January 1st marks the beginning of the secular new year, and even though I am a Jewish camp director who feels much more connected to the Jewish new year, I could not help but take a few moments this past weekend to reflect on the year that had passed and the year ahead. I found myself “Googling” Ramah Outdoor Adventure and came across many of the writings and videos I have posted over the past three years as well as the various articles that have been written about this new camp. My secular new year turned into a trip down memory lane.
Dear Blog readers:
I want to share a letter with you that is being sent to all our camper families. Filling our sessions too early is a terrific “problem” to have, and we look forward to many more similar problems in the months and years ahead.
Two Week Camping Now Available for 5/6th Graders in Session I
On Sunday night we had our annual gathering in Denver to celebrate the Ramah camp we are creating here in Colorado. Thank you to the 250+ people who participated in the event. Below, I will paste the words spoken by our own Emilie Helfand. She won an essay context to fly to Denver and read her thoughts about camp at the dinner. In addition to a few speeches, we aired a new video that is directed more towards the fundraising side of the project than the recruitment side. Take a look at this link. Much of it might look familiar.
At Ramah Outdoor Adventure, we pride ourselves on creating a counseling team made up of some of the finest counselors in the camping industry. For the past three summers (we began staff training in 2009) we have assembled a group of relatively older counselors who are able to execute our camp’s mission and build intensive Jewish programming that relates to our camp’s core values. After each of the past two summers, the compliment I heard most often from our chalutzim and parents was just how amazing our staff is and how they created a magical atmosphere where our chalutzim were able to thrive. As we grow, we are committed to maintaining this extraordinary level of staffing and to hire only the most motivated and passionate of college and post college age counselors.
This past week, I have had the pleasure of sitting in my Sukkah that I built using wood and hardware from Home Depot, topped with a bamboo mat that arrived via Fedex from a warehouse in Brooklyn. A Sukkah is supposed to be a place that is less comfortable than one’s house and is built as a temporary structure in the outdoors. My Sukkah, fits this description while also being a halachically acceptable.
It is official. The summer 2011 season has come to an end. The gear bins have been sealed, the tents closed down and all the kitchen equipment stored for the off season. All that is left are lots of memories and good stories. If we were in camp, the chadar ohel would be ringing with the sound of the entire camp singing “shabbos is coming we are so happy, we’re going to sing and shout out loud.” Instead, we are all welcoming Shabbat back in our homes; probably devoid of the service projects, Israeli dancing and massive challah baking (up to 75 challots) that were part of our Friday afternoon rituals at camp.
Our second year was a resounding success. We welcomed over 250 campers and staff to the Ramah in the Rockies ranch. We lead over 30 extended massaot (excursions) and numerous shorter trips. We rode bikes, and we rode horses. We climbed mountains and rappelled down cliffs. We planted our own vegetables and harvested our own food. We laughed, and we cried. We sat in quiet meditation and we sang songs with intense passion.
While 2011 is still fresh in my mind, I wanted to share three vignettes with you that capture the spirit of our community this past summer.
#1 Returning from Masa. A new tradition was solidified this year. As each Masa (excursion) returned to camp, they marched back to the gear shed singing a song from their trip, or chanting their masa cheer. (Last month I wrote about a biking masa’s return). Those of us who remained at base camp would come out of the office as we heard their voices to welcome back the returning chalutzim (campers). One of the most memorable returns of any group was group of metayalimers (entering 5/6th grade) who had gone on a day trip to our neighbor’s buffalo ranch to feed the buffalo. On their way back, they found a large mud puddle, and rather than walk around it, apparently began a competition of who could become the muddiest. After the first puddle, they found a second and then a third, and thus began a game of mud painting, and mud sliding. They eventually ran the final mile to camp, covered in thick brown mud, almost as if they had just been hanging out at the Dead Sea. Rather than returning upset to be so dirty, these 10 & 11 year olds were “hooting” and “hollering” and squealing with delight about their expedition. Each bragged about how they were muddier than the next. This type of uninhibited play could only happen at camp!
