Fire Update

Current Update

August 16th, 6:04 pm MDT

Imagine a place where the trees smell like butterscotch – a place where horses lazily graze in a pasture overlooking a lovingly tended garden, lush with produce. Imagine a place where the sounds of acoustic guitars and djembe drums echo across the valley each morning.

Imagine a community in which each and every person is encouraged to challenge themselves; a community founded upon the shared values of kavod (respect), k’sharim (connection), s’micha ishit (personal growth) and above all, simcha (joy). Imagine a community huddled together for comfort and warmth as a monstrous fire rages in the distance – a community that channeled its fear into song, filling the night with audible positivity and hope.

At the conclusion of each season, I write a message taking stock of the previous two months. For weeks beforehand, I compose in my mind what I’d like to say to capture the spirit and magic of that particular summer. Just over a week ago, I thought I would be writing a very different email. Despite the extraordinary circumstances in which Ramah in the Rockies has found itself, I still want to share with you the email I had hoped to write. After all, our summer was so much more than just the past 10 days.

This summer, we sent out 61 masa’ot (backcountry excursions), each of which returned to base camp bursting with stories, newfound skills, and lifelong memories. We even sent out a ‘night navigation masa’ for the very first time, led by one of our Israeli tzevet (staff) who was a navigation instructor during his army service. Our machane (camp) joined together as a kehillah (community) for two intense Yom Sport competitions, during which our JOLI chalutzim (campers) served as facilitators and team captains, assuming leadership roles with grace and enthusiasm. We sang our hearts out on the Fourth of July when Rick Recht came to camp, displaying homemade posters with pride. We accomplished the goals we set for ourselves, nourished our bodies with food we grew on our chava (farm), and formed friendships that will endure long after camp is over.

Prior to this week, if anyone asked me about the most incredible moments of our summer, I would have pointed to the song and dance that pervaded so much of our day. Our Rosh Shira, Michael Harlow, brought many new tunes to camp and infused our teffilot and shira sessions with an incredible sense of ruach (spirit) – click here to listen to some of our favorite tunes! Additionally, our Rashei Rikkud (dance) Eden Paller and Gali Gleicher led energetic Israeli dancing not only during their assigned prakim (periods), but also each day at our camp-wide mifgash (meeting).

I would also have pointed out the quality of our staff at Ramah in the Rockies this summer. We assembled one of the strongest collections of young adults I’ve ever had the honor of working with. With a mishlachat (Israeli delegation) twenty-six strong, almost every camper in our program had the opportunity to make a meaningful connection with an Israeli. By the time we welcomed our first group of chalutzim in June, our tzevet had come together as a cohesive team, and their energy and commitment to our mission continued to grow with each passing day. And on August 7th, when their leadership and sense of purpose were put to the ultimate test, each and every individual demonstrated their leadership, composure, and responsibility.

And of course, I would talk about the numerous specialty areas and programs we ran this summer. We re-emphasized skills training in our 4 week edot (age groups), and expanded outdoor experiences for our younger edot. At our core, we will always be an outdoor adventure camp, where campers can experience, develop passions for, and finally specialize in specific outdoor activities. As Ramah in the Rockies continues to mature, we hope to hire back more and more former campers who have grown up and developed significant outdoor skills here at camp.
Picture of some of our amazing campers
Still, I would be remiss if I were to minimize the impact of last week’s events. Though only 130 of our campers were at the chava (ranch) in the wee hours of August 7th, the reverberations of this devastating incident can be felt throughout our kehillah. In its wake, I have been made acutely aware of the love, generosity, and support that flows from every corner of our extended community.

