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!

Shabbat shalom,

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!

Shabbat shalom,

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.

Shabbat shalom,

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). 

Shabbat shalom,

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!

Shabbat shalom,

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. 

Shabbat shalom,

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.

Shabbat Shalom, 

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).

Getting off the van's on the first day!

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.

New and old camp friends

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.

Shira in the ohel ochel

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.

Shabbat shalom

Rabbi Eliav Bock

We sent this email out yesterday to all of our camp families. 

 

Dear Camp Families and Friends,

We hope the school year has started off well for you. With the opening of our Summer, 2017 registration, we have some updates to share also.

SurveysValues

We are enjoying reading the survey responses so far received and will be publishing results once we finish compiling them all.  If you have not yet completed our survey and would like to give us the gift of feedback on your summer experience with us, please click here.  Your responses to our surveys help us shape our program updates and changes for next summer.


Midah Tile Project

Throughout the summer, we told our campers about the new Midah Murals we will be creating around camp, using their artwork to fashion mosaics around their summer experiences. If you have not yet created a tile as a part of our Tile Project, it’s not too late to submit one! If you chose to create digital artwork, you can send that to us via email at arip@ramahoutdoors.org.  Please read the full instructions on how to participate at ramahout.s466.sureserver.com/tileproject.

Registration and Program Updatesisrael

Registration for Kayitz 2017 has been open for a month now and we already have a number of registered campers. If you want to receive your super comfy Ramah fleece, please register before October 31st!  While we still have room in all sessions and all bunks, we do expect to begin filling some by the end of September. To register now, please click here.

While we are using this time immediately after camp to still fully evaluate our 2016 program, we want to let you know about a few upcoming changes that might affect your registration choices. We hope these modifications for 2017 will improve the Ramah in the Rockies’ experience for all of our chalutzim (campers).


IMG_79322-Week vs 4-Week Programs

Traditionally when our campers have arrived for their sessions, whether attending for two or four weeks, all of our older campers would spend over an hour “leveling” into (choosing) their electives at camp. While this is useful for our four-week campers, we realized that our two-week campers were passing over an hour choosing activities in which they would participate for a total of three hours in the following days at base camp.  Additionally, our four week campers were not able to experience the full programmatic arc of our speciality programs because there were often two week campers transitioning either in or out of their activities.

To improve this system, we are making the following change for our 2017 programs:  our two week campers (all ages) will travel to our different activities in camp as members of “mishpachot” (families).  This will give our new and returning campers the opportunity to experience all that base camp has to offer in their two weeks with us. We think this will enable our two-week campers opportunities to do more activities while also creating a more communal feeling among our four-week campers.

dancingTwo and four week campers in our older age groups will continue to live in different, but adjacent, tents.  Our rising 3/4th grade campers will continue to live in mixed tents, while most of our rising 5/6th grade campers will live in separate tents, unless our registration numbers warrant otherwise (likely in our August session).

Please note that our six-week campers will spend their four-week session as four-week campers and their two-week session with the different activities.

If you have any questions about this, please feel free to reach out to Rabbi Eliav Bock or Julia Snyder, and we will be glad to answer your questions about these improvements to our program.

JOLI

The goal of our JOLI (Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute) program is to create future Jewish outdoor leaders. As such, the program is designed to push participants physically, spiritually, and mentally to take on new challenges and find new areas of growth.  While our JOLI program is incredibly rewarding for those who complete it, it is not suitable for all rising 11th/12th graders.

For a number of years, we have required JOLI applicants new to our community to have an interview and complete essay questions.  Because of this
process, these individuals have often been the best prepared because they fully understand the challenges that they are going to undertake while participating in JOLI.  For our 2017 season, we will expand this intake procedure to include our
Bogrim graduates wanting to join the JOLI program.  

For those who have applied or will be applying to JOLI 2017, we will be sending information about interviews and essay questions, and will begin the interviewing process in early October.  In the meantime, anyone who registers for JOLI 2017 will have a spot saved for them, but no one will be confirmed until after we decide, together, whether JOLI is a good fit for each applicant.  (Don’t worry, anyone who registers prior to October 31, whether or not s/he has gone through the interview process will still receive a free Ramah in the Rockies fleece).

To read more about the program, please visit https://www.ramahoutdoors.org/about/joli/

TikvahTikvah

We are currently re-evaluating our Tikvah program to figure out the best model for our camp and our participants.
We invite all of our current and potential Tikvah families to discuss their child and what type of program is the right fit for them with our former Tikvah Director, Elyssa Hammerman (
elyssah@ramahoutdoors.org).  Rabbi Eliav will be convening a group of stakeholders  in the coming weeks to discuss the future trajectory of this program.  If you would like to be part of this group, please be in touch with him directly.

Financial Aid

In an effort to move the process of need-based financial aid along more efficiently, we are starting the application process three months earlier this year. Requests for financial aid are reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis.  Families are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.  If you have any questions, please visit ramahout.s466.sureserver.com/scholarships or email Douglas Wolf at douglasw@ramahoutdoors.org.

Another week has gone by on the ranch, and here we are at our very last day of waiting for our chalutzim (campers) to return from their masa’ot (excursions).  Our Adult Campers (who have been given the nickname of “Chachamim”- Wise Ones) went out on masa, returned to the chava (ranch), and departed for their homes after a small taste of the Ramah experience. As we mentioned in last week’s email, we celebrated Yom Sport (Color War) on Sunday. The theme, naturally, was the Olympics. We chose countries with 5 or fewer representatives in the games: Djibouti, Andorra, Jamaica, and Uzbekistan. While we did have a bit of rain on Sunday, the day was surely a highlight for all despite having to cancel our epic Maccabi Relay due to the rain.

One of my favorite aspects of Yom Sport is the JOLI (Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute – our 11th and 12th graders) participation as captains and judges.  It was inspiring to see the camp unite around their JOLI captains as they engaged in the final challenge: the rope burn. During this competition, with music blaring, our JOLI captains must put their outdoor skills to use and build a fire high enough to burn a rope strung between two chairs before the other teams can.  Yom Sport is always an exciting time at camp and the day is charged with ruach (spirit) and energy that is unparalleled.

After Yom Sport, we moved into Masa Week.

Ilanot spent yesterday horseback riding and hiking parts of the Wigwam trail right outside our property. Our Rosh Masa, Zack, taught some basic outdoor skills and plant identification on the trail. Last night, they experienced a real treat – the Perseids meteor shower. They slept out in Ramah Valley under the stars, with almost zero light pollution, and a stunningly clear view of the night sky. This morning, they visited the Woodland Park Farmers Market and got to taste the delicious local produce.

One of our Metaylim groups came in early this morning to “camp out” on the migrash and prepare breakfast while pretending they were not yet back in camp.  All our Metaylim chalutzim spent time in the Lost Creek Wilderness hiking and camping.  Over the past few days, while the majority of the time was mainly bright and sunny, there were a number of storms where the groups sought cover under their tarps and in their tents.  Yesterday evening many saw an incredible double rainbow as the sky turned from grey and rainy to a beautiful evening sunset.

The Sollelim groups spent time hiking in Pike National Forest, shooting archery at the Cheyenne Mountain park, biking for miles, and hiking and climbing in Boulder Canyon.  When they came back this afternoon, they were filled with stories of their adventures and many had battle wounds from various falls and scrapes, which are signs of them having really pushed themselves hard.  While most of the trips stayed exclusively focused on camping and their adventure-based activity, our Archery masa took advantage of a rain storm (when they had a camp van with them) to visit the US Air Force Academy’s Jewish Chapel and hear from Chaplain (Maj) Sarah Schechter.

