We have an amazing “problem.” JOLI 2020 is filled for both sessions with waiting lists too! At the same time, we know that so many of you have expressed interest in joining the program and have yet to register. We do not want to turn away members of our community.
On Wednesday, we sat and brainstormed how to expand JOLI for 2020 and open an additional ohel each session. Nina First, the JOLI 2020 Rosh Edah, is playing an active role in the development of the program.
At its core, JOLI strives to equip each chalutz/a with personal awareness and leadership, and then bring those skills into our camp community. The WFA course, JOLI masa, and JOLI group development accomplish the initial goal. In years past, the second part has been achieved through the CIT experience – an opportunity to mentor younger campers in base camp and on masa, hopefully teaching them a piece of what has made each of your own camp experiences so special.
This year, in response to feedback from you and the increased demand for spaces in JOLI, we are adding an additional way to give back to the camp community – through physical service projects to enhance our camp program spaces. This will involve construction and beautification projects – an opportunity to leave your physical mark on Ramah in the Rockies. We believe that this opportunity to give back is just as valuable as the CIT experience.
This new track will be structured slightly differently than the CIT track. While JOLI CITs will spend the masa week with the younger chalutzim, JOLI in the service projects track will spend about half their day working on their group service project, and about half their day participating in our basecamp activities. We hope that this will provide the opportunity to experience our chuggim for the last time as chalutzim – we have heard from many of you that this was missing from the JOLI experience.
The first half of the JOLI experience will remain the same as in previous years – the WFA course and epic 5-day JOLI masa, as well as JOLI group activities in basecamp, a fourteener, and other adventures. Both tracks will live in the same ohelim, sit together at meals, and participate in basecamp programming together. We are committed to giving all Jolimers their first option and no one needs to decide between the tracks before coming to camp this summer.
We are excited about this new JOLI option, and hope that those of you who are already registered will share your feedback (program development is still in its beginning stages), and those of you still deciding will register for Kayitz 2020! (Remember, our rates go up on December 15th).
As we approach the end of 2019, we, the Ramah in the Rockies community, have a lot to be thankful for. With this in mind, we wanted to share a reflection from this past summer written by JOLI chalutza (camper), Cameron Fields, who took the time to not only share her experiences at camp, but also offer her gratitude.
“This past summer at Ramah in the Rockies was undeniably one of the best summers of my life. That is a major statement to say, but I do not say this loosely. This summer has definitely changed me as a person, friend, and as a leader in both my everyday life, and in the Jewish community. When I boarded the plane the morning of camp, a bunch of emotions surrounded me. Mostly, I was excited for this summer – the summer I had been dreaming about all year long. There was a little bit of fear inside of me, but once our van pulled through the metal gates of camp, all of that changed.
From the second I was in the JOLI huddle with the rest of the ‘JOLIers,’ everything just felt right. The group felt so close already, and with the first couple of days that feeling proved to be true. From being Wilderness First Aid certified, to having our first Shabbat together, we all became so close within four days that when it was time split into two groups to depart on masa (backcountry excursions), I was a bit reluctant to do so. But, masa changed me, and I will be forever impacted from just a five day, twenty-eight-mile trip. So many life-changing events occurred within those twenty-eight miles.
Through masa we faced many challenges, but as a team of seven leaders we overcame them. From having to hike off-trail down a mountain with the sun setting behind us, to crossing ten rivers within a mile, or hiking up what seemed like a never-ending hill, my group and I completed our masa with our heads held high, because we did it! This was, without a doubt, the hardest masa I have ever been on, but also the best, and the kesharim (connections) I made with my group will last a lifetime!
As amazing as these events were, my time at camp just continued to get better. A highlight of JOLI for me was Yom Sport. I was the captain of Kachol, the blue team, (go Mayim!) and it was one of the best experiences I had the whole summer! I was able to lead my fellow chalutzim in one of their favorite days of the summer and really make it something special for them. I think Yom Sport taught me what being a Jewish outdoor leader is all about. I was able to lead campers, help them when they needed an extra hand, learn new things about myself and what a leader should be, all while having fun with my fellow JOLIers.
As my summer at Ramah in the Rockies came to a close, it felt unreal to be leaving camp. As I hugged my ‘Jamily’ at havdallah, I sobbed like I never had before. I was extremely sad that I had to leave them in two days, and I was also really upset to have to leave this kehillah kedosha (holy community) knowing I wouldn’t return as a chalutzah. I did, however, know that I would be back as a madricha (counselor)!
This summer taught me so many new things, whether that was through Wilderness First Aid, or on masa, while I was captain on Yom Sport, while I was a counselor-in-training for chalutzim in Ilanot (3rd and 4th graders) and Ta’am Ramah (our ‘Taste of Ramah’ program for 2nd to 4th graders), or just hanging around base camp. This summer has impacted me for the better, and definitely changed my life forever. So thank you Ramah in the Rockies for making me who I am today! Thank you for teaching me new things, and thank you for giving me the best summer of my life!”
Ocean Township, NJ
We thank all of our camp families for their support, all of our tzevet (staff) for their hard work and dedication, and, of course, all of our chalutzim for spending each summer opening themselves up to all of the experiences that Ramah in the Rockies has to offer.
From the entire Ramah in the Rockies team
During our ten summers on the chava (ranch), Ramah in the Rockies has been the site of hail and wind storms, a fire, and even a helicopter landing, but now, after Kayitz 2019, we can also say that we have hosted peace talks.
As a camp and a community, we place a great deal of value on individual identity and self expression. Outside of camp, many chalutzim (campers) do not have the opportunity to physically build things and take calculated risks. At camp, they are not only allowed but encouraged, to explore and test their creative boundaries. These values can easily be seen in one of camp’s guiding principles, “challenge by choice.” As a result, many chalutzim have been naturally drawn to the construction of, and gameplay surrounding, what we at camp call “tree-forts.”
While Ramah in the Rockies strongly encourages free play and independent pursuits, sometimes conflict arises that requires a helping hand. This kayitz, the tree-forts were extremely popular, and when conflict did arise within the gameplay our tzevet (staff) was prepared to help ease the tension.
In one such situation, Jacob Chatinover from Camper Care cleverly helped chalutzim establish some basic ground rules within the realm of tree-fort building instead of merely policing a conflict between two fort “nations.” Jacob was able to successfully facilitate, “the Camp Jacob Accords,” allowing all of our tree-fort-building chalutzim to continue in the fun and creativity of tree-fort building.
During the Camp Jacob Accords, topics discussed and voted on included the guidelines for inter-tree-fort trading, the establishment of a “neutral zone” and a “non-aggression pact,” and the continued use of the “Zetley Border” – a fallen nearby tree that had been introduced as a border with the help of tzevet member David Zetley earlier in the summer. Additionally, a new rule was instituted known as the “Tourism Rule,” which allowed for chalutzim and tzevet to visit tree-forts, providing they identified themselves as a “tourist.”
Looking back on the Camp Jacob Accords, the Tourism Rule stands out for Jacob, not only because of its progressive and forward-thinking take on the situation, but also because of how it connects to the upcoming holiday of Sukkot.
An integral part of Sukkot is the experience of shared personal and communal spaces. As the Talmud explains, “All of Israel are fit to live in one sukkah,” Sukkot 27B. Many scholars take from this that it would be appropriate for every Jew in the world to dwell in one sukkah, and from this we learn that every individual sukkah is part of the “larger Jewish collective sukkah.” This idea, of a shared space, seems especially relevant considering the conflict Jacob helped settle.
On an even deeper level, the value of “challenge by choice,” which every chalutz and chalutzah experiences at camp, can also be linked to the celebration of Sukkot. Just as Ramah allows campers the space to explore and create, so too does Sukkot provide children and adults the opportunity to take a risk-sharing in the vulnerability of constructing a temporary structure that is exposed to the elements.
Wishing you a Sukkot filled with joy, vulnerability, and healthy risks.