#2 Bo Bo Bo Boker Tov: Each morning, these are the words that begin Ramah Outdoor Adventure. This summer, Dan AKA “Juice-Boxx” [note the double X], Gabi AKA “G-baby,” and Or, AKA Or, took the lead on leading the Bo Bo Bo Boker Tov cheer when they were at base camp. They would meet at the picnic table at 5:58 or 6:58, depending on the day, and begin chanting. All of us at camp became so used to this chant that we stopped setting our own alarm clocks as their voices would echo off the valley walls. Last Thursday, “G-baby” had already left to go back to school, and Juice Boxx & Or were on a Masa. As a result: the rest of the camp overslept, because no one set an alarm! Eventually people began to wake on their own, and once we realized why everyone had overslept we all had a good laugh. The irony of our community is that we are in a gorgeous natural setting, and often just listen to the sounds of nature around us, such as during meditative teffilot or during solos on our massaot. But much of the time at base camp, there is a constant din of cheering, whether it is chalutzim cheering on their friends in the duathlon, chanting edah cheers in the chadar ohel or at 6:00am during camp wake up! As a tribute to our Bo-Bo Boker tov wake ups, all the staff gathered on the picnic table on our final full day of programming and gave a collective cheer. No one slept in that day!
#3 Increased environmental awareness: At our core, Ramah Outdoor Adventure is a community dedicated to living intentional Jewish lives with a heightened sense of our natural environment. It is for this reason that we focus so much on the food we eat, on our water consumption and on how our decisions impact the broader world around us. (Watch this video by our metayalimers on this topic) Last Sunday we had a final barbeque during lunch to finish off the final 40 pounds of meat that we had left in our freezer. As we always do when we have our occasional barbeque meals, we placed disposable plates and cups on the serving tables (we have no meat dishwasher, and therefore are not able to use reusable tableware at meat meals). But when it came time to serve the meat, I noticed that most of the chalutzim were holding cut out pieces of cardboard, in place of disposable plates. I am still not sure whom, but someone apparently had gone to the kitchen, taken a few of the boxes they had placed outside for recycling and began cutting small “card board” plates. Instead of rejecting these primitive plates, the chalutzim chose to use them in lieu of the disposables that the camp provided. In this way they were making a powerful statement that even if we were serving a meal that had a huge impact on the natural environment (our meat is sadly, NOT organic or local and creates about 4 times the amount of garbage as a typical meal at Ramah Outdoor Adventure), they were going to do whatever they could in their own power to make the meal a little more environmentally friendly. We have put all the paper goods back into storage instead of the local landfill. Just like the previous groups who came through this summer, there were many chalutzim who third session asked whether next summer we could try to serve local and/or organic meat and make the meal far less wasteful of natural resources.
As we draw the curtain on the 2011 season, please know that we are already counting down the days until the opening of camp in 2012. We are expanding our program and expect up to 150 chalutzim at camp at any one time. (See our current dates and rates here, and register here—though know that we expect to add additional programs for younger children AND adults). We already have a number of families who have registered their children for next year. Thank you to everyone who made our second season such a success. We would not be able to be building this camp without the support of parents, chalutzim, donors and volunteers. We look forward to many more successful summers together.
Please note: throughout this blog post there are many hyper links. Each one refers to a Youtube video
Our session II chalutzim have left the chava(ranch). Our Madrichim are in the midst of preparing for our session III chalutzim who will be arriving in less than 48 hours. Beds are being moved, bikes are being fixed and the dining hall is being scrubbed. And just like that we have drawn the curtain on our largest session ever at Ramah Outdoor Adventure.
The past four weeks have surpassed our wildest expectations. We biked, climbed, fed buffalo, witnessed fantastic rainbows, crossed snowy mountain passes and bathed in refreshing Colorado streams. We laughed and we cried, we hugged and we played. We shared scrumptious meals around the camp fire and nicely set Shabbat tables in the dining hall. We learned, and we taught. And perhaps most importantly we all grew spiritually, emotionally and physically through our month together at our alpine ranch.
