping under the stars.  Last night, the Ilanot chalutzim made forts and slept in our dining hall, and today spent spent the day at the Woodland Park farmers market.

Metaylim, the 5th and 6th grade edah, went on a three-day backpacking trip at two of the eastern gateways of the Lost Creek Wilderness. They also had a horse masa option. Continuing last session’s success, we mixed the bunks and genders on their masa.   Metaylim also traveled to the local YMCA camp on high ropes elements on Monday where they played team building games on the course.

Sollelim, the 7th and 8th grade edah, chose between climbing, backpacking, rafting-biking, and service/trail crew options.  This year we have added new masa options for Sollelim, like an archery masa and an omanut masa [art-themed excursion].– Read more about those here.

Bogrim, our 9th and 10th grade edah, returned  to Sangre De Christo Wilderness, south of Colorado Springs.  The climbing masa went to Eleven Mile Canyon, and another group went on a horsepacking masa, crossing through the Holy Cross Wilderness.  After a very wet IIA masa, this week each Bogrim group were able to complete their routes, and only had a few rain showers throughout the week.

JOLI went on an adventure challenge masa, biking Segment 2 of the Colorado Trail, bushwhacking through an area near the Lost Creek Wilderness.They hiked, climbed, and biked all around the Lost Creek Wilderness area.  Last night the JOLI group left their camp site at 8:00pm and hiked by moonlite into the camp, arriving close to 1:00am where they then slept on the migrash.  The JOLeaders who did not go on masa with JOLI were CIT’s with Ilanot, Metaylim and Sollelimmasa’ot, learning the ropes of being staff and leaders for camp.

This week also marks the inaugural season of our adult camp.  Former staff members Elissa Brown and Sarah Shulman returned to be the madrichot for our adults.  These adults have been biking, horseback riding and rock climbing.  This morning, they awoke at 6:15am and walked up Givat Ilanot for an interactive Teffilah scavenger hunt.  On Sunday, they leave for a three-day backpacking trip.

Now that our chalutzim are all back, we are excited to spend Shabbat and this next week at camp together.  We look forward to our famous Shabbat Challah, tilapia fish tacos, and a reuniting final Shabbat of the summer.

As a reminder, we post pictures and updates on Facebook most days that chalutzim are at the chava [ranch]. If you are not a fan of our Facebook page, please become one.  Here is the link to our online photos that we update every two or three days.

As always please be in touch with any questions or comments.  You can always email me or our yoatzim [camper care team] at campparent@ramahoutdoors.org. Don’t forget that registration for next summer is already open! Be sure to register the for Super Early Bird here.

 

Rabbi Eliav Bock, Director

Ramah Outdoor Adventure

E eliavb@ramahoutdoors.org | T (303) 261-8214 x104

experience @www.ramahout.s466.sureserver.com|Facebook|Blog|Youtube

Shalom Camp Families,

The past few days have been an exciting few days of saying lehitra’ot [goodbye] to our Session I chalutzim [campers], taking some time to refocus and refresh with our tzevet [staff], and welcoming our Session II chalutzim.  Now that we are all together here as a kehillah kedosha [holy community], I wanted to share with you all a few highlights from the first few days of our second session.

Our opening day this session was probably one of the hottest days we have had here at the ranch all summer! Our tzevet were ready with water and sunscreen as the cars and buses streamed in throughout the day.   With Israeli music playing in the background, chalutzim got off the busses and were greeted by tunnels of madrichim that the chalutzim came running through.  Already within the first few hours we heard cheers of “Bo-Bo-Bo-Bo-Bogrim!” and all the other edot [age groups] learning and enthusiastically shouting their names!

Bee KeepingThe opening day also saw our chalutzim doing the typical ice breakers, health checks, and unpacking. The following day, our chalutzim awoke to a full day of programming.  Chalutzim were biking our single track, riding our horses, planting in our garden and playing basketball.  A new highlight this session for our chalutzim is beekeeping.  Led by Rinat Levinson, one of our veteran tzevet members, chalutzim are learning all about bee life cycles and needs, as well as getting some honey snacks for themselves.

The first night we enjoyed our traditional opening medura [bonfire], where we created a special musical space together.  We learned our camp song, and sang a few other favorites around the bonfire.  It was so thrilling to watch our oldest chalutzim sitting next to our youngest and dancing the moves of the camp song side by side.

