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 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 | T (303) 261-8214 x104


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

Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Eliav Bock

Beth Hammerman

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.”

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.

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

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Eliav Bock


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

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Eliav Bock

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.

It had to happen!

Another successful summer at Ramah Outdoor Adventure has come to an end.  All is quiet on the ranch.  Eight of our twenty horses have left.  The Alpacas, goats, chickens and ducks have gone home.  A few hours ago, we said goodbye to the last of our chalutzim (campers).  Our tzevet (staff) are packing away equipment, sweeping the ohalim (tents) and readying the camp for the long nine months of hibernation.  Today is one of the hardest days of the summer.  There is no cheering in the ohel ochel, there are no yelps of joy coming from the chalutzim biking down the single track and there is no one hanging around the table in the middle of the kfar (tent area) playing cards during free time.

Read more

The following Blog Post was written by our Staff Trainer, Toby Joy Zelt.  Toby describes her experience teaching the Metayalot girls (grade 5/6) during their “orienteering” activity this afternoon.

Around my knuckles I drew concentric circles, representing the mountain tops, which appeared on our topographical map.  Through this demonstration, the chalutzot came to understand how the black and white map of curved lines, circles, and numbers related to the valleys and peaks of ROA’s surrounding wilderness.  It is a genius method, using the knuckles to teach about topography, utilized in previous years by Joel, who coordinates all of our Masaot.  With many years of backcountry experience, it was an exciting opportunity to teach some of the skills I find so rewarding and freeing; I know that these skills have allowed me a freedom to explore the beauty of this world that most people only dream about.  When you can understand the landscape and use orienteering skills to navigate off trail, the world becomes open for adventure and discovery, the road less traveled invites you, and no longer are you forced to step where others have before.  Many off trail, multi-day trips all over North America in spectacular scenery like Yosemite, Banff, Shenandoah, and Joshua Tree wouldn’t have had the same impact on me had I been restricted to paths.  These navigational tools strengthen one’s confidence, independence, and self-reliance.  When I was asked to teach this session to the girls, there was no question in my mind.
Read more

A week ago, the idea of running a camper program geared towards younger campers was but a dream.  I am happy to report that five days into session III the dream has become a reality and I now know that the Ramah Outdoor Adventure program works for younger campers as well as it does for older campers.  This session, 50 campers are spending time at the chava (ranch).  Half are entering grades 3-6 and half are entering grades 7 & 8.  While we could have enrolled more campers for the session, we decided to cap this session at seven tents in total in order to allow us to focus our resources on providing excellent programming for these younger campers.

So how have we adjusted our program to suit the needs of these campers?

#1 Alternate schedule:  During the rest of the summer we wake up at 6:00am and end our program between 8:00 and 8:30.  This session we have moved wakeup until 7:00am in order to allow for extra sleep and end our program by 8:00pm.  While we had thought that our younger campers would need the extra time to sleep as it turns out, many our campers wake much earlier and many even leave their tents to hang out outside until 7:00am.  We have decided to keep this “later” wake up in place because at this point in the summer our staff greatly appreciate the extra hour of sleep, and for those children who do sleep until 7:00, they are able to have more fulfilling days.

#2  Reimagining goals of program:  At Ramah Outdoor Adventure we pride ourselves on teaching in depth skills to our older chalutzim.  It is for this reason that we ask all chalutzim entering grade 7-10 to choose specific activities at base camp on which to focus.  No one in grades 7-10 comes to camp and tries all that we have to offer on our ranch.  For our younger kids, we look at our educational program differently.  This session, every chalutz entering grade 3-6 will have the opportunity to try almost every activity we have at base camp.  Because they are being exposed to each activity, they only spend an hour and ten minutes during this short session in any given area.  As a result, the goal of the activity is less about learning in depth skills, and more about having a fun experience that they might want to build upon in a future summer.  This session our older campers (those entering grades 7 & 8) are continuing with the more skills based learning model that we used the first six weeks of the summer.

#3 Greater emphases on song and dance:  Compared to last year, our teffilot (prayers) throughout the summer have been much improved.  This session, Rabbi Ranon Teller (AKA Rabbi “T”), has joined us as our Rosh Teffilah.  Rather than assign him the task of overseeing all of the Teffilot at camp, I asked Rabbi “T” to focus his energies on creating lively services for the youngest two groups of campers.  Rabbi “T” has put together an age appropriate siddur, he has infused the service with fun stories and easy to sing songs.  Teffilot for our youngest campers have become a time for song and dance.  In addition, during the session, each group will meet with Rabbi T a few times outside of the formal prayer time to learn new Hebrew songs.  We are testing this format of having formal time for learning song and dance with the hopes of rolling it out to the entire camp next year.  While Rabbi T has focused his energies on the youngest two groups, our sollelim campers (entering 7 &8) have had a chance to experience the best of the teffilot that we developed and ran over the past six weeks.  These have included a learners minyan, a musical teffilah and tomorrow, a sunrise hike followed by teffilah and breakfast overlooking  a scenic vista.

