To our Ramah in the Rockies kehillah kedosha,

This year, as we prepare for our seders, we are thinking about numbers. We are thinking of the traditional Passover numbers – the eight days of Passover, four cups of wine, three matzot, and one Elijah’s cup. We are also thinking about the tragic numbers linked to the pandemic we are all living through – the number of people who have fallen ill with COVID-19, those who have recovered, and those who have tragically succumbed to the disease. We are thinking about the millions who are now unemployed and the devastating economic toll this virus is taking on families, businesses, and non-profits alike. With this in mind, we offer the following look inside our organization as we prepare for our 11th kayitz and the possibility that we will need to alter our summer plans based on the trajectory of the virus.

Ramah in the Rockies by the Numbers:

$890,000

Cost of opening our expanded Waster Water Treatment
plant in 2020 – bringing our total to $1.6 million spent
on our existing waste-water infrastructure for the chava.

$105,000

Need-based financial assistance awarded – thank you to our generous donors.

9,000

Gallons of drinking water available in our year-round water storage tank at any one time.

500+

Number of chalutzim and tzevet who call our kehillah kedosha home each summer.

70

Days until Kayitz 2020 is scheduled to begin!

43

JOLI chalutzim registered for 2020 – our most ever!

30+

Number of chalutzim who will receive their 5th-year shirts this kayitz.

28

Number of different states from which chalutzim are coming in 2020.

25

New masa tents purchased.

24

Days until we will make an announcement about our summer schedule

23

Ta’am Ramah (Taste of Ramah) chalutzim currently registered for 2020.

21

Horses under contract to come to camp – from two different herds!

16

Beds in our new Mirpa’ah (Health & Wellness Center).

12

New bikes purchased for Ilanot & Metaylim chalutzim.

5

Stalls in the new bathrooms across from the Chadar Ochel (Dining Hall).

3

The number of raised beds to be built in our kitchen’s new garden.

1

New Mercaz Gan-Teva (Garden and Nature Center opening this kayitz).

0

Dogs currently planning to be with us at camp for the whole summer.
Help us “adopt” a calm, kid-friendly camp dog this summer!

To our Ramah in the Rockies kehillah kedosha,

I write this email having just returned from a week of winter camping on the chava (ranch) where the Ramah year-round team met to work on some preparations for Kayitz 2020. We are having a fantastically snowy winter (30 feet and counting), which we hope will make for a very wet and green spring. With camp right around the corner, we are pleased to finally be able to announce a few major changes to our camp program.

Exciting Changes to our Masa Program.

Let’s face it – for many kids, Ramah in the Rockies is too rustic! We hear from so many parents that they love the values of Ramah in the Rockies, but wish their children were more pampered. This summer we are pleased to announce our very first glamping masa (backcountry excursions). Inspired by the five days our senior staff recently spent in Tulum, Mexico in an overpriced yurt – where warm bathing water was brought to our doors each morning and our days were filled with yoga and fine vegetarian raw meals – we decided that we need to expose our chalutzim (campers) to this sort of luxury camping. After some research, we partnered with a private outdoors camping company called Less Rocky: Rockies Camping Inc. (LRRC). LRRC has designed an incredibly unique glamping experience for our campers: chalutzim will experience the magic of the Rocky Mountains during the day, and enjoy the comfort of high-count Egyptian cotton sheets by night! 

On our masa’ot this summer, chalutzim will be treated to long meals, featuring some of the best vegan food available West of the Mississippi. One of the most significant reasons for partnering with this specific backcountry company, beyond the array of LRRC’s dietary options, was their beverage service. Each masa group will have a company employee who will carry 45 liters of crisp Fiji water insulated by a top-of-the-line YETI cooler backpack. Breakfast will include a variety of cold brew coffee options, while at lunch and dinner chalutzim can choose from two types of kombucha and San Pellegrino. 

After Kayitz 2019, we heard that a particular source of contention for our campers was the uncomfortable camping mats they slept on during masa. Well, at the request of our camp kehillah kedosha (holy community), we have made sure that LRRC provides individual memory foam cots that sit at least 18 inches off the ground to everyone on masa

In addition to the food and sleeping arrangements, the company has assured us that every desire or need our campers may have during masa will be met. No requests will be declined. For Kayitz 2020, our hope is that chalutzim realize that to experience nature means to find a place that costs more than a five-star hotel where one has the views and smells of the great outdoors without having to deal with the annoying elements like dirt, rain, or bugs.

Unveiling Our New Chadar Ochel and New Food Options!