One Sollelim group, who actually hiked back to camp from Payne Creek, came in loudly cheering for their edah rather than their specific masa group as is custom. It was inspiring to see the boisterousness with which Nachum, a chalutz, led the group in their cheers!

The Bogrim biking group just pulled up, 3:12 in the afternoon, all smiles. They were especially proud to share that they successfully, on bike, ascended Mt. Evans, a “fourteener”. I asked them if any of them had to walk their bikes up any part of it, and they all shouted me down “NOOOO”, as if even the idea of it was insulting!

Most of our JOLI chalutzim participated in the adventure masa. This masa, which is a JOLI tradition, combines rock climbing, mountain biking, and hiking.  The highlight of the experience was when the group summited Mt. Bierstadt, which is another one of the Colorado “fourteeners” (peaks over 14,000 feet)! Throughout this masa, the participants are pushed and tested – in their outdoor skills, their Wilderness First Aid training, and their group management abilities.  They are in charge of the daily routine, menu, and activities, and have to adjust to whatever circumstances might arise.  It is a challenging but rewarding experience.   In addition to the adventure masa, four JOLI participants stayed back to be CITS working with our younger campers.

We look forward to a peaceful and relaxing Shabbat with our kehillah (community) one last time this kayitz (summer). It is hard to imagine that some of our kehillah members are spending their 4th, 6th, 9th, 10th, or even 11th Shabbat here on the chava (ranch).  This Shabbat will definitely be bittersweet as it is our last one together until 2017.

Additionally, Saturday night begins the Jewish observance of Tisha B’av (9th of Av), in which we commemorate the destruction of the 1st and 2nd Temples in Jerusalem as well as other Jewish tragedies in history.  Each summer we struggle to find the right balance of observance, reflection, and celebration of current Jewish life.  Yes, our people have suffered many tragedies. How do we teach that and reflect upon it, while acknowledging the position of strength enjoyed by American Jewry? How does the State of Israel fit in? These are the conversations we will be having with each other on Sunday.

I know that it has become my routine on Thursdays and Fridays to write this email each week and I hope you, too, have enjoyed reading these updates.  Just as we say when completing a chapter of Torah, it seems fitting to repeat also about the end of our weekly Friday emails– “Chazak Chazak V’ Nitchazek! Strength, Strength, we will be strengthened!”

I will be writing a final reflection on the end of the summer that will be sent out early next week, along with a survey, and a link to register for 2017.  We hope that you, your family, and your camper(s) have enjoyed this summer’s experience as much as I have.

Thank you and Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Eliav Bock, Douglas, Julia, Ari, Lisa, Rafi, Elyssa, Jake
and the entire Summer 2016 Tzevet!

Shabbat Shalom Ramah Family and Friends!

Greetings from a cool and cloudy day at Ramah in the Rockies! For the first time in probably several weeks, our temperatures have dipped, the clouds rolled in, and much needed rain fell.  This has been another transition week for us here on the chava (ranch) as we said lehitra’ot (goodbye) to our 2A campers, and bruchim haba’im (welcome) to our 2B chalutzim (campers).  We bid farewell to our incredible delegation from Congregation Bet El in Mexico City, which was recently featured in this news article. (Please note: We are sorry for any misspelled names or incorrect facts in the article. Our kids were interviewed over the phone by an outside reporter.)

This is our smallest session of the summer, to the point that we have been able to consolidate from eating in two seperate dining halls to eating in one. As is the case on the Friday of every other week here at camp, our older chalutzim are “packing out” – preparing their food and gear for their five-day backcountry excursions. They are measuring out their ingredients; checking and rechecking their tents, packs, stoves, and other gear; and making sure all is ready for the trip.

This past Sunday, our Tzevet Chetz V’keshet (Archery Staff) hosted a medieval-themed archery tournament on the range. Our chalutzim and tzevet all came out to cheer and support the competitors, many of whom came in costume and carrying banners representing their teams. I even managed to join for a round or two of shooting. (Though admittedly, I probably missed the target more than hitting it!) Check out the pictures, by clicking this link.

For our Ilanot and Metaylim chalutzim, we had our end of session carnival, always a crowd favorite, complete with balloon animals, face painting, snow cones, a photo booth, and more!  These two groups welcomed new friends this week, and, last night, Metaylim had an “ecstatic dance party” as Rosh Edah Julia described it.  At the party, they heard a mix of English and Hebrew upbeat dance music and had judgment-free dancing, letting their bodies move to the music. The kids loved it!

Sollelim said goodbye to a bunch of chalutzim earlier this week and welcomed a new cohort as well, our last transition week of the summer. Led by Rami, an incredibly talented and musical Rosh Edah (unit head), the t’fillot (morning prayers) have become a real highlight experience for all. While this might be unusual to say, this edah has really been hitting it out of park when it comes to t’fillah.  They have had musical and spirited traditional services as well as deeply meaningful alternative t’fillot, exploring meaning through a variety of options. Another highlight of the week from Sollelim was their glow-in-the-dark gaga game!

While other edot were welcoming new friends, we made a decision this year NOT to offer 2-week Bogrim registration at the end of the summer. The Bogrim group has continued their excellent programming for 4-week chalutzim. We welcome a number of “guest stars” (visiting rabbis) throughout the summer and they have led Bogrim in a variety of activities and limudim (text-based discussions). For example: Rabbi Scott Bolton and Dr. Hartley Lachter did an activity around Jewish leadership styles as they contrast with more top-down religious leadership approaches. Dr. Jessica Cooperman spoke about Jews & Race. Rabbi Elyse Winick led a session on Tikkun Olam. Evenings for our Bogrim chalutzim were filled with silly and fun peulot erev like Pillowcase Charades, where we did impersonations and created costumes using random items placed in a pillowcase. Last night we held a sing-off where the MC picked one word like “sun”, “road”, or “shake” and then thought of different songs with that word.  You could hear the singing all the way across camp!

Yesterday evening I watched JOLI participate in a pretty awesome peulat erev (evening activity) – Iron Chef. The JOLI contestants were given a set list of ingredients that had to be included in their two dishes, and everything was cooked and prepared using typical masa gear – camping stoves, cutting boards, and knives.   Each of the teams than ate their creations for dinner and presented an extra plate to a panel of judges, including our Head Chef Avram who ran the evening and he gave them some pointers to improve their dishes.

This week we also welcomed another group of chalutzim — our Adult Campers! This summer we have 11 campers joining us who will participate in our base camp activities, spend a spirited Shabbat with our entire kehilla kedosha, and go out on their own masa (backcountry excursion). Leading this esteemed group is the Director of Camp Ramah in Northern California (and a founding Rockies staff member!), Rabbi Sarah Schulman and her husband, Nate Bankirer.

We are looking forward to a wonderful Shabbat with our friends from Adult Camp and our entire kehilla.  This Sunday (SHHH, it’s a surprise!), we will be celebrating a camp favorite: Yom Sport! Yom Sport is our color-war competition that we do twice a summer and is always a highlight for our chalutzim and tzevet. It will surely be an exciting day of cheering, singing, dancing, sports, and friendly competition!

We wish you all a peaceful Shabbat!

Rabbi Eliav Bock, Douglas, Julia, Ari, Lisa, Rafi, Elyssa, Jake
and the entire Summer 2016 Tzevet!

