Fire Update

Before

After

Picture of the Lodge, before the Fire Picture of the remains after the fire

In early August 2017, an electrical fire burned our lodge building, which housed our dining hall, kitchen, laundry, camp offices, and packout center. In the months since our community has come to our aid to help us evaluate our options and decide on a plan that will enable us to move forward. Thanks to you, we operated a successful summer in 2018 and now have a plan to rebuild. Below are the moments, weeks, and months directly after the fire to add to our collective camp memory.

A summer reflection from Rabbi Eliav… 

“Last summer’s fire taught us a valuable lesson: Ramah in the Rockies is so much more than the physical spaces we occupy. We are the music that reminds us of the friendships formed and memories made throughout the summer. We are the time spent playing, connecting with one another, and embracing the simcha and silliness that is at the heart of our mission. We are the community that transcends each summer and extends far beyond the Colorado Rocky Mountains – a community that shows up in times of need and provides support, encouragement, and love from all around the world.”

Previous updates from the morning of the fire through today:

A Final Note from Rabbi Eliav

I am writing these words from the steps of the old lodge – the only vestige of the building that was once the beating heart of our machane (camp). A year ago, I stood in this same spot, the smell of smoke in the air, and I prayed. Surrounded by the rubble left in the wake of last summer’s devastating fire, I felt fear and uncertainty about the future of Ramah in the Rockies. Today, at the end of an incredible summer season, I feel nothing but optimism and confidence.

As I waved goodbye to our last group of chalutzim (campers) yesterday morning, I was overcome with a deep sense of gratitude and pride. Ours is a community of resilience, and TOGETHER we succeeded in facilitating an unforgettable summer experience for more than 425 chalutzim. While it is impossible to summarize an entire summer in just a few paragraphs, I wanted to highlight some aspects of our program that helped to make Kayitz 2018 so special.

Music

Music has always been a vital part of our kehillah (community) here at Ramah in the Rockies, but this year we made an extra effort to incorporate music into each and every day, and the results have been truly remarkable. Israeli pop music pounded through the speakers before every meal, and campers and staff danced as they set the tables. Music also became the cornerstone of each edah’s (age group’s) daily prayers, and the melody of ‘Hallelujah’ could be heard reverberating across the ranch. Click here to listen! Each morning, we awoke to the sound of a bugle, and oftentimes the incessant mooing of the cows who came to visit from the neighboring Lost Valley Ranch.

In addition to interspersing music throughout our daily schedule, this summer we offered a music chug (activity block) for campers, and I was blown away by the creativity they demonstrated. Together, chalutzim wrote original music and set prayers to new tunes, some of which we have incorporated into our t’fillot (prayers). These campers also led shira (song session) after meals in front of our entire machane, and joined the musical team for our Kabbalat Shabbat celebration. It was amazing to watch chalutzim confidently strum a guitar alongside our most seasoned songleaders, and I can’t wait to watch as these campers continue to grow and bring music to our kehillah for summers to come.

This summer, our machane’s love for music culminated in our first annual Kol Edah – a musical celebration often referred to as a “Zimriya” by our fellow Ramah camps. Each edah spent weeks practicing and preparing a different Israeli song with Rosh Shira Michael Harlow, and on Monday our entire community gathered together for an evening of ruach (spirit) and beautiful music. As Sayarim performed “Od Yiyeh Li,” clapping, dancing, and smiling all the while, I was reminded of the way in which music connects our community through time and space. I am sure that years from now, when those chalutzim hear that song once more, they will be transported back to their time at Ramah in the Rockies, and will remember the sense of joy and community they experienced at camp.

Simcha (Joy)

When we dedicated Ohel Koby – our new game tent erected in honor of former camper Koby Gruenwald – Rabbi Solomon Gruenwald reminded us all about the importance of play. Click here to listen to his speech! In our lives beyond camp, we are so preoccupied by work, school, and extracurricular activities that we often forget to make time just to play and to enjoy life. This summer, we emphasized the importance of creative play and of unbridled simcha (joy) throughout every facet of our program.

Ohel Koby remains the prime example of this ethic in action. Stocked with Ping Pong tables, Foosball, Cornhole, Hula Hoops, and a plethora of board games, this tent provided campers with a space to relax, to connect with friends of all ages, and most importantly, to just have fun! Our youngest chalutzim expanded the spirit of Ohel Koby far beyond the translucent walls of the tent by constructing intricate forts in the woods behind their ohelim (tents). These amazing structures became the stage for lots of imaginative play as they defended their forts from intruders – usually their madrichim (counselors) – during free time each day.