Last night we tried a new camp-wide game, capture the counselor.  Often we like to play a camp-wide game of capture the flag in our Ramah Valley, but in our constant attempt try new things we decided to try this new game.  In capture the counselor, essentially a giant game of hide-and-go-seek, each staff member was assigned a point value and in teams by ohel [tent], chalutzim sought out the counselors within the time window.  Those with the most points at the end of the time period won the game.  Ohel 11 of Sollelim were the victors of the evening!

Sollelim/Bogrim/JOLI Torah RollWe often say that one day in camp time is three days in the outside world.  With that said, while we have only had a few short days with your kids, it seems like we have all been here together forever.  After these few short days (or was it a week?) we are ready to make the special transition to Shabbat together.   Our chalutzim are currently showering and changing into their special Shabbat whites. Each time I see our entire kehillah enter the Pardes T’fillah [our outdoor amphitheater], smiling in their Shabbat clothing, I know the hard work of the staff and the devotion of our families is all worth it.

Next week all of our chalutzim will be heading out of camp for their masa’ot [trips].  This morning, our JOLI and Bogrim chalutzim packed their group gear and prepared their food for the week.  They leave on Sunday and Monday mornings.  Our younger campers will also be heading out next week, Metaylim and Ilanot on overnight trips and day trips, and Sollelim on a four-day masa starting Tuesday morning.

As a reminder, we post pictures and updates on Facebook most days that chalutzim are at the chava [ranch]. If you are not a fan of ours on Facebook, please become one.  Here is the link to our online photos that we update every two or three days, and here is a link to a video we posted on Facebook of the first day.

As always please be in touch with any questions or comments.  You can always email me or our yoatzim [camper care team] at campparent@ramahoutdoors.org.

Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Eliav Bock

It seems like just yesterday that we were gathering for the first time during shavua hachanah [staff week]  with our tzevet [staff] and spoke about how we are forming the basis of our Kehillah Kedosha [holy community].  And in a few hours, we will gather as a Kehillah Kedosha for the final time with our first session chalutzim [campers].  This session has truly flown by! What a week it has been!
The week started off with Yom Sport, our annual color war competition. In case you missed our video from it, check out the link, and read Beth Hammerman’s article about it here:

There are some things you just can’t live without at camp. Call it what you want, for some it’s Color War and for others it’s Maccabia Games. But for Ramah Outdoor Adventure, it’s Yom Sport.  Camp wouldn’t be camp without this day of friendly competition! When it falls is usually a surprise. Campers anxiously await the “break” and when that happens, camp instantly goes into a frenzy. There is so much excitement in the air that you wonder if the campers will ever get to sleep Erev Yom Sport.

Yom Sport is an intense day of activities that requires teamwork, cooperation, and consideration for others. Good sportsmanship and mutual respect are expected, and every team member needs to participate in some way. Most important is that every camper enjoys the day. (Continue Reading)

One of my favorite aspects of Yom Sport is the JOLI (Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute- 11th and 12th Graders) participation as captains and judges.  It was inspiring to see the camp unite around the JOLI captains as they engaged in the final challenge–the rope burn.  During this competition, the JOLI captains must put their outdoor skills to use and build a fire high enough to burn a rope strung
between two chairs, and they must do it all before the other teams can.  Yom Sport is always an exciting time at camp, and the day is charged with this ruach [spirit] and energy that is unparalleled.

This week we welcomed to the chava [ranch] two new sets of residents: our goats, Buttercup and Chetzi, and our bees.  The goats join the pigs, sheep, and chickens in our barn; we know the chalutzim will love these two! This summer we are adding a beekeeping chug [elective], led by veteran staff member Rinat Levinson.  She is beyond excited to be teaching the chalutzim about bees and beekeeping.

Currently, our chalutzim are getting ready for Shabbat after an amazing, chaotic, energetic, and fun day of returning from their masa’ot [excursions].  Upon their return, they spend a few hours in “de-issue,” a process of unpacking, cleaning, and returning all gear checked out for their masa’ot. Aside from the unpacking and cleaning process, they trade tales among friends and bunkmates of their experiences roughing it.  Returning from masa is always a frenzied experience here but an incredible one to both be a part of and observe.