Shabbat Shalom Ramah Family and Friends!

I am sitting in the chadar ochel an hour before lunch, Israeli music is blaring from the loudspeakers, and the sounds of chalutzim (campers) returning from masaot (excursions) fill the air outside.  Over the next three hours all our chalutzim will return from their masa’ot.  After the initial shrieks of delight and quickly paced stories, all will unpack, shower, change, and be ready for another Shabbat at camp.

Our youngest two edot spent most of their week on our chava (ranch) where they had a chance to ride horses, shoot archery, ride bikes, and also go mining.  Masa weeks tend to be much quieter at camp since half our kehillah kedosha (holy community) is away which allows us a chance to do programs that might not be possible when everyone is in camp.  For example, this week our staff from the Mexican delegation treated us to real Mexican food for dinner and we had two shira (singing) sessions that were incredible because all the chalutzim and tzevet (staff) were able to fit into the small chadar ochel (dining hall) where the acoustics are so much better than our larger dining tent.

Yesterday and today, Ilanot has been on a masa of their own.  On Thursday morning, they hiked out to Ramah Valley where they set up a base camp.  Half the group then spent the afternoon hiking up Prospector Mountain and the other half of the group hiked to our neighboring buffalo ranch. On Prospector, the wild raspberries are in season, so hikers had a chance to eat their way up the mountain. At the Buffalo Ranch, chalutzim had a picnic overlooking a gorgeous pond before heading into the pasture on a UTV to feed the buffalo and cattle (the cows, by hand).  In the evening, everyone met back in Ramah Valley for dinner and a campfire.  Today the groups switched.

Due to transportation issues, we combined our entire Metaylim edah and sent them to the Arkansas River for their rafting masa.  The group camped out together by the river on Tuesday night, and then spent Wednesday on the water.  All reported that it was an incredible experience and the weather was perfect throughout. Our rafting company, Noah’s Ark, are some of the best trained and most responsible guides on the river, and so even when one boat flipped, the guides pulled all the campers into accompanying rafts just as they are trained to do.  Campers in the flipped boat all called home, but most, whether in the water or on other rafts, just thought it would be an awesome story to tell. Sadly, this will be our last rafting trip of the summer since the water level will drop considerably by IIB.

Sollelim chalutzim had a chance this week to choose a masa that would challenge them on bikes, by foot (on one of three hiking masa’ot), at a 3-D archery range, and on the cliffs of the surrounding mountains.  When I asked some of the Sollelim chalutzim what the highlight of their trip had been, I heard combinations of: the meals and camaraderie in the evenings at the camp sites, summiting some beautiful mountains and of course setting personal goals and achieving them.  I heard from a few madrichim (counselors) who told me that they were so impressed by how well the chalutzim worked together to accomplish a number of challenges and encourage each other, especially when walking/riding up steep hills.

Our Bogrim chalutzim spent time on Earth Mountain Farm, climbed in two areas near our camp, biked on miles of road and single track, and hiked throughout Pike National Forest and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.  One group also spent the week kayaking near Salida, Colorado.  For many of our Bogrim chalutzim this was their 5th or 6th masa at Ramah in the Rockies, and each year we seek to add additional challenges, especially for those chalutzim who have been “growing up” with us.  One of the biking madrichim mentioned to me that this was the strongest group of bikers he had seen and they completed their initial route by Wednesday at lunch before tacking on two extra days of biking yesterday and today.  On one of the backpacking masa’ot, their leader reported how self sufficient the chalutzim were a few days in and that they had taken charge of setting up camp and cooking each day. That is truly one of our goals for our chalutzim- that they learn all the skills necessary to backpack on their own and lead trips one day!

As has become the tradition with JOLI in the first set of their masa’ot, they returned to the Indian Peaks Wilderness where they had five magnificent days of hiking and camping.  The group split into two and made a figure eight hiking loop so that they barely overlapped with each other.   All had a chance to spend a night and day on their solo where they sit in one area and appreciate how far they have come (literally and figuratively) and have a chance to journal, meditate, and relax in the magnificent Colorado backcountry.  Each JOLI participant also had a chance to be “a leader of the day”, where they had a chance to guide the entire group – deciding on the pace, when to eat, and the best route given the camp site they had to reach each night.

We will wait to hit “send” on this email until all our chalutzim are back on our ranch.  Tonight is going to be the final Friday night at camp for almost 75 of our chalutzim and 12 of our tzevet members.  When we gather tonight in our circle and sing our niggunim, we will be feeling an enormous amount of gratitude for having had another terrific week at camp and a sudden realization that the final 18 days of the summer are likely to fly by, so we need to savor each and every one them.

As always please be in touch with any questions or comments.  We have posted pictures on Facebook and Smugmug and plan to add more on Sunday evening.

A quick slideshow of some of the photos we have received back from our Masa’ot can be found here!

Rabbi Eliav Bock, Douglas, Julia, Ari, Lisa, Rafi, Elyssa, Jake
and the entire Summer 2016 Tzevet!

Shabbat Shalom Ramah Family and Friends!

After a refreshing intersession with our staff and refocusing our energies on our goals at camp, the chava (ranch) is teeming with activity again.  The past two days have been full programing with chalutzim biking, climbing, creating arts and crafts, zumba dancing, mining, and so much more.  Each day during the past week has started with brilliant sunshine before clouds have rolled in for a late afternoon shower.  We have had to adapt some of our programing, but are thankful for any moisture as the west is not a good place to be when it becomes too hot and dry.

As we prepare for our first Shabbat of the session, we are also here with our largest group of chalutzim ever assembled on the ranch (205!), including a large contingent from Mexico City’s Bet El congregation.  Alongside their rabbi, Rabbi Leonel Levy, are here for the first two weeks of second session.  We look forward to a continued partnership with the community in Mexico City and to seeing their numbers grow in future summers, even if we never plan to have more than 205 chalutzim on the ranch at any one time!

The first few days of a session are always a combination of excitement and trepidation; excitement at returning to camp, a second home for so many of our chalutzim (campers), and trepidation by both new and returning chalutzim about how the summer will be, what activities one will do, and whether one will make close friends.  On Wednesday, our oldest chalutzim picked their activity areas that they will do throughout Session IIA and some into IIB.  Our younger chalutzim were assigned activities that included archery, horseback riding, and animal care.  While it is impossible to describe everything that transpires during the first few days of the session, we saw groups who dug up amazing rocks in mining, groups who rode horses out to Ramah Valley and around the perimeter of our ranch, and groups of mountain bikes who attempted our beginner and intermediate single tracks.  (Next week they will ride the advanced track!)  In all of these activities, our guiding ethos of “challenge by choice” has been front and center.  Each chalutz has only been in competition with him/her self.

Each morning our chalutzim have awakened to the sound of “bo-bo-boker tov” yelled by a group who stand on the picnic table in the Kfar assisted by G-baby who usually is coming back from his hour long ride by 7:00am.  After the chalutzim wash and dress, they all head to their m’komot t’fillah (prayer spaces) for shmirat haguf (morning exercise) and t’fillot (prayers).  The t’fillot over the past two days have been incredible and inspiring.  We had some groups singing along with guitars, others engaged in more movement-focused t’fillot, others doing art, and others engaged in a more traditional, full matbeah, t’fillot .  Our second oldest edah, Bogrim, spent part of their first t’fillah learning about t’fillin, and actually having a chance to open a pair and to peek inside. Starting on the first day, and continuing over the course of the session, our hope is that chalutzim can experience an array of prayer options.  This session we are blessed to have a number of rabbinic “guest stars” who are here to help with all educational aspects of the program.