#4 Perhaps our most important asset this session that has made our first five days such a success is an extra dose of patience.  Especially for our staff members who just spent six weeks working with older high school students, making the transition to working with younger campers has taken a great deal of intentionality.  They have had to remember that younger campers often take longer to do basic tasks such as brushing teeth, getting dressed or even clearing the tables in the chadar ohel (dining hall).  During our intersession, we worked with our counselors to help them understand how an 8 year old is developmentally very different than a 15 year old.  Each is able to engage with our core values in their own way, but the demands placed on a counselor of a younger camper are very different from those placed on the counselor of an older camper.

#5 Age appropriate Masa program.  As I write, our youngest campers are all sleeping outside under tents and tarps.  As everyone at Ramah Outdoor Adventure knows, our masa program is one of the gems of this camp.  Each camper has the opportunity to head out into the back country for an excursion.  Because of the size of our youngest campers and the limited amount of time available in this session, it is not realistic to send them out for a multi-day experience.  (While we did send our 5/6th graders on a three day hike in session II, this was only after they had had three weeks of preparation on our ranch for this excursion).  Instead our youngest campers wore day packs for a hike today and a sunrise hike tomorrow.  In between they are sleeping at the back of our property so that they get the feeling of sleeping out under the stars, but do not have to carry their gear a great distance.  Before they return to camp, they will all have eaten at least two meals around a camp fire of food that they will have prepared themselves.  Of course, our oldest campers this session (7&8) are heading out on an abbreviated masa from Wednesday through Friday.

In the camp world, they say that one day of camp is the equivalent of 3 days of life in the real world.  This certainly seems to be the case this session, as we are only 5 days into our session, but it seems as though we have been together for weeks.  Friendships are being made, inside jokes are being created, and new memories are being formed by all!

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:

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.

Wow! It is hard to believe that this time next week our ranch will be empty, except for the few people on our maintenance staff who will be helping to ready it for the winter.  What a summer it has been, and what a wonderful way to end the summer with this smaller once week program.

This weekend, our ranch has been filled with life!  All of our chalutzim returned from their Masa on Friday.  Overall, they had a wonderful time on their hike.  Like so many of the past few days, it rained for a few hours on their Masa, and the chalutzim had the opportunity to use their tarp building skills to stay dry.  I was told that they all slept out under tarps rather than put up tents.  Ironically, in rainy weather, a tarp will keep you dryer than a tent, and because we are so high in the mountains there are almost no mosquitoes to worry about.

In addition to the regular Metayalim (6th/7th grade program), we also have been running a small family camp here for the past few days.  For the most part, our two programs have remained separate, except for meals and some of the services (family camp sleep in a different part of the ranch about a 7 minutes walk from our chalutzim’s tents).  One of the nice aspects of having a family camp here at the same time as our chalutzim is that we really do feel like a big family.  Throughout the summer, the unifying element of every session has been the sense that we are one big Kehillah (community).  Even though many members have changed, the feeling has remained the same.  It is wonderful to see this same sense of community continue when we have so many “real” families here as well.

In what is perhaps a record for a Ramah Camp outside of California, we were able to conduct every Friday night service outside on our field, and not have to go to our rain plan even once for Kabbalat Shabbat.  This Friday, it looked as though we would be davening under our large white circus tent as it rained on and off all afternoon.  But about 20 minutes before services, when the sun broke through the clouds,  Stevo, our Rosh Shira, said that he would get some counselors to go and dry all the benches if it meant that we could conduct services outdoors.  And so sure enough, as the rest of us were up at the tents dancing our preshabbat Israeli dances, our staff readied our benches.  By the time we all danced down to the field, the sun shone brighter than it had all day, and the benches were completely dry.

In addition to the usual eating, singing and resting one of the highlights of Shabbat was the “Lorax” debate that the Metalyalim had about who should be responsible for the damage done by the people who cut down all the Truffela trees.  We actually had to cut off the debate after an hour and fifteen minutes because it was time to move to the next activity.  Given the pace of the camp on most other days, on Shabbat the chalutzim all appreciated being able to sleep in (until 8:00am) and having down time to sit and play cards or just to hang out and chat.

