By Moss Herberholz,
Director of Inclusion Kayitz 2019

It’s Friday night at camp, and the singing after Shabbat dinner has begun. Chalutzim (campers), tzevet (staff) and orchim (guests) all stand up and move toward the center of the room enthusiastically to join in the celebration. As I watch from a table nearby, two young chalutzim come up to me and ask if they can have some earplugs. I pull two pairs out of my pocket and hand a pair to each of the chalutzim. Reminding them that they are reusable, I pull two pairs out of my pocket and hand a pair to each of the chalutzim. A few minutes later I have joined the gathering in the middle of the chadar ochel (dining room) and a tzevet member taps me on the shoulder, asking if there are any noise-reducing headphones left. I grab her a pair of headphones and mention to her that chalutzim have priority, so I may need to reclaim them from her later. 

This past summer in my role as the Director of Inclusion, I worked to expand what our inclusion program looks like, with the goal of providing extra support to campers who need it. One way I did this was by making personal sound-reduction equipment available to everyone at camp during meals, shira (singing), and other large group gatherings.

Meals at Ramah in the Rockies can be noisy; chalutzim and tzevet members engage with each other, reviewing the highlights of the day and talking about upcoming programming, All of this combines with the acoustics of our chadar ochel to make for a dissonance of sound. Although this level of sound is tolerable for many chalutzim and tzevet members, there are plenty of people whose dining experience is disrupted by the chorus of excited voices.

Any chalutz or tzevet member who will benefit from earplugs or noise-reducing headphones only needs to ask and they shall receive. Chalutzim are able to ask their madrichim (counselors) or any member of our camper care or support teams for ear protection and they will get it. 

We saw many chalutzim and tzevet members wearing their reusable earplugs or rocking a pair of noise-reducing headphones. With smiles on their faces and their ears protected, they enjoyed their meals and the company of those around them. Allowing them to socialize and get the fuel they need for a successful day at camp, all without getting overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the chadar ochel.

This accommodation, originally intended for specific chalutzim who needed additional support, has become a helpful resource for all of the chalutzim and tzevet in our community. By advertising this option to everyone, we have allowed anyone who needs, and may not have known how to previously ask, to easily get the support they require to be comfortable. What was once a resource reserved for a small number of individuals is now available to everyone. We, at Ramah in the Rockies, look forward to exploring more ways in which we can improve the camp experience and expand what it means to effectively support everyone in our kehilah kedosha (holy community). 

By Risa Isard

*The following blog post was originally given as a speech during the Ramah in the Rockies 10-Year celebration in Denver, CO on December 7th, 2019.

I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. I distinctly remember conversations from the 1990s about a new Ramah camp in Colorado. I waited. Dreamed. Looked forward to the day I’d get to be a camper there. Ramah runs deep in my family – my great grandfather helped found Ramah in the Poconos, where my mom was a camper and staff member. Camp Ramah was this magical place I’d heard stories about. So I eagerly listened anytime someone at synagogue would talk about the Ramah in Colorado that was opening someday. 

Risa, during her first time on the Ranch back in 2009

Without Ramah in Colorado, I followed my brother to a Jewish overnight camp in Northern Arizona. Seeking a more robust Jewish experience, I asked to go to Ramah. For seven summers, Ramah Darom was my home. I wouldn’t change those summers for anything – except for maybe to have been able to be at Ramah in Colorado, or “Rugged Ramah” as Rabbi Eliav referred to it back in 2009 in comparison to my beloved “Spa Ramah.” 

If you’re good at math, you’ll notice I just said 2009. A year before camp officially opened in 2010. I’m forever grateful for the chance to have joined Rabbi Eliav for a week of pilot programming designed for prospective staff. If you think camp is rugged now, you should have seen it for 2009. We slept in literal camping tents on the ground. Cooked all our own meals on camping stoves. And enjoyed the luxury of the nearby compostable toilets, a cherished legacy of the Girl Scouts camp. We also dreamed about what could be the next summer. About how to make camp really come to life. About the values. Goals. Culture. Educational priorities. Programs. About Shabbat and shmirat ha’goof (morning physical warmups) and masa (backcountry excursions).

Risa and some of her chalutzot during the first summer of camp

And in 2010, it happened. Being on founding staff was the opportunity of a lifetime. Really, it was like a summer-long masa. Which is to say, when we get together, we like to trade stories: That time we had a single day off the entire summer. That time our campers tried to take razors and shaving cream on a backpacking trip. That time when campers cooked their own dinners at base camp. (We thought it was a good teachable moment?) 

It’s impossible to remember every detail, but it’s easy to remember the feelings.

Of purpose and responsibility: Without our own childhood connection to camp, staff signed on because of a belief in what Ramah Outdoor Adventure stood for. Because ROA’s values were – are – our values. We understood the responsibility at our feet – that the culture we set would matter. We hoped it would last. And we jumped in.

Of connection and community: With other staff, and with campers. The shabbat-o-grams and innovative tefilot. The masa families, ohel (tent) families, perek (activity period) families, and an entire kehillah kedosha (holy community) that embraced us as we showed up as our full selves. That held us as we adventured, explored, stargazed, prayed, danced, sang, played. All-day. Every day. 

Risa on masa in 2010. Note the familiar faces of chalutzim who would go on to be tzevet at camp years later

Of growth: Forged by the daily – sometimes hourly – opportunity to challenge ourselves. To try new things. To fail, and try again, and accomplish things never before dreamed of. To support each other in these pursuits. A new climbing pitch. A big hill on a bike. The first time we led a prayer. A new food we cooked. A new knot we learned and got to use in the backcountry. 

And so much fun. The inside jokes and late-night stories. The early morning runs. The made-up games like Ultimate Soccer and Capiscular Avengers. The camp song’s unofficial lyrics. The Shabbat everything.

I remember getting our paychecks that first summer – on the porch of the old lodge – after campers had left and being surprised. I had forgotten this was technically my summer job. I can promise you, for staff, camp is so much more than a job. And for chalutzim (campers), it’s so much more than “just camp.”

Risa co-leading services in 2010

I was back on staff in 2011 and 2012. Of course, there’s nothing like those earliest years. Still, there’s something equally as special. And that’s having a front-row seat to watching camp grow. 

In 2018 I had the privilege of joining the board. Camp has grown – in numbers of campers and staff, in activities offered, and even in infrastructure. It’s grown because today’s campers and staff have embraced the idea that we all felt so deeply that first summer: Ramah in the Rockies is a place you can make yours. 

That idea has made the past 10 years but a dream. We’ve been so lucky to have an entire community dreaming with us – and making it happen. Making Ramah in the Rockies yours. So, yes, I’ve been deputized to remind you that every donation you’ve made matters. I’m biased – and proud – that former staff, most of us who are not yet 30, have raised several thousand dollars in just the past month in honor of this momentous occasion – and all that’s still to come. 