Sadly, due to the rain on opening day, for the second time in our camp’s history, we did not have a camp-wide opening campfire on the first night of a session.  On a personal level, I was sad about this, since this campfire is when we usually teach the camp song and it is the first time I have a chance to address our entire kehillah kedosha (holy community).  Instead, we had a chance to do some opening remarks during dinner in the chadar ochel (dining hall).  Last night our younger chalutzim had a campfire where they sang songs and heard some stories.  Our older chalutzim had a chance to play capture the flag in Ramah valley, another programmatic staple of our camp.

As I finish writing this email, our entire Kehillah Kedosha is engaged in doing service projects for the camp.  We believe that everyone in our community can contribute in some way to the betterment of camp as a way to prepare for Shabbat.  At the moment our chalutzim are  beautifying the chadar ochel for Shabbat dinner, creating a new trail in camp, giving the camp dogs a bath (they need it!), and more.  As soon as each have finished their projects we will begin the rotations in the shower house, when everyone is “required” to clean themselves and ready themselves physically for Shabbat, which includes putting on clean clothes.  In a few short hours, all will be dressed in white and gathering as an entire camp to dance and sing.

Next week is our masa week, when our older chalutzim leave for most of the week.  Our younger chalutzim will have a chance to do a shorter excursion and will also have most of the ranch to themselves  to further engage in our base camp activities.

On behalf of the entire Ramah team, I hope that you too have a relaxing and joyful Shabbat!

Reflecting on Session 1: 

Monday, July 7, 2016

I am sitting on the porch of the dining hall in the late afternoon watching a late afternoon rain. dancingTo my left is a very wet Givat Ilanot. The shadow of Sheeprock (a local climbing mountain), the slick basketball court, and the cool breeze seem like the perfect way to wrap up, the final day of Session I.  This morning our entire camp was buzzing at 6:15 am with last minute packing after most chalutzim (campers) had slept out under the stars with their edot (age group) in various places throughout camp.  Now, our staff is off: hiking, relaxing, and savoring the many amazing moments from Session I.  Most of our chalutzim have already arrived home or are en route and the airport staff are getting the final campers on their flights.   All is quiet on the ranch.

How does one sum up four weeks in the mountains? Four weeks of friendships, four weeks of laughs, four weeks of scrapes and boo boos, four weeks of intense Jewish living, four weeks of camp.  Well, while no email can capture a whole month of highs and lows, I hope these three vignettes will offer a glimpse into our community for those who were not fortunate enough to physically be here
for the duration

We Reached Capacity!

Back in 2008, when a group of us drew up the plans to create a rusticoutdoor adventure camp we set a goal to grow our cHAVDALLAHommunity to 200 campers and 110+ staff at any one time.  From a communal standpoint we thought this was the perfect number to allow for a critical mass in all our age groups.  From a business standpoint, the conventional wisdom is that a camp needs to have this capacity to be economically sustainable.  Thanks to the generosity of our amazing donors, at the close of last summer, we were able to finish our wastewater system ($440,000), build a second bathhouse ($420,000), and complete our three final tents ($75,000) which allowed us to reach our targeted capacity.  And with this growth, we expanded beyond our single dining tent and, for the first time ever, we split our community between our newer dining tent and our older chadar ochel (dining hall).  While we began meals together with our food tours andcommunal brachot (blessings) eating in two chadrei ochel allowed the younger campers and older campers to eat and sing at their own paces and also to tailor cheers and announcements to each group.  Up in the kfar/kibbutz areas (where the tents are located), we have had a few summers of overcrowding in our single bathhouse.  But with our new second bathhouse this summer, we finally had appropriate sanitation for all our chalutzim.  Also this summer, our Kehillah Kedosha (holy community) began to feel more like a small village a-buzz with various activities rather than just a large family with multiple services happening each morning.  Every programming space was occupied during Peulot Shabbat, and enough gaga, basketball, and ultimate frisbee happened during free time to keep everyone busy.

Advanced Biking and Mountaineering

This session, we had our largest group of Bogrim (9/10th) grade campers.  Because so many of our Bogrimmountaineering2 chalutzim were returning for their 4th or 5th years, we knew that we had to improve our older camper program and make it more challenging.  And so, this year we unveiled two new advanced programs: biking and mountaineering.  Working with a local trail building company and the Oreg Foundation, we built a mile long advanced bike trail complete with table-top jumps, banked turns, and a small technical climb.  Our goal was was to create a place on our ranch where chalutzim can practice some technical biking skills before heading out to the world class terrain at Buffalo Peak.  Indeed, last week the Bogrim bikers actually left camp on Monday, biked to Buffalo Creek (up a huge vertical climb) where they spent time riding the single tracks before biking back along the backroads to camp on Friday. Given its terrific reputation, the advanced biking trail was in use throughout the past two weeks by those going on the biking masa as well as those who just wanted to do some more difficult terrain.mountaineering1

In addition to advanced biking, this session we ran our first ever mountaineering group. In this activity, chalutzim spent four mornings climbing at local crags improving their technical skills. Then, last week, on their masa they headed to Rocky Mountain National Park and the Sangre de Cristos mountains where they had a chance to tackle some pretty technical and difficult peaks.  All who completed the masa said it was one of the best they had ever experienced here at Ramah in the Rockies and certainly one of the hardest.

Ilanot Rocked!

While we were working to improve our older camper experiences, we also spent considerable time in the offseason revamping and hiring appropriately trained counselors for our youngest campers, those in Ilanot (rising 3/4th graders).  We hired staff who specifically wanted to work with this age group. mountaineering3 We brought back the Ilanot Masawhere they slept out under the stars and spent a day hiking on Prospector Mountain. And we had a myriad of age-appropriate camp activities for them like our Rocktion (Rock-Auction), carnival, and some horse trail rides.  This session, our Ilanot program was sold out, and indeed on Wednesday, for the first time, we have two male tents for this age group.  A personal highlight for me is watching the Ilanot campers become more comfortable with the birkat hamazon (grace after meals), camp wide Israeli dancing, and Friday night services.  The first few times we do these each session, many of our Ilanot chalutzim have a look of puzzlement on their faces.  By the end of the session, most were participating fully at whatever level they could.  Whereas at the beginning of the session, our Ilanot chalutzim are literally just trying to figure out their way around our ranch, by the end, they are full members of our community, leading cheers, prayers, and giggling at their own inside jokes.  This session, our Ilanot program was terrific, and we certainly hope that this is just the beginning of a long camp career for most of the participants.

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Soon after sending this email, I will be going off line for 16 hours, hopefully to sleep, hang out with my family, and mentally prepare for the next session.  Camp is a rollercoaster, and while we certainly had some down moments this session (like the suspected Norovirus outbreak), so much of the past few weeks were spent in states of total jubilation.  We had untold moments of higher highs where we were truly living out our mission statement which demands that we be a place that nurtures the character development of Jewish youth by providing them a space to challenge themselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

While we are delighted to have had such a terrific first session we know that half of the 480 chalutzim who will pass through our gates this summer have not yet arrived.  We are basking in the success that was our first session and gearing up for an equally, if not more, impactful second session.

We sent out a feedback survey to all of our camper families via email. If you would like to share feedback, please email us at eliavb@ramahoutdoors.org!