Today was a full day of programming including: paper making in arts and crafts, slack line and team building exercises in the low ropes, relay races in shmirat hagoof, soccer/ ultimate (our unique Ramah Outdoor Adventure sport) during sports, service projects on the farm (including time with the chickens) and much much more.  Tomorrow we have another full day– filled with biking, horseback riding and climbing– our last of the summer.  Our hope is that by the end of the session, each chalutz will have had a chance to experience each of the activities offered at camp.  Hopefully next year they will be able to return for a longer session and actually be able to choose a few activities in which to go in depth.

Over the past few days, I have also had an opportunity to speak with each member of our staff individually to hear about how they would like to continue with Ramah Outdoor Adventure.  It warms my heart to know that most of our staff want to return for another year, and many of them are planning on doing so (“sadly” some of our older staff members are beginning fulltime jobs that will not allow them to return for 8 weeks next summer).  As I have written so often in these blog updates, the success of this summer is due in a large part because of the extraordinary staff we have here at the Chava.  Our staff are some of the most committed group of camp counselors I have ever seen.  They each see the success of this camp as being part of the legacy they would like to leave.  And therefore, so many of them are working late into the night putting down their ideas and programs on paper so that on the off chance they do not return next year, whomever takes over their position will be able to continue the work they are doing, and not have to worry about recreating the programming that the inaugural staff already implemented.

The next update I will send, the last of the summer will be a much more nostalgic one.  For now, we are working to ensure that our last day of full programing is as well run, challenging and meaningful as our first few days.  We operate at 100% until our last chalutz leaves the chava  on Tuesday morning.

Sitting here in my house listening to the constant drops of rain, it is hard to believe that it is August 1st and that we are now in our intersession before our last session.  Yet, this morning, we said goodbye to 56 of our campers, all of whom were here for our session II.  Like so much else this summer, it was an amazing session filled with countless highs and occasional lows.

At Havdallah, on Saturday night, one member of each ohel (tent) shared a high point of the summer.  While there were mentions of the masaot (excursions) the theme that emerged again and again were the close friends that chalutzim made during their time at camp.  I sat there smiling thinking about all the conversations I had with potential chalutzim and their parents over the course of the year.  The concern that emerged most often was “will I be the only person who does not know anyone?”  And 100s of times during the year I reassured potentialchalutzim that most people coming know one or two people at most.    Sure enough, over the past two weeks, we were able to transform ourselves from a group of 56 individuals into a single united kehillah (community).

Ironically, our kehillah became even more united after the week we spent in small groups on massaot (excursions).  During these massaot, chalutzim had a chance to become very close to a few other people with whom they spent 24 hours a day and on whom they relied to get them through the day.  What we witnessed on Friday, when everyone returned from their Massaot, was that chalutzim not only felt connected to those on their own masa, but that they also felt a closer bond to those who were not on their masa.  I believe that this “trans-masabonding” was due to the fact that they all had similar experiences (like cooking dinner over a camp fire, huddling together during a thunderstorm, waking up early and working to the point of exhaustion in the late afternoon, encouraging each other to keep going  etc).

Our last Shabbat was the perfect way to end the session.   We had time to sing together as a Kehillah, time to relax, time to study, time to play sports, time for some group bonding activities and of course, time for a festive Seudat Shlishit, AKA final banquet.   Packing on Motzei Shabbat posed an interesting challenge because there is no electricity in the camper tents (they live in a technology free zone).  We figured it would be easier for them to pack if they had bright lights, and not just their flashlights.  So after Havdallah, we drove seven cars over the camper tents, pulled them up to the front of them and turned on the lights on bright.  It was quite a scene to see all the chalutzim packing by the light of headlights with the din of the running motor in the background.  The extra lights enabled everyone to pack in time to make it to the 10:30 slide show.    After the slide show, chalutzim had a choice between going to sleep or coming to the field to “cloud gaze” (sadly there were no stars on our last night).  Not surprising, most chalutzim chose to stay on the field until 1:00am chatting in small groups before we sent everyone to sleep for a few hours.

This was the first time any of us on staff had ever run a two week camp program.  Overall, I believe it was a successful trial, one that we will replicate next year during session I & III (June 21-July 4th & August 3-15th) .  But I think I speak for many of us (chalutzim and madrichim) when I say that one of the challenging aspects of this session was that just as we were really coalescing as a kehillah, just as we were really getting to know each other on a deeper level, it was time to pack up and leave.  As I have written before on the directors blog, much of the research on the effectiveness of Jewish camping shows that three and four week sessions are far more effective in the long run at instilling a deep sense of Jewish identity and Jewish passion than are two week sessions.  The reason appears to be that campers who come for longer build deeper relationships with each other and have additional Jewish experiences with their pears.  My hope is that many of our session II campers from 2010 will return to our Kehillah next summer and be able to continue building the friendships they began this summer and continue to have intense meaningful life changing moments with each other, both in our adventure activities and in our Jewish activities.  Of course, because the sessions for next summer are different from this summer (session I & III are two weeks and session II is four weeks) we will have to see how the different communities we created this summer will come together next year during the different session.