Weather-wise, this week has been a wild one in most of Colorado.  All our groups who were sleeping in the backcountry encountered rain and thunder storms.  Most were able to stay dry or not get more than the usual back-country damp, though a few had to take shelter in some creative places, including our Amitzim (campers with special needs) edah [age group], who spent a night sleeping in a hay loft because their campsite was so wet!

Metaylim, the 5th and 6th grade edah,  went on a three-day backpacking trip at the three eastern gateways of the Lost Creek Wilderness. For the first time, we mixed the bunks and genders on their masa.   Metaylim also spent Monday at the local YMCA camp where they were supposed to spend the day on high rope elements, but instead, because of storms in the area, spent most of the day playing ground games.

Sollelim, the 7th and 8th grade edah, chose between climbing, backpacking, rafting-biking, and service/trail crew options.  This year we have been adding several new masa options for Sollelim including an archery masa and an omanut masa [art-themed excursion].

Bogrim, our 9th and 10th grade edah, returned to Rocky Mountain National Park, north of Boulder and also hiked to Sangre De Christo Wilderness, south of Colorado Springs.  The climbing masa went to the local twin peak mountain, Sheeprock, and spent their days dodging storms and climbing between the showers. Another group went on a Horsepacking masa, crossing through the Holy Cross Wilderness, with many legs of the journey through snow.

JOLI (Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute), the 11th and 12th grade program, went on an adventure challenge masa, doing segments 1, 2, 4, and 5 of the Colorado Trail. They hiked, climbed, and biked all around the Lost Creek Wilderness area.  They also biked up and over the continental divide at Kenosha Pass, at over 10,000 feet. The JOLeaders who did not go on masa with JOLI were CIT’s with Metaylim  and Sollelimmasa’ot, learning the ropes of being staff and leaders for camp.

Our Amitzim campers road horses to our neighbor’s buffalo ranch and set up camp along their pond.  As a wild storm moved in, they sought shelter in their barn, and ended up spending the night there.  Yesterday they moved to Wellington Lake where they swam and played on the shores before riding back into camp today on horseback.

Now that our chalutzim are all back, we are excited to spend Shabbat and this next week at camp together.  We look forward to our famous Shabbat Challah, tilapia,and a reuniting final Shabbat of Session 1B.

As a reminder, we post pictures and updates on Facebook most days that chalutzim are at the chava [ranch]. If you are not a fan of our Facebook page, please become one.  Here is the link to our online photos that we update every two or three days, and here is a link to a video we posted on Facebook of Yom Sport and the masa’ot returning.

As always please be in touch with any questions or comments.  You can always email me or our yoatzim [camper care team] at campparent@ramahoutdoors.org.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Eliav Bock

 

YOM SPORT – JULY 2014 – A DAY TO REMEMBER
Beth Hammerman

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There are some things you just can’t live without at camp. Call it what you want, for some it’s Color War and for others it’s Maccabia Games. But for Ramah Outdoor Adventure, it’s Yom Sport. Camp wouldn’t be camp without this day of friendly competition! When it falls is usually a surprise. Campers anxiously await the “break” and when that happens, camp instantly goes into a frenzy. There is so much excitement in the air that you wonder if the campers will ever get to sleep Erev Yom Sport.

Yom Sport is an intense day of activities that requires teamwork, cooperation, and consideration for others. Good sportsmanship and mutual respect are expected, and every team member needs to participate in some way. Most important is that every camper enjoys the day.

Each summer there is a different theme for Yom Sport day. This summer’s theme originated from the story of creation and was based on mythical creatures from the Bible. “On the fifth day, G-d filled the seas with fishes and other water animals. In to the air above the earth He put many birds of all kinds and colors and sizes. On the sixth day, G-d created all the other animals, large and small, those that walk and those that creep or crawl on the earth.”Shelter Building Contest

And so, the teams were formed, a trinity of monsters representing the heaven, sea and land. The Ziz is a giant griffin-like bird said to be large enough to be able to block out the sun with its wingspan. The Rahav is a massive sea-monster, a dragon of the water, who is impervious to human weapons, breathes fire, and emits smoke from its nostrils. The Behemoth is described as a gigantic, powerful earth-monster that can only be tamed by God. The Ziz was created to rule the heavens as the Rahav rules the sea and the Behemoth rules the land. That being said, let the games begin! 