All that’s still to come is the real reason to celebrate. Because there is such a bright future for this camp and for the generations who will get to experience it. That’s why Ramah in the Rockies is participating, along with many other organizations, in a Grinspoon Foundation program called Live On Life and Legacy. It is a way to leave a gift behind to camp to ensure that campers can continue to benefit from the rich experiences camp provides for years to come. It’s a “challenge by choice,” as we say at Ramah in the Rockies. I hope you choose to join me.

I’ll close with these words I wrote in an email to Rabbi Eliav and our pioneering staff after the 2009 week of pilot programming: 

“I have a confession to make. I’m an activist. I believe in social change and am very passionate about a lot of various causes and movements. And while I like the environment and care about it… I’d be lying if I told you it was one of my priorities when it comes to social change and progressing our society….
Well, that was me before ROA. Post-ROA Risa told her mom, ‘It’s bad for the environment,’ more times than I can count in the past few days as I was shopping for things for my [college] dorm room. I like to think that even though I’m older than the campers we’ll be welcoming next summer the same shift in mindset can and will occur. My perspective changed this much in just a week. Imagine the power a month will have.
Love the Earth,
Risa”

It’s not just about the environment, of course. Ramah in the Rockies was the first place I went backpacking, the first place I lifted the Torah in hagbah, and the first place I came out. That’s the trifecta of self-actualization that’s possible at a place like Ramah in the Rockies. We all have the chance to live into ourselves, even if everyone’s new frontier(s) are different.

2010 camp tzevet during shavuah hachanah (staff prep week before campers arrive)

Today we know the power of a month. Better even, we know the power of 10 years. 

A todah rabah to everyone who made these past 10 years possible – with a deeply personal thanks to Rabbi Eliav and the 2010 kehillah, from my chalutzim (hey Ohel Carmel!) to the tzevet (staff) I’m so proud to have had as my friends and partners. 

*Insert Wet Hot American Summer 10-Year Reunion quote here*

If you would actually like to see the clip from “Wet Hot American Summer,” you can click here.

Picture two boys running after each other – laughing and smiling as they dart through the tent circle. Picture a group of girls sitting crosslegged in their ohel (tent), shuffling a deck of playing cards. One of them calls out to a girl sitting on her bed and invites her to play with them. It may appear as though there is nothing extraordinary about these interactions, and yet these were some of the most remarkable moments of the summer.

Summer 2017 was full of countless new adventures; I’d like to tell you about one of them.

In years past, Ramah in the Rockies has offered an Amitzim edah (special needs group). However, this summer we made the decision to implement a full inclusion model for our special needs campers instead. What does a full inclusion model mean, exactly? It means that all campers, no matter their ability, are included into their age appropriate edot and participate in all the wonderful activities our machane (camp) has to offer alongside their peers.

To ensure the success of this program, the Director of Inclusion, three phenomenal Inclusion Specialists, and the rest of our Camper Care team worked together to support not only our inclusion chalutzim (campers), but also their madrichim (counselors), activity staff, and the rest of our kehillah (community).

This support came in many forms. The Inclusion Team would float throughout camp helping to support the campers and the staff as needed. They provided training sessions to both staff and campers about what it means to be inclusive. They were there to lend a helping hand or to be an ear to listen to campers and staff.

When reflecting on the summer, one of our Inclusion Specialists said, “It filled me with joy to witness how the chalutzim in our inclusion program excelled and grew during their time at camp this summer. I look forward to watching this program expand and transform as we accept new chalutzim into our inclusion program in future summers, and as we see the overall inclusivity of our camp grow to be even greater than it already is.”

Why did we decide to implement this model – a model that brings about logistical hassles and additional work? Ramah in the Rockies decided to go the way of the full inclusion model because we know that inclusion benefits everyone.

Inclusion benefits neurotypical campers because it teaches them to be accepting of all people, no matter who they are. It teaches patience, understanding, and gives them an amazing opportunity to interact with individuals who are different from themselves, broadening their perspective in the process.

Inclusion benefits campers with special needs because it gives them an opportunity to socialize with their neurotypical peers. Our special needs campers have the chance to get out of their comfort zone and practice being independent!

Inclusion benefits staff as it teaches them how to work with a wide range of individuals. They are challenged to be more creative as they plan programs, problem solve, and serve as a leader and a role model. It teaches our tzevet (staff)  to be patient and pushes them to be the best counselors they can be.

Furthermore, inclusion benefits you at home, because the lessons that chalutzim learn at camp are lessons they will carry with them for years to come.

Those boys that we asked you to picture? One of them had been a shy, quiet camper in our special needs edah in previous summers. As an Amitzim camper he had not wanted to participate in activities and had difficulty making friends. But this summer, in his age appropriate edah, you would find him eagerly participating in group activities and creating and maintaining friendships. And those girls? One of them struggles with creating friendships at home. Thanks to the inclusion model, she was able to form friendships and connections that she will continue to deepen in summers to come.

Inclusion is not easy. It takes time, effort, energy and work. However when an inclusion model is implemented and supported by a team of dedicated specialists, the results can be life changing for everyone involved.

Campers with arms around each other

Written by Abby Gavens, Director of Inclusion

Masa 2016
Mushon Samuels, Tikvah Summer Director

For chalutzim (campers) at Ramah in the Rockies, the masa (outing) is an integral part of camp. This summer, our Tikvah campers spent three days and two nights at Chatfield State Park, a very well-organized site with all of the necessary facilities for our campers, including showers, toilets, lake, playground, etc.  

After setting camp up, our group headed over to the lake and took a stroll along the beach. When we returned to ourcampsite, we cooked a delicious meal of veggie burgers accompanied with roasted sweet potatoes and onions. We played some games by the campfire and headed to bed early. The following morning, we hiked along the dam overlooking the lake and then went swimming. After lunch, we met up with Amber, one of the park’s rangers, and she taught us about the wildlife in the park. She showed us skulls, skins, and furs of the different animals. Then Amber took us to clean the beach of the lake as part of our service project. We concluded with a scavenger hunt along one of the park trails. That night, we had a Mexican fiesta, complete with salsa, chips, guacamole, rice, and beans. Each of our campers enjoyed a different part of their masa experience. The facts that we had such an organized site and that our vans had all of the food and games needed to keep our campers occupied and entertained made it very easy! 

Other than some rainy moments, our campers had a great time. All agreed it was a positive experience and that they would happily do it again! 

Howard Blas, director of the National Ramah Tikvah Network, was very impressed when he learned details of our masa during a recent visit to Ramah in the Rockies. “I have been taking Tikvah campers on masa (we call it “Etgar”) for the past fifteen years at Ramah New England. Many Tikvah programs don’t have such camping trips. I thought our one-night, two-day hiking, canoeing, and rafting trip was impressive. But, wow! The Rockies’  three-day masa is amazing!” 