Speaking of next summer:  Registration is already open and chalutzim have already registered!

Session I: Tuesday, June 21st -Monday July 4
This session is open to Chalutzim entering grades 5-11
Session II: Wednesday, July 6th – Monday, August 1st
This session is open to chalutzim entering grades 5-11.
Session III: Wednesday August 3rd – Monday, August 15th
This session is open chalutzim entering grades 3-8.  In the fall we are likely to be adding additional programs during these two weeks, so please check back soon or call the camp office for more information

As a thank you to our founding families, we will not raise tuition for you in 2011.  We will even offer the same early bird discounts to our founding families that we offered in 2010.

Until January 1 the rates are:

Session I: $2,000

Session  II: $3,800

Session III: : $1, 800

To register, please click here:

What an amazing first full day of programming!  Today began at 6:00am when our chalutzim awoke for the first time at the Chava.  It was a relatively warm morning (60s) with crystal clear blue skies.  We began with Teffilot (prayers) followed by a relatively light Shmirat Hagoof (physical exercise).  Today, our chalutzim had a full day of programming.  In addition to our regular activities from session I (wilderness survival/orienteering, biking, horseback riding, gardening/service projects, wilderness arts and crafts and climbing) we debuted three new activities that were wildly popular.  Our M’tayalim chalutzim (entering 6th/7th grade) had a chance to do mining in one of our two rock mines.  (In fact one chalutz found a small piece of topaz!)  Our Sollelim and Bogrim chalutzim (entering 8-10th grades) had a chance to do duathelon training and also to go on exploratory hikes around our ranch with Stevo.  These three new activities have so far proven to be very popular.  Despite an afternoon thunderstorm (followed by a cool rainbow) all the programs ran as planned today.

Because this was the first programming day, our instructors spent much of each initial lesson going over safety protocols for the sport.  For example, in the barn, the students learned how to approach a horse and lead it around an arena.  On the bikes the beginner groups learned how to change gears on sand and how to stop on a downhill, while the more advanced groups hit some of our trails including trail etiquette.  And in our climbing program, the chalutzim practiced fastening their harnesses and learning basic belay language.

We have been emphasizing the need to constantly drink water during these first few days on the Chava.  Because we are 7800 feet above sea level, a normal person needs to drink at least 4 liters a day just to begin to acclimate.  Ideally we have told them that they should be drinking closer to 6 liter each day at the chava. We insist that the chalutzim walk around with their water bottles and we take frequent breaks throughout the program day.

The food so far has been amazing!    We hired an additional cook in the kitchen, and she has assisted the three existing kitchen staff members to make even meals than we had first session.  Our salad bar has also grown to include a wider variety of produce and condiments than it had first session.  I could not believe my eyes today when I looked and saw our youngest campers taking full plates of salad even though we also had enchiladas beans and rice as the main course.

Tonight we began our day long observance of Tisha baav.  After a delicious prefast meal, we all walked to the beit am (social hall) to listen to the Aicha and to sing slow songs.  As chalutzim walked into the beit am, they were greeted with the tune of Alie Tzion and the site of dozens of burning candles.  All of our chalutzim stayed for the reading of Aicha, although only our oldest Edah remained for singing of songs.  Just as we saw during first session, by 9:00pm most of our chalutzim were exhausted and wanting to go to sleep.

Tomorrow is a special programming day in camp.  Our staff has arranged for a day of educational activities that will empower the chalutzim to examine what Tisha-baav means for a modern Jew and why is it that we continue to commemorate this day as the saddest day on the Jewish calendar.

On Wednesday we return to our normal programming.

It was a bitter sweet morning.  All of our chalutzim have safely left the Chava.  Many are arriving at the airport as I type this, others are already at their homes in Denver.  It was a wonderful session, filled with growth and adventure, but it is also sad to see this empty camp without our chalutzim.