This summer, we also reemphasized our core value of simcha through our edah programming. Our phenomenal tzevet (staff) planned carnivals and Iron Chef competitions. They organized an Israeli Shuk and a ‘Bark Mitzvah’ for one of our beloved camp dogs. They made sushi, braided challot for Shabbat, hosted talent shows, planned scavenger hunts, and went above and beyond to ensure that their chalutzim had as much fun as possible. Everytime I had the chance to attend one of these amazing programs, I was blown away by the silliness, the laughter, and the smiles on everyone’s faces. It was truly simcha exemplified.

Community

This summer, I was reminded of the the vital importance of our extended community each and every day. Every time I walk past our ohelim I remember the families who joined us for our annual Volunteer Day and helped to prepare our physical site for the arrival of campers. When I eat a bowl of cereal and pour in a splash of milk, I think about our friends at Aurora Dairy who generously donated more than 700 gallons milk to our kitchen this summer. When I read from one of our two beautiful Torah scrolls, I recall the generosity of Ramah Day Camp in Nyack and Temple Beth Am in Los Angeles, who donated these Torot to our machane after the fire last summer.

I am also excited to announce that we have a very special plan for one of these Torah scrolls, which has been dressed and protected in a beautiful cover and a custom Pelican Case donated by the Kut Family! In an effort to keep our community connected throughout the year, we’d like to offer use of this Torah to anyone in our extended community who is celebrating a simcha. It can be FedExed anywhere in the country! If you would like to have a piece of Ramah in the Rockies with your family as you celebrate a B’nai Mitzvah, wedding, or other simcha, please contact me directly at eliavb@ramahoutdoors.org.

Thank you for an amazing summer!

Last summer’s fire taught us a valuable lesson: Ramah in the Rockies is so much more than the physical spaces we occupy. We are the music that reminds us of the friendships formed and memories made throughout the summer. We are the time spent playing, connecting with one another, and embracing the simcha and silliness that is at the heart of our mission. We are the community that transcends each summer and extends far beyond the Colorado Rocky Mountains – a community that shows up in times of need and provides support, encouragement, and love from all around the world.

Throughout this summer, we had the opportunity to reexamine what defines our kehillah, and have found myriad ways to honor those values every day. Through music, play, joy, and community, our machane has been able to rebuild, to heal, and to grow stronger than ever before. Thank you for an incredible Kayitz 2018 – I can’t wait to see you back on the ranch next summer.

Todah Rabah,

Rabbi Eliav

Reflections on Session I from Rabbi Eliav Bock

On August 7th, 2017, I watched as 70 foot flames devoured the lodge building which was once the center of our camp. When the initial panic of contacting the fire department and ensuring the safety of every member of our community finally subsided, I was left with a feeling of loss, sadness, and fear for the future of Ramah in the Rockies. How would we move forward after such a devastating event?

In the days, weeks, and months that followed, our extended community rallied together and provided support, generosity, and words of love and encouragement. As we fundraised, contracted architects, and broke ground on construction projects throughout the year, I was reminded time and time again that camp is so much more than the physical spaces we occupy. Any building where our community comes together is Ramah in the Rockies.

As I write these words in a rare moment of quiet reflection between our first and second sessions of the summer, I have found it challenging to choose just a few aspects of our evolving program to highlight. It is impossible to summarize an entire session in just a few paragraphs, especially when so much transition, growth, and simcha (joy) has taken place on the chava (ranch) this summer.
Navigating our Updated Site

The construction of our temporary kitchen and dining hall facilities has shifted the bustling center of camp, and has resulted in new “traffic patterns” of camper movement throughout our site. Popular activities such as rock climbing and archery are no longer such a hike, stopping by the Chadar Ochel (Dining Hall) for a quick snack between activities is more convenient than ever before, and the proximity to Ramah Valley has afforded us the opportunity to utilize this beautiful space for our Kabbalat Shabbat celebration each week.