For ten summers, we focused our attention on serving sustainable and healthy food. This kayitz, however, we have decided that while the healthy diet was fun in theory, in reality, our chalutzim and tzevet (staff) just want pizza, hamburgers, and diet soda. And so, I am excited to share our new camp motto – “Frozen is the new fresh.” 

While we will continue to cook meals in our main kitchen, we have decided to outfit our new Chadar Ochel (Dining Hall) with a bank of microwaves and three glassdoor freezers. This new addition will house a wide selection of packaged and pre-cooked dinners imported from a Brooklyn kosher food distributor. Campers will be welcome to leave their seats at any point of a meal, take a pre-packaged meal and warm it up for themselves. We want our campers to realize that they can have whatever they want whenever they want it.

We are also excited to announce a new special day at camp, Yom Fleish (Meat Day). Yom Fleish will be once a session (i.e. once every two weeks), and we will serve meat, and only meat, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We are so excited to spend this day teaching our chalutzim that their actions will have absolutely no effect on the environment. Our educational goal is to provide them with the foundational understanding that no matter what they do in the world, it is not possible to make any change, so we might as well just live life and let someone else worry about the big issues (like climate change). 

Our Newest Chug Option!

Since the beginning of time, humans have wondered what it would feel like for a person to fly through the air. Well, thanks to innovative fabrics, it is now possible with commercial flight wingsuits! We have watched each year as the sport of BASEjumping has taken off around the globe. For the past two years, we have worked with our licensing agencies, in both Jefferson County and the State of Colorado, to become the first summer camp in the world to offer children the opportunity to fly.  

Before Kayitz 2020 we will receive our first-ever shipment of Ramah flight wingsuits. Our Ramah wingsuits weigh under 20 pounds apiece and can withstand speeds of over 200 MPH. BASEjumping, or as it will be called at camp “Alef Beis Jumping” or just “Beis,” will be offered to all of our chalutzim as a chug (elective) option. Campers who choose Beis, will hike up Prospector Mountain on the backside of our property – it is the perfect cliff for a long-running start. Chalutzim will perform deep-dives off the edge and land safely in Ramah valley. Campers who successfully complete jumping from Prospector will have the opportunity to do four more jumps from different mountain tops throughout Pike National Forest.  

We have arrived at the halfway point of the Hebrew month of Adar, and as such, Purim has undoubtedly brought out our sillier side. It is with this, that we hope we can share many more laughs with you throughout the year(s) to come! We cannot wait to welcome your children back to the chava in less than 100 days and we will have more updates coming soon.

Chag Purim same’ach! Happy Purim!

– Rabbi Eliav

(P.S. Yes, 99% of what is written above is a joke.)

Ask any of our chalutzim (campers) and they will tell you that Ramah in the Rockies is an exceptionally green place. While many are simply drawn to camp’s natural greenery, as a camp, we are as equally proud of our “green” initiatives. We make a strong effort to limit our impact on the environment and utilize sustainable options whenever possible. Over our ten years on the chava (ranch) we have maintained a mostly vegetarian diet, we use reusable silverware, much of our schedule is dictated by the sun, and our camp structures have been built to maximize sunlight. All that being said, there’s another side to how Ramah in the Rockies “goes green” on a day-to-day basis. Instead of being green, one practice is a little more “brown” – that’s right, we are talking about food decomposition!

Chalutzim take turns spinning our compost barrels.

While in the “real world,” garbage and recyclables are simply tossed into their respective receptacles, Ramah in the Rockies has needed to handle our garbage disposal and recycling with a slightly different approach. Situated at just over 8,000 feet and more than 45 minutes from the closest gas station, bringing our trash and recyclables down the mountain regularly would not only be a timely endeavor, but it would also be a costly one. 

Enter Hadar Zeigerson – Ramah in the Rockies’ Sustainability Educator & Compost/Waste Manager for Kayitz 2019… 

Hadar hard at work.

After trying different composting methods over the first few years at camp, this summer, with Hadar’s help, Rockies elected to continue with our venture in “bokashi.” In comparison to regular composting, the bokashi method of food decomposition, which originates in Japan, is quicker, less labor-intensive, it can better handle camp’s high elevation, and (as a true bonus) it does not attract bears! 

We spoke to Hadar, who broke down the entire bokashi process from start to finish. At the end of every meal at camp, food waste is deposited into buckets in our chadar ochel (dining hall). Twice a day Hadar loads up “Lil Blue” – camp’s beloved baby blue pickup truck – and drives the filled buckets over to our bokashi shipping container. 