Yesterday was an emotional day with all the ups and downs of camp and of a united tight community.    It started with a moving bar mitzvah of one of our chalutzim, and finished with a final banquet which included a slideshow followed by a camp fire with time for reflection about the session that just finished (it will be up online soon).  After the banquet we also davened Maariv together and supported one of our staff members as she lit a memorial candle for her late-father whose yardzeit started after dark and continued today.  After the closing campfire, all returned to their tents for a final tent program; then at 11:30pm many chalutzim came to the field to stargaze and talk late into the night.  We were all back in our tents by 1:15am and asleep shortly thereafter.

This morning, we had our final breakfast together before saying goodbye.  There were smiles, hugs, tears and laughs all at the same time.

Last night at the banquet we also announced that dates for 2011 have already been set and registration opens at midnight tonight.    In 2011 we will be running two week and four week programing for entering 5th-11th graders as well as a one week session for entering 3rd and 4th graders.  We can not wait to see our first session chalutzim return to this amazing community next summer!

As I write this, our staff is preparing the tents for our new chalutzim who arrive on Sunday, before taking two days off to relax.

This is a very brief note before Shabbat just to let everyone know that our all of our trips have safely returned to camp.  Our chalutzim had an amazing time on their Massaot.  Two trips went hiking, (one in Pike national Forest, the other in Rocky mountain national park) one went rafting and biking, one rode horses for the week and one spent the week climbing cliffs in Pike National forest.  I will have more to report on Sunday with pictures and vignettes.

As I am sure you will be hearing from camper, yesterday was a stormy day in the Colorado Rockies.  All of our trips had to take shelter during some intense electrical storms, including one trip that experienced close lightening strikes.  Thankfully, all our campers are completely safe. We are proud of our staff members’ extensive training and their ability to follow all safety guidelines in an electrical storm, as well as all other guidelines for wilderness safety.   We will be reviewing yesterday’s events with our trip leaders to ensure that protocols are adapted as necessary and followed in the future as well.

What an amazing week! In a few hours we will gather in the field for our third Shabbat at camp. As I type this update, our chalutzim (campers) are busy working on their pre-Shabbat service projects. As part of these service projects, there are chalutzim fixing the bikes, painting picnic tables, fixing a trail, packing food for our trips next week and putting the finishing touches on a sweat lodge. We have found that there is no better way to transition into Shabbat than spending an hour or two engaged in community service!

We had a full week of programming here at the Ramah Chava (ranch).We began the week with Yom Sport on Sunday, during which two teams competed in outdoor activities all day long.The highlight (for me at least) was the team gaga-game that we played in our Beit Am (not so outdoorsy, but a great game nonetheless). At the end of twelve hours of competition, the winning team had won more points but both teams had a fun day!That night, there was not a sound coming from the tents after 9:00pm because everyone was so tired from the day’s activities.

On Wednesday, we said goodbye to our first group of two week campers and welcomed eleven new ones who came to join the full month chalutzim. It was a bittersweet day, as it is always sad to say goodbye to campers but exciting to welcome the new ones. One parent of a departing camper wrote on our Facebook page: “Thank you for giving Rebekha the best two weeks of her life!” It really was an unbelievable first two weeks.

Chalutzim have also been busy in their activity areas:

· The chalutzim in the bicycle chug have ridden on trails all around the camp and out on our adjacent dirt roads.

· The chalutzim in the rock climbing chug spent a morning on Prospector Mountain, one of the rock faces in the adjoining forest. The chalutzim in the advanced group are currently learning how to set anchors on trees and boulders.

· The chaultzim in wilderness arts and crafts made candle holders and paper made from recycled products they found around camp.

· The chalutzim in wilderness survival learned how to build fires and also constructed much of the sweat lodge.

· The chalutzim in gardening and service projects finished planting the raised bed, laid the foundation for a bridge across one of our streams and installed steps leading up to our shower house. Many have speant the last 24 hours on an organic farming picking the food we will be eating over the next few days.

· The chalutzim in the horse program continued riding lessons and began learning how to do posting trot.

In addition to our regular chugim, some of our programming highlights have been: a camp-wide capture the flag game, afternoon kickball, a morning game of ultimate Frisbee while playing soccer with two balls at once, a tour around Israel on the floor of the chadar ohel (dining hall), Shacharit Live (a musical morning service), Sock Wars (ask your camper to play with you when he or she gets home!), and a camp-wide bonfire with storytelling.

On Sunday afternoon we are transitioning into our excursion groups. We have five groups leaving early Monday morning for five days. Once again a skeleton crew will be left back at camp to begin programming for the following week. Before then we will post pictures online of all the activities and the programs from the weekend.

Please feel free to write or email if you have questions. It is also wonderful to see people posting comments on our Facebook page.

Shabbat Shalom and happy July 4th!