As we bring session II to a close, I wanted to share three vignettes from the past month that capture the spirit of what transpired here. I have embedded youtube clips throughout.
#1 Returning from bike masa: One of the highlights of each session at Ramah Outdoor Adventure is watching the chalutzim return from their masaot (excursions). These chalutzim enter camp after having been away for a few days; they are excited, dirty and full of wonderful stories. We had three bike massaot return to camp this session, and each time the bikers assembled at the top of the hill on the far side of our pasture. They road down the access road coming to a skidding stop in front of the chadar ohel (dining hall) where they began singing the cheer they wrote while on masa, and then launching into our trademark “Shabbos is coming, we’re so happy” song. The energy these riders brought with them each time they returned was palpable. Most had ridden well over 100 miles up rocky mountain roads and down steep windy paths. All had experienced moments where they thought they could not ride another foot and moments where they felt like they were on top of the world. As they road into camp, they brought these intense emotions with them.
#2 Yom Sport: If I had to describe the day in one word, I would just say WOW! Year after year, yom sport is always one of the highlights of the summer at any Ramah camp. It is hard to pinpoint why children of all ages get so excited about this day of playful competition. From our “yom sport break out” where an olive and a grape debated which one was more important to Jews (check out our session II slide show for a clip), to the actual sports competitions during the day to the singing of the teams’ original songs, all who participated in Yom sport had a spectacular time. Yom sport is one of the loudest days in camp, not only because this year a helicopter landed in the middle of it (bringing some honored guests), but also because when chalutzim are not playing games they can be found walking between activities cheering loudly or standing on the sidelines yelling for their teammates. This year’s yom sport featured a long relay race that included almost every camp activity area on our ranch culminating in a fire building contest where the screaming and cheering reached a near ear popping decibel. I think all can agree that we also witnessed one of the more exceptional “original songs” composed by the yarok (green) team captain, Ethan A. At our closing campfire last night, the entire camp joined in the singing of this upbeat song. It truly became one of the theme songs of the session.
#3 Our Final Havdallah
At camp, we place a special emphasis on our Havdallah ceremony. We form a giant circle with the entire camp and have a chance to give “shout outs” or reflections from the week that passed. We then move into singing havdallah and a series of other songs together. Perhaps more so than any other time at camp, at Havdallah one really feels the sense of community present on our ranch.
This past week, we asked a few chalutzim from each edah (age group) to speak for a few minutes about what camp meant to them. Each spoke in age appropriate way about some aspect of the summer and some memory that they are taking with them. The commonality between all their speeches was that this is a place where kids can come to challenge themselves, live amongst friends in a supportive environment and connect to a larger community. Most of us were in tears by the end of havdallah as we looked around at the faces of the people whom only weeks earlier we barely knew and now had shared such intense experiences.
Alas, all good things must come to an end. And our second session has now drawn to a close. We will miss each and every chalutz/a who walked through our gate. We are left now with only memories, pictures and transformed selves from our time together. As we transition to third session all of us staff members know that we will be even better counselors in session III and form an even tighter community because of the experiences we had with our first two sessions of chalutzim.
Luckily camp opens in 46 weeks. Stay tuned for Tuesday’s email about registering for our 2012 camping season.
P.S. An additional MUST see video is this one by our metayalim chalutzim on the importance of recycling: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aO4i4CzaQ2Y
Written by two of our JOLI participants:
To begin, I want you to think through an average day in your life. And
now I would like to exemplify the following: in an average day, most
of your time is spent talking with or doing things with other people.
Most of the things we say are for the benefit of others, and would be
left unsaid if there were no one else to hear it. Our mannerisms, ways
of speech and courtesies are all based on the fact that this world is
build on the principle of cohesion between people. Please, thank you,
eye contact, reassuring phrases, they all arose because people spend
so much time together and realized that it was better than being
It is hard to believe that we are half way through our second session! Our days have been jammed packed, and so I must apologize for not writing more frequent updates over the past two weeks. If you are not a fan of our Facebook page, please become one, as we post frequent updates on camp there.