We kicked off the final full week of the Kayitz (Summer) 2019 with Yom Sport. Everyone in camp was decked-out in kachol (blue), adom (red), or yarok (green), and the atmosphere on the chava (ranch) shifted to intense competition and fun which progressed throughout the day. The day was filled with a lot of sweat and a lot of smiles. Following a win by kevutzah (team) kachol, things at camp again shifted to anticipation as a majority of chalutzim (pioneers/campers) prepared for their masa’ot (backcountry excursions).
While masa weeks at basecamp are relatively quiet, this masa week we welcomed our Ta’am Ramah (2nd to 4th graders), “taste of Ramah” program, to the chava for four days, where they briefly experienced what being chalutzim at Ramah in the Rockies is like. They all had a wonderful time and we are looking forward to welcoming them back here at camp next summer for a full two or four weeks.
Personally, my favorite part of masa week is Friday mornings. The excitement for this morning is more and more palpable as the week progresses, reaching its peak as the stream of white 12-passenger vans return to the chava. As each masa unloads their van, I have a first-row seat to one of the greatest spectacles Ramah in the Rockies has to offer – huge smiles, loud laughter, joyful reunions, and, of course, epic masa stories. This morning was no different, and this round of masa’ot featured some awesome experiences that I would like to share.
In particular, what makes our second round of masa’ot so special is that our JOLI (11th and 12th graders) chalutzim begin their final transition from campers to CIT (Counselor In Training). After JOLI chalutzim had a chance to learn with current tzevet (staff) in the Moadon Tzevet (Staff Lounge), they were split up amongst the edot (age groups), and put everything they have worked on throughout this kayitz to the test with actual hands-on experience.
The JOLI chalutzim who worked with Ilanot (3rd and 4th graders) were treated to one of Ramah in the Rockies best (and most awesome) kept secrets – the twice-a-kayitz “Rocktion” (rock auction). Tzevet members, JOLI, and Ta’am Ramah all dressed up in their finest attire and perused their options before the bidding began. Once rocks were purchased, Ilanot chalutzim had the opportunity to trade in their profits for prizes like an ice cream party with Rabbi Eliav or being Rosh Edah (age group Unit Head) for a day.
On masa, Metaylim (5th and 6th graders) left our ranch for three days, with gear on their backs. For many, this was the first time that they had experienced a multi-day hike. While all of our masa’ot were within 15 miles of our camp, most reached the peaks of local mountains which provided unforgettable vistas of Pike National Forest. Additionally, a highlight for many of the chalutzim, was learning about wild vegetation and actually getting to snack on some wild raspberries, strawberries, and onions.
Solelim (7th and 8th graders) had incredible masa experiences to share from all their masa’ot, including omanut (Art), tipus (climbing), and backpacking. All three of the Solelim masa’ot went significantly challenging hikes, but ever group said it was worth it in the end as every day included at least one beautiful vista. Our Bogrim (9th graders) chalutzim chose between kayaking and a dual tipus (climbing) and ofanayim (biking) masa. Many of the Bogrim chalutzim on kayaking masa had never been kayaking before, and despite being a little hesitant at first, everyone had an amazing time.
As the second oldest edah, Sayarim (10th graders) got to choose from four different masa’ot – chava (farming), tipus (climbing), ofanayim (biking), and a challenging backpacking masa. Some highlights from these masa’ot included chava masa’s new best friends – goats, a “bottomless” cooler of food and snacks in the back of ofanayim masa’s bike-truck, and the special guest who accompanied backpacking masa – Ash, one of our tzevet’s dogs.
As we pack away our gear, shower, and put on our finest white outfits, everyone is excited about our final Shabbat together. As a result of the gathering clouds, we will be moving our tefillot to the Ohel Mo’ed, where the sound is incredible, and where we will be safe from rain. We have so many more peulot (activities), games, and conversations to be had before we say goodbye to our chalutzim, and we will be in full “camp mode” until Tuesday afternoon. Tonight, as we gather in our pre-Shabbat circle, I will address our community urging them to take the values that permeate our kehillah kedosha (holy community) home with them and integrate them into their own families and communities. In this week’s Torah portion, we read about Moses gathering the Israelites for a final retelling of our national narrative. Similarly, on our final Shabbat together this summer, we will all be crafting our own masa and camp stories, and weaving them into a narrative that can be shared with our friends and family for weeks, months, and years to come.
We look forward to seeing our chalutzim back on the chava again in the Kayitz of 2020!
Rabbi Eliav Bock
As we finish the second full week of Session 2, I have enjoyed watching the rhythm of camp life kick in as our chalutzim (campers/pioneers) have had days of exciting “regularly” scheduled activities. As they skip to chugim (activities), and enjoy a variety of tefillot (prayer) options each morning, I see them building kesharim (connections) jumping into new and challenging experiences.
On Sunday, chalutzim chose from a variety of special sessions organized by our tzevet (staff). Choices included ofanayim (biking), mining for stones on Givat Ilanot, a hill overlooking camp, playing a camp-wide game of Embassy (ask your child about the complicated rules!), and a shechita (kosher preparation of meat) demonstration for our older chalutzim. JOLI (11th and 12th graders) spent the day in Wilderness First Aid (WFA) training with Cliff Stockton, who also trains our tzevet Wilderness First Responders (WFRs). Luckily, JOLI didn’t need to use their new medical training on their hike up the fourteener Mount Bierstadt! The group camped out the night before their ascent at the base of the mountain, and woke up at 5:30 AM to make it up and down the mountain before the afternoon rain swept through the mountainside.
On Sunday evening JOLI and Sayarim (10th graders) participated in a “simulation of exile.” The peulah (activity) began when madrichim (counselors) escorted their chalutzim out from their ohelim (tents) and brought them to another area of camp. Once the chalutzim settled into the new space, the madrichim then changed chalutzim’s names to be “less Jewish,” put out the fire JOLI and Sayarim had built to cook on, and forced them to again move to another location. Throughout program they learned about different times in history when Jewish communities were forced to leave their homes. In Ramah Valley, at the conclusion of the peulah, after some marshmallows, hugs, and a campfire, the group processed the experience, and both edot (age groups) then slept out under the stars.
Ilanot (3rd and 4th graders) and Metaylim (5th and 6th graders) had special programming to mark the end of Session 2A, as we said goodbye to some of our chalutzim. Ilanot held a bingo night in the Chadar Ochel (dining room). Everyone walked with “aching” backs dressed up like the elderly – complete with white unibrows, walking sticks, and clothing stuffed undershirts. Midway through the rousing rounds of bingo, a “special” snack of mushy food was even served.
For peulat erev (evening activity) one night, Metaylim held a mock bar mitzvah party in Ohel Shachar for their madrich Jarred, complete with backstories for all costumed characters involved – “Jarred,” the bar mitzvah boy, “Rachele,” the mother, “Giardina,” the grandmother, and “Moishe,” the best friend. The group danced the hora and played games like Coke & Pepsi. And finally, as the sun faded behind the mountains, the group had a “candle lighting ceremony” with paper printouts of candles.
On Wednesday, we said farewell to our two-week chalutzim and were equally excited to meet our new friends who arrived for Session 2B, who quickly unpacked their bags and jumped right into our special programming for Yom Yisrael (Israel Day). Our Chadar Ochel was decked out in Israel flags, and Israeli tunes blared over the speakers. In a departure from our usual scheduled camp meals, our Israeli tzevet served falafel, hummus, Israeli salad, and pita. Individual edot led Israel-focused activities throughout the day. Bogrim (9th graders) analyzed bumper stickers in Israel as a way of exploring different aspects of Israeli identity. The camp-wide peulat erev was a tour of our “Israel Museum,” which included exhibits about Israeli arts, politics, and a special display of photos of our Israeli tzevet from when they served in the military.