This blog is being reposted in honor of Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month.

 

Deena Cowans, Rosh Chinuch (Head of Education) 

You’ve heard it before, “Jews are the People of the Book”. Our religion is transmitted through books. Our religious practices rely on books. Our ethnicity values book smarts. But how many of us spend any significant time with “our” books?

Modern Judaism is a practice of rabbinic Judaism, or the Judaism first discussed by the rabbis of the Talmud. Anyone who has ever tried to learn Talmud, whether they are a beginner or a yeshiva bocher, knows that the Talmud is hard. The reasoning is often opaque, much of the Talmud is written in a mostly dead language (Aramaic) and the subject matter is sometimes seemingly unrelated to our modern lives.

Yet those who stick with it, who allow themselves to dig into a text and consider its meanings and lessons, describe the experience as transformative. In part this is because the Talmud (and other Jewish texts) contain a wealth of wisdom. But in part this is because the effort it takes to understand the text and the intimacy that comes from engaging in consistent study are part of the reward. Just like with people, the more we invest in a relationship, the more meaning we find in it.

This summer, we will take on the challenge of becoming the People of the Book by dedicating ourselves to the sustained study of a book of Talmud (technically the Mishnah) known as Pirkei Avot. The book of Pirkei Avot– often incorrectly translated as Ethics of the Fathers, but more correctly translated as Selections of Principles– contains the transmitted moral and ethical one-liners of the early rabbinic period (around the year 0-200CE). Some of the material is timeless in its wisdom, other selections are troubling to our modern values. We’re going to study both parts, because an educated and thoughtful person does not shy away from what is hard.

At Ramah in the Rockies, we focus on developing the inner and outer selves. We take on physical challenges like rock climbing, mountain biking and backpacking; we also take on emotional and spiritual challenges like living in close quarters with others, practicing Judaism more intensely than many of us do during the year and living in close proximity to nature.

Our study of Pirkei Avot will challenge our inner and outer selves. We will explore forms of learning such as embodied learning, chevruta (partner) learning, theater, arts and discussion. We will learn to question and challenge each other respectfully, to try something we have never considered or valued.

 We believe that we can learn both from the text and from the process of study. We hope that learning this entire work together over the course of 10 weeks will teach us about patience, love, community and self. We will certainly be challenged, but Ramah in the Rockies embraces challenge by choice, and we will choose to persevere when the material pushes back at us. Along the way, we will celebrate our accomplishments with a siyyum, a joyful celebration of completing a unit of text study. Judaism links Torah study with food– a siyyum usually involves a feast, and children are often given honey when they study Torah to make their learning sweet.  

We hope that we will feel nourished by this endeavor, and that our learning will sweeten our lives.

 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

Rabbi Leo of Mexico City brought a delegation of twenty campers from his community this past summer. He wrote this during the summer about the experience of being at camp.  We look forward to welcoming more campers from Bet El this summer, and our continued partnership with the Mexico City community.

An English version is below the Spanish.

 

Camp Ramah in the Rockies, una experiencia inolvidableKitchen staff

”Que bellas son tus tiendas Yaacov, tus moradas, pueblo de Israel”

Es un gusto y un privilegio estar aqui en Camp Ramah, en Colorado, con un grupo fantastico de niños y madrijim de Comunidad Bet-El. Por primera vez casi veinte campers de nuestra comunidad de la ciudad de Mexico pudieron tener la experiencia de venir juntos. Esto fue posible gracias a generosos donadores de nuestra comunidad y a Camp Ramah asi como Rabbi Eliav que tuvieron la vision de que jovenes judios mexicanos puedieran interactuar con amigos de Estados Unidos, Israel y otras partes del mundo vivenciando que el pueblo judio es uno, a pesar de las diferencias de idiomas costumbres y lugares.

Llegamos hace una semana  y por lo que hemos vivido, ha sido increible!!! Los  niños estan muy emocionados de estar aqui. Han podido crear nuevas amisatades y practicar su ingles. El Camp ofrece actividades increibles como montar a caballo, andar en bici, clases de arte, escalar, mineria, cocinar en el bosque, y muchas otras mas.

Por otro lado todos nuestros jalutzim estaban muy emocionados de ir a el programa de Masa que es cuando se van fuera del camp a acampar por varios dias y cada uno escoge a cual quiere ir y viven una experiencia inolvidable.

Hemos logrado unirnos  a todas las tfilot  diferentes que otorga el camp y aprendimos las diversas meoldias que tienen en sus canciones. Asi como ya pasamos nuestro primer Shabat en Camp Ramah y fue muy emotivo, nos identificamos mucho con esta Kehila kedosha y descubrimos que son muchas mas las cosas que nos unen que las que nos diferencian.

Esperamos que para el proximo año podamos regresar otra vez y vivir nuevamente esta gran oportunidad!!!

Kol Tuv

Rabbi Leo Levy – Comunidad Bet-El de Mexico

 

Camp Ramah in the Rockies, an unforgettable experienceInternational flags

”How good are your tents, O Jacob, your dwellings, O Israel”

It’s a pleasure and a privilege to be here at Camp Ramah in the Rockies, with a fantastic group of kids and madrichim from the Bet-El Community. For the first time, almost twenty campers from our community in Mexico City have the experience of coming to camp together.

This was possible thanks to the generous donors of our community, Camp Ramah, and Rabbi Eliav who all had the vision of bringing young jewish Mexican kids to camp so the could interact with other Jewish kids from America, Israel, and all over the world; acknowledging that the Jewish people are one– no matter the different languages, customs, and places.

We arrived a week ago and for what we have experienced it has been an amazing time. The kids are really excited to be here. They have been able to create new friendships and are practicing their English, this camp offers incredible activities such as riding horses, mountain biking, arts and crafts, climbing, mining, outdoor cooking, and many others.

All of our chalutzim were very excited about the Masa program which is when they go camping outside of camp for a couple of days. Each camper had the chance to choose which Masa they wanted to go on, and they get to have unforgettable experiences.

We have been able to join the different T’fillot that camp has to offer and we have learned all the different melodies of the different songs. We had our first Shabbat in Camp Ramah, it was very emotional, we had become part of this Kehilla Kedosha and we have discovered that there are more things that unite us than things that set us apart.

We hope that next year we can come back and enjoy this great opportunity once again!!!

Kol Tuv

Rabbi Leo Levy – Comunidad Bet-El de Mexico

Ethan Weg
Written during Summer 2016

Jeffrey, left, prepares food with Avram

A few weeks before coming to Ramah in the Rockies, Sous Chef Jeffrey Harris was out to dinner with a friend of a friend. Jeffrey was telling his dinning companion about the job that he had just been offered in the Colorado Rockies. They replied, “Working at a summer camp will be life changing,” and at the time Jeffrey was hesitant – after all, how could one summer surrounded by hundreds of Jewish kids in the Colorado Rockies be life changing? But by summer’s end, that same Sous Chef had a very different perspective on  Ramah in the Rockies, as he shared, “This is a unique place… I believe I have met people here who will be in my life forever.”