Sunday morning there was no question who was on what team. The campers raced in the Ohel Ochel [dining tent] wearing their red, blue or green t-shirts, designating their team color. Many wore paint all over their face as well as their arms and legs. The spirit filled the air as the songs and cheers began without hesitation.

The morning was hopping with activities all over the ranch. For some it was hockey or ultimate soccer (a game combining ultimate frisbee and soccer), for others it was gaga or basketball. Still others were busy writing their team cheer and song or artistically designing their team plaque. There was something for everyone to do and the campers loved it. They commented how much fun it was, how excited they were, and how they were enjoying the spirit of the day.

 

 

 

 

Dear Families,

We are about to begin our pre-Shabbat dancing and with it our first Shabbat of Session IB. Today started off under brilliant blue skies, and by 1:00pm an awesome rain storm moved through, sending us all into our tents and shelters for almost two hours.  As the sun tries to break through the afternoon clouds, we are frantically trying to shower and change in the much shortened period we have to get ready for Shabbat.

This has been another exciting week on the chava [ranch], full of goodbyes, hellos, and welcomes.  We said lehitraot [goodbye] to our Session 1A chalutzim [campers/pioneers] and greeted a new batch of chalutzim for Session 1B. As has become tradition, our new chalutzim were greeted by a tunnel of staff and chalutzim as they streamed off the bus, initiated by some of our oldest, our Bogrim chalutzim.

The week began with camp-wide tfillot [prayers] with Rabbi Marc Soloway, our scholar-in-residence for the first two weeks and a Rabbi in Boulder CO.  He led in the style of his mentor, Reb Zalman Schachter Shalomi ז’’ל (may his memory be for a blessing). Reb Zalman was an iconic figure in the Boulder and world-wide Jewish communities and will be missed.  Rabbi Marc spoke about his impact in the world of Jewish spirituality and used his original prayer translations to help augment our service.

In addition to the 1B chalutzim that came on Tuesday, we welcomed children with special needs to camp in our Amitzimedah! The Amitzimchalutzim have participated in activities alongside their typically-developing friends.  While Amitzim is not new to us in Colorado, the level of integration we are doing this summer is new to us, and thus far has been a terrific success.

This session we also began a new chug [elective] for our older campers—salsa dancing. Gabi Wasserman, who most people here know as a winning triathlete, is also an excellent salsa dancer.  This chug, started as an experiment earlier in the week with our Bogrim and Sollelimchalutzim, has become a raging success and reached capacity.  The chalutzim are learning all the basic steps and routines of salsa dancing and livening up the dining hall during the day.

We have also continued running our usual programs.  Throughout the week, chalutzim could be found biking our roads and single tracks, riding horses on the trails, climbing both on the slab and on the bouldering wall, and just having fun hanging out around their tents during free time.  Additionally, our Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute (JOLI) chalutzim have started working with the various edot in Shmirat HaGuf [morning warm-ups/ Protecting the Body], and other leadership opportunities throughout camp.  It’s really incredible to watch these 11th and 12th graders learn the ropes of being dugma’ot [role models] for the camp.  We hope that these incredible chalutzim will join us on tzevet in the future!

Sunday is sure to be a special day here at camp as it is Yom Sport (but shh…it’s a secret!).   Next week, all of our chalutzim head out on masa’ot [excursions] from three-day trips for our Metyalimchalutzim (5/6th graders) to five-day trips for the 9-12th graders.

As a reminder, we post pictures and updates on Facebook most days that chalutzim are at the chava [ranch]. If you are not a fan of our Facebook page, please become one.  Here is the link to our online photos that we update every two or three days.

As always please be in touch with any questions or comments.  You can always email me or our yoatzim [camper care team] at campparent@ramahoutdoors.org.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Eliav Bock

Rabbi Ranon Teller

This morning at Ramah in the Rockies, for the first time in my rabbinic life, I watched a shochet slaughter a chicken. I’ve eaten meat all my life, but I’ve never experienced a shechita (ritual slaughter). I’ve never dealt head on, with the emotional, ethical concerns of taking an animal’s life to support my own. I’ve been meaning to visit a slaughterhouse for some time to confront this deficiency in my rabbinic and human experience. Confrontation time had arrived.