The sun is shining, groups are returning– it’s a beautiful late afternoon on the chava (ranch)! We had stunning weather this past week and it’s truly an incredible feeling to see this chava full of 300+ chalutzim (campers), tzevet (staff), and orchim (guests). Rabbi Mitch Cohen, the National Ramah Commission Director, who is visiting this weekend, commented to me, “How cool is it that 7 years later, it’s just routine to be able to visit Ramah in the Rockies!?”

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A few photos from our new Mountaineering Masa

Last Sunday, we celebrated a meaningful “Yom Yisrael” (Israel Day). JOLI helped plan the day and run the different peulot (activities). Each edah focused on a different aspects of Israeli culture and history. The Ilanot chalutzim had activities relating to raising kids in Israeli society via life milestones such as birthday parties, bnai mitzvah, entering the army, and more. Metaylim and Sollelim together learned about pioneer spirit of the early chalutzim (pioneers) and the establishment of the State of Israel. The Bogrim chalutzim focused on issues about Israeli innovation and contributions to the world.

Ilanot had a week full of base camp activities, as well as a camp-out out under the stars. One of the highlights of their week was Rocktion. At the Rocktion (Rock-Auction), the campers collected rocks around camp that they would try to “sell” to staff and fellow campers, in exchange for popcorn kernel currency. The chalutzim created their own pricing system based on what value they found each rock to be worth. Dani, the Rosh Edah, excitedly shared with me about a moment where four campers pooled their rock resources and created a “store” together at the Rocktion. Other activities included a carnival complete with face painting, balloon animals, a photo booth, snow cones as well as a hike up one of our neighboring mountains.

mountaineering1Metaylim spent some time in base camp this week along with time out on a 2-day backpacking masa (backcountry excursion). One of the highlights of their week was a limmud (learning activity) where Nadav (a staff member) led them in a discussion about changes that campers would want to see in the world. These campers maturely and articulately discussed in small groups their personal passions: gender equality, religious ethics, gun control, and many other worldly topics. Campers had a lot of curiosity to learn and understand more. They shared their own opinions on the topics, how they think it affects their day-to-day, and how they can support each other’s beliefs.

For the final three days of the week, the group backpacked in Pike National Forest. One masa group shared that they encountered unexpected items on the trail including a cave in one spot, some animal bones in another, and more! The kids came back covered in charcoal “war paint” excited about their accomplishments and ready to celebrate Shabbat!

Sollelim spent the majority of this past week out on masa. Groups were spread across Western Central Colorado including groups who rock climbed near Canyon City, shot archery at Cheyenne Mountain State Park and biked in Pike National Forest. The biking trip left camp and returned four days later after biking numerous mountain passes and having ridden 37 miles just yesterday! The art masa, one of our newer additions, had a chance to hike and paint in the beautiful Colorado wilderness.

This past Shabbat, Bogrim did a Peulat Shabbat (Shabbat Activity) on Jewish Identity. The edah made bar graphs by voting with post-its on various important aspects of our Jewish identities. Categories included Israel, Hebrew, Jewish Education, having Jewish friends, pursuing social justice, Shabbat, Jewish observance/halakhah, eating Jewish foods, and remembering the Holocaust. The campers made new bar graphs of what our grandparents would have chosen within these categories. It was interesting to see trends of what chalutzim chose and similarities and differences to their grandparents. The discussion then moved into smaller groups based on the category and everyone shared stories of why they chose it. One chalutzah told the story of her grandma, a Holocaust survivor in Toronto, and how that has impacted her Jewish identity.

mountaineering3Bogrim left camp on Monday morning for their various masa’ot. This summer we pioneered the advanced climbing/mountaineering chug in basecamp, which pairs up with a mountaineering masa. We created this program to give campers who had been here for a number of years a new opportunity to grow and challenge themselves. In the same day on masa, that trip managed to go sledding down a patch of ice, cross over the Continental Divide, and spend the day swimming at an alpine lake (at 10,000 feet) in Rocky Mountain National Park! The participants on this new masa had a great time. They even said it could be harder so as to be able to push themselves more next time.

JOLI has been gone since early Monday morning, and experienced some incredible moments and achievements on “adventure masa”. While the majority of the edah was out on the masa, several chalutzim chose instead to be counselors-in-training (CITs) in different areas around camp, and learn more about what it means to be on staff. On the adventure masa, the chalutzim got to mountain bike, rock climb, hike, and even practice their WFA skills! Their madrichim (counselors) ran them through several medical scenarios to test their training on the trip. Yesterday, the group reached the summit of a high peak nearby, and were exceptionally proud of their accomplishments on the trip. Ari, our Communications Manager, joined them for two nights, and shared that he had many incredible conversations with this thoughtful and mature group of campers about their JOLI experience, school, hobbies, life, and how they got to Ramah. He appreciated watching the intentionality of every component of the trip and how much responsibility the chalutzim had to lead themselves throughout.

As we get ready to send this email, everyone is showering and changing into their clean white clothes. We are going to be gathering in a few minutes in the Pardes T’fillah for dancing and Kabbalat Shabbat. It is hard to believe that this is the final Shabbat of first session. Our time together has been flown by. Tonight, in my D’Var Torah, I will be emphasizing the importance of cultivating friendships that last a lifetime. Indeed, we have seen that many of our chalutzim who have been with us for multiple years are forming and nurturing these friendships and our hope is that, over time, as our younger chalutzim return to camp each year, they too will have these cherished friendships on which they can rely.

Some photos are already online at Smugmug and on Facebook. We will be adding more after Shabbat. You can check out a video of a few of the masa’ot photos here: 2016 Masa Week Session 1B

Can you believe it? After months of planning, filling out forms, going over packing lists, and getting ready for the summer, camp is FINALLY here! Our chalutzim arrived at the ranch over the course of the day on Wednesday.  In a true Colorado fashion, we experienced both sunny skies and drizzling throughout the day as chalutzim (campers) met their madrichim (counselors), their fellow chalutzim, and acclimated to life at 8,000 feet elevation.

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Our Rashei Edot (Unit Heads)

That night, our Sollelim campers (7th and 8th grade) and Bogrim campers (9th and 10th grade) heard all about our different offerings and leveled into their chugim (specialty areas). Our Ilanot (3rd and 4th grade) and Metaylim (5th and 6th grade) campers spent time around our medurah (campfire) singing songs and being introduced to camp traditions.

Ilanot had an awesome activity last night where they played some get-to-know-you games. Dani, IMG_0421Rosh Ilanot, described it as featuring “an epic game of sharks and minnows, and a massive human knot activity”. She also reported that all the Ilanot campers are “super-pumped” about horseback riding.  At t’fillot this morning, Ilanot was joined by Metaylim, and were led by one of our guests, Rabbi Elana Kanter (also known as G-Baby’s mom). She used storytelling to talk about all the different brachot. During birkot hashachar (a morning prayer), the group acted out all the different things they were thankful for upon waking.  

Metaylim started off the summer with the fun activities of horseback riding, outdoor cooking, biking, and hanging out with our baby goats. Vanessa, Rosh Metaylim, shared a great story about how some of our returning campers taught the new campers our favorite game of Gaga. They had a blast learning the game and joining in the friendly competition. Last night, Metaylim had a fun icebreaker activity asking each other questions and getting to know their fellow chalutzim.