Just as Ramah in the Rockies is a unique summer camp, so too is Sous Chef Jeffrey Harris. Jeffrey has taken to learning about Judaism – he is learning Hebrew, he has gone to t’fillot, learned in limmudim, and has even studied Talmud in chevruta. Normally, these are fairly normal things for the tzevet at Ramah in the Rockies to take part in – what makes this situation extraordinary is that Sous Chef Jeffrey Harris is not Jewish.

Jeffrey Harris was raised Protestant Christian, and prior to coming to work at Ramah he only knew a handful of Jews, and knew very little about Judaism as a religion. As Jeffrey disclosed, because of his religious differences he was worried that he would, “be an outsider from the rest of the community,” but he is now an integral member of the Ramah in the Rockies family.

Jeffrey explained that Judaism is not so different from Christianity in many ways, “Rituals are rituals – they are just different depending on the religion.” And likewise he can relate to the t’fillot we do at camp, as he recalled that even in Church he was taught to repeat words that he had been instructed to say. Sous Chef Jeffrey did however note some differences between the two major religions, as he pointed out Christianity is a religion established in faith, whereas Judaism is, in his assessment, a religion grounded in practice. Moreover, he was drawn to Judaism’s approach to right and wrong; that is, Jews will often choose to do what they believe to be ethically or morally right. This is juxtaposed by Christianity’s ideology of sin, which was/is determined by the church not by the individual.

In a similar vein, Jeffrey recalled a conversation he had with Rabbi Eliav where Eliav explained that, “Judaism only has one unifying belief – that there is one God; other than that we [Jews] argue about everything.” This model was one which fascinated Jeffrey, and is why he ultimately took a stab at learning Talmud. Because, “The New Testament is vague, but the Talmud goes into complex details about everything,” Jeffrey found learning Talmud refreshing.

Jeffrey started this journey at the beginning of the summer; his first week in the kitchen he spent some time researching the laws of kashrut, as they would be significant in his line of work. This however only sparked his interest, and he soon dug deeper. Jeffrey began to explore various facets of Judaism – by the first day of the first session he had started learning Hebrew using flashcards, and later in the summer he continued his learning.

He attended a few services, but found that they were not as interesting as other parts of Judaism because he was not able to understand what was being said. However, he did recognize the allure of singing in services, as he believes singing offers more of an emotional connection, which in his perspective it is more enjoyable, “seeing people be connected to something.” Moreover, at a certain point in the summer he decided to try wearing a kippah and he even tried observing Shabbat with the rest of the Ramah in the Rockies community.

Although Jeffrey has found Judaism’s extensive laws and regulations a bit restrictive, thus far he has welcomed that challenge. And furthermore, he has his sights set on working for a Jewish organization which will allow him to come back to Ramah in the Rockies next summer. All in all, this job has become a lifestyle for Jeffrey, as he pointed out, “You can treat it as just a job, or dive in and be part of the kehilla.”      

new-headshot-copy2November 29th is Giving Tuesday. For those who have never heard of Giving Tuesday, it’s a reaction to the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Rather than spending money on something material, it is a chance for people to take part in a Global Day of Giving.

I am asking that this Giving Tuesday you consider making a meaningful gift to Ramah in the Rockies.  In my nearly four seasons at Ramah in the Rockies (and another 15 with the greater Ramah movement), I have seen first hand what a blessing camp can be.

I have witnessed campers learn a new skill, overcome fears, make friends, form a community, and become better people! I know that camp can change lives because it has changed mine.

I am asking you to help us nurture the next generation of Jewish youth.  

Your gift allows us to provide opportunities and experiences like these:

    • Campers from smaller Jewish populations feeling the power of immersive Jewish community for their first time,

 

    • Campers from cities like New York or Los Angeles actually seeing starry nights and hearing nature’s orchestra,

 

    • Groups of campers forming community and conquering challenges while hiking together through Rocky Mountain National Park,

 

    • Campers learning lifelong skills as they work to master fire building, rock climbing, mountain biking, and other techniques, and

 

  • An enduring love of the Colorado wilderness. Many of our campers and staff have planted roots in Colorado and grown the local Jewish community because of their time with Ramah.

To contribute to the Jewish future, please click here:  Ramah Giving Tuesday

Thank you, 

Ari Polsky

Ari out on masa with our JOLI chalutzim in 2015 and 2016:

APBierstadt
Ari Posing in front of mountains

 

scott wasserman sukkahThere is something primordial about carving a space out from the wilderness. Backpacking in a national park this summer, I was struck by the persistence of the instinct.
This log is our kitchen. This branch is where we dry a towel. We enter the tent from this direction. Over here, just beyond camp, we store our food. We can’t help but to carve a space from the wilderness.

From within wilderness we organize, and shape and assemble. We look outside that space and say, “outside is wilderness and in here something seperate.”

When we are children, we delineate such spaces. We conjure caves, we play home, we build fortresses. We duck under sheets to escape the terrors of a wilderness.

Leaving Egypt, the Jewish people are young and newly free humans. They are flung into a vast wilderness and from within it, they carve a space for themselves. They fashion a moving encampment and dwell in smaller spaces therein.

A sukkah is a space assembled at precisely that time of year when one begins to draw inward, bringing together those things that you might need in the winter ahead. A sukkah is a cozy, autumnal comfort. You adorn it with symbols of the harvest and gaze at a swollen moon. You consider the universe and the vast wilderness in which you live.

Scott Wasserman, Ramah Parent

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

The Ramah Rockies Experience 

 Rabbi Scott Bolton, Congregation Or Zarua, New York City

Writing from the beautiful Rockies, Basecamp


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Rabbi Sarah Shulman, a recently ordained Rabbi, was one of our first staff members.  This summer, she is the Director of Camp Ramah in Northern California for their inaugural summer. We are so proud to have had Sarah as one of our founding staff members, and of the great work she will continue doing at Ramah Galim. This is the speech she gave at her ordination from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. 

Makom Torah, an Ordination Speech by Rabbi Sarah Schulman

Rabbi Eliav presenting Rabbi Sarah Shulman at her ordination ceremony

Rabbi Eliav presenting Rabbi Sarah Shulman at her ordination ceremony

Thank you all for sharing this priceless moment with my classmates and I in this place of Torah, for helping us to reach it, and for sustaining us so we could reap from it. A special thanks to those who have traveled from out of town to celebrate with us and the Jewish community tonight. On a personal note: Laura and Gary, Ramah leaders, TRZ community, close friends and family – you are up here with me.