Every year, a local shochet from Boulder visits the Ramah Outdoor Adventure community to teach about kosher shechita. Yadidya Greenberg invited anyone who chose to participate to gather at the chava (farm) to witness a shechita. As we arrived, he carefully displayed his tools of his trade: the rectangular knives, the sharpening stones, the aprons, and a bucket of earth. He began by asking the chalutzim (pioneers/campers) to share their initial thoughts about shechita, eating meat, and slaughtering animals. Then, he told us about his journey from vegan to vegetarian to kosher meat eater. Some time ago, Yadidya discovered that he needed meat protein for health reasons. As an animal lover, he made an oath to stop eating the meat he needed until he learned how to slaughter it himself. He wanted to confront the dilemma with his own hands. And he did. He learned to be a shochet. Yadidya explained with great compassion about the Jewish code of ethics and his personal commitment to teach and spread kosher slaughter. When the shochet does it right, the the animal feels no pain and the animals death is given proper respect.

Yadidya prepared the area by placing some earth underneath an aluminum tube. Then, he bought out the rooster. It was a heritage rooster, a rooster that was allowed to grow naturally. It was a beautiful, big, orange rooster. He handed it to a madricha (counselor), who held the chicken in her arms. The shochet sharpened his knife. He recited the blessing – “Praised are You, Adonai our God, Source of All, for sanctifying us through the commandment of shechita”. What a meaningful blessing at this powerful moment. I thought to myself, ‘Thank you God, for Your system of mitzvot that allows us to partake of the blessings of this world, with ethics, sustainability and compassion.’ As the madricha held the chicken in a cradle hold, Yadidya exposed the rooster’s neck. With one swift, smooth stroke, he cut across its neck, and the rooster was dead. The madricha placed the rooster upside down in the aluminum tube to allow the blood to drain on top of the earth. When the rooster shook and twitched in the throws of death, we were all reminded about the gravity of life and death. Then, it stopped.

We were all a bit shaken by the experience. For those of us who eat meat, it gave us all a much deeper appreciation for the process that brings the meat to our supermarket and our table. For those of us who don’t eat meat, it confirmed the reality that kept us from eating meat. Yadidya stressed the importance of allowing our dietary decision-making process to evolve slowly and for the kids to be sensitive to their parents’ homes and practices.

After processing the experience with kids, Yadidya invited them up to pluck the rooster’s feathers. When it was all over, Yadidya asked me to fulfill the mitzvah of covering the blood with earth. I took some earth from the bucket and covered the blood that had been spilt. I recited the closing bracha (blessing): “Praised are You, Adonai our God, Source of All, for sanctifying us though the commandment to cover blood with earth.” I thought to myself, ‘Thank you God for your system of mitzvot that allows us to give honor and pay respect to the life that we’ve taken to sustain our lives.’

Thank you Yadidya and Ramah Outdoor Adventure for an incredibly meaningful experience for me and the Ramah Outdoor Adventure community of staff and campers. I don’t know yet how this experience will affect my food decision, but I know I’m a better Rabbi, Jew, citizen, and human for experiencing a shechita first-hand.

 

Rabbi Ranon Teller

Congregation Brith Shalom

By Ari Polsky, Customer Experience Specialist

horseAs a longtime Ramahnik, and recent transplant to Ramah in the Rockies, I have had over 2000 camp meals in my life. While there are many fond memories of camp meals and routines, none have quite been like the dining experience that happens here at Ramah in the Rockies. This first and most easily noted difference is the routine: upon entering the chadar Ochel  [dining hall] and sitting down to start the meal, one of our tzevet mitbach [kitchen staff] offers tafrit hayom [menu of the day].

Wayne, Miriam, Neil, Yael, or Terry stand in front of the entire dining hall, and announce the menu, and what nutritional features or special ingredients the day’s meal might have. Sometimes the tafrit hayom focus on the anti inflammatory properties of coriander, or how quinoa is a complete protein. Whatever the fact of the day, it educates those sharing the meal about something new that helps everyone appreciate the meal.

The other clear difference I have observed is the length of the meals—they are longer than I am used to having in a camp setting. The length has allowed me to have more in depth conversations with those at the same table, as well as allowed for a more leisurely eating pace. Not only are the meals longer, but we are also not supposed to start clearing or cleaning up until the moment that it has been declared “Zman L’nakot!” [Cleanup time!]