While our chalutzim have been filling up their days in their chugim including tipus (climbing), susim (horses), chetz v’keshet (archery), and omanut (arts), our peulot erev have been the highlight for many campers. Solelim (7th and 8th graders) had an “Iron Chef” cake-pop making competition in the mitbach (kitchen). On Thursday, after aruchat erev (dinner), our chava (farm) team constructed a “Farmer’s Market” for Solelim, Bogrim, Sayarim, and JOLI. Booths were set up with food grown at camp, including crackers and goat cheese made from milk from our goats, kombucha, pickles from the farm, and banana bread. Other highlights from the peulah include Rosh omanut’s (Head of the arts program, Hooper) booth of herbs and spices, and Summer Assistant Director, Achinoam Aldouby, dressing like a witch and giving out apples to chalutzim – all while speaking Hebrew of course! The “Farmer’s Market” was a ton of fun, and provided our whole kehilah (community) with a lot of laughs and memories. What a celebration to end the week and lead us into Shabbat!
As we head into our last two weeks of Kayitz (Summer) 2019, there are still so many more memories to be made! Ahead of us still lies, the arrival of our Ta’am Ramah (2nd to 4th graders) “taste of Ramah” program, the JOLI counselor-in-training (CIT) week, our final masa’ot (backcountry excursions), and everyone is eagerly anticipating Yom Sport coming up this Sunday.
While our schedule is always packed with programming that is both fun and educational, it is still the unplanned moments of smicha (joy) and kesharim (connections) that make me smile most. It is seeing people walking into the Chadar Ochel and break out into song and dance as they set the tables. It is watching the chalutzim hanging out and playing games in Ohel Koby (our game tent), and it is seeing madrichim and chalutzim walking to-and-from chugim and meals engaged in conversation. These less-structured moments are often the most transformative at camp, and the ones that, coupled with our formal programming, come together to create the magic that is Ramah in the Rockies.
As I conclude this email, we are wrapping up our formal peulot for Friday, and everyone is getting into their best white Shabbat attire. We hope to be davening in the Pardes Tefillah tonight, but based on our almost daily late afternoon showers, we will wait until the last minute to make that decision. Either way, along with our giant post of photos from today, we will post pictures Monday evening, which will include photos from both Shabbat and Yom Sport!
Rabbi Eliav Bock
As our session 2 kehillah (community) has settled into life on chava, it has been such a joy to get to know and learn from all of your children this past week. While it has been a quiet week at basecamp due to our masa’ot, today I was delighted to watch the stream of our white vans enter through the front gate, each filled with excited chalutzim returning to camp, eager to share their stories.
But let me start at the beginning of the week. On Sunday, we took a break from our usual programming. While our chalutzim and tzevet (staff) that were participating in the Fast of Tammuz had limmudim (learning sessions) throughout the day, our other chalutzim had a choice of participating in a wide variety of activities, including fishing at nearby Cheesman Reservoir, learning about Israel from our Israeli tzevet (staff), making glass mosaics at Beit HaYitzeirah (the Art Pavilion), and playing capture the flag in Ramah Valley.
Usually aruchat erev (dinner) lasts about an hour, but on Sunday camp experienced a major storm and as a safety precaution the whole camp stayed in the ohel ochel (dining room) for an extra two hours! Halfway through dinner, we felt a rumble through the canvas walls, and the sky opened up, demonstrating the truly spectacular power of nature and Hashem. Rain and hail fell like waterfalls, and white flashes of lightning filled the sky. I took this opportunity to lead our kehillah kedosha (holy community) in two brachot (blessings), as all of camp is rarely in the same location during a thunder and lightning. The first bracha on hearing thunder (a blessing that praises God’s power and might), and the second bracha on seeing lightning (a blessing that celebrates God as The creator).
As we kept warm and dry inside the ohel (tent), we passed the time by cleaning up our plates and tables as usual, and then took part in an epic session of rikud (dancing). Then, with members of our kehillah linked arm in arm, Michael Harlow, our Racaz Shira (Camp Song Leader and Music Coordinator) brought out his guitar and led the camp in more shirim (songs). Our voices, contained only by the four walls of ohel, drowned out the thunder. The simcha (joy) I felt in that room was inspiring. I was impressed to see our chalutzim making the best of a less-than ideal situation.
The next morning, camp was quiet as the older chalutzim left on their masa’ot, and all of our trails and streams became the domain of our youngest edot (age groups), Ilanot (3rd and 4th graders) and Metaylim (5th and 6th graders). Both edot went horseback riding with our susim (horse staff) tzevet, spent time on the archery range with our chetz v’keshet (archery) tzevet, and in the afternoon Ilanot went on a masa to the aquatics center while Metaylim went whitewater rafting.
Solelim (7th and 8th graders) spent their week on a variety of masa’ot including omanut (art), chetz v’keshet (archery), rafting/ofanayim (biking), chava (farming), and backpacking. Some highlights from the masa’ot include playing with goats, making homemade pizza with fresh-picked herbs, gorgeous sunrise hikes, and intense (and in tents) card games during some lengthy storms.
Bogrim (9th graders) set out on two different trips – a backpacking masa to Great Sand Dunes National Park and the other a kayaking masa. For Bogrim masa’ot, many chalutzim had opportunities to face their fears. Whether it was fear of heights or fear of flipping over in their kayak, everyone embraced the Ramah in the Rockies mantra of “Challenge by Choice,” and they all had an incredible time!
Not to be outdone by the adventures had by our younger edot, all of Sayarim (10th graders) went on challenging backpacking masa’ot. Some of these chalutzim not only had to deal with minor hailstorms, but also hat-stealing marmots (think large squirrel, but cuter). Unfortunately, the marmots bested our chalutzim, as some of them did have their hats taken for good.
Finally, JOLI (11th and 12th graders), our oldest edah, split into two groups, both spending their week in Carson National Forest in New Mexico, marking only the second time that Ramah in the Rockies has had a masa cross state lines! The highlight of this masa was, without a doubt, the incredible 360-degree views encountered at the top of several peaks.
Last Shabbat, Assistant Director Julia Chatinover gave a d’var torah on the power of kesharim (connections), and encouraged our chalutzim to go into their individual masa’ot with the active intention of creating kesharim. Our chalutzim did not disappoint! The kesharim that they formed between each other, nature, and within themselves flooded out (no pun intended) as they returned to the chava. It could be seen and heard through their smiles and laughter as they rejoined camp. They shed their mud-encrusted hiking boots, washed their sweat-soaked hair, and prepared their minds and bodies to join the rest of the kehilah kedosha in the Pardes Tefillah for the beginning of Shabbat.
After a “stormy” start, our kehillah spent this week embarking on individual and group masa’ot to return home to a peaceful Shabbat where we can reflect and come together. I am continuously reminded of the power of nature, both at basecamp and bamidbar (in the wilderness), to make memories and friendships that last a lifetime. I am excited for the week to come at Machaneh Ramah as we continue to build our kehillah.
Rabbi Eliav Bock
Session 2 of our 10th year at Ramah in the Rockies has officially arrived! The hot July day did not dampen the excitement felt by all as we welcomed our chalutzim (pioneers/campers) to the chava (ranch). Returning chalutzim happily reunited with friends and tzevet (staff) from past years, and new campers quickly experienced the warmth of camp’s kehillah (community) as they danced and sang with their madrichim (counselors).
At our welcome medurah (bonfire) Thursday night, Michael Harlow, our Racaz Shira (Camp Song Leader and Music Coordinator) taught our chalutzim some of this summer’s new camp songs, and he went over a few classics from past summers to make sure that everyone was on the same page. Before bed, each ohel (tent) spent time creating an ohel brit – a communal contract outlining expectations by which they should treat each other. By nightfall, chalutzim eagerly fell into their beds after a long day of travel and excitement, getting some much needed rest before we jumped right into regular base camp activities Friday morning.
This session I can’t wait to see our four midot (values) continue to play a central role in the experience of camp and in the hearts of our chalutzim.
Machaneh (camp) is a community, and the kesharim (connections) we make with each other have the potential to make a real impact on the lives of our chalutzim. I have full confidence that they will make many kesharim with each other, with tzevet, and with Judaism, both intellectually and spiritually.