Our neighbors at the Lost Valley Ranch gave our chalutzim breakfast while members of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and North Fork Fire Rescue worked tirelessly to ensure that the vast majority of our machane remained unharmed by the fire. Volunteers at the Hebrew Educational Alliance dropped everything in order to prepare their facilities for more than 200 campers and tzevet in need of a place to sleep and a good meal. The National Ramah Commission organized a ‘Rockies Fire Relief‘ fund that has received hundreds of generous donations from all over the world. Colorado synagogues, United States Air Force Cadets, and women with fond memories of our chava when it was a Girl Scout camp from 1945-2005 all joined us for a volunteer day, during which they prepared the property for the winter months in record time. Most remarkably, Director Noah Gallagher and the folks at JCC Ranch Camp agreed to lend us their machane so that we could finish out our summer session as a kehillah kedoshah, a holy community. This example of selflessness and tzedakah allowed our chalutzim to enjoy a normal day of programming, including hours spent splashing in the swimming pool, only two days after we had to evacuate.

This past week, our chalutzim have learned invaluable lessons about generosity, adaptability, and resilience. They have embodied the age-old maxim and truly made lemonade from lemons – a virtue that will undoubtedly serve them well in their lives beyond our machane. Back at our ranch, I would watch as our campers return from their masa’ot, proudly bearing the scars of their failed attempts and continued perseverance. Though the past 10 days were not the masa (journey) we had anticipated, they taught us that we are capable of overcoming so much more than we imagined.

As I conclude this email, the last of our staff are rolling out of the JCC Ranch Camp, and all of our chalutzim have been welcomed home by their families. A number of us are returning to the Ramah in the Rockies ranch for a final night together, where we will take stock of the summer and count our blessings.

As I hit send on the final email of the summer, I want to end with the two most important words of Kayitz 2017: THANK YOU!

-Eliav

Campers before Shabbat

What about next summer?

No matter what, Ramah in the Rockies will be open Summer 2018. Registration will officially open on Wednesday, September 6th, and we are looking forward to another amazing summer back on our chava. Information about our newest edah (age group) especially for rising 10th Graders will also be released at this time.

We have already begun planning for a new building that will better serve the needs of our community. In order to be able to open next summer with a fully functioning kitchen, dining hall, and administrative office, we will need to be able to raise $2 to $3 million beyond the anticipated insurance proceeds. We have already experienced an outpouring of generosity and support, and we are hopeful that we will be able to raise the necessary funds in the coming weeks. If for any reason we cannot complete construction of this building for use in 2018, we have a fully developed contingency plan.

To help us raise these funds, we welcome all donations, large and small, which you can make one of two ways:

  1. By check: Please make checks payable to “Ramah in the Rockies” and send to 300 South Dahlia Street #205, Denver, CO 80246.
  2. Online: Please make your donation to The National Ramah Commission, and select the “Rockies Relief Fund” dropdown. 100% of donations to this fund will be used for rebuilding.


Previous Statements

August 14th, 5:45 pm MDT

Dear Friends of Ramah:

All of us associated with Ramah in the Rockies and the Ramah Camping Movement are deeply appreciative of the outpouring of support in the wake of last week’s devastating fire at our campsite, which destroyed our dining hall, kitchen, and administrative offices. We are truly grateful that no camper, staff member, or first responder suffered any injury, and that only property was damaged.

Before

Picture of the Lodge, before the Fire

After

Picture of the remains after the fire

We express our deep appreciation to our camp staff, who handled a very difficult situation incredibly well; to our Denver community partners, especially the Hebrew Educational Alliance (HEA) community, which housed and fed our campers and staff in a time of need; to the JCC Denver, which so generously provided us with their Ranch Camp to house our community for the final week of camp; and to the local firefighters and police, who kept us safe and heroically saved our camp from destruction.

With gratitude we recognize the outpouring of love and support, and the hundreds of pledges of financial assistance. We are now focused on concluding our summer season safely and in high spirits, and on immediately beginning the rebuilding effort to ensure an on-time opening of camp in June 2018. Registration for summer 2018 will open on Wednesday, September 7.

Our team has already begun the planning process, envisioning a new kitchen, dining hall and administrative offices that will better serve the needs of camp than the previous building. Preliminary estimates are that this building, which will include enhanced fire mitigation systems and other important administrative facilities, will cost between $2 million and $3 million beyond the anticipated insurance proceeds.