Perhaps the most suprising part of my first ten days at Ramah in the Rockies is the lack of red meat or poultry. Tasty and more sustainable alternatives have been frequent: quinoa, tofu, seitan, salmon, rice and beans, etc.

From my conversations with veteran staff, I learned that this was a conscious decision from both the chalutzim [campers] and the tzevet [staff] after the first two summers at camp. Together, they asked the camp rather than serving meat regularly that they would prefer to have it less often, but know that when meat was served it came from a farm where the animals are cared for, responsibly fed, and raised environmentally, and of course kosher.  Last week, I helped unload over 200 frozen chickens and 50 pounds of ground beef that were raised at a farm by one of our camper families.

The sustainable and local food ethos of camp goes even farther, with our milk coming from a local, organic, and sustainable dairy, called Aurora Organic Dairy and the fish from a local Fish Farm, Quixotic Farming.  Over the course of the summer, these companies will donate over 400 gallons of Milk and 600 pounds of fish for our campers and staff to enjoy.  Quixotic food, which has a contract with the Colorado prison system, employs inmates getting ready to be released and provides them with meaningful job training that they can use when they return to the outside world.  Our senior staff have visited the prison and met with the workers there to ensure that the fish fits in with our broader food values.

A staple of many camps is a canteen, or some opportunity to get extra snacks throughout the day. I was surprised that there was no such place at Ramah Outdoor Adventure and wondered how campers and staff would obtain food throughout the day, as food is strictly prohibited in living areas.   I discovered that there are almost always healthy snacks such as fruit or pita chips are available throughout the day near the kitchen (except for 30 minutes before and after the meals). I have enjoyed the ability to pick up a nectarine or chips and dip at 11am or 9pm if I so desire.

Even the way that the dining hall is run fits within the broader values that I can see permeate all areas of Ramah in Colorado.   Everyone from the chalutzim to the hanhallah [administration] take turns acting as Meltzarim [Waiters]. The Meltzarim are responsible for setting tables before the meals, and sweeping up after. Another group helps in the “dishpit” after the meal and assist the fulltime dishwashers pushing every plate, utensil, and serving dish through the industrial dishwasher and then putting the clean dishes away on the drying racks.  While we have only been staff and senior leaders at camp thus far, I can only imagine how being a part of meal set up and clean will affect the 390 chalutzim that will grace the Ohel Ochel [dining tent] throughout this summer.

I have been continually impressed in my short time here so far with the quality, intention, and effort that go into providing three daily meals. As I continue to learn my new home here at Ramah in the Rockies, I discover more and more about the camp and food culture here. I look forward to seeing how the food education at this camp will transform the lives of all of our chalutzim and their families.

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!

 

For the past few years, we have had  a number of former chalutzim who have written about their time at Ramah Outdoor Adventure as part of their college admissions essays.  Over the next few weeks we will feature a few of these from our former chalutzim (and hopefully future tzevet members).  If you want your essay to be featured email us at info@ramahotudoors.org.  This weeks essay was written by Simon Lowen (JOLI 2012):

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The morning peeks over the mountains, and the whole camp comes alive. We wake up, yawn, and smile with the knowledge that another phenomenal day charged with learning and adventure awaits us. We are at Ramah in the Rockies, a Jewish outdoor adventure camp, in which campers learn the value of nature, leadership, community, and more. This is my favorite place on earth, and I could live here forever; I love nature, adventure, and environmental sustainability, which are all huge parts of camp, and my personality meshes perfectly with this truly special environment.

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2014 Grants for Day School Students Now Available for Ramah Outdoor Adventure’s Upcoming Camp Season

A grant of $100,000 by an anonymous donor will now make it possible for students in Jewish day schools to apply for generous scholarship support for the upcoming 2014 camp season. The grant represents unprecedented support for the camp’s day school campers, as well as traditional need-based scholarships and support for first-time campers.

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For the past few years, we have had  a number of former chalutzim who have written about their time at Ramah Outdoor Adventure as part of their college admissions essays.  Over the next few weeks we will feature a few of these from our former chalutzim (and hopefully future tzevet members).  If you want your essay to be featured email us at info@ramahoutdoors.org.  This weeks essay was written by Michael Harlow (JOLI 2012):

Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you? 