Classmates, hevre, this is a moment to cherish and a moment where our past meets our future. Ten years ago I was on a much different path and so were you. Like many of you, I have found myself reflecting in the last few weeks as I prepare for ordination and for the next chapter in my life as a rabbi on what I would say to myself of 10 years ago. What blessings and truths do I carry with me today that I would offer to her and other young people in her generation as guidance?

In response, I offer a letter I have written to each of our former selves, to the younger men and woman who were driven to succeed, who had all the tools to succeed, but were without the companionship, grounding, perspective, or Torah to find genuine success. We had knowledge, we had passion, and yet many of us also had profound loneliness or aimlessness, whether we then recognized it or not.
I direct this letter to each of our former selves AND to each and every person in this tent regardless of age or background because there is a younger person within each of us and within each of our families who is a little lost or alone. We all have questions; we all have doubts; we all at times need the compass of Torah.

Dear younger Danny, younger Mathew, younger Jeremy, younger Nolan, younger Josh, younger Jeremy, younger Becca, younger Adir, and younger Sarah,

Stick with it, honey. You’re going to right this course. Believe us, we know because we have lived it. You’ve come into adulthood striving to find your way, striving to be successful in the footsteps of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Larry Paige because these innovators are the heroes of our time. Yet the narrative about success that you have internalized as truth about an individual’s search for a brilliant idea to save the world is not the only path out there to success or happiness or meaning.

Indeed, we have grown up with a narrative emphasized by the success of Google and Facebook and a few dozen other start-ups that inspires us to seek powerful ideas and with them, powerful positions. But we need to know that this narrative of success misrepresents reality for the vast majority of us on this planet. This is a fairytale about one person cultivating the brilliant idea that changes the world.

Each of you will indeed birth important ideas – as teachers, founders of new camps, communities, movies and podcasts, and as creative human beings. But nevertheless something critical is missing from this narrative. What is missing from this story (and from our ideal of success) is other people.

I’d like to offer an alternative narrative, and with it a path out of a present stuckness. Because although you have spent the first decades of your life chasing ideas, it hasn’t been enough, has it? Though knowledge has gotten you far, it has not helped you answer your big questions about life. It has not helped reveal a sense of purpose or quelled loneliness. And it won’t be enough in 10 years time either to navigate hate crimes, violence in Israel, ISIS attacks, or the trials and tribulations of illness. It’s time for a new operative paradigm in life.

Thankfully, Jewish tradition offers a vital counter-narrative to the uber-idea-man fairytale, one articulated in Mishnah Avot chapter 4 (and in your future ordination program in 10 years): Rabbi Nehorai teaches:

הֱוֵי גוֹלֶה לִמְקוֹם תּוֹרָה וְאַל תֹּאמַר שֶׁהִיא תָבוֹא אַחֲרֶיךָ, שֶׁחֲבֵרֶיךָ יְקַיְּמוּהָ בְיָדֶךָ. וְאֶל בִּינָתְךָ אַל תִּשָּׁעֵן.

Uproot yourself to live in a place of Torah, and do not say that it will come to you. For your hevre will make it stick with you. So do not rely on your own understanding.

This text offers a different road to success. It invites us to leave – as did Abraham and Sarah, the Israelites from Egypt, and the Jews of Rabbi Nehorai’s generation following the destruction of the Temple – what is familiar behind, to actively embrace change in our circumstances, our surroundings, and in ourselves. Go find a makom Torah, a deeply rewarding place to learn and a space for relationships. According to 16th century Rabbi Almosnino, this means a place where the atmosphere, surroundings, and community are pervaded by Torah. It’s not just a place; its other people. It’s time for each of us to consider where we need to go and who we need to seek out to gather the wisdom to collectively serve the world.

If you do, you’ll be grateful to find many places of Torah in schools, synagogues, the beit midrash, camp, and in the arms of spouses and partners, friends and children from Los Angeles to Jerusalem that offer an essential sense of learning, connection, and solidarity.
In the precious makom Torah that is housed within American Jewish University you’ll find other people who will change your life. For your journey is not over by discovering a place of learning, rather it is your future classmates and teachers who complete this new paradigm. According to Rabbi Nehorai, it is your hevre, or the colleagues, friends, family, and mentors around you who support your growth and guide you to find meaning and purpose in your work in this world. “Do not rely on your own understanding” because change is not about one person coming up with an idea that changes the world; rather real change is and has always been about changing the nature of our relationships in this world. Who is wise, Ben Zoma asked? Our tradition answers: The one who learns from every other person. You have already learned so much from your families and teachers up until this point. And now what your new hevre will give you is the training to become an inspiration and a companion who also others find and create m’komot Torah in our communities. I cannot even describe to you how much you will benefit from the teaching and spiritual guidance of your future rabbis, mentors, family, and friends within the walls of rabbinical school and beyond its borders. They will show you that the act of Torah is not complete without the love of others.

You may be wondering, what is the cost of not switching to this alternative narrative? The Talmud in Shabbat 147b tells us about Rabbi Eleazar ben Arak, who went off on his own to the waters of Diomsith, determined to pursue his learning and ideas without others. What was the result? It was neither success nor satisfaction. Rather he lost his Torah, he lost a grip on his learning. It wasn’t until his colleagues assembled to pray for him that his learning and equilibrium returned to him. This is how the second half of Rabbi Nehorai’s teaching is a commentary on the first. It’s not enough to find a place of Torah, but you must share it with others and let others share it with you, or you may end up in dark, lonely waters.

The rabbi you’ll each strive to be, and frankly, the rabbis that the Jewish community will most need, are not just idea generators but community generators; not just people of Torah but democratizers of Torah; not just priests or prophets but teachers, and all different kinds of teachers. As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks reminds us: Moses himself could have been called many things. But what did they call him? They did not call him “Moses the liberator,” “the lawgiver,” “the prophet,” or “the hero.” Though he was all those things. Jewish tradition called him none of those things. When Jewish people wanted to give him the highest honor they called him, “Moses our teacher.” To be a teacher in Judaism is the highest honor” for to be a teacher is to lovingly connect Torah with other people, giving and receiving. Nolan and Becca, Jeremy and Josh, Adir and Danny, Mathew, Jeremy, and Sarah: be patient because one day you will have the opportunity to teach from the deepest place within you and use that place to guide and inspire a future generation of young searching souls. One day you will look back on your former self and feel proud of every step you took and every hand you held along the way to get from the narrow bridge to the bimah.