Tzmicha ishit (personal growth), is a goal that is realized every single day of camp. Chalutzim have the opportunity to challenge themselves in regular base camp activities, whether it be making it up a particularly grueling hill on a mountain bike, volunteering to lead tefillah (prayer), or learning to work as a team on the Migrash Cadorsol (basketball court). Masa (backcountry excursions) weeks provide even more of a chance to grow as the chalutzim tackle the unique experience of being in the backcountry. We want our chalutzim to stretch beyond the limits they have previously set for themselves, and take pride in their accomplishments.
Simcha (joy), is so prevalent throughout camp. I have already seen chalutzim eagerly running to their chugim (electives), singing at the top of their lungs during musical tefillah , and jumping around during pre-dinner rikkud (dance). I know this joyous atmosphere will continue to permeate the chava over the next four weeks.
Lastly, we hope to cultivate a culture of kavod (respect) at camp – for others, for ourselves, and for the environment. This midah plays out in so many ways here at camp, including mindfulness of what we put into our bodies, the words we use to speak to each other, and the way we take advantage of what the earth has to offer us.
Right now, the normal hustle and bustle of camp is beginning to subside as everyone prepares for Shabbat. Our bathhouses are full and everyone is changing into their finest white clothing. Chalutzim and tzevet alike are eagerly anticipating dancing in our Pardes Tefillah, and welcoming in Shabbat with our ruach-filled (spirited) Ramah in the Rockies style Kabbalat Shabbat service.
I am so inspired by the kehillah kedoshah (holy community) that I experience at camp each summer, and this summer is no different. I cannot wait to gather with the entire machaneh, as we raise our voices to welcome the first of many wonderful Shabbatot here at camp this kayitz (summer).
Rabbi Eliav Bock
We kicked off the final week of Session 1 2019 with Yom Sport. Everyone in camp was decked-out in kachol (blue), adom (red), or yarok (green), and the atmosphere on the chava (ranch) shifted to intense competition and fun which progressed throughout the day. The day was filled with a lot of sweat and a lot of smiles. Following a win by kevutzah (team) yarok, things at camp again shifted to anticipation as a majority of chalutzim (pioneers/campers) prepared for their masa’ot.
While masa weeks at basecamp are relatively quiet, this masa week we welcomed our Ta’am Ramah (2nd to 4th graders) “taste of Ramah” program to the chava for four days, where they briefly experienced what being chalutzim at Ramah in the Rockies is like. They all had a wonderful time and we are looking forward to welcoming them back here at camp next summer for a full two or four weeks.
Personally, my favorite part of masa week is Friday mornings. The excitement for this morning is more and more palpable as the week progresses, reaching its peak as the stream of white 12-passenger vans return to the chava. As each masa unloads their van, I have a first-row seat to one of the greatest spectacles Ramah in the Rockies has to offer – huge smiles, loud laughter, joyful reunions, and, of course, epic masa stories. This morning was no different, and this round of masa’ot featured some awesome experiences that I would like to share.
In particular, what makes our second round of masa’ot so special is that our JOLI (11th and 12th graders) chalutzim begin their final transition from campers to CIT (Counselor In Training). After JOLIchalutzim had a chance to learn with current tzevet (staff) in the Moadon Tzevet (Staff Lounge), they were split up amongst the edot(age groups), and put everything they have worked on throughout this kayitz (summer) to the test with actual hands-on experience.
The JOLI chalutzim who worked with Ilanot (3rd and 4th graders) were treated to one of Ramah in the Rockies best (and most awesome) kept secrets – the twice-a-kayitz “Rocktion” (rock auction). JOLI, tzevet members, and Ta’am Ramah all dressed up in their finest attire and purused their options before the bidding began. Once rocks were purchased, Ilanot chalutzim had the opportunity to trade in their profits for prizes like an ice cream party with Rabbi Eliav or being Rosh Edah (age group Unit Head) for a day.
On masa, Metaylim (5th and 6th graders) left our ranch for three days, with gear on their backs. For many, this was the first time that they had experienced a multi-day hike. While all of our masa’ot were within 15 miles of our camp, most reached the peaks of local mountains which provided unforgettable vistas of Pike National Forest.
Solelim (7th and 8th graders) had incredible masa experiences to share from all their masa’ot, including: omanut (Art), ofanayim (biking), tipus (climbing), and backpacking. The Solelim omanut masa ate s’mores at the American Continental Divide, saw a double rainbow, and the cherry on top of it all – saw a moose taking an early morning dip in a lake. One masa also went on Ramah in the Rockies’ first ever fly fishing masa. While the group caught several fish, unfortunately, no one caught fish large enough to cook in the evening, which was going to be an option for dinner for those who wanted. Our Bogrim (9th graders) chalutzim chose from an array of masa’ot as well, including: farm masa, backpacking masa, kayaking masa, and the first ever tipus (climbing) and ofanayim (biking) masa. The group that went on this masa had an amazing time that included a tough multi-pitch climb and a cheese fondue birthday celebration for one of their chalutzim.
In preparation for their JOLI summer, when they will return as CITs and help to lead their first masa’ot, our Sayarim (10th graders) went on challenging backpacking masa’ot. These masa’ot are the best way to hone backcountry wilderness skills. Besides running into some moose and elk, Sayarim chose to challenge themselves on masa while partaking in individual, six-hour, solo wilderness experiences. These solo exercises serve as the culmination of the Camp Ramah in the Rockies experience for our oldest chalutzim before they return as CITs the following summer.
As we pack away our gear, shower, and put on our finest white outfits, everyone is excited about our final Shabbat together. We have so many more peulot (activities), games, and conversations to be had before we say goodbye to our chalutzim, and we will be in full “camp mode” until Monday afternoon. Tonight, as we gather in our pre-Shabbat circle, I will address our community urging them to take the values that permeate our kehillah kedosha (holy community) home with them, and integrate them into their own families and communities.
We look forward to seeing our chalutzim back on the chavain the Kayitz of 2020!
Rabbi Eliav Bock
As we wrap up the third week of Session 1, I sense that the simcha (joy) of our chalutzim (pioneers/campers) is as strong as ever! I can’t help but smile when I see them eagerly running to their chugim (activities), singing at the top of their lungs during musical tefillah (prayer), and jumping around during pre-dinner rikkud (dance).
This week we said, “le’hitraot!” (“see you later!”) to our Session 1A chalutzim as they returned home following an action-packed, growth-oriented two weeks. While we will miss their contribution to our kehillah (community), we also gave a warm welcome to our Session 1B chalutzim as they arrived to camp. Arriving on Tuesday, they jumped right into basecamp activities and preparing for the upcoming masa’ot (backcountry excursions).
This week was full of exciting and memorable peulot erev (evening activities). Ilanot (3rd and 4th graders) prepped for their upcoming Harry Potter Day with a relaxed movie night. Metaylim (5th and 6th graders) competed between ohelim (tents) in minute-to-win-it activities and excitedly made welcome signs for arriving new campers. Solelim (7th and 8th graders) had a tie-dye night and learned the 1978 Israeli Eurovision song, “A-Ba-Ni-Bi” in preparation for camp’s edah (age group) against edah sing-off, Kol Edah. Bogrim (9th graders) spent a peulat erev around the medurah (campfire) playing guitar, singing, and eating s’mores. Sayarim (10th graders) played bar and bat mitzvah games with Bogrim, which evolved into their own “Saya-rave.” They also did a community mapping activity in which they used natural resources to construct a physical map of camp.
This week JOLI (11th and 12th graders) had a chance to intimately experience one of Ramah in the Rockies’ core values, tzmicha ishit (personal growth), or as we like to say at camp, “challenge by choice.” JOLI chalutzim laced up their hiking boots and tackled Mount Bierstadt, a peak of over 14,000 feet! They also began CIT training, preparing to work with tzevet (staff) to run omanut (art), lead ofanayim (biking), attend activities with the younger edot (age groups), and more!