There, the waste is emptied out into one of our fifteen 55-gallon barrels, and then the “real fun” begins. During a normal week at camp, we can fill anywhere from three to five buckets for bokashi processing. After a pinch or two of our bacteria-rich natural decomposing agent, the barrels are then sealed. As a byproduct of this process, a liquid is created known as “bokashi juice.” The bokashi juice needs to be drained manually, which as Hadar explained, “If you don’t drain the juice, the bokashi becomes ‘puke-kashi!’” In other words, when you do not drain the bokashi regularly, the bokashi rots, leaving terrible smelling mush. Bokashi that is monitored is equally as mushy, but it has a less-intense fermented smell, “kind of like pickles or kombucha.”  

At the end of this two-to-three-week anaerobic process, the waste material inside our bokashi buckets is ready for the last stage of decomposition and is prepared to be repurposed. The contents of the buckets are buried about a foot underground and a month later our leftover granola, discarded banana peels, and used coffee grounds have all transformed into nutrient-rich soil that can be used anywhere at camp.  

Hadar’s impact goes beyond just handling our food waste. This past kayitz, Hadar created infographics on several environmental and sustainability topics. These informative graphics could be found in nearly every bathroom stall at camp, allowing chalutzim and tzevet (staff) alike to learn about the business of camp’s waste-management while taking care of their own “personal business.”

While keeping our camp sustainable (and bear-free) is of high importance for Camp Ramah in the Rockies, the lessons of waste-management and sustainability reach far beyond the chava. This kayitz we wanted to provide our chalutzim with more than just information. It was important to give them the opportunity to actively express how learning about sustainability and living green made them feel.

This was best displayed during last summer’s chalutzim-led demonstrations when campers learned about “holy protest” with Rosh Omanut (Head of Art) Yoshua Hooper. The lessons primarily focused on humanity’s impact on the planet and how we impact the wildlife living near camp. A prime example of this “values-to-actions” mentality was seen during the first week of camp, a few days before Hadar was hired. Camp was not yet ready to begin composting, and so our chalutzim protested, demanding that Ramah take responsibility and start composting. We hired Hadar soon after and the rest was history. 

All in all, waste-management and sustainability are at the core of Ramah in the Rockies’ midot (values). At our camp we not only show kavod (respect) for each other and ourselves, but also for the planet on which we live. Everyone who has a meal with our community knows that at the end of the meal we prepare our food leftovers to be repurposed. Additionally, leave-no-trace is one of camp’s principal ideologies when it comes to day-to-day life. Everyone buys into the “Ramah in the Rockies way.” We all separate our food-waste at the end of meals, we all have reusable water bottles, and we use bear-proof trash cans. Our entire kehila kedosha (holy community) plays an integral role in the size of the footprint that Ramah in the Rockies leaves behind on the natural world every summer.  

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). 

Chag Chanukkah Same’ach from Ramah in the Rockies!

Without the chalutzim (campers) camp would be meaningless – each and every one of them is a light in our community. Every summer, our amazing tzevet (staff) work tirelessly to ensure that every chalutz and chalutzah have incredible and lifechanging experiences at Ramah in the Rockies. And so, in celebration of Chanukkah, we wanted to spotlight some of the individuals that keep the “lights” of Ramah in the Rockies “burning bright” for 8 amazing weeks every summer.


Ben
Toronto, Canada
Metaylim Madrich

Last summer was my fifth summer at camp, and my first as tzevet! I worked as a Metaylim (5th and 6th graders) madrich (counselor) and as an assistant to the Rosh Edah (Head of age group). I got to hangout with the kids all day, take them to their activities, run programs, and plan zman edah (age-group specific programming).

My favorite aspect of camp is kabbalat Shabbat, when the whole camp comes together having showered after a long week of activities, ready to sing and celebrate a change of pace from the normal week. I also love when the chalutzim come back from masa excited to share their adventures with me, and you can really see how much they have changed and grown from the experience.

Lihi
Tel Aviv, Israel
Inclusion Specialist

Last summer was my first at camp, and I worked on the Inclusion Team. I heard about camp through the Jewish Agency for Israel. I used to work at a day camp in Israel and I love working with kids, so I was excited by the adventure of summer camp in America.

Day-to-day I would roam around camp, making sure our inclusion campers are engaging with other campers and having a great time at their activities. My job was to give our campers the best summer possible. I didn’t have my own ohel (tent) of campers, so the first time I had my own group was on the rafting and biking masa. During the masa I got to really speak with the campers and get to know them. When they returned to base camp, the campers did a night activity where they created skits about their trips. I was so excited when they called me over to be a part of it. It made me feel like I really made connections with them.

The views were my favorite part of camp. The stars at night are so bright, the clouds are insane, and the mountains are so beautiful – especially the ones that are still covered with snow!