Yours truly,
Your older and wiser, but humble Rabbi selves

[Turning to the whole tent]

On the one hand this is a message to the younger version of our nine new rabbis tonight, but really it is for each one of us. For at times we are all lost or fearful, at times we are all caught up in a narrow image of success for ourselves or for our children that neither serves us or them. The affirmation of Jewish life is that we never have to take this journey alone. The promise land is a place for a whole people. In it there are no prizes or plaques, no pats on the back or six figure pay checks but there are arms to hold you and teachers to guide you and the laughter flows like milk and honey. It is no coincidence that one of the names of God is Hamakom, “the place” – for we find God in our lives in those holy places where we sit across from another and listen.
So I invite each of us to consider, what is your makom Torah, what is the place of learning and the people of learning that you need right now in your life? And what is stopping you from seeking them out tomorrow?

I bless each of us with the courage to let go of going it alone and to instead seek out the people and places in our lives that inspire us to collect, to personalize, and to share our own precious Torah with others. May we all find a place of learning that inspires and challenges us, and through it may we join one another to build and bridge communities; break down boundaries and borders; actualize shared ideas and heal one another.

Avram Pachter, Head Chef

Avram watching over the staff Iron Chef competition

Avram watching over the staff Iron Chef competition

Here at Ramah in the Rockies we take our food very seriously. Whether the various ingredients come to us via farm to table or farm to store to table, we strive to “lift the veil” on everything we do in the kitchen so our chalutzim and tzevet (staff) can be more informed in making their future food decisions.

For us this means starting with as much local and organic fare as possible while also staying within budget. Often there are questions about why some things we serve are organic, but others that could be are not. The simple answer is that the prices of organic foods sometimes mean that we are unable to serve as much as we would like. But our chalutzim do not stop there and want to know more. We teach about the differences between organic and semi-organic, how these choices help our planet, and why they may impact our final decision on what to have available on our camp menus.

We serve a predominately vegetarian diet instead of one filled with large quantities of animal protein which lets us introduce alternative protein sources such as quinoa and tofu (complete proteins), or lentils and seitan (incomplete proteins). When meat or fish is on the menu, our choices include sustainable tilapia direct from Quixotic Farming in Southern Colorado. In addition to providing a low cost option for increased variety in our meals, sourcing our fish from Quixotic supports their program teaching job skills to assist the rehabilitation of prison inmates. In this way our kitchen enables our camp community to perform the highest level of tzedakah as outlined by Maimonides – strengthening another’s hand until that person is no longer dependent upon others.

Challah Baking“Lifting the veil” does not stop here. It continues with understanding how the kitchen runs. Every Friday afternoon we have some of our chalutzim helping with the Shabbat dinner preparations – rolling and braiding challah, setting the tables, cleaning the ohel ochel (dining tent). Our oldest edah is invited to volunteer for shtifat kaylim (dish pit), and learn first-hand how much work goes into cleaning all the dishes, utensils, and cooking equipment for a camp meal. Everyone learns how to work together quickly and efficiently. Then, our campers are guided on a tour of the kitchen, to see where things are stored and why it’s important that everything is put away in its proper place. Sometimes there are special surprises from the Head Chef!

And what would camp be without peulot (activities) involving food? One of the favorites is Iron Chef. The chalutzim are divided into groups to compete in creating the best-tasting and best-looking dish from a selection of random ingredients. Teamwork, complementing flavors, and time management are the take-away lessons. A big bonus was our kitchen staff including one of the winning creations as a new addition to the lunch menu offerings for everyone to enjoy.

Through all these and other activities, our camp community appreciates the difficult choices and hard work necessary to provide an interesting and nutritious menu each day.

Dear Families of Chalutzim (campers) in the Tikvah program,

moshe-pic-e1435590866176-144x150I would like to introduce myself- my name is Moshe Samuels, also known as Mushon, and I am the new interim Director of the Tikvah Program at Camp Ramah in the Rockies. I am an experienced informal Jewish educator, with vast experience in both Israel and North America. Specifically, I have spent 16 summers on staff at Camp Ramah- I’ve spent 12 summers at camp Ramah in Canada, where I served as both the unit head and the Jewish educator for the Tikvah program (8 summers with the Edah in total), and for the past couple of summers I’ve served as Rosh Chinuch (Educational Director) at camp Ramah in the Rockies.

I am honored to lead this superb program, which offers more opportunities for inclusion, growth and challenge by choice for your children than any other Tikvah program nationwide. That said, while the foundation of the program is solid, there is always room for improvement. Based on my experience and observations over the past couple of summers.

I would like to inform you of three key changes to the Tikvah program we intend to implement this year:

  1. Masa: Masa’ot (excursions) are the highlight of our camp and what sets it apart than any other Jewish camp in North America. They serve as an opportunity for our Chalutzim to leave their comfort zone and challenge themselves. This year we intent to run a 3 day Masa to a nearby State Park that will include spectacular day hikes, outdoor camping, swimming and participating in a service project along with the park rangers. Our campsite will include a bathhouse with toilets and running showers.  We will also have a camp van along with us just in case we need to make any runs for camp.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  1. Chugim (specialty tracks): Our daily routine at camp is divided into 4 Prakim (periods) a day in which our Chalutzim enjoy all of the great outdoor activities our camp has to offer. This summer we will be shortening the length of the Prakim to an hour each (instead of 70 min’) in order to allow a bit more rest time and a smoother transition time between activities. Our Edah will be offered all of the “trademark” chugim we offer- biking, wall climbing, farming, outdoor cooking, archery, and the Tikvah all-time favorite- mining. The chalutzim will be accompanied to
    each of these by one of our trained Madrichim (counselors), who will remain with them throughout the Perek. In addition, we will have a Madrich covering the Tikvah sensory tent at all times, allowing any camper who might feel they need a break to leave their activity and head over to a quiet, familiar and supervised area.
  1. Inclusion: One of the hallmarks of our camp is the inclusiveness of or Kehillah (community). We are hoping to take the inclusion of our campers in Tikvah to another level this summer. We are going to implement a buddy system, in which Chalutzim from our oldest Edah, Bogrim, will be voluntarily paired up with our campers in Tikvah. In rotation, these buddies will sit at our Edah during meals and attend the Chugim that Tikvah attends. They will also be spending time with the Edah during the daily rest hour and during free time on Shabbat, which tend to be less structured and often challenging for our Chalutzim. We are also intend to have a few Peulot Erev (evening activities) with the entire Edat Bogrim during the session.

Over the next few weeks I will reach out to each of you individually by phone, introduce myself in person, and be available to answer any question you may have. In the meantime please feel free to contact me, I would love your feedback regarding all of the above.

Last but not least- we still have room for a few more Chalutzim in our program, especially in our female camper bunk. If any of you know any potential camper that is suitable for our program please reach out to them and tell them about our camp! Please inform me as well and I will follow up on them ASAP.

Looking forward for a wonderful summer at ROA!

Best regards,

Moshe (Mushon) Samuels

This is the third installment in a series of blogs from our camp staff. Each of the staff were asked how their area of camp (rock climbing, archery, horseback riding, etc) and Judaism was linked for them, and how they have brought the two together in their lives.