As we do each week, we had Israeli-themed activities throughout camp, including a blue and white contest at dinner, a Shulchan Ivrit (Hebrew only table) at lunch, and some Israeli tunes added to our always-growing song repertoire. We also had a terrific 4th of July celebration here at camp yesterday. Throughout the day, we danced and sang American folk songs. We said the prayer for our country, recited blessings in Hebrew, English, and Spanish, and also spoke about the values that make America the country it is. We ended the day with a 4th of July bar-b-que.
In true Ramah in the Rockies style, the weather has been keeping us on our toes! This week the chalutzim have been donning hats, slathering on sunscreen, and refilling water bottles as the sun shines strong in the mornings. By late afternoon, the sky sometimes darkens as the chava (ranch) has often been washed with much-welcomed rain, cooling off camp in time for a good night’s sleep. An added benefit of the weather patterns has been that the flowers this year are more vibrant than ever. Many chalutzim have noticed the bluish purple columbine flowers that have bloomed for the first time in recent memory. Our Ramah Valley is awash with hues of purple and orange mixed with the vibrant green of the grass.
There is something about the hours leading up to Shabbat that brings a palpable energy to the chava. I feel the buzz and excitement of chalutzim as they wash off the sweat and dirt that marks a successful day here at camp, and prepare to refocus their minds and hearts to the change of pace that Shabbat brings.
Next week the chalutzim will go off on various masa’ot and take on the outdoor adventures that makes Ramah in the Rockies so special. For now, the approaching calm of Shabbat awaits us.
Rabbi Eliav Bock
As I write this, our chalutzim (campers/ pioneers) are returning from their masa’ot. There is a shrill of excited gabbing and laughter emanating from our packout area as vans unload and chalutzim arrive back into camp. The weather here at the chava(ranch) is finally beginning to resemble summer, and our chalutzim are shedding their jackets and knit hats for t-shirts and bucket hats.
Our youngest edah, Ilanot (3rd and 4th graders), spent their masa week visiting the local aquatic center, camping under the stars in Ramah Valley, and hiking Prospector, a local peak. Metaylim campers (5th and 6th graders) enjoyed their own campout in Ramah Valley after an exciting whitewater rafting trip on the Arkansas River. They returned from their rafting trip raving about the incredible white water, undeterred by the mountain runoff that kept river temperatures in the 40s and rapids at the maximum intensity permitted for their age group. During tefillot (prayers) throughout the week, they also worked on personalizing their siddurim (prayer books).
Solelim (7th and 8th graders) spent their week on a variety of masa’ot including omanut (art), chetz v’keshet (archery), rafting/ofanayim (biking), and backpacking. I heard from the omanut masaa bout their tasty food, and the archery masa about using compound bows at the nearby Scouts BSA camp plus the miles of epic uphill and downhill runs on their two-day journey back to camp. Bogrim (9th graders) had two different backpacking trips – Great Sand Dunes National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, and kayaking and tipus (climbing) for their masa’ot options. Although we changed the routes of both hiking trips late last week because of snow, both groups still got to hike through the white stuff and had to adjust their route during the week because of the poor (summer) trail conditions.
Not to be outdone by the adventures had by our younger edot, Sayarim (10th graders) went on their masa’ot according to their megamot (majors).They continued to develop their basecamp skills on masa for backpacking, tipus, and ofanayim. Earlier this afternoon, I spoke to some Sayarim chalutzim in the chadar ochel (dining tent) as they were discussing how their masa group could have made an aruchat tzohorayim (lunch) that was far superior to our “normal” camp lunch. They explained to me that one of their masa tzevet was a master at cooking in the backcountry and taught the group all kinds of tips and tricks they could use to make some seriously elegant outdoor meals.
JOLI (11th and 12th graders), our oldest edah, split into two groups, both spending their week in Carson National Forest in New Mexico, marking the first time that Ramah in the Rockies has had a masa cross state lines! Unique to this masa was the variety of terrain encountered – from desert to dense forest to wide open meadows. And, yes, there was still lots of snow, even in June!
With most of camp relatively quiet, our remaining tzevet (staff) had several opportunities to partake in their own programming, including, new for this kayitz – Spanish 101, led by our Mexicantzevet who are part of the national Camp Leaders program.
As we enter our second Shabbat with chalutzim, I am so excited to finally return to rikkud (dancing) and Kabbalat Shabbat in our Pardes Tefillah after an almost two-year break. Last week, we were hunkered down and bundled in jackets and hats in our Ohel Moed where the energy was palpable and the rain coming down. Last year we experimented with moving Friday night services to Ramah Valley, one of the most beautiful places in camp, but the logistics of moving everyone out there and the lack of shade made it challenging most weeks. Tonight we return to our original Friday night location, which many consider to be their inspirational place of prayer at Ramah.
Finally, an anecdote. Just yesterday, during lunch with one of our new nurses, she mentioned how much and how quickly she felt herself a part of our community compared to her previous sleepaway camp experiences. Every kayitz sees new faces join returning ones, and every summer they are welcomed with open arms. The comment by our nurse speaks to one of the things that makes me proud to be director of Ramah in the Rockies – welcoming new faces not just into our community, but embracing them as part of our kehillah kedoshah (holy community) so that they call our chava home. We are so lucky to have over 300 people calling our chava home this Shabbat.
Rabbi Eliav Bock
Our 10th year at Ramah in the Rockies is officially a-go! The rain that greeted our chalutzim (pioneers/campers) as they arrived at the ranch on Tuesday had little effect on the joy of opening day. Returning chalutzim happily reunited with friends and tzevet (staff) from past years, and new campers quickly experienced the warmth of camp’s kehillah(community).
While the rain made it impossible to have a welcome medurah (bonfire), it gave the chalutzim an opportunity to bond with everyone in their ohelim (tents). Each ohel spent time before bed creating an ohel brit – a communal contract outlining expectations by which they should treat each other. By nightfall, chalutzim eagerly fell into their beds after a long day of travel and excitement.
Wednesday morning, camp was in full swing! Ilanot (rising 3rd and 4th graders) went biking and climbing, and were assigned a Bogrim (rising 9th graders) buddy who they will get to know through shared Shabbat meals and other activities. Metayalim (rising 5th and 6th graders) created their own tefillah (prayer) journals in which they can reflect on the Shacharit (morning) prayers. Solelim (rising 7th and 8th graders) jumped right into picking their masa’ot (backcountry excursions) as well as their chugim(electives) which include: chavah (farm), ofanayim (biking), susim (horseback riding), and more! Bogrim took in the picturesque landscape of Ramah Valley as they created an edah (age group) banner with paint balloons. Lastly, Sayarim (rising 10th graders) hiked up Givat Ilanot (Ilanot Hill), while JOLI (rising 11th and 12th graders) spent the day in a wilderness first aid training course to prepare them for medical situations in the backcountry.
If there is one word to describe the atmosphere at camp, it would be “simcha” (joy). Since the first night, we have been dancing in the chadar ochel (dining room) before every meal, having incredible shira (singing) sessions, and enjoying the spirit felt throughout camp. I have loved walking through the ohalim areas listening to the chatter of the chalutzim and watching the constant games of ping-pong, foosball, and spike ball.
Right now the normal hustle and bustle of camp is beginning to subside as everyone prepares for Shabbat. Our bathhouses are full and everyone is changing into their best white outfits. Chalutzim and tzevet alike are eagerly anticipating dancing in our Pardes Tefillah and welcoming in Shabbat with our ruach-filled, Ramah in the Rockies style Kaballat Shabbat service (although the weather might make us move our services undercover into the Ohel Moed).
I am so inspired by our kehillah kedoshah (holy community) that I experience at camp each summer, and this summer is no different. I cannot wait to gather with all of our machaneh (camp), as we raise our voices to welcome the first of many wonderful Shabbatot here on the ranch.
Rabbi Eliav Bock
Shavua tov! Our staff Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course feels as if it happened months ago, Shavuot has come and gone, our Shavuah Hachanah (Week of Preparation) is ending, and all of our staff are eagerly awaiting their chalutzim (pioneers/campers). Our tzevet (staff) have just celebrated their second Shabbat at camp, and while things have been incredibly enjoyable, we are missing the most important people – our chalutzim.