In order to be able to open next summer, we will need to be able to raise $2 to $3 million beyond the anticipated insurance proceeds.

If for any reason we cannot complete the construction of this building for use in 2018, we have a fully developed contingency plan, which will ensure an on-time opening of camp in June 2018. This plan includes a mobile kitchen, repairs to the existing dining tent, and prefabricated administrative offices.

To help us raise these funds, we welcome all donations, large and small, which you can make one of two ways:
By check: Please make checks payable to “Ramah in the Rockies” and send to 300 South Dahlia Street #205, Denver, CO 80246.
Online: Please make your donation to The National Ramah Commission, and select the “Rockies Relief Fund” dropdown. 100% of donations made to this fund will be used for rebuilding.

For questions about these efforts please contact Matt Levitt, Ramah in the Rockies incoming Chief Development Officer, at matt@ramahoutdoors.org.

We are grateful to God for everyone’s safety in the face of danger, and deeply appreciate all those who have pledged their support for our beloved camp. We are proud to move forward confidently into a bright future for Ramah in the Rockies.

Donate Now

Signed,
Ramah in the Rockies
Rabbi Eliav Bock, Executive Director
Gil Rosenthal, President
Don Skupsky, Immediate Past President
Douglas Wolf, Business Manager

National Ramah Commission of The Jewish Theological Seminary
Rabbi Mitchell Cohen, Director
Dr. Jeffrey Kopin, President


August 11th, 3:45 pm MDT

This morning, as I took a walk around the property of JCC Ranch Camp, I was struck by the normalcy that surrounded me. Chalutzim (campers) were playing sports, working on art projects, riding bikes, and splashing in the pool. Everywhere I looked I saw campers laughing with their friends, joking around with their madrichim (counselors), and enjoying the beautiful weather. An outsider looking in on this idyllic scene would never be able to guess that less than a week ago a devastating fire forced us to evacuate our machane (camp).

The theme of this week has been positivity, generosity, and resilience. JCC Ranch Camp and the Hebrew Educational Alliance took our community in and cared for us in our hour of need. Tzevet (staff) put our chalutzim first every step of the way, and ensured that even the most dark and frightening moments were full of hope, song, prayer, and laughter. Our phenomenal programming staff made the best of a bad situation and managed to organize amazing chuggim (activies) and masa’ot (excursions) for our campers to enjoy. We have received countless messages of concern, commiseration, and encouragement from all around the world. Every member of the Ramah in the Rockies community has truly gone above and beyond this week.

Our Scholar in Residence, Hartley Lachter, took on the role of ‘Rosh Passports,’ and has been working tirelessly to ensure that each and every camper has the identification they need to get home safe and sound. The head of our Animal Care Program, Hindy Finman, has taken the lead back at the Flying J Ranch, coordinating staff and volunteers to aid in cleaning up and winterizing the property we had to leave in such a hurry. Three of our madrichim who are certified lifeguards dropped everything to ensure that each and every one of our campers has the opportunity to go swimming. Tzevet from years past have even returned to volunteer their time and energy!

This adaptability and sense of community has been particularly evident in the numerous camp-wide t’fillot (prayers) we have shared this week. Rather than divide into edot (age groups), our kehillah (community) has opted to pray together. Our song leaders have led spiritual services full of music, impromptu dancing, and boundless gratitude. Never before has the joyous melody of ‘Hallelujah‘ sounded so sweet!

Tonight when we gather together as a kehillah kedoshah, a holy community, we will be joined by a number of first responders from North Fork Fire Rescue, as well as our neighbors from Lost Valley Ranch who offered us food, shelter, and friendship in the wee hours of Monday morning. As we share a Shabbat meal together, we will be celebrating the kindness and generosity of our extended community.

This week, Ramah in the Rockies combated tragedy and destruction with camaraderie, flexibility, and bravery. I have never been more proud to be a part of this singular, indomitable community.

-Eliav

How Can I Help?