Ilana Weisberg

farm 7The ways that we interact with animals at Camp Ramah reflects a greater compassion for the natural world. Judaism teaches that we should respect and love the animals that surround us. We focus on learning from the goats, chickens, alpacas, and ducks by observing the way that their world works in connection to ours. Our campers and staff help provide our animals with food, shelter, and safety while we receive milk, eggs, and love from our animals.

DSC_0021 2There are a few specific things we do to really focus on the back and forth of caring for the animals. I particularly like to focus on thanking the animals. For example, after milking Grace, one of our goats this summer, we always went back to thank her. Thanking her for her milk changes the interaction from one where we are simply receiving, to one where we are gratefully receiving. Not only does this completely change the dynamic of caring for Grace as a being instead of just a means to receive milk, but it also teaches us to appreciate the things we are given. By loving and caring for Grace, including cleaning her enclosure, walking her, feeding her, socializing with her, and milking her, we are learning the amount of work it takes to receive a small amount of milk.

Beyond appreciating the animals, I try to encourage campers and staff alike to connect with the animals. Simply saying hello while passing by an enclosure is a great way to form a relationship with the other inhabitants of camp. It takes a lot of patience and understanding, but when we were really able to have relationships with the animals, it was magical to see the interactions. From some campers that were willing to wake up early to feed the chickens, to others who were missing home and told the goats all about their families, I’m sure our animals can’t wait for the buses to roll up and for camp to be in session again.


This is the second installment in a series of blogs from our camp staff. Each of the staff were asked how their area of camp (rock climbing, archery, horseback riding, etc) and Judaism was linked for them, and how they have brought the two together in their lives.

Matt Levitt

matt atop mtn w sunGazing out of my college dorm window towards the yellow and orange leaves blanketing the beautiful Indiana University campus each fall, a few ideas swirling around in my head, I decided this would be my last “available” summer.  A double major in Political Science and Arabic, soon I would need a summer internship with the state department, if my dream to work in Middle Eastern policy was to be realized post-graduation.  

After some online digging, I found a new camp, a Ramah specialty camp, was scheduled to open in the heart of the Rocky Mountain during the summer of 2010. Intrigued by this idea, I contacted Rabbi Eliav to see if any positions remained. Luckily, he had several available positions and I found myself on the inaugural Tzevet [staff] in the summer of 2010 as a rock climbing instructor and madrich [counselor].

While much of the ground work for the educational program was put in place by Rabbi Eliav, Sarah Shulman (Former Ramah in the Rockies Assistant Director and now the Director of the new Camp Ramah in Northern California), and several others before our arrival, it was clear that my entrepreneurial spirit would thrive here. During our first summer I developed a rock climbing curriculum asking the essential question, how can the ancient texts of the Jews relate to the modern day rock climber?

Part of the program at Ramah Outdoor Adventure includes a five day backcountry excursion for our oldest chaluztim [campers]. One such trip culminated with a 5 a.m. climb up one of the most beautiful rock faces in the Lost Creek Wilderness.  We woke up to the campers’ groans of an early morning, but soon after a little oatmeal and some hot tea, our group was ready to depart for our last day of climbing before heading back to camp for Shabbat. Several hours later, our group reached the top of our climb and sat atop a beautiful vista overlooking the entire Lost Creek Wilderness.

Atop that beautiful vista, we decided to engage our chalutzim [campers] in a discussion about Moses’ journey as a biblical climber. By the end of our discussion, our chalutzim [campers] had come to the conclusion that Moses acted as the “belayer” or safety, Joshua played the role of the “climber”, the explorer of new land, and God secured us as the “rope” and “gear”, linking the two through rope and safety.

It was in that moment, sitting atop that breathtaking cliff, I realized the true beauty of experiential Jewish education and the mission of Ramah Outdoor Adventure. Seeing the campers engage in Judaism that way, relating our past traditions to today, changed my life.

When I returned back to Indiana University, I changed my major to Jewish Studies and Education. Now I work for Ramah Outdoor Adventure at Ramah in the Rockies year round, continuing to follow my passion of experiential Jewish education, a passion developed here in the heart of the Rocky Mountains during our very first summer.

 

This is the first installment in a series of blogs from our base camp staff. Each of the staff were asked how their area of camp (rock climbing, archery, horseback riding, etc) and Judaism was linked for them, and how they have brought the two together in their lives.

Shira Rosenblum

Shira on our

Shira on our “3-D” archery range with one of our hanging targets.

“What makes an archery class Jewish?” Whenever someone asks me this question, I reflect on how I have combined two integral aspects of my identity. When I became a competitive archer at Brandeis University, I convinced my teammates to compete on Sundays so as not to interfere with my Shabbat observance. For a while, this was the only connection between my newly acquired love of archery and my lifelong passion for Judaism.

Everything changed when I joined the archery staff at ROA in the summer before rabbinical school four years ago. I was excited to develop Jewish content for each archery lesson in keeping with camp’s core values. However, I didn’t want to focus on bible characters/stories about archery. I looked for additional Jewish sources and worked backwards from the archery skills as well.

For example, the first session of any archery class must cover range safety. I selected the Jewish value of refraining from lashon hara (gossip or evil speech) to accompany that first class. I devised activities which would help the chalutzim (campers) understand how the value related to archery. After the activity, I made sure to reinforce the lesson: once we release our arrows from the bow, we have little control over where they land and are unable to repair the damage caused by their sharp points after removing them from the targets. So too with our words! Once we say something, we have no control over how far our message will spread and who we may hurt in the process. Additionally, we may apologize but we can never fully take back the pain caused by harmful speech.

I love the challenge of incorporating Jewish values into my archery lessons and am grateful to ROA for sparking this interest in me. I have since expanded this project to other educational settings and have conferred archery certification to seven different camp counselors at ROA and elsewhere. I look forward to seeing the role archery will play in my rabbinate going forward!

Shira is a Rabbinical Student at the Jewish Theological Seminary, and a longtime Ramah archery instructor. 

Summer comm teamAri Polsky (l) is a member of our year-round team, and has been speaking with many of you this year about registration, transportation, and other camp logistics. Photography is a passion of his, and will be supervising the communications via email, website, and social media. He is a 17-year Ramah veteran, and excited to be welcoming a new batch of chalutzim!

Aaron Zetley (r)  just finished high school in Milwaukee and will be going to CU Boulder in the fall. This is his 5th summer at Ramah, and was in JOLI 2013. He is ecstatic to be back at camp and a part of the photography team this summer. 

 

We will be uploading photos this summer to both Facebook and our Smugmug.