Thankfully, within about 24 hours, our first chalutzim arrive! After months of planning, our 10th kayitz at Ramah in the Rockies will officially begin. We are looking forward to a summer filled with adventure, personal growth, and loads of fun. New for this summer are some updates to our property including adding campsites for ohel (tent) overnights, adjusting our daily schedule, and bringing the biking and masa (excursion) programs into the center of camp. The tzevet we have assembled this summer is our best yet, and I am thrilled for them to become teachers and role models for your children.
Things at Ramah in the Rockies have changed quite a bit since our inaugural summer when we had nine tents, eight showers, and a toilet trailer. Every year since has brought new challenges and opportunities, and this summer is no different. As we put the final touches on our preparations for this season, I would like to share how grateful I am for the opportunity to guide and support this amazing kehillah kedoshah (holy community) that we have nurtured over the last ten years. Thank you for choosing to send your children to Ramah in the Rockies.
As our chalutzim arrive, our focus turns to providing an incredible, fun, and safe experience for all of them. Please feel free to email or call with any questions, and know that we will continue to communicate via email, social media, and phone as needed.
I look forward to greeting your children on the chavah (ranch) this summer.
Rabbi Eliav Bock
Kayitz 2019 is a few short weeks away, and I could not be more excited to welcome your children to the Ramah in the Rockies ranch! My name is Dani Wallace and I am so pleased to introduce myself as the Director of Camper Care. After beginning my journey at camp in 2016 as the Rosh Edah (Unit Head) for Ilanot (rising 3rd & 4th graders), I returned to work for Ramah year-round as the Communications Coordinator – better known as the person who posted those much-anticipated photo updates! As a Jewish summer camp veteran of more than a decade, I am a firm believer in the unique magic of overnight camp.
That being said, camp can also be challenging! While some of these challenges may be physical, like summiting one of Colorado’s famous 14,000 ft. peaks, others are emotional. Learning how to share a living space, cope with homesickness, and adjust to a new environment can be stressful. To help you help your camper, here are my Top 5 Tips & Tricks to ensure successful summer experiences for our chalutzim:
1 – Talk About Camp Early & Often
Start talking about camp now, if you haven’t already begun! These conversations can be a chance to unpack anxieties, foster excitement, and prepare your child for a meaningful summer experience. While reassuring your child that they will have a great time is important, don’t be afraid to acknowledge that the first few days might be a little tough until they get used to the rhythms of camp. Be sure to let them know that these emotions are normal, and you are sure they can handle it. Remind them also that their counselors are there to help and support them! Acknowledging fears and concerns ahead of time affords you and your child the opportunity to brainstorm coping strategies before camp even begins. First time campers might find that practicing sleeping away from home with a sleepover or two is helpful.
2 – Include Campers in the Preparation Process
Ensuring that your camper feels prepared is a great way to ease the pre-summer jitters! Utilize our online packing list to make sure your camper has everything they need to succeed. For some campers, being involved in the shopping and/or packing process can help calm nerves, so hand over that sharpie and let them help label their belongings, or go for walks together to make sure their hiking boots are fully broken in!
3 – Nip Homesickness in the Bud
The transition from home to camp can be a big adjustment, and many campers experience homesickness as they settle in. Printing out a few photographs of family and friends, packing a special stuffed animal to squeeze when they miss home, or including a prewritten “for when you feel homesick” letter are all useful strategies that can ease your child’s mind. If your child is particularly nervous, send a letter or one-way email that is awaiting their arrival to be read, or include a note in luggage for them to discover when unpacking! Additionally, including some pre-addressed and stamped envelopes in their suitcase makes writing home quick and easy.
4- Help Us Help Your Camper!
Myself, along with the rest of the camper care, and our leadership team here at Ramah in the Rockies are your partners in the success of your child’s summer! If your camper has a particular challenge that might impact their experience, it is best addressed before camp starts. If we know about potential problems in advance, we are able to strategize together and set your child up for success. If there is any information that was not included on your initial application that might help us facilitate the best summer possible for your camper, please contact Julia Chatinover, firstname.lastname@example.org.
5 – Research Reassures
The unknown can be daunting, but familiarizing your child with Ramah in the Rockies before they pack their bags can make the transition to camp less intimidating! On our website you and your camper can watch videos, click through photos, learn about the daily schedule, and get an idea of what to expect upon their arrival to our beautiful chava (ranch). If you have any questions or concerns feel free to reach out to Rabbi Eliav, email@example.com or Julia Chatinover, firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am looking forward to sharing a summer of fun, friendship, and adventure with all of our amazing chalutzim (campers)!
Director of Camper Care
Today marks 65 days until we welcome our first chalutzim (campers) to the chava (ranch). Just as we reflect on the various numbers mentioned during the seder – 3 matzot, 4 sons, and 10 plagues – I want to share some of the key numbers we think about as we prepare for summer.
27,000 Gallons of clean drinking water available at any moment in our four above-ground tanks
6,065 Gallons of wastewater influent flowing daily into our system (Ever wonder how much is from showers versus flushing toilets?)
363 Campers currently registered for Kayitz 2019
105 Staff members working at camp this summer
104 Campers coming to Ramah in the Rockies for the first time!
70 Masa’ot (excursions) going out over four masa weeks (or 17-18masa’ot per week!!!)
40 New mountain bikes ordered
35 More campers we hope to enroll before opening day
20 Israeli mishlachat (emissary) staff joining our mishpacha (family)
18 Hens laying eggs at camp this summer
12 12-passenger vans on site at any one time during the summer
9.1 Acre feet of water owned by Ramah in the Rockies, of which we use .22 annually. (Under the laws governing water use in the west, we need to build a pond by 2024 to access the unused amount or lose almost all of it.)
3 New primitive campsites being built
2 Dogs of camp living with us this summer – Welcome, Murphy and DovBer!
1 Camper coming from each of these states this summer: Louisiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, Utah, Wyoming, Kansas, and Alabama
– Rabbi Eliav and the Ramah in the Rockies Team
Over the past six weeks, our year-round team has reached out to hundreds of families through emails, phones calls, and our annual feedback survey. Thank you to everyone who responded to our requests for honest feedback! Our goal is to provide our chalutzim (campers) with an amazing summer experience year after year. We know that in order to achieve this goal, we must work to make each summer better than the one before, and continue to adapt our camp program to meet the needs of our community. Thanks to your feedback, we have a clear understanding of what aspects of our program have been successful and where there is room for improvement.
– TWO THUMBS UP –
Challenge by Choice and Personal Growth
At Ramah in the Rockies, our mission is to nurture the character development of Jewish youth by providing campers the opportunity to challenge themselves physically, intellectually, and spiritually. We call this value “Challenge by Choice,” and are always seeking new ways to encourage our chalutzim to become their best and bravest selves! In Kayitz 2018, implementing a revised curriculum of outdoor skill-building for all campers brought us one step closer to achieving this goal. Additionally, our Sayarim campers pushed themselves beyond their comfort zones 20 meters above the ground at a local high ropes course, and our JOLI participants challenged themselves to become leaders within our machane (camp) by taking charge of Yom Sport and serving as counselors-in-training for the younger edot (age groups). We are so proud of the growth we witnessed in our campers last summer!
Music, Dance, and Visual Art
Music, Dance, and Visual Art are vital to the unique magic we are able to create together at camp each year. This summer, we made a concentrated effort to integrate the simcha (joy) and creativity of these art forms into each and every day! Our community awoke to song each morning, sang together at our daily t’fillot (prayers), and participated in high-energy Israeli dance parties before dinner each night as we set the tables. Beit HaYitzera – our new arts pavilion – housed our Omanut (Art) Program, and dedicated staff members even utilized the space to create an exhibition of camper artwork for our whole community to enjoy. On the last night of camp, we all came together for our first semi-annual “Kol Edah” festival, where each age group performed a different popular Israeli song. Click here to view the videos!