In the new Chadar Ochel, our entire kehillah (community) can share meals together, rather than dividing into two dining halls by edah (age group). This change has fostered a deeper sense of camp unity, encouraged our older campers to serve as dugma’ot (role models), and has given our younger campers the opportunity to learn from and look up to the “big kids.” Indeed, the excitement written across the faces of our Ilanot campers when their Bogrim buddies stop by for a hug or a high-five during lunch is a joy to witness!

One of the biggest improvements to our site this summer is Beit HaYitzera, the new arts pavilion adjacent to our Chadar Ochel. This sunlit space, funded by Melinda Goldrich and the Goldrich Family Foundation, has impacted the creative culture of our community in such a positive way. Here, Rosh Omanut (Director of Art) Joshua Hooper and his tzevet (staff) have been revolutionizing our omanut curriculum by focusing on the intersection of art, nature, and Judaism. From a printmaking project inspired by prayers to an outdoor installation made entirely of natural materials, tzevet omanut have been empowering their chalutzim to grow as artists and create work imbued with meaning, symbolism, and intentionality.

All of this hard work and creativity culminated in an art installation that was on display in Beit HaYitzera for both staff and campers to enjoy. Walking through the various exhibits, I noticed that every piece of art was accompanied by an artist’s statement. It was amazing to read these statements and see how much thought was put into the creation of each work of art our chalutzim created this summer. It has also been remarkable to watch as the lessons learned in Beit HaYitzera have overflowed into the rest of camp – rock cairns have been popping up everywhere from the farm to the tent circle! Creativity is truly infectious, and this is one epidemic I’m thrilled to watch spread throughout our community.

Last summer, we received a lot of helpful feedback about our Yamim Meuchadim, our special Sunday programming. In response to your suggestions, we resolved to revamp our approach to Sunday programming this summer, and the response from our chalutzim has been overwhelmingly positive! Our Rosh Chinuch (Director of Education) Deena Cowans, and Program Assistant Dalia Stofenmacher have devoted countless hours to brainstorming, planning, and creating Yamim Meuchadim that are fun for campers of all ages.

Their idea was simple: what if we themed these special days around different Jewish holidays? For Yom Yetziat Mitzrayim our kehillah worked together to escape from Egypt, overcame an obstacle course based on the ten plagues, and participated in an abbreviated seder. The following week, they dressed up in costumes, acted out the story of the Megillah through a series of silly skits, and enjoyed a carnival for Yom Purim. It has been wonderful to watch our campers engage with these holidays in new and creative ways, displaying such simcha (joy) all the while!

Our final special Sunday of the session was our annual Yom Sport (Color War) competition. From Capture the Flag to our popular Macabbi Relay Race, chalutzim displayed sportsmanship, teamwork, and positive attitudes throughout the day. Click here to watch a video of the highlights!

Thank you – for your commitment to the unique vision of this camp, for your messages of commiseration and hope, and for your willingness to send your campers back to our chava in the mountains summer after summer. Without your support, we would not be celebrating the end of another amazing session, and eagerly preparing for the arrival of a new group of chalutzim tomorrow morning.

As our madrichim (counselors) are hard at work cleaning their ohelim (tents), preparing programs, and decorating name tags, I am overcome with gratitude. It is thanks to YOU that Ramah in the Rockies is still a thriving Jewish community in the wilderness.

Todah Rabah,

Rabbi Eliav

 

At the heart of Ramah in the Rockies is the kehillah kedoshah (holy community) that comes together each year.  Last summer, our community faced its biggest challenge when our final session campers witnessed our historic lodge – housing dining facilities, offices, and countless memories – burn to the ground.

In our lowest moment, YOU lifted us up. YOUR incredible response, then and now, both inspires and humbles us to be worthy of your faith in our mission to nurture the character development of Jewish youth.

 

With camp right around the corner, our dedicated team of staff, lay leaders, contractors, and engineers is completing the final touches to our 2018 temporary facilities and program updates. We are excited to welcome more than 400 campers to experience the magic of our kehillah kedoshah, an experience that promises to be just as impactful as ever thanks to YOU!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Razed old lodge platform Temporary kitchen under construction

Thank you! Your generosity ensures our rising from the ashes to open camp in 2018 with no delays AND creating a better future for our Jewish community. Here is what we have accomplished TOGETHER so far:

 

The commitment and support of YOU and OUR COMMUNITY of over 900 donors continues to contribute greatly to our ability to achieve these goals.