0497Thursday morning,
Sollelim trekked up Givat Ilanot (a hill overlooking our property) and held their morning services looking onto camp.  The entire hike up, the edah sang and shouted their Sollelim cheers. Last night, they had a special peulat erev (evening activity) – a fashion show where campers dressed up their counselors, painted faces, and did their hair. Each counselor was supposed to represent a variety of themes (Frozen, wizards, America, fireworks, etc) . The campers had to introduce the counselors and the theme to a panel of judges. Our panel of judges (including Rosh Omanut- Head of Art) gave feedback and the chalutzim loved the activity. Rami, Rosh Sollelim, shared about a camper who did a freestyle rap to present their counselor.


Last night,
Bogrim had a rousing game of capture the flag on the Kikar (an open field in camp). Earlier in the day, they had a limmud (text study) on social issues and brainstormed what actions they could take to address some of them (such as treatement of animals or unity of the Jewish people). This morning our Bogrim chalutzim held an unusual type of t’fillah, which Rosh Bogrim Dave described as a “spiritual chevruta”. In pairs, they discussed what parts of prayer are difficult for them, what parts they enjoy, and what they were looking to get out of their prayer experiences this summer.

Since JOLI’s (11th and 12th grade) arrival on Monday, they have been certified in Wilderness First Aid and learned basic backcountry skills. These are the first steps in the Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute’s process of transforming campers into outdoor leaders.  Putting all their skills to the test, JOLI cooked their dinner and slept out in Ramah Valley last night. They practiced setting up tarps, tents, bear bags, and more!

IMG_0423For all our campers, this week we introduced a new perek (activity block) into the schedule: Mifgash (Meet Up). This activity takes place right before dinner with the goal of creating a daily time in our busy days to recognize the awesome things that happen here. We share some highlights of the day and sing and dance a bit. After Mifgash, the entire camp washes hands and heads into dinner.

As our camper population has continued to expand over the years, so too have some of our facilities. In order to accommodate this growth, we built three new tents this summer, as well as a brand new bathroom and shower house. We are excited for our campers to “break it in” as they get ready for Shabbat– cleaning up and changing into their Shabbat whites. We look forward to our first Shabbat with campers this summer, full of ruach (spirit) and joy!

 

Shabbat Shalom!

As always please be in touch with any questions or comments.  We have posted pictures on Facebook and Smugmug and plan to add more on Sunday evening.

 

Shabbat Shalom Ramah Family and Friends!

It seems like just yesterday, our chalutzim were arriving at the ranch and now we are about to start the last Shabbat of the 2015 camp season.  Our chalutzim are back from their masa’ot [backcountry excursions], and changing into their Shabbat whites. After the frenzied morning and afternoon of the trips returning followed by crazy lightning storms, we are looking forward to  a calm Shabbat.

We want to share a few highlights from this past week’s happenings at camp, and get you ready to welcome your chalutzim [campers] home.

Sunday we had an awesome Yom Sport competition, where kids spent the day competing in hockey, gaga, ultimate soccer (a game of our own invention), basketball, cheering/cheer writing, and plaque making. The day was full of ruach [spirit] from all, and we want to especially acknowledge the hard work of the JOLI captains and judges who ran the day, and made everything happen. One of the most exciting events of the day is the JOLI fire burn competition, where they have to build a fire tall enough to burn a rope strung between two chairs. This session, JOLI, completed it in the fastest time in ROA history!  As soon as one team succeeded, they joined the other teams’ chalutzim in cheering on their fellow JOLI captains. This is the one day each summer that we engage in friendly competition, and it was amazing to see each team act with sportsmanship and menschlichkeit.

Ilanot spent a day with Metaylim at Wellington Lake, and had a day of fun in the sun until the weather turned and the thunder rolled in.  They returned to camp, happy and dry. Ilanot also went on a horse masa around our ranch before heading out the back gate to our neighbors’ buffalo ranch where they spent the evening in the barn’s hayloft.

Metaylim was divided into three different groups for their masa’ot:  Payne Creek, Rolling Creek, and Wigwam. They spent two nights in the backcountry learning basic masa skills.  For many of our Metaylim campers, this was their first extended backpacking trip.  It is always a pleasure to see their smiling faces return with an added sense of accomplishment, knowing that they had just spent three days in the back-country.

Sollelim spent the week backpacking, biking, climbing and performing service projects.  Al, a Sollelim madrich, held a discussion on trail crew masa about theology and how people connect via traditional sources or nature.  Some kids spoke about their connection via nature when spending time alone, others feel connected when they are in a community praying all together. One chalutz shared a story about how they do not connect to traditional views of God, though when they are scared, they find themselves saying the Shma prayer.

Bogrim headed out on horseback riding, rock climbing and biking masa’ot.  A highlight from the biking masa was a pizza-making and Jewish identity activity. The talk was about how each person defines Jewish identity and how they find their connections to community, tradition, history, and God. Bogrim backpacking masa summitted a 14’er (mountain peak over 14,000ft) during their trek through the Sangre de Christo Wilderness.

JOLI participants had a choice of either heading out for a five day adventure masa, where they did some mountain biking, rock climbing and also climbed a 14’er, OR remain back at camp as CIT for Metaylim and help lead a masa for the younger campers.   Both groups had incredible weeks.

As I complete this weekly email, our last masa group just rolled in from State Forest State Park.  Sadly, it also has begun to rain very heavily, which means that our weekly rikud [dancing] will likely be cancelled, and we will daven under our Ohel Moed [tent], instead of our open-air Pardes T’fillah.  Nonetheless we are sure that Shabbat will be as spirited as usual, especially given that this is the very last one of the 2015 camping season for everyone in our Kehillah Kedosha [holy community].

In summary, it has been an incredible week thus far, and we are looking forward to a pleasant and relaxing Shabbat here with our adult campers who have joined us. We will be sad to say goodbye to everyone on Tuesday, and can’t wait for them to return next kayitz. A reminder that registration for next summer has already opened, and you can register here.

Shabbat Shalom,

-Eliav

Rabbi Eliav Bock and the Ramah in the Rockies Team

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Photos –  Youtube –  Facebook
Shabbat Shalom Ramah Family and Friends!
For the last time this kayitz [summer], a group of our tzevet [staff] made the trek to Denver International Airport, and picked up 41 chalutzim [campers] that were coming in from all corners of North America (and Israel too!) for our final two weeks at camp. This summer has been an incredible one thus far, and the next two weeks will be no different.

This past week started out on an amazingly strong note- we celebrated Yom Yisrael [Israel Day]. The day’s events were put on by our Israeli staff members to educate and engage various aspects of their homeland. At Yom Yisrael, there were stations that taught about kibbutz life, the Bedouins, religious issues in Israel, and Tel Aviv beach culture.

One of the activities was a discussion on the religious and secular divide in Israel, led by our Rosh Chinuch [Head of Education] and Rosh Omanut [Head of Art].  Mushon and Rachel were married this past winter in Israel, religiously, though they chose not to get married under the ultra-orthodox monopoly on weddings in Israel.  As a result, their wedding is not recognized by Israeli law. They had planned to have a civil, courthouse wedding here in the States this summer that would then be recognized by Israeli law.  However, a camp wedding and educational opportunity proved to be more appealing. The end of the day we celebrated a civil wedding, conducted by one of our tzevet. We celebrated into the night, with yummy wedding cake and cookies made by our awesome kitchen staff. Mushon was particularly excited to teach some of his favorite ‘80’s songs and dances!