Fostering Kehillah (Community)
The most important aspect of camp is undoubtedly the connections and friendships that are formed on our ranch each summer. Dividing Bogrim, our biggest edah, into two smaller programs allowed campers to bond more deeply with their peers. In addition, more ohel (bunk) bonding opportunities were worked into the schedule, and older and younger campers connected through ‘buddy programs.’ This summer, we also dedicated Ohel Koby – our new game tent – in honor of former camper Koby Gruenwald. This space quickly became the central hub of the tent area, where campers convened for ping pong tournaments, challenged their madrichim (counselors) to foosball, and relaxed with friends over card games. Carving out more time and space for creative play has facilitated so many meaningful connections across our community, and is a practice that we will undoubtedly continue for summers to come.
– MIXED REVIEWS –
(Where we need more emphasis)
In 2018 we made some big changes to our menu in an effort to make meals more kid-friendly. While we’ve made great strides, there is still lots of room for improvement as we continue to refine our menu to ensure that our campers leave every meal happily nourished! First and foremost, we’ll be removing failed experiments such as the infamous lentil loaf from our lineup, and bringing back camper favorites like chili and cornbread. We’ll also be moving towards a “less seasoning, more sauce” philosophy, wherein campers can choose the amount of flavor they’d like to add to their meal rather than opt out of a course that’s too spicy or seasoned for their palate. Additionally, we will continue to provide a salad bar, pasta bar, cereal, and sandwiches as alternative options at each meal. We are also committed to improving the food offerings on masa’ot (backcountry excursions) and ensuring campers with dietary restrictions have plenty of options. Next summer, we will also be sharing our weekly menu on our social media platforms, so that you will know exactly what your camper is eating!
Masa Assignments & Backpacking
While every masa (backcountry excursion) is a unique experience, we recognize that many campers come to Ramah in the Rockies hoping to participate in a particular trip. Next summer, we will be incorporating more backpacking masa’ot into our program to ensure that everyone who would like to participate in this staple of the Colorado experience has an opportunity to do so! We are also committed to ensuring that campers don’t repeat the same trips summer after summer if they do not wish to. Therefore, beginning next summer, we will be making an effort to avoid repeat masa experiences for returning campers so that everyone in our community has the opportunity to take on a new challenge.
Every summer we try to find a way to make our special Sunday programming fun and meaningful for chalutzim of all ages, and every summer the feedback we receive about these special, camp-wide events shows us that there is lots of room for improvement. We’ve been scratching our heads trying to find a solution, and while we have some ideas, we also are eager to hear directly from our campers! Therefore, we will be creating a committee of veteran campers of all ages to help us brainstorm what steps we can take to make these days as much fun as possible for everyone. If your camper has spent at least three summers with us at Ramah in the Rockies and would like to participate in this special committee, please email email@example.com.
– IN CONCLUSION –
Thank you for being a part of our kehillah kedoshah, our holy community, and for taking the time to share your feedback with us so that we may continue to improve! As always, please be in touch with any specific questions, comments or concerns. All of us on the year-round team are available to speak via phone, email or in person.
The Ramah in the Rockies Team
In a religion full of holidays, there is one that reigns supreme: Sukkot. Not what you might have expected, right?
As one of the three major pilgrimage festivals, in which Jews in Temple times would make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Sukkot goes by many names in the Jewish tradition. Other than Sukkot, the festival is referred to as Chag ha’Asif (the Harvest Festival), Chag ha’Hodaya (Festival of Thanksgiving), Hakhel (Gathering), and He’Chag (The Festival). Since Rabbinic times, we have attached two other holidays to Sukkot – Hoshanah Rabbah and Simchat Torah.
Each of these names reflects a one of our most important camp values, making it the perfect holiday to “celebrate” at camp. The nature of the holiday, in which we dwell in temporary, open air structures reflects our value at Ramah in the Rockies of living close to nature. The harvest festival’s focus on gratitude and intentionality about the food we eat is something we experience daily at camp, as we introduce all our meals with a “Siyur Ochel” (food tour) in an effort to encourage our community to slow down, take a moment, and truly appreciate the food that nourishes us and where it comes from. Joy, community and honor are three of our four core values, and we emphasize gathering as a community for meals, Jewish rituals, and fun.
As part of our special Sunday ‘Yom Meyuchad’ programming this summer, we recreated many of the Jewish holidays, giving our chalutzim (campers) the opportunity to share their favorite family traditions with their friends and to create new Jewish memories together. For “Yom Sukkot” at camp, chalutzim built Sukkot out of materials they found in the forest, decorated our new Ohel Ochel (Dining Tent), and perfected their outdoor cooking skills. Campers also worked on the farm and learned about farming cycles, practiced new orienteering skills that might have helped the Jews make it through the desert in less than 40 years, and created skits and decorations to welcome two new Sifrei Torah to our machane (camp)!
Since the fire in 2017, we have been honored to receive Sifrei Torah from our friends at Ramah Day Camp in Nyack and Temple Beth Am in Los Angeles. When Yom Sukkot rolled around this summer, we were thrilled to have an opportunity to celebrate these new Torah with our entire kehillah kedoshah – our holy community. In celebration, we built a new Aron Kodesh and quilted a handmade, custom dressing for the Torah. When we shared these beautiful new items with our community as the highlight of our Yom Sukkot schedule, everyone joined together to sing, dance, and welcome the Torah to its new home at Ramah in the Rockies!
In addition to formally welcoming the new Torah to our camp community, we had so much fun learning and sharing outdoor skills, gathering for a day of fun, and getting a taste of this important holiday while at camp. May this festival be an opportunity for all of us to re-immerse ourselves in nature, in mindfulness and gratitude, and in the pure joy of being Jewish.
Deena Cowans (Director of Jewish Education 2016-2018)
amA 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 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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
We want to hear your feedback!
Over the next few weeks, and in summers to come, we have the opportunity to improve upon the foundation we have established here at Ramah in the Rockies. In order to continue to provide our chalutzim with impactful experiences year after year, we ask that if your child attended camp this summer, you please take a moment to fill out a brief survey about their experience. Click here to take our 2018 Summer Feedback Survey.
We are already registering campers for our 2019 season, and we’d love to have you join us for another adventure. Click here to register today! Spaces fill fast, so register early to reserve your spot. Deposits are 100% refundable for any reason until March 1st, 2019. Register before October 31st, 2018 to receive a free Ramah in the Rockies gift, as well as our early bird discount! Questions? Contact us at email@example.com or call (303) 261-8214.
Shana Tova from Ramah in the Rockies! Grab some apples and honey and see how our tzevet (staff) responded when we asked them to share a sweet moment from Kayitz 2018. The follow snippets exemplify the friendship, kindness, and connection that makes our kehillah kedoshah – our holy community – so unique and special.
