Ramah Rockies Pilots Vocational Training for Tikvah Program Graduate
Howard Blas, National Ramah Tikvah Director
Max Newman was a beloved participant in the Tikvah Program for four summers. When Max approached age 18 and it was time to graduate Tikvah, director Rabbi Eliav Bock and Tikvah Program founder and Director, Elyssa Hammerman, decided to think creatively. They created a vocational training program for one this summer! The program consists of job training, serving as edah (divisional) support staff, and training in leadership skills.
“The program has gone beyond our expectations!” reports Hammerman. “Max is a total part of the community his independence has impressed us all.” Including Max as a staff member happens naturally. “All 140 staff members are his buddies and took him in,” notes Hammerman.
Co-workers have reached out to Max to help wrap tefillin, and to help him calculate proper tip at a restaurant on his day off. “The staff is totally accepting and welcoming, because that’s the type of staff we have here at Ramah in the Rockies. Max genuinely cares about fellow staff members, regularly asking how they slept and how their day is going. They view Max as part of the team, a valuable member of our Kehillah Kedosha (holy community).”
Hammerman notes that there have been some challenges but reminds us, “We all have challenges, and Max is like all of us—when he has difficulties, fellow staff members help him through it!”
Director Rabbi Eliav Bock has long been a supporting of the Tikvah Program and of creating opportunities at camp. “We believe in creating a warm and welcoming community at Ramah in the Rockies. Over the past few summers we have developed our Amitzim program for campers with special needs. As some of our campers have now grown up at camp, we want to ensure that they continue to feel at home at Ramah even as they grow too old to be a camper. We also see our camp as a terrific training site for young adults with special needs to develop basic life skills. Max was willing to be in our pilot program, and we are honored to have him as part of our community.”
Howard Blas, director of the National Ramah Tikvah Network, sat down with Max—outside of place of his employment at the greenhouse at Camp Ramah in the Rockies—for an interview.
How old are you? 18
Where are you from? Chevy Chase, Maryland
What do you do during the year? I attend Ivymount School in Potomac, Maryland. I plan to graduate in December, 2017.
What do you plan to do after you graduate from high school? Hopefully attend Montgomery College
What do you hope to study? Ornithology
Tell me about your interest in birds? I like to take hikes to see birds, I have feeders and birdbaths on the deck of our home in Chevy Chase, Maryland (I live with my parents and two younger sisters).
How long have you been coming to camp? four years as a camper. This is my first year on staff.
How did you find out about camp? My dad heard about it. I love nature and this camp focuses on outdoor adventure.
What are some of your other interests? Folk music (Kingston Trio), geography (locations and nicknames of the 50 US States), food (my favorite is fois gras)
How is being on staff different than being a camper? Being a camper is harder than being on staff. You get less freedom and couldn’t make your own decisions like now.
How did you decide to come back to camp in a vocational training program? Rabbi Eliav said we should have someone from Tikvah on staff—not just anyone. They admired my qualities—being responsible and my love for nature.
What do you do each day?
I help with the goats, chickens and the duck. I work in the garden. I pull weeds, and I pick herbs and other crops. I meet with Elyssa four days a week, Monday through Thursday. I am with the Ilanot edah perek dalet each day, and I help the campers—I show them around and remind them to put on sunscreen. One time when a camper called me and another counselor “fat,” I told him that’ s not a nice thing to say. The kids really like me.
What do you do at night? I usually go to sleep. I am not a night owl; I am a morning lark!
What do you do on days off? I have gone to Woodland Park and gotten pizza in a restaurant. I watched the “Finding Dory” movie. I ate donuts, ice cream and Japanese food. The other options for days off are Colorado Springs (which I am planning to do this Sunday on my next day off), Denver, Boulder, Wellington Lake, and staying at camp.
Continuing its ongoing support of Ramah’s vocational programs, the Ruderman Family Foundation has granted $150,000 over three years (2015-2017) for vocational education at Ramah California, Canada, New England and Wisconsin, and to encourage vocational education inclusion programs at other Ramah camps.