A group of our dedicated camp lay leaders is currently developing a plan to ensure that camp will open next summer with a functional kitchen and dining hall.
Given the outpouring of generosity from the Ramah Camping Movement and the Jewish community, we are hopeful that we will be able to raise the necessary funds in the coming weeks. Enrollment for our 2018 season will open soon!

For those interested in making a donation, please mail checks payable to “Ramah in the Rockies” to 300 S Dahlia St #205 Denver CO 80246, or make a donation to The National Ramah Commission, and select the “Rockies Relief Fund” dropdown. 100% of donations made to this fund will be used for rebuilding.


August 8th, 10:45 pm MDT

Thanks to the generosity of JCC Ranch Camp, the volunteers at the Hebrew Educational Alliance (HEA), and the tireless work of our amazing staff, the entire Ramah in the Rockies community has settled in to our temporary home.

Campers and staff arrived to JCC Ranch Camp in waves and spent the afternoon participating in a scavenger hunt organized by our JOLI campers. The scavenger hunt was designed to orient everyone to the layout of our new machane (camp), and by the end it was clear that everyone was feeling more at home.

After we all enjoyed a pasta dinner together in the dining hall, Rabbi Eliav Bock introduced our kehillah (community) to the Director and Assistant Director of JCC Ranch Camp – Noah Gallagher and Ryan Bocchino – who were greeted by a standing ovation from our entire machane. Noah and Ryan welcomed us with open arms, talked us through the property’s emergency procedures, and we all said a heartfelt she’hechiyanu together to usher in this new beginning.

Campers then had the opportunity to settle into their new bunks, unpack their luggage, take a well-deserved shower, and crawl into bed. Our wonderful Camper Care team has been hard at work ensuring that everyone has the bedding and toiletries they need, and our medical staff has made sure that all medications were distributed as usual.

Tomorrow campers will have the chance to try out all of the different chuggim (activites) JCC Ranch Camp has to offer, such as archery, sports, biking, art, zumba, ropes corse, and swimming. Our Ilanot and Solelim campers will be participating in a day hike, reminiscent of our masa’ot (backcountry excursions), and our Solelim campers will be offered the option to sleep out if they would like to. On Thursday, Bogrim, Metayalim, and JOLI will have the same opportunity.

Now that we are all settled in, our next email update will be on erev Shabbat.

Volunteers Needed!

Because of our abrupt exit from the ranch on Monday morning, we were unable to winterize any of our tents or programing spaces. We hope to conclude this process on Sunday, and invite any members of the community who wish to volunteer their time and energy to join us from 10 am to 4 pm. If you are available to help, please email Melannie Levine. Unfortunately, due to the state of our lodge building, we are unable to welcome any children or pets to the property at this time.

What About Next Summer?

A group of our dedicated camp lay leaders is currently developing a plan to ensure that camp will open next summer with a functional kitchen and dining hall. Given the outpouring of generosity from the Ramah Camping Movement and the Jewish community, we are hopeful that we will be able to raise the necessary funds in the coming weeks. Enrollment for our 2018 season will open soon!

For those interested in making a donation, please mail checks payable to “Ramah in the Rockies” to 300 S Dahlia St #205 Denver CO 80246, or make a donation to The National Ramah Commission, and select the “Rockies Relief Fund” dropdown. 100% of donations made to this fund will be used for rebuilding.


August 8th, 12:30 PM MDT

A new day has dawned on Ramah in the Rockies – a hopeful day full of excitement and transition.

This morning, we began the day with a big breakfast of waffles and cereal, before coming together for t’fillot (prayers) filled with gratitude, hope, and simcha (joy). Things are replaceable. Buildings are rebuildable. Our kehillah (community) is safe, comfortable, and cared for. That is what matters.

We are so grateful for the generosity and support of our friends at the Hebrew Educational Alliance (HEA), who welcomed our entire community yesterday afternoon. Volunteers had set up activity spaces, cooked us a hot lunch and pizza dinner, treated our campers to an ice cream bar, and prepared rooms where we could all get a much-needed night’s sleep.