Our Session I chalutzim have been gone for only a few hours, and our incredible staff have begun their first well-deserved day off of the season. Sitting here in Starbucks down in Woodland Park, I have only the warmest memories from the past two weeks. Leading up to the beginning of Session I, many on our staff were anxious about our second season at Ramah Outdoor Adventure. Could we repeat the magic we created in 2010? Would the new chalutzim (pioneers/ campers) bond with the returning campers? Would the new programs we have added this year be as successful as the ones we began last year? Would our new staff work well with our returning staff? Would our attempt to differentiate between different edot (age groups) succeed? Would a two week session, at the beginning of the summer, provide an emotionally moving experience for our chalutzim? These were just some of the questions racing through our minds in the weeks leading up to the opening of the 2011 season.
Please read to the end for housekeeping matters.
This morning was our warmest morning thus far this summer. While most of us woke up after sunrise and put on our fleeces and long pants, we did so out of habit and not necessity, as the temperature hovered in the 60s until the sun rose above the hilltop. The warm morning was a perfect way to transition into our week of masaot (excursions). At 7:30, our first group of Bogrim chalutzim (9/10th grade) boarded their bus to go kayaking on the Arkansas River and hiking in Great Sand Dunes National Park. An hour later, another group headed out for a five day climbing trip on a magnificent rock face, about one hour from camp. This afternoon, our Metayalim chalutzim (5/6th grade) leave for an overnight where they will be mining for quartz in a local quartz seam and feeding buffalo at our neighbor’s ranch. Tomorrow morning, our Sollelim chalutzim (7/8th grade) head out for four days of hiking and rafting or biking.
Lest you think that camp will be quiet this week, last night 50 campers and staff from Ramah in the Poconos arrived at camp. They will be participating in four days of activities here on the Ramah in the Rockies ranch.
All in all, this is certain to be an amazing week at Ramah Outdoor Adventure.
The past few days at camp have been challenging, inspirational and memorable. Since the second day of camp, our horses have been working about eight hours a day taking chalutzim on trail rides around the ranch. Our bikers have explored many of the trails in camp, including some with considerable inclines. Our advanced climbers have spent hours scaling cliffs 100s of feet high, including one who did a multi-pitch climb yesterday; while our beginner climbers have learned the basics of belay technique and the basics of climbing on real rock faces. One of the most popular additions to our program this summer is the new 18 “hole” FROLF (frisbee golf) course designed by a former Ramah in New England Ultimate star, Nadav. Nadav spent all of staff week constructing a course that takes 2-3 days to complete and circles much of the back of our property. In addition to allowing for some terrific FROLF, our course enables our chalutzim to explore areas of the ranch that they might not otherwise see.
While our physical activities have been amazing, we had an incredibly inspirational Shabbat as well. On Friday evening, we gathered in our new amphitheatre, called the Pardes Tefillah (Prayer Grove), for dancing and davening. As usual, we sang Kabbalat Shabbat with a guitar and drums before lighting the Shabbat candles. Our dinner, consisting of fish, beans and rice, was followed by some of the most incredible singing and dancing that any of us have ever heard or seen at Ramah. Shabbat proceeded as planned, with time for collective prayer and learning, as well as lots of free time, when chalutzim napped, played kickball and also hung around to chat with each other. At 9:15 pm we all gathered in front of the Chadar Ohel (dining hall) for our first havdallah of the season. For the first 10 minutes, chalutzim took turns giving “shout outs” to each other as a way to publicly thank others in the group who had either helped them out in the initial days of camp, or with whom they had shared a meaningful moment. It was incredible to see how, after only five days together as a community, we had already come so close to each other and were able to share our inner feelings.
With over a week left in our camp program, I can only imagine how this second week will change our chalutzim and bring them even closer together. While I savor each day here at the Chava (ranch), I cannot wait for next Shabbat when we will again gather in our pardes tefillah, having had six additional days of intense outdoor experiences and meaningful interpersonal bonding.