Our Intention
A new multi-purpose lodge, 25% larger than our previous facility with necessary upgrades, allows us to meet the needs of our growing community.
 
Rendering for new lodge as of November 2017
 
Throughout the rebuilding process, we are committed to continuing to raise camper scholarship funds and make Ramah in the Rockies experiences available to even more children.
Our Timeline

Our Amazing Community

Thanks to over 700 unique donations since our fire, we are able to raze the burned structures and build temporary facilities to welcome our campers and staff in 2018.

An anonymous donor has given us $1,000,000 to kick start our rebuilding campaign for our permanent, multi-purpose lodge, which will serve our community for 2019 and beyond!

Two camp families have offered to match all new gifts between $200 and $10,000 – dollar for dollar – up to $200,000. Your $500 becomes $1,000 or $10,000 becomes $20,000!

Your generous support will keep this momentum going and enable us to continue providing necessary scholarships to campers in need.

From the Last Three Months Thru the Next Thirty-Six

Even though the lodge fire was just three months ago, today, strategic thinking and planning have allowed us to quickly evaluate a variety of options and decide on the best way to move forward.  This includes:
  • Opening camp for Summer 2018 with a fully-equipped commercial kitchen near the central fire pit.
  • Registering over 240 campers so far, despite a month’s delay in opening Kayitz 2018 applications. Waitlists are already forming, so click here to register today!
  • Merely replacing the destroyed building would be insufficient for our growing community’s needs.  Insurance covers a portion of our dining and administrative facilities, but not the full cost of our intended structure.
Stay tuned…
On November 15th, we will present a detailed, long-term view of our rebuilding needs, including what portions will be covered by our insurance and what your generous support, combined with matching gifts, will enable us to continue moving forward to 2019 and beyond.

Where do we stand?

Leaders from Ramah in the Rockies and the National Ramah Commission are meeting in Colorado today to determine the best course of action moving forward. Here is what we know CURRENTLY:

  • BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy will open in January 2018. More information about our exciting new wilderness therapy program is available here.
  • Ramah in the Rockies will open for summer 2018 with a fully-equipped commercial kitchen on the site of our former lodge. We expect our business interruption insurance to cover most of these facility expenses for 2018. Our super-early bird discount ends October 31st and spaces are filling fast. Register TODAY!
  • Evaluation of short and long-term options to replace our administrative offices, pack out, and laundry continue.
  • Designs for a full-scale, winterized kitchen and administrative spaces are underway.  Camp staff and lay leaders continue to engage local officials, architects, engineers, and contractors to move forward on a long term solution, ideally in place by 2019. Insurance will pay for a portion of our new dining and administrative facility, but it will not cover the full expense of the intended structure.
  • By November 2017, Ramah in the Rockies will present a long-term view of our rebuilding efforts and fundraising needs. Estimates are that this will still cost between $2 million and $3 million beyond the anticipated insurance proceeds.

How can you help? 
Our rebuilding efforts are far from complete.  In November, when we finalize our plans, we will need your generous support, including matching opportunities, to move forward.

Before November, please be in touch directly for more information or visit Fire Update.

With gratitude,

Rabbi Eliav Bock, Executive Director
eliavb@ramahoutdoors.org

Matt Levitt, Chief Development Officer
matt@ramahoutdoors.org

We are filled with gratitude for all who have contributed to our Fire Relief fund. Over 450 individual donations have been received so far towards our rebuilding effort. Our dedicated staff and lay leaders have worked tirelessly since the fire on two simultaneous projects:

For 2018:  A fully-equipped commercial kitchen on the site of our former lodge coupled with our continued use of the platform where our Ohel Ochel (Dining Tent) stood! Our business interruption insurance covers the cost of these facilities for 2018.

For 2019:  Construction of a full-scale, winterized kitchen with two dining areas. Designs for this facility will place it across from Beit Kesher, our guest housing building. While our insurance pays for a portion of this, it does not cover the full expense of the intended structure. Once we have a better estimate of construction costs, we will make a formal announcement and begin fundraising to complete this project by June 2019. Upon completion, this venue will provide a needed enhancement to our food and dining program for many years to come.

The replacement of our administrative offices, pack out, and laundry requires us to examine a number of short- and long-term options. Costs associated with these are still being evaluated.

Stay tuned for more updates about our rebuilding effort!

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.