From our 2015 Camp Guidebook:
At Ramah in the Rockies, we strive to provide an easy method of communications from parents/guardians to campers. We also post regular photo updates for everyone to share in the magic of camp. Our communications team works hard to cover all aspects, ages, and activities of camp in an efficient manner, while remaining unobtrusive in those activities. Please understand that not every camper will be in every photoupdate. Your camper(s) will not appear in photos when they are on their masa’ot [backcountry excursions].
Pictures can be easily downloaded and printed from the site.  
PLEASE NOTE: WE ARE NOT USING THE PHOTO SYSTEM THAT IS BUILT INTO THE CAMPMINDER SYSTEM, AND WE ARE NO LONGER USING PHOTOBUCKET.

We received this letter a few weeks ago from one of our amazing chalutzim, Ellery.  We are extremely grateful for this kind gesture, and amazed at the beautiful way she writes about the place we all call home. 

Ellery (third from right) with friends before Shabbat.

Ellery (third from right) with friends before Shabbat.

Dear Rabbi Eliav,

As you may recall, my bat mitzvah passed a couple months ago. For my bat mitzvah project, I had a really hard time choosing which community I wanted to help most; Ramah, of course, was included in the list of organizations. I ended up deciding to volunteer at a nursing home called Shalom Park that my zayda had lived at, but I still wanted to be able to give back to the place I call home for several weeks each summer. I had received quite a bit of money from my bat mitzvah and it only made sense to donate to Ramah. Ramah is such an important part of my life and Jewish identity, in many ways it had helped me reach my bat mitzvah as much, if not more, than weekly hebrew school.

To be completely honest, Ramah is not picture-perfect. Fallen trees lay like collapsed soldiers, with their charred cores that had been defeated by the Hayman fire. A rare treasure are the colorful wildflowers that, like much of the plant life, are recovering from the threat of their home. The buildings are far from glamorous with chipping paint and rotting wood. And yet, despite all of the imperfections, I, and many others, will forever call Ramah beautiful. But Ramah is not beautiful because of its watercolor sunsets, or the way the white tents lay against the regrowing forest, or even the way the paths are lit in the dead of night by the starlight that can only be seen at 8,000 feet high and its guiding lights. No, Ramah is beautiful because of what happens there. At ROA smiles are contagious, connecting to nature is inevitable, and many recognize God in the world in ways they never had. At Ramah in the Rockies afternoon rainstorms can’t stop us from dancing, a bruise or scrape has never stopped one of Ramah’s campers to take on a new challenge, the line for the showers before Shabbat is worth the wait because the dirt has collected on skin and underneath fingernails from various adventures. Chilly mornings will never be a roadblock for the community of 8,000 feet to wake up with the sun, a group-hug can’t be stopped by the amount of mud on our clothing. Ramah changes people.

When I step off the bus each summer on the first day of camp, I come alive just as hundreds of others do the same. My heart is beating with the anticipation of spending my next weeks in nature and with friends that come from every corner of the world, my cheeks ache from the uncontrollable need to smile, and my world shifts back into place. I know that every year I return to my home-away-from-home where I can meet old friends and new-comers, I can greet the forest, and see the world in its best light. I know that every year I return to my home that a day won’t go by that cheering from the Ohel Ochel [dining tent] that can be heard on the basketball court, that a Shabbos will not pass without dancing, I know a day can’t pass that I won’t experience something new, or that the summer won’t go by without a competitive game of capture the flag. Because that moment when I step off the bus to join my friends I know the 11 months I was anxious to return to my family of friends were well spent because I am now where I belong. And every summer, after all hiking, rafting, climbing, painting, biking, hugging, singing, smiling, I return to my other family with tears in my eyes, marked up legs, and stories to share.

I chose to donate 10% of the money I had received for my bat mitzvah to Ramah because I know that it will go to many more summers of camp that many more campers can experience and know ROA the way I have. I chose to donate to Ramah because it has made me the person I am today. I chose to donate to Ramah because it is my family and my unofficial home.

I appreciate what you and the staff do at ROA more than I am able to put in to words.

Sincerely,

Ellery Andersen

Rafi, our Director of Camper Care, has prepared this great list to help gear up for camp!

  • Rafi at Boulder Pride 2013If you think your kiddo might experience sadness or homesickness at camp, practice having more sleepovers at friends’ and family’s homes. Prepare your kid with ideas for self-soothing, bedtime routines that don’t include you, and how to get help at camp if they need it. Perhaps allow your child to pick out one comfort item to bring with them (eg. a stuffed animal, a special pillowcase, one of your shirts…)

  • Tell your kid/s about your fun camp memories, why you loved camp or wish you could’ve gone, and why you value it for them. (It Family photoshould go without saying do *not* tell them scary camp stories!!)

  • Read the Camp Handbook and go over the camp schedule and routine with your kids. Talk about the expectations that camp has of them and what expectations they can have of camp. For example, let them know about our food, trips, and electronics policy.

  • IMG_9091Make sure your kids know how to take care of their personal hygiene needs (ie. Showering, brushing teeth, changing their underpants daily) without you. Their counselors will help but the kids will need to self-direct to a certain extent.

  • Follow the packing guidelines listed in the Handbook, label all of your kid’s stuff, and let them help you pack or have them pack themselves so that they know what they are bringing and are less likely to lose belongings without realizing it.

  • Shabbat BoysMake sure that we at camp know everything we need to know to help your child have a successful summer. We will keep personal information confidential but knowing what’s going on in your child’s life can help us do our best job for them. (ie. Impending divorce, death in the family (including pets!), recent issues in school)

This past sunday we marked 100 Days until camp- so we thought this would be a good time to start introducing you to our 2015 Summer Staff!

PicMonkey Collage

 

From left to right: Ben Winter, Leora Perkins, Rafi Daugherty, and Moshe “Mushon” Samuels

Hey, I’m Ben, and I’ll be your program director this summer. I’m looking forward to a great summer full of ruach and fun! I’m super excited to be joining the Camp Ramah family. Although I’m new, I’ve only heard awesome things about the camp and am confident we’ll have a fantastic time together. I can’t wait to meet all of you in 100 short days!

Hey, I am Leora Perkins, a first-year rabbinical student from JTS. I am super excited to be at camp this summer as Rosh Chugim [Head of Base Camp Activities]. I love hiking,  swimming, cooking tasty vegetarian food– and recently started getting into gardening.

My name is Rafi. This year, i’m the Director of Camper Care. I’m really looking forward to seeing all of the chalutzim [campers] and their smiling faces at camp!

Hi I’m Mushon and I’m thrilled to be returning to Etgar b’Ramah as Rosh Chinuch [Director of Education]. My favorite thing about camp is Shabbat- I love the ruach [energy] and singing at Kabbalat Shabbat [Friday night services] at the Pardes Tefilah [outdoor sanctuary], the sense of kehilah [community] at the K’far [tent area], and of course the delicious Friday night dinner at the ohel ochel [dining tent]. Can’t wait to celebrate Shabbat with all of you in 100 days!