Now for a few housekeeping matters:
#1 Please note that due to the higher than usual water level in the Arkansas River our rafting company will not take any clients under the age of 12. Therefore, we have had to cancel our metayalim (entering 5/6) rafting trip indefinitely for this session. We were informed of this yesterday, and are still searching for an alternate activity for this Thursday.
#2 For those who are still having issues seeing our pictures, please know that they are kept on a new website. Due to numerous complaints last year, we ARE NOT using the UltraCamp site for pictures. Please contact us directly for a link to the photos.
This was posted on our monthly Constant Contact before Passover: I wanted to share it with the readers of our blog, should people have missed it in the pre-pesach mailing.
On Pesach, as we drink 4 cups of wine, raise 3 matzot and sing about 13 attributes of God in “Who Knows One”, we share a few key numbers of our own…
500 Loaves of organic bread we plan to order from a local bakery
250 Pounds of organic granola we plan to order from a local supplier
240 Gallons of milk we anticipate using this summer
187 Campers currently registered for the 2011 summer season
106 Campers coming to Ramah Outdoor Adventure in 2011 for the first time
41 Campers from Camp Ramah in the Poconos spending a week at the Ramah in theRockies ranch this summer
30 Program staff members who are working in camp this year
24 Campers we are hoping to enroll before opening day
23 States from which campers are coming
14 Horses coming to “work” at camp this summer
13 Camper bunks we will have at camp this summer for session II
12 Hens who will be laying eggs at camp this summer
2 Goats coming to camp this summer (on loan from a local goat farm)
1 Registered camper coming from the state of Wyoming
Part I: Maintaining a positive community
How do we maintain a close‑knit camp community where we all know each other but where there are no cliques, even as we grow enrollment by 75% in one year? This is an issue we are dealing with in the off‑season as we gear up for our second summer with chalutzim (pioneers/campers) at Ramah Outdoor Adventure and our inaugural summer for the Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute.
TAMRA L. DOLLIN
PROJECT DIRECTOR, RAMAH IN THE ROCKIES
Ever wonder what it takes to build a ‘green’ camp from the ground up? What does it mean to build in an environmentally sustainable way? How do you minimize your impact on the land while building a facility to comfortably house hundreds of campers and staff every year? In what way can the physical buildings reinforce the educational values being practiced at camp?
“So what do you do the rest of the year?” This is the question I am most often asked when I tell people that I am a Rabbi/educator who works as a camp director. In most people’s eyes, camp is an eight week job. For the other 10 months, I think that they imagine year round camp staffget to kick back by the pool for hours every day.
This was printed last week in the ejewishphilanthropy.com newsletter. In case you missed it, I am reprinting it here:
by Rabbi Eliav Bock
Last year, while recruiting our first cohort of campers to the county’s only Kosher outdoor adventure camp, Ramah Outdoor Adventure, someone forwarded me a funny video titled Jews Don’t Camp (see above). While clearly intended as some light humor, there is an element of truth in this video. American Jews, as a whole, are not known for their rustic “outdoors-y” nature. Although we are a people whose ancient texts and traditions emerged from an agrarian society, most American Jews live in urban settings with minimal daily contact with the broader natural world. And worse, perhaps, is the fact that our children are constantly connected to technology. What parent among us does not regret that?
The holiday of Tu B’Shvat is intended to make us stop and consider our relationship to the earth. At a Tu B’shvat seder, we sit with friends, sing songs about nature, eat special fruits that represent an element within nature, drink hues of wine that represents the changing seasons and discuss how we can protect our natural environment. In recent years, with the rising awareness of humanity’s deleterious impact on the natural world, Tu B’shvat sedarim seem to be ever more popular.
And while celebrating this holiday is a good start, as a camp director, I know that we can take the lessons of Tu B’shvat and apply them to our summer camp lives. At Ramah Outdoor Adventure, we have created a program with the specific goal of reconnecting our youth with the natural world around them. We have made environmental living an integral part of the summer program. From waking up with the sun, to living in a technology free zone with limited electricity, to eating sustainable food at meals, our goal at camp is to spend a few weeks living intentionally in the natural world.