This week the chalutzim have been busy participating in our fun base camp activities: rock climbing, mountain biking, horseback riding, mining, archery, hockey, art, and much, much more!  In addition to regular camp activities, each edah has also had some special programs.

As I am writing this, I am watching groups get ready with “packout”- a process of packing personal and group gear for their masa’ot [backcountry excursions].  Everyone from Ilanot [3rd and 4th graders] to JOLI [11th and 12th graders] will spend at least one night this week under the stars camping out.

Ilanot this week in their limmud [learning activity] made “Shmonsters”- creative monster stuffed animals made of felt. They learned about the Shma prayer (hence, Shmonsters) and included a text of it inside the stuffed animals for them to have with them.

Metaylim had an awesome art/nature t’fillah [prayer service] led by one of our tzevet chava [farm staff].  They made artwork reflecting their experiences with nature, and later featured a nature walk through camp with meditations.

Sollelim began their limmud [Jewish learning] activity just as the two week buses were arriving up to camp. Rather than continue their activity, they got up and actively greeted the new arrivals, and practiced the value of Hachnasat Orchim [welcoming guests]. Rather than just learning about values, they were living them!

Bogrim enjoyed a rousing and spirited “sing-off” followed by a talent show.  Their energy and voices could be heard throughout the office building and this side of camp.

JOLI had an exciting night learning how to make sushi from some of our particularly talented staff. They came up with creative rolls and learned all about the ins and outs of the art of sushi making.

One of the aspects of our camp in which we take pride is the way we lift the veil on the food choices we make at camp.  We start most meals with a food tour about what we are eating, or how the food came to our plates.  This week, we had two interesting experiences with our food program that we shared with our chalutzim.  We began the summer with over 400 gallons of organic milk, donated by a local, private labeler.  On  Thursday morning, we finished using all our organic milk, and for budgetary reasons will finish the summer serving regular 2% milk.  We explained to the chalutzim the shift in the product that they will be served in our final two weeks.

Also, last night we had a camp-wide barbecue with an enormous amount of organic chicken.  Due to the cold weather in the northeastern U.S. this winter, the chicks that were supposed to hatch in late winter and then graze for a few months were delayed in hatching and growing to a size where they could be schechted [ritually slaughtered].  Instead of taking delivery of all 500 chickens in early June, we were only able to get a few in the early spring, and the rest were schechted and sent here in early July.  With the 9 days when we do not serve meat remaining, we are now left with more meat than expected. This means that our chalutzim who came in the first part of the summer ate less meat than usual, and the ones now at camp are eating more meat than usual.  We expect to have another 2-3 barbeques before the end of the summer!

To let you in on a little surprise, Sunday will be our infamous Yom Sport competition. (But shhh, don’t tell your children, it’s a surprise!) We are excited for this energetic day of friendly competition and camaraderie.

We are looking forward to this Shabbat, and the stunning weather we have been having.

A reminder to all that campers cannot receive or send mail while they are on their masa’ot next week. Also, we will only post photos of campers when they are in camp.

Registration is officially open for 2016, and you can sign up on our website (ramahout.s466.sureserver.com) by clicking “Register Now” at the top.

As always we do our best to post regular photo updates both on Facebook and Smugmug, and we will post Shabbat photos on Sunday.

Wishing you all a wonderful Shabbat!

Rabbi Eliav and the Ramah in the Rockies Team

Shabbat Shalom Ramah Families,

This has been an unseasonably warm and dry week here at the Chava, leading to a similarly pleasant masa [backcountry excursion] week for all of our chalutzim [campers].  Ironically, last Friday night was the first one where we gathered under our Ohel Mo’ed for dancing and t’ffilot because of the rain.

Last Saturday night  was a more somber occasion than usual, as we marked Tisha Ba’av, the Ninth of Av, which commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem. Typically, Saturday night is a joyous occasion, filled with dancing, but not this past week. We read the Book of Eicha, a narrative of the destruction, by candlelight in the Ohel Ochel [dining hall] that evening and framed the next day for the chalutzim. Sunday was full of reflective programming, including one peulah  [activity] where chalutzim discussed their motivation in life and what values they live by.  The peulah asked them to think about why activism is important to their lives or what they stand for.

Ilanot’s highlight of the week was their “Farm Masa”, where they spent an entire day in farming activities:  milking goats, making goat cheese, and creating their own lunch with a harvest from the farm – a real “Farm to Table” experience!  They then slept out in tents, next to the farm.  Today, they visited the local farmer’s market and had a chance to speak with local farmers and sample some Colorado produce.

Metaylim had a blast this week rafting down the Arkansas River and taking a day trip to both Cave of the Winds and Mueller State Park. Be sure to check out some awesome GoPro footage from the rafting on our Facebook page! At Cave of the Winds, they explored the many “rooms” of Colorado’s famous 500 million-year-old cave system, learning about bats and cave formation along the way. They even got to zipline across a scenic canyon!

Sollelim campers headed out for a 4-day masa.  The masa’ot included climbing, biking, hiking,  art, and service projects.   This morning, those of us at camp were awoken by the Payne Creek masa who opted to do a night hike under the full moon back to camp.  They left their campsite,

a few miles from camp, at 3 am under a brilliant clear moon, arriving back at the Chava around 6 am and setting up a makeshift campsite on the on the migrash [sports field], where they camped out and made breakfast.

Bogrim campers went kayaking, hiking, climbing, farming, and archery masa’ot.  The kayaking group had a chance to be on the water more than usual because of the amazing weather, while the rock climbing masa at Sheeprock accomplished quite an impressive feat – a multi-pitch climb to the top of Helen’s Dome.  They were treated to a stunning view at the top and reported beautiful weather.

JOLI went to Indian Peak and, as has become tradition on the JOLI masa, they had a prolonged solo experience. Many reported the highlighs of their week being the solo experience and swimming in a freezing cold lake that was fed by snow melt only a few hundred feet away!  They were also inspired and awestruck during this morning’s sunrise t’fillot [prayers] atop the Continental Divide.

Questions to ask your chalutzim this week:

— Ilanot: What was your favorite part of farm masa? What did you do at the Woodland Park Farmers’ Market?

— Metaylim: How was Cave of the Winds? What did you or your friends perform at the lip sync battle?

— Sollelim: Did you get to know anyone new on masa this week? What did you talk about?

— Bogrim: What was something about this masa experience that was new for you? What was the hardest part?

— JOLI: What were you thinking about during your solo experience? What was your biggest challenge on the masa?

We are looking forward to wonderful Shabbat together, and hope that this beautiful weather holds out for the weekend.  Sunday is going to be “Yom Yisrael” (Israel Day), where our 12+ Israeli mishlachat  [emissaries] plan a day to teach about their homeland.  We hope you all have a pleasant and relaxing weekend.

As always, photos from the excursions will be uploaded after Shabbat; you can find them on our Facebook page and Smugmug. A video of some photos from the excursions can be viewed by clicking here.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Eliav and the Ramah in the Rockies Team

Shabbat Shalom Ramah Friends!

First session flew by, and here we are already a few days into second session!  After a rejuvenating inter-session, we are all back at the chava [ranch], our chalutzim [campers] are here, and we are ready to have another awesome four weeks! On Wednesday, we welcomed chalutzim from all over the world: Oklahoma, Washington, New York, California, Israel, Mexico, Florida, and more.