- One sweet moment that I had was when I was on my first masa (backcountry excursion) of the summer – Mining Masa. All of the campers surprised the counselors by waking up at 5:30 AM and packing up the entire campsite while we were still sleeping! – Eli Lovich
- This summer, I got the chance to talk to Metayalim boys about identity and respect. I told them a bit about my own story and the boys were attentive and asked great questions. One of the kids sincerely wanted to know how to best stand up in a situation when someone was expressing oppressive beliefs about another person or group! – Rafi Daugherty, Director of Camper Care
- On the second Shabbat of a two-week session, I walked into the ohel (tent) to find my campers sitting together in a circle making and decorating Shabbat-o-grams for each person in the bunk. Although we had given them each a Shabbat-o-gram the previous week, we never mentioned the idea of them making some as well. When it was finally time for Kabbalat Shabbat, they handed them out to each other and to each of the counselors as well. It was just so sweet to me that they had not only decided to make Shabbat-o-grams all on their own, but they turned it into an activity for the whole bunk! – Emma Wallace
- One evening during our nightly program, there was a huge thunderstorm. One of my chalutzot (campers) was very anxious and afraid during the storm, so the other campers in her bunk immediately stood around her, hugged her, and start singing together. It wasn’t long before the singing was so loud we could barely hear the thunder! – Michal Raicher, JOLI Staff
- I had a camper who got kind of homesick one night, so I brought him out to the steps of our bunk to try and talk to him and get his mind off of feeling sad. We were talking about all of the fun activities coming up, and I mentioned our upcoming trip to the neighboring Buffalo Ranch. The second I started talking about bison this kid’s eyes just lit up and he started chatting with me and sharing all these fun facts about times he’s seen bison and why he thinks they’re cool. I let him ramble happily for a few minutes before asking if he felt like he could sleep and taking him back inside to go to bed! – Daniel Cohen
- A really sweet moment happened on my Solelim backpacking masa when, on the second day, we woke the kids up super early to climb up a mountain. They started off pretty tired but literally as soon as we started climbing uphill the entire group started singing and didn’t stop singing until we had gotten to the top 3 hours later! – Becky Milner
- One of my most homesick campers who I spent a lot of time with came up to me my last Shabbat at camp and gave me a “pencil box” she made out of recycled materials so I could have something at school to put my pencils in. She then told me she was excited to come back to camp next summer! – Jessica Dworkin, Camper Care
- I think the sweetest moments are always coming back from masa to base camp when everyone is full of excitement and new stories and experiences. Everyone just wants to hug their bunkmates, take a hot shower and hear all about what their friends did on their masa’ot! – Inbal Horvitz
- Returning from masa second session was the sweetest- the other half of JOLI was waiting for us when we arrived and greeted us with cheers and a group hug! I also loved the JOLI talent show on the last night of camp. A few campers decided to write an original rap where they went through each member of our edah (age group) and said something nice about everyone in perfect rhyme! –
- My sweet moment was when a camper who was super scared about going on backpacking masa ended up not only challenging herself but actually having fun and being impressed by what she was capable of! – Amanda Feinberg
- There are two moments that really stand out to me. One was when a camper asked me to make him sad because he loved camp so much and didn’t want to miss it too much when he had to leave! The other was when a camper came up to me and told me that one of his friends was feeling homesick but wasn’t ready to talk about it. This caring and mature camper just wanted to make sure that I was aware that his friend was feeling sad! – Ben Kahn
- One of my favorite sweet moments from this summer happened one afternoon during sha’ah menucha (rest hour). Some of the girls in my Ilanot ohel decided that they wanted to paint their nails together. So they sat outside on the steps and did just that. Just as a disagreement started to arise, a couple of Metayalim boys wandered over and asked if they could join in as well. The girls happily showed them all of the colors they had and soon forgot all about their previous argument. Within minutes the girls were doing the boy’s nails and vice versa. They were all laughing and smiling and by the end of the hour, each and every one of them had beautifully painted nails. – Noa Landau-Camarillo
- Leading Impramahv – a Shabbat afternoon improv workshop- was a highlight of my summer as a whole! One week, two Ilanot girls attended and had so much fun that they went back to their ohel afterward and spent the rest of the afternoon playing the improv games with the other girls in their bunk. – Ryan “Lunch Pail” Fleischer, Rosh Ilanot
- One night, my co-counselor and I spontaneously decided to take our ohel of five girls on an overnight, which turned out to be one of my favorite experiences of the summer and one that I’ll never forget. Love and laughter filled the air as we woke up with the sun shining down on the mountains in front of us. – Avital Kessler-Godin
- One of my campers was nervous about dancing to the Israeli songs we play at camp. One day, out of nowhere, asked me if he could stand with me in the front to lead the dance to ‘Tudo Bom’ – the most popular song of the summer! He even helped me teach my parents some of the dances when they came to visit on Shabbat. It’s so fulfilling when a camper comes out of their shell, both in big and small ways! – Zevan Shuster
- One night for our evening program, we decide to make brownies outside on camping stoves. When the process took longer than expected, we all just dug into the half-baked brownies, enjoying the gooey mess until everyone was covered in chocolate! It was literally a sweet moment. Just then, a huge thunderstorm began and so we all huddled together beneath a tarp, eating brownie batter until the storm passed. – Carly Sless
- My favorite moment of the summer was definitely seeing the excitement on the camper’s faces as we announced the winners of the climbing competition that took place on the bouldering wall for kids and staff. Everyone was so supportive and our three winners were so proud of themselves! – Amir Avramson, Rosh Climbing
- On one masa I lead, a camper sprained his ankle so we had to spend the night at a different campsite than we had planned. Another Ramah masa group showed up and we all ended up camping and cooking together! We spent the night talking and laughing around campfire and the sense of community was so amazing. – Shir Michel
New In 2009, we held our first Family Camp at Ramah in the Rockies. It was during this formative week for our machane (camp) that I first met a sweet kindergartener by the name of Koby Gruenwald. Even at five years old, Koby had a zest for life, loved to dance, and was already excited to come to Ramah in the Rockies as a chalutz (camper). When he returned as a camper in 2014, it was immediately clear to see that Koby was one of those kids who simply thrive at summer camp. While he was among the youngest chalutzim on our ranch, he was always one of the loudest and most energetic, throwing himself into rikkud (dancing) and shira (singing) with all his heart. And when he was not dancing or singing, Koby could be found playing games with his friends.
Before the summer of 2016, Koby Gruenwald was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Our camp community, along with thousands of others throughout the world, rallied to Koby’s side and prayed for his recovery. While he was unable to join us as a camper as his sickness progressed, we were thrilled that Koby was able to visit for Shabbat one last time in 2017. Although he was barely able to walk, a smile remained plastered to Koby’s face throughout his visit. He spent his Shabbat afternoon playing board games with his friends and former bunkmates at a table in front of our old lodge building.
When Koby passed away earlier this year, we knew that we wanted to find a way to honor his memory and the singularity of his infectious spirit here at camp. And thus, Ohel Koby was born. With the support of more than 100 friends and family who made donations in his memory, we were able to erect a tent filled with a myriad of games that campers and their counselors can enjoy together during periods of free time throughout the day.
Free time at camp is both incredibly important and extremely challenging. On the one hand, it is imperative for campers to experience the joy of unstructured play. On the other hand, free time can become a source of stress when chalutzim are not sure how to fill their time. The lack of structure is especially difficult for some of our younger campers.
From the moment we dedicated this new space on June 16th, 2018, Ohel Koby has improved our kehillah (community) immeasurably. Anyone in camp can take a few minutes to play ping pong, knock hockey, chess, or connect four, among many other games. Ohel Koby has quickly become an integral part of our tent area, and the sounds of campers chatting and laughing emanate through its translucent walls throughout the day.
We recently added a ping-pong table just outside the ohel, and the results have been mesmerizing! As it turns out, ping pong is a terrific opportunity for campers to challenge their madrichim (counselors) to a friendly competition, since physical size is of little significance in the game. We are also eagerly awaiting the arrival of a commercial fuse-ball table, which is sure to provide our chalutzim with countless hours of fun.
When dedicating Ohel Koby, Koby’s father, Rabbi Salomon Gruenwald, spoke about the importance of play, and of the joy and connections that play facilitates. He described the different parts of the brain, and how even as his son was nearing the end of his life, he never lost his ability to play, and would happily challenge his friends and family to a game whenever possible.
For many members of our community, camp is the one time each year where they disconnect from their electronic devices, step away from the screens, and refocus their attention towards the people and activities that surround them. A recent article in the Atlantic describes some of the challenges facing a generation of children who are growing up wired to their screens and technology. Now more than ever, our world needs spaces like Ohel Koby.
In Ohel Koby, our chalutzim play many games that were invented long before the Atari or Nintendo game consuls arrived on the market. Rain or shine, campers can grab a deck of cards, a board game, or a ping pong paddle and play games that encourage them to engage with their peers, to meet people, and to make new friends. Technology comes and goes, but the basic instinct to play remains.
Every time a camper stops by for a quick game or to cheer their friends on, they are nurturing core parts of their developing minds. And every time they smile or laugh, the memory of Koby Gruenwald is honored. In the wise words of Rabbi Solomon Gruenwald, “Please, play this summer. Play hard. Play good. Play nice with one another.”
-Rabbi Eliav Bock