Our program seeks to engage campers in environmental programming. This might be an exploration through the surrounding forest to search for mushrooms or a specific type of tree. It might be a discussion about our own carbon footprint each time we fly to camp or drive three hours to go on a four day hike. But other times our environmental education is embedded within the broader camp program. For example, by spending extended time camping in the backcountry, our campers are able to gain a deeper appreciation about how to use nature for their own good while also leaving it undisturbed for other humans and animals to enjoy. Similarly, by adjusting our internal clocks to wake up at sunrise and go to sleep when dark, campers not only gain an appreciation for living according to the natural rhythms of the day, but they also see that one can survive in a world without electricity.
Throughout, we never lose sight of the fact that Jewish camp works as an educational enterprise because it creates a model community disconnected from the “real world.” Educators have been using camp to impart the importance of living in a deeply connected Jewish community for over 100 years. Because of this, countless campers have spent ten months of the year yearning to return to their camp community. As research now shows, immersive Jewish experiences at camp are a good predictor for life-long engagement in Jewish life. Ramah has long recognized the fact that in every activity and circumstance – and now in the daily routine of Ramah’s first specialty camp – the emphasis on Jewish life and learning remains a critical ingredient. Our environmental learning and outdoor experiences would not be nearly as impactful without grounding in Jewish text learning and the context of Jewish tradition and ritual.
At Ramah Outdoor Adventure, we build upon the success of Jewish camping by creating an immersive Jewish community with an additional layer which makes us unique in the North American Jewish camping world. We have created a program that places equal emphasis on how our community relates to the natural world around us. This means we engage our campers in the choices of food we eat; we spend days at a time sleeping on the ground in tents and under tarps; we walk around at night guided only by moonlight; and we perform weekly service projects to beautify our ranch and to take care of the natural landscape around us. In addition to having our own working garden on the ranch, we contract with a local organic farm to source much of our food. Our older campers have a chance to spend five days living with the farmers and cultivating the land, and return to camp with boxes of fresh produce for us to eat the following week.
We do not want camp’s lessons to remain behind in the Rocky Mountains when campers go home. Rather, we want our campers to return to their regular lives not only with a deeper sense of their own Jewish identity but also with a deeper commitment to protecting and preserving the natural world around us. By marking Tu B’shvat within their home communities, they and we are reminded, as winter wanes, of the imperative to engage more deeply with the natural world and live Jewish lives imbued with wonder at the beauty, bounty, and fragility of the natural world.
Rabbi Eliav Bock is the Director of Ramah Outdoor Adventure
What do a Kosher, free- range chicken distributor, a pulpit rabbi from LA who composts and the program director of Ramah Outdoor Adventure have in common? Well for one thing, they all recently had the opportunity to attend the 2010 Hazon Food Conference in Petaluma, California. This conference brings together some of the most innovative and progressive thinkers in the world of Jewish environmentalism for four days of learning and discussion. Yes, the program director mentioned above is me, and I have been sitting in front of this computer for weeks since the conference trying to figure out what I want to say regarding my experience.
The first entry I wrote but never posted praised the energy and inspiration of all the participants, but I felt that it didn’t do justice to the amazing projects all around the country in which people are engaged.
So the second entry I wrote but never posted was about how impressed I was with people who are turning their fantastic ideas in realities. There are some really amazing projects out there that are being actualized this moment. Kosher, free range meat, a heksher that certifies the ethical standards of food products in addition to the halachic kashrut, the building of a Jewish land based community outside of Baltimore to name a few. But this entry didn’t express how impressed I also was with the many people who are not in a place to devote their lives and careers to environmental Judaism, but attended the conference just out of person interest and passion.