Something unique happened this year on arrival day, easily one of our smoothest in 6 summers! The airport buses arrived within minutes of the buses from HEA in Denver, leading to a sudden wave of purple filling up camp with smiles, hugs, cheers, and ruach [spirit]!  And perhaps best of all, it was perfect Colorado mountain weather (hi 70s) with NO rain.  Camp magic is happening non stop, and I want to share a few magical moments.

Ilanot and Metaylim have been starting off each morning at 7:30 with an awesome Shmirat HaGuf [exercise] routine on the basketball court, as a part of the revamp of this program we mentioned in our last email.  Ilanot has already had biking, climbing, mining and archery.  In addition to the above activities, Metaylim chalutzim have also had art and farming.  This morning, when I went to visit our campers on the farm, I saw them cleaning up the goat pen and feeding and grooming our resident goats: Grace, Buttercup, Chalav and Dvash.  

Sollelim (7th and 8th grade) have been showing their presence, as one of the largest edot [age groups] we have ever had. Yesterday and today they have been having their elective prakim, where each chalutz has chosen three activities on which to focus during his/her time at camp.  As I write this, Sollelim chalutzim are out with the rest of the camp doing service projects as part of our Tikkun Ramah [camp improvement] program; projects range from painting fences to giving baths to some of our camp dogs.    

Yesterday was a full programing day for Bogrim (9th and 10th grade), but this morning they moved into masa (excursion) mode and began the process of bonding with their group. Each group tested their equipment and packed their dry food for next week.  The groups have put their gear in piles for Shabbat and will come back into their masa groups on Sunday afternoon.  

JOLI (Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute- our 11th and 12th graders) this week completed a Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course, administered by our friends at SOLO Wilderness Medical School. Last night they had a mini masa to Ramah Valley where they practiced setting up tarps and tents.  They were “back” in camp for t’filot at 8:00am.

In a few moments, camp-wide service projects will come to a close and our entire camp will begin to clean up and shower for Shabbat.  Although we have a single shower house (with individual stalls) for all our campers, everyone should be able to take hot showers using our custom made solar hot-water heater system.  If the weather holds, we will be doing Kabbalat Shabbat outdoors in the Pardes T’filah.  Tomorrow will be a terrific Shabbat, followed by Eicha [The Book of Lamentations] reading on Motzei Shabbat [after Shabbat].  Sunday is a special day due to the Tisha B’av fast.  Although the older chalutzim are encouraged to fast at least half the day, we will be serving meals throughout for anyone who wants to eat.  Monday morning, we move into full masa mode with groups headed all over Colorado for one to four nights of camping and fun in nature.

As always please be in touch with any questions or comments.  We have posted pictures on Facebook and Smugmug and plan to add more on Sunday evening.
Rabbi Eliav and the Ramah in the Rockies Team

–Written earlier today, but sent once ALL chalutzim have returned from Masa–

Each Friday morning, when I sit down to write these letters, I wonder where the week went. They say that each day of camp is like three in the “real world” which makes these weekly updates more like 21-day summaries. This past week was no exception.

We began the week with a touching Havdallah on the basketball court followed by an awesome Yom Sport breakout consisting of flaming torches and blazing logs. Sunday was perfect weather for our monthly Yom Sport event. Ultimately, when all the points were tallied from the games, songs, and banners, Kachol [Blue] emerged victorious. Of course, point values did not matter much because everyone had a fun and exciting day.

Sunday morning also brought a joyous occasion: we were FINALLY able to name our goats. Despite our best efforts, the goats were not able to join us for Friday night tfillot. (Our goat farmers had to rush their “aunt” to the vet just before Shabbat due to a spreading infection, which is now under control.)  The baby goats will forever be known at Camp Ramah as Chalav and D’vash (Milk and Honey).

This week was our final masa week of the session. On Monday, the JOLI (11/12th graders) and Bogrim (9/10th graders) campers set out on separate 5-day masa’ot. While JOLI spent some time biking and climbing, they also took the opportunity yesterday to rise before dawn (at 3:00 AM!) to summit of one of Colorado’s beautiful—and challenging—14’ers (peaks higher than 14,000 feet above sea level).  Bogrim campers went on masa’ot including horseback riding, hiking, rock climbing, and farming.  All had their own adventures and special stories that they told about getting wet in the backcountry, seeing incredible vistas, and having deep dinner discussions.

Sollelim (7/8th graders) split into groups between rock climbing, biking, archery shooting, hiking, and service projects at the Pueblo Mountain State Park. Now in its second year, our Archery Masa has become one of the more popular choices for this age group; chalutzim [campers] are able to spend four days doing intense shooting at the Staunton State Park Archery range, which features numerous 3-dimensional targets set up in the beautiful Colorado terrain. On the biking masa, chalutzim hone their skills over miles of forest service road and trail on our front-suspension mountain bikes. While some sections of this ride are relatively smooth, most of the journey is spent climbing impossibly high peaks or descending at rapid speeds into beautiful valleys. While pausing at the tops of difficult hills, many riders wondered whether the Forest Service could (or would) ever build paved bridges across these mountains.

All Metaylim (5/6th grade) chalutzim spent Monday at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, where most were able to feed the giraffes by hand. They then left for a three-day backpacking trip into the Lost Creek Wilderness. Watching Metaylim chalutzim pack-out on Wednesday morning is always a pleasure because I see the looks of apprehension and excitement on their faces. As a younger edah, many embark on their first or second trip into the backcountry with the knowledge that, for three days/two nights, they will not be able to return to the comfort of their own beds. Madrichim [counselors] double and triple check that everyone’s packs fit and that each chalutz/a has all the gear they will need (especially rain jackets and water bottles). Every chalutz/a also carries a portion of the group gear, adding a level of importance and responsibility to each camper and each pack. Around 9:00 AM, groups hiked out into the wilderness or boarded busses to reach the trailheads, which led them home over the course of three days. The only thing that might compare to watching Metaylim pack-out was watching them return to us dirty, tired, and incredibly proud of the miles they hiked and the skills they learned along the way.

Ilanot (3rd/4th grade) chalutzim spent Monday at the zoo with their older friends and then had an overnight with the horses on our ranch (despite their campsite being on property, we didn’t see them until they officially “returned” to us before lunch the following day). On Wednesday night, in a not-so-masa-like activity, the Ilanot girls enjoyed a private “spa-night.”  It was a great bonding activity, even if they appeared at Thursday morning breakfast as the cleanest chalutzot in the history of masa week! Today, the entire edah went to the local farmers market, where they interviewed the farmers and learned more about local agriculture.

Finally, our Amitzim chalutzim had their own three-day masa consisting of hiking, biking and a day at Wellington Lake. They slept out under the stars, cooked dinner over our camping stoves and enjoyed being in the outdoors. While every child in this edah has different abilities and sometimes they split into smaller groups for daytime activities, the incredible madrichim were able to ensure that they all came together in the evening for dinner, bonding, and resting.

As I am concluding this letter, the first of our trips are returning from masa. Over the next 4 hours 180 campers and 70 staff members will roll, walk and run into camp filthy, smelly and exceedingly happy. The washbasins are ready for everyone to clean and bleach their dishes and the solar water bags are filled (with over 1000 gallons of hot water) for everyone to shower. We will soon gather in the Pardes Tefillah for our final Kabbalat Shabbat of the session. It has been a magical beginning to this summer season, and we will be savoring our remaining few days together even as we look forward to next year.

As always, please be in touch with any questions, comments or concerns. Photos will be uploaded Sunday from the weekend and from masa’ot. In the mean time, please check out our video from the Masa’ot returning today.

Shabbat shalom!

Eliav