Posts

Author Julia Turnbow (left) and Program Director Julia Snyder (right) at the conference

When I attended camp as a chalutza (camper), it never crossed my mind that my counselors spent time outside of the summer thinking about their role at Ramah in the Rockies and how they can grow to be better leaders and role models. My first summer as tzevet (staff), however, has lifted a curtain for me, letting me in on the behind-the-scenes preparation that makes camp so great each summer.

I recently had the privilege of attending the Bert B. Weinstein Leadership Training Conference, a National Ramah staff training seminar that takes place each winter in California. From acting out camper care scenarios and working through challenging situations to discussing what makes inclusion programs successful, our cohort focused on how we can make the Ramah experience thoughtful, intentional, and fun for our chalutzim!

In our bunk dynamics session, I played the role of a counselor observing a group of chalutzim. In the scenario we were assigned, one of the campers was a camp veteran who had trouble making new friends in the bunk, one was shy, another was a social butterfly, and the last was excited and entirely new to camp. After paying attention to the interactions, we created a sociogram – a diagram our campers’ relationships with one another – in order to better understand the group dynamic. The exercise was a wonderful practice in being an attentive and involved madricha (counselor).

Our session on inclusion touched upon the deeper values that underlie the difference between meaningful inclusion and tolerance. Throughout the discussion, inclusion staff from across the country wrestled with this distinction. We concluded that tolerance views differences as inherently problematic; issues to be dealt with quietly. Meaningful inclusion, on the other hand, values each individual for what they can offer, and understands differences in personal limitations. As madrichim, the way we treat all our chalutzim should embody our shared Jewish value that each person is created b’tzelem elohim – in the image of God.

At the beginning of the conference, Rabbi Ed Feinstein told the story of the prayer Ma Tovu. He explained that when Balaam was hired to curse the people of Israel, he climbed to the top of a nearby hill overlooking the Israelites’ tents. From that vantage point, he was unable to see the challenges that were taking place on the ground, and was instead overcome with awe as he gazed upon the community the Israelites had created. When he finally opened his mouth to say the curse, he spoke a blessing instead.

From a place of perspective, Balaam was able to experience his environment in a new way – appreciating the big picture without getting distracted by the details. Similarly, at camp, it can be easy to get distracted by the details and lose sight of why our machane (camp) is so special.

Participating in the Bert B. Weinstein Leadership Conference has given me the tools I need to return to Ramah in the Rockies as the best counselor I can be. Next summer, I will remain aware of the dynamics of my bunk and how they are impacting the chalutzim. I will understand what meaningful inclusion looks like and why it’s so important. And most importantly, I will remember to seek places of perspective, from which I can appreciate the beauty of our community.

Campers on Masa posing

Author Julia Turnbow (left) and campers head out on masa (backcountry excursion)

By Julia Turnbow

 In early January, seven of our staff and Rabbi Eliav traveled to Camp Ramah in California to attend National Ramah’s Weinstein Winter Training Conference.  This is just one part of our ongoing commitment to staff training and education throughout the year. 
 
Here is what some of our participating staff had to say about the conference: 

Staff posing“My favorite thing about the Weinstein Conference was the ability to experience all the Ramah camps in one setting, where we could share how each camp is different in its own way. Furthermore, it was fantastic being able to form lasting friendships with staff from other Ramah camps that I would not have met if we both did not go to Weinstein. The sessions I attended were all interesting because I could hear how different counselors from different camps might plan entirely different activities with the same guidelines. One session that particularly sticks in my mind is this session about creating a bedtime ritual in the ohel that wraps up the day and creates a sense of family between everyone. This is an easy way to make the end of the day something everyone looks forwards to.”
-Kenny 

“My weekend at Weinstein is not one that I will soon forget. Not only was it a great opportunity to get to know some of the amazing Ramah Rockies staff but it gave me the chance to learn and grow with tikvah staff from all the camps. I can’t wait to put some of these great ideas from other Ramah’s into action. I didn’t think it possible, but my time at Ojai got me even more excited for kayitz 2017!!!”
-Abby 

“It was really nice to experience a national Ramah retreat. As someone who is relatively new to the Ramah culture, it was fun to connect to people from all different camps and also learn what makes Rockies unique. Two highlights for me was leading a hike in the green mountains of Ojai and meeting people in person, who I work with during the year.”
-Zach

“At Weinstein we met staff from all across the country, and had the opportunity to learn from each other, exchange program ideas, and find out what makes each camp unique. But the best moments were when you couldn’t even tell that we were all from different camps. Often, it was music that brought us together. During t’filla and shira, we all know many of the same melodies, and we catch on quickly to the new ones. Joining our voices together in song is a powerful and beloved part of every camp, and it was amazing to be able to share it with the wider Ramah community.”
-Eliana