Edson
Puebla, Mexico
Kitchen Prep Cook

I worked in the kitchen helping to prepare the food. The first week was hard, but it became much easier to help with the food because I know what I’m doing. During meals, I enjoyed talking to the kids when they come up to the windows for refills. They would all say “thank you,” and I really appreciated that.

I wanted to come to camp to interact with kids, so I’ve started giving kids Spanish lessons on Tuesdays. I have loved getting to meet so many new people.

I really enjoyed the nature and the view of the mountains. I loved taking walks with my friends at night and stargazing. Living in the tents was an adventure in itself and something new. 

Avital
Teaneck, NJ
Metaylim Madricha

I ended up working at camp because I went to Ramah in the Rockies as a camper in 2016 for my JOLI year. After I went to camp in 2016, and understood how lucky I was to be part of such a unique community in an incredibly beautiful place, I knew I wanted to come back to work there. Shuli Bolton was the person who originally told me about Ramah in the Rockies, and we both ended up doing JOLI, and then working on tzevet together for the past 2 summers.

My favorite part about camp is having the opportunity to constantly explore my Jewish identity while being immersed in nature. I feel most connected to Judaism and my spirituality at camp, specifically during kabbalat Shabbat because I am surrounded by the mountains, the greenery, and an accepting and supportive kehillah (community).

Daniel
Budapest, Hungry
Kitchen Dishwasher

I found Ramah in the Rockies through the Camp Leaders Program [a program that matches potential staff members across the globe with camps in the United States.] I wanted to see the beauty of Colorado, and I knew someone who worked here in the past and they told me great things about this camp.

As Kitchen Dishwasher, I worked both day shifts and night shifts. during these shifts, all of the kitchen staff listened to music together and always helped each other out.

The part of camp I enjoyed most was the community – both inside and outside of the kitchen. Everyone was very friendly and helpful, and everyone trusts each other, which is different than what I experience in Hungary. I really enjoyed the fun atmosphere of camp community.

David
Milwaukee, WI
Tzevet Ofanayim/Solelim Madrich

This past summer was the second year that I worked at Ramah in the Rockies, and my fifth year overall. I have worked the past two summers as a Solelim (7th and 8th graders) madrich and ofanayim (biking) staff. 

Between 4th and 7th grade I stayed at home during the summer, and I would listen to my brother rave about his summer adventures at Ramah in the Rockies. Finally, in 8th grade I went second session for two weeks and fell head-over-heels in love with camp. Following my JOLI summer in 2016, I knew that I wanted to be a part of tzevet, as I was so excited to help develop the kehillah that had shaped me into a Jewish leader. 

My favorite part of camp is masa’ot. I live my life by the guiding principle my JOLI Rosh taught me: “To grow, you have to embrace the discomfort and put yourself in your ‘stretch zone’. The stretch zone may be uncomfortable and scary, but you will come out as an improved, more resilient individual.” Masa’ot are incredibly special opportunities for chalutzim to enter their own ‘stretch zones’ and accomplish goals that might seem impossible outside of the context of a masa. I know that I’ve grown to be the leader that I am today because of the 10+ masa’ot I’ve participated in and led over my five fulfilling years at camp. 

And finally, while I live far away from camp during the academic year, I consider Ramah Rockies as my second home which I always look forward to visiting. 

Sarah
Clearwater, FL
Sayarim Madricha

I ended up working at camp because I was working at BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy. While working at BaMidbar, they had a brief pause in their programming (they are back now and offering amazing programs!) and was graciously offered a job at Ramah in the Rockies for the second session last summer.

I loved living in the amazingly beautiful wilderness and experiencing Shabbat in the camp community.  My favorite part of camp is being a part of an enriching Jewish community in a beautiful, wild setting. It was deeply rewarding to be able to support campers’ connection to each other, Judaism and the natural world.

Nic
Olympia, WA
Tzevet Ofanayim

Ramah in the Rockies places a premium on hiring people who bring real expertise in outdoor education and adventure.  As such, they will often recruit outdoor professionals from outside the Jewish community, and that’s how I came to be a part of the Ramah community in 2015.  

Ramah in the Rockies places a premium on hiring people who bring real expertise in outdoor education and adventure.  As such, they will often recruit outdoor professionals from outside the Jewish community, and that’s how I came to be a part of the Ramah community in 2015.  

Although I am not a religious person, I find that the emphasis on creating a holy community where young people can focus on developing their relationship with their Judaism to be my favorite part of Ramah.  Even as a non-Jewish member of tzevet I have been generously welcomed into the community and I am grateful for the connections that have been offered to me. Many Ramah alumni consider ROA to be a second “home”, and I am one of them. 

Join our staff for Kayitz 2020 and learn more about working at Ramah in the Rockies here