The floor on the ohel ochel –the dining tent– sways and bounces on Friday night, as over 150 campers and counselors exuberantly sing and dance after the Sabbath meal. It’s a physical reminder of the incredible spirit that surrounds me.  I am smack in the middle of so much positive energy, Eytan on one side, Janine on the other, our arms around each other as together we lead the Hebrew songs.  I am completely at home here, part of a community of people who passionately share my interests and my values, at my home away from home, Camp Ramah in the Rockies.

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Written by 5th years counselor: Jordan Anderson

Every other week during the summer at ROA, we go out on masaot (excursions). We leave camp for backpacking, kayaking, rafting, horseback riding, climbing, and mountain biking. And each of those weeks, on the Sunday before we leave, Rabbi Eliav gives us a talk about what to expect for the next week. He tells us that we’re about to experience incredible highs and some not so incredible lows. He tells us that we will push ourselves beyond anything we ever thought ourselves capable of. Rabbi Eliav stands in front of the entire camp and tells us that we’re about enjoy views seen by very few and only accessible by horse, bike, foot, or river. But my favorite piece of wisdom Rabbi Eliav shares with us is this: he tells us we’re going to learn about who we are and, if we allow ourselves to grow, we will come back different people with a week’s worth of stories to tell.

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Written by: Elyssa Hammerman, Tikvah Director

elyssah@ramahoutdoors.org or 303-261-8214 x103

The Tikvah Program at Ramah Outdoor Adventure continued to thrive in summer 2013.  While we continued our incredible programming from the previous summer, one of our highlights was the extended masa (overnight camping excursion), which we extended to two nights.  Before the overnight Tikvah campers and staff carefully packed their hiking packs and prepared for our adventure.  Every camper saddled up his/her horse and rode off to our first campsite.  

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We played games, told stories, and feel asleep under the stars as we had done the year before; however, when we woke up, we rolled our sleeping bags, packed our packs, and hiked out of camp to our next spot.  We camped next to a beautiful stream in which we played.  That afternoon some of us relaxed around the campsite, while others set out to climb a nearby mountain! We all picked berries and then carefully followed an incredible orienteering course set up by one of our counselors.  We cooked a delicious dinner on the fire and sang silly songs!  In the morning we hiked back into camp singing our made up songs; every other group was also coming back from different directions.  We were warmly received with pictures and hugs and couldn’t wait for lunch and showers! This was a truly special component of our 2013 summer.  

Besides the masa we incorporated a buddy program which was also a huge success.  Every morning during Shmirat Hagoof (exercise) we played games with our buddies.  Everyone really enjoyed getting to know each other on a new level.  There were many other highlights from 2013 including: spending time with our baby goats, the talent show, archery, and Shabbat Shira.  We also hired a professional videographer and have a new Tikvah recruitment video.

As we count the days to summer 2014 we have a lot to look forward to. This summer we will be offering our traditional Tikvah program; however, campers will be participating in program prakims (periods) with their peers rather than their ohel (tent). We are also excited to launch a new inclusion track for campers who are capable of being integrated into BOTH our typical base camp program and a typical masa WITHOUT a one-on-one counselor. We will have an inclusion specialist who will be working with the counselors of those campers and who will be providing extra support to those campers while at base camp. We can’t wait until we’re all together again, back on the ranch riding the trails and gazing at the beautiful starry sky.

In a few short months, we will open our fourth summer at Ramah Outdoor Adventure.  And if this summer is anything like the first three, the key to our success will once again be the incredible group of passionate, dedicated and inspirational staff who come to the Ramah Ranch each summer to implement our innovative outdoor adventure program.

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At its core, the story of Chanukah is a story about the continuation of the Jewish people in a time when there was great pressure to assimilate into the secular society.  There were those who advocated complete assimilation into the Hellenistic society, and those who advocated complete disengagement from the secular world.  Ultimately, the answer was found somewhere in between.  Greek language, traditions and symbols influenced many aspects of the Jewish community in the 2nd century BCE, but the Jewish people as a whole continued to persevere and continued to flourish even while under the rule of foreign governments. Read more

Last Sunday night, 220 people gathered in Denver to honor Don Skupsky and to celebrate our Camp Ramah.

Here are the brief thoughts I shared with everyone that evening.  Also, if you have not yet seen it, check out our new fundraising video here.

The question is, what do the following people have in common?

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