Yesterday’s events could not destroy the ruach (spirit) of our amazing community, and a huge, impromptu Israeli dance party broke out following dinner. To witness the resilience and positivity of the campers, staff, and HEA volunteers has been truly inspiring. People opened their homes, donated their time, and sent their prayers and blessings from all over the world.

This Afternoon

Excitement is already building as our campers prepare to transition to our temporary home for the remainder of the summer, graciously provided for us by the JCC Ranch Camp. We will have full access to their facilities, including sports fields, as well as the use of their swimming pool and lifeguards. Our food delivery trucks have already been rerouted to the new campsite, so we can ensure the same high quality of meals as we did on the chava (ranch).

We plan to head over to JCC Ranch Camp after lunch, and spend the afternoon settling campers into their new bunks and unpacking for our last week of camp! Once we are all settled in this evening, we will send out another update.

What About Next Summer?

A group of our dedicated camp lay leaders is currently developing a plan to ensure that camp will open next summer with a functional kitchen and dining hall. Given the outpouring of generosity from the Ramah Camping Movement and the Jewish community, we are hopeful that we will be able to raise the necessary funds in the coming weeks. Enrollment for our 2018 season will open soon!

For those interested in making a donation, please mail checks payable to “Ramah in the Rockies” to 300 S Dahlia St #205 Denver CO 80246, or make a donation to The National Ramah Commission, and select the “Rockies Relief Fund” dropdown. 100% of donations made to this fund will be used for rebuilding.

Update on the Torah Scrolls

Although we were able to save one of our Torah scrolls, sadly, the fire destroyed our second Torah, on loan to us from the Hebrew Educational Alliance in Denver.


August 7th, 6:00 PM MDT

As you may know, at 2:00 am MDT Monday morning, a fire broke out in the lodge at Ramah in the Rockies. The building, which included administrative offices, the camp kitchen, and dining hall, was destroyed. There were no injuries, and no other buildings or camp facilities were damaged.

For more information about the incident and our emergency protocols, please see Rabbi Eliav’s live address to our machane (camp) on our Facebook page.

Once the fire was under control, the local fire chief informed us that it would not be necessary for us to make an emergency evacuation immediately. Instead, we were able to leave in the morning, in an orderly fashion. Campers had the opportunity to pack up all of their belongings, dress in warm clothes, and eat breakfast, which was generously provided by our neighbors at the Lost Valley Ranch.

When we were ready to depart, a police convoy escorted us to a synagogue in Denver, where volunteers had been preparing a hot meal. After eating, the campers had the chance to play games, watch movies, take a nap, and call their families. We have a number of rabbis, rabbinical students, and social workers on staff who have made themselves available for campers and staff who would like support in processing this experience.

Plans for the Remainder of this Season

Our friends at the nearby JCC Ranch Camp ended their summer season yesterday, and have offered us the use of their site and facilities so that we may finish the remainder of our summer season. We plan to relocate our entire camp community there by tomorrow evening. We will be bringing our own kitchen staff, hospitality staff, and most importantly our own incredible program team and counselors, who are already busy coordinating with JCC Ranch Camp to plan activities such as archery, mountain biking, hiking, and sports. We will also have access to their pool. Utilizing their lifeguards, we will be able to offer our campers the chance to go swimming! In addition, we will be sending our campers on abbreviated masa’ot (backcountry excursions) before we celebrate Shabbat together as a kehillah (community).

While we certainly hope that all of our campers continue the summer with the Ramah in the Rockies community, we will accommodate those who want to end their summer early. For those who do not wish for their children to continue the session at JCC Ranch Camp, options are as follows:

  1. You may coordinate a pick up with our Camper Care team (campercare@ramahoutdoors.org) at the synagogue in Denver by 1:00 PM MDT on Tuesday.
  2. You may book your child on any flight from Denver International Airport between 10:15 am and 3:00 pm MDT on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. We will not be able to accommodate later flights after those days.

We will be in touch tomorrow morning with further updates.