Feeling defeated, I tried to change my attitude and my third blog attempt was a critique of the scholarship behind environmental Judaism. I wrote that we rely so heavily on a small group of texts to support what we consider to be a revolutionary movement. I cynically pointed out that every class, lecture or conference on Jewish environmental topics explores the same texts as the previous one as if they had discovered something totally radical. But thinking about it, I realized I wasn’t being fair. While I do feel there is a need for an intermediate track of Jewish learning around environmentalism, the fact is, I have learned so much about this different face of Judaism I never experienced in my childhood education, and even though the texts express the same words each time I see them, the meaning I gain from them is always different, and isn’t that one of the truly amazing aspects of Jewish learning?
So where does that leave me? Three failed blog entries later, I was back where I started, so I turned to the wisdom of our Tradition to guide me. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, an 18th century mystic, describes three stages of spiritual growth: the mountain, the field and the city. The mountain is a place that is wild and unpredictable; there we might face adversity at any moment. The field is our attempt to make sense of this chaos, where we can feel the influence of our own order while still being at the mercy of the variances of nature. The city is the place we can dwell most comfortably, where we have the most control of ourselves and our surroundings. Rebbe Nachman teaches it is our spiritual mission to leave behind the mountain and move to the city. My understanding of this teaching is not that we are somehow supposed to leave the uncertainty of mountain; life is wild and unpredictable and there is little we can do to change that. But rather, we must equip ourselves with the tools and consciousness to live comfortably in this unpredictable and challenging reality. We must make the mountain feel like a city.
And that, my friends, is what I think people in the Jewish environmental movement are doing. We are learning and teaching the skills that make us feel more comfortable and excited in our own tradition, more at ease as ethically conscious beings, and more competent in providing for ourselves and living as a truly integrated piece of the amazing natural world that G-d created. That is the common thread, and whether we are doing through a kitchen compost bucket, an educational institution, or a green business, intellectually, physically, or spiritually, we are all doing our part to build our home on the mountain.
As my thoughts turn toward camp this summer, I think of some of the mountains we will face. Maybe it is coming to camp for the first time, or practicing skills outside of our comfort zone. It may be experiencing things that frighten us, or simply creating a recycling program at a location that is 10 miles down a mountainous, dirt road. Perhaps it’s creating a community at camp that exemplifies our ideals, or even figuring out what those ideals are. These mountains are daunting, but if there is one thing in which I am confident after seeing the drive and inspiration of our 2010 chalutzim and staff, as well as experiencing the competence and passion in those involved in the Jewish environmental world, the mountains that may daunt us now will quickly become a place where we feel at home. To me, this is a pretty strong metaphor for a camp that makes its physical home high in the mountains.
The oil in the Menorah was supposed to last for one day, but it lasted for eight. Our registration goal was to be 20% full by Chanukah and we are closing in 45% of capacity! Is it a miracle? I prefer to think about it as testament to the incredible job that our staff and campers did in helping us initiate the camp in 2010.
Kislev was an excellent month to work in the Ramah Outdoor Adventure office. Each day we registered chalutzim for 2011 and we continued hiring our 2011 staff. At this point, almost half of our 2010 staff has committed to return for another summer. Our registered 2011 chalutzim include a mix of both new and returning campers. This means that while there will be some wonderful reunions on the first day of each session, all the chalutzim who come to camp in 2011, will make new friends as we renew our community at our rustic Ramah in the Rockies ranch.
While summer is still seven months away, we are starting to count down the days. We expect some of our tents to begin fillings by the end of December when the early bird discount ends. We will try to add capacity in the more popular edot, but will wait until the end of January to make these decisions.
Thanks for Eytan Deener-Agus (2010 session I) and Mikaela Kaiser (2010 Session II) for their submissions to our story contest. While neither won the grand prize, both wrote terrific stories that are reprinted below.
Recruiting season & camp planning has shifted into high gear. All of our 2010 chalutzim (lit. pioneers, campers) should have received their thank you gift for being part of our opening summer. We’ve heard that many chalutzim wear their new orange sweatshirts all the time.
By November 1st, we have enrolled over 40% of the total number of chalutzim who joined us in 2010.