Valuables

All money and passports were stored in fireproof safes on the second floor of the building that burned down. At this time, the fire chief is still attempting to locate the fireproof safes and estimates that this will take at least another day. All electronics were kept in a locked closet in the same building and were lost in the fire. We have already been in touch with our insurance company and will work with families to replace these items.

Rebuilding

While our primary objective today has been the health and safety of our campers, we know we will need to rebuild. There will be plenty of time to figure out next steps. However, we are certain that we will need to raise significant funds in order to rebuild. For those interested in making a donation, please mail checks payable to “Ramah in the Rockies” to 300 S Dahlia St #205 Denver CO 80246, or make a donation to The National Ramah Commission, and select the “Rockies Relief Fund” dropdown. 100% of donations made to this fund will be used for rebuilding.


August 7th, 3:00 PM MDT

As you may know, at 2:00 AM MDT Monday morning, a fire broke out in the lodge at Ramah in the Rockies. The building, which included administrative offices, the camp kitchen, and dining hall, was destroyed.

No other buildings or camp facilities were damaged.

The immediate implementation of emergency protocols resulted in a calm and quick camp evacuation. Camp leaders also retrieved Torah scrolls and other important items.

All campers and staff are safe and have arrived at a synagogue in Denver, where we will spend the night. Everyone is currently settling in and enjoying a hot meal and the opportunity to relax, get some sleep, and participate in a variety of activities graciously arranged by a group of amazing volunteers.

Beginning at 3:00 PM MDT, campers will have the chance to call home and check in with their loved ones. This phone bank will be open as long as is needed. Please do not attempt to call us, as our staff will be busy making sure each and every camper is cared for.

We could not be more impressed with the resilience and morale demonstrated by every member of our kehillah (community), as well as the generosity of all the volunteers who dropped everything to ensure that our entire machane (camp) is comfortable, well-fed, and taken care of.

We will be updating our Facebook account with information and photographs regularly, and we will be sending out another official update at 5:00 PM MDT.


August 7th, 10:00 AM MDT

As you know, at 2 AM MDT Monday morning, a fire broke out in the lodge at Ramah in the Rockies. The building, which included administrative offices, the camp kitchen, and dining hall, was destroyed.

No other buildings or camp facilities were damaged.

All campers and staff were safely relocated to a field far from the fire, where they played games and sang and danced together under close supervision. Campers and staff then boarded buses that transported them to a synagogue in Denver, where volunteers were waiting with food. Before leaving camp, campers had the opportunity to change into clean clothes and to pack overnight bags and toiletries. All medications were retrieved and transported along with the campers and staff.

Breakfast was generously provided by our friends at the nearby Lost Valley Ranch; our campers are doing great and are in good spirits. Morning medications have all been administered according to the regular schedule.

The immediate implementation of emergency protocols resulted in a calm and quick camp evacuation. Camp leaders also retrieved Torah scrolls and other important items, and all animals were released to safe areas away from the fire.

Our staff and campers were remarkably helpful and positive through the night. Senior staff, with support from Denver area board members and National Ramah leaders, are working on a plan for the last week of camp. Possibilities include using another nearby camp or, if authorities permit, going back to Ramah in the Rockies and bringing up a mobile kitchen for meals.

We feel blessed that the first responders were incredibly supportive and effective in containing the fire, and that the entire camp community remained safe and comfortable throughout. Please note that campers and staff members do not have access to cell phones at this time. We appreciate your understanding as we make it our first priority to attend to the needs of our campers and staff members.

Updates will be posted on our Facebook page. Although the camp phone lines and website are temporarily unavailable, and in the short term, camp staff will be unable to respond to routine email, for urgent matters you may contact 303 261-8214 x0.


August 7th, 7:30AM MDT

Ramah in the Rockies is evacuating due to a building fire. All of the campers, staff, and animals, are being taken care of and accounted for, and everyone is safe. We have plans in place for this exact occurrence.

Please understand that camper and staff safety is our primary concern, the senior camp leadership is in regular communication with the appropriate authorities and agencies, as well as our Denver office and National Ramah office. On site staff are currently unable to be reached while caring for your kids.