Ramah Outdoor Adventure: High Impact Along with High Altitude
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This week, Ramah Outdoor Adventure (ROA) in the Rockies concluded an incredibly successful second season. One parent raved, "My daughter just returned from camp. I have never seen her happier, more confident, or more spiritual. She has not stopped talking about her experiences and the only adjectives she uses to describe her time at camp are "amazing, unbelievable, and incredible."
ROA wowed not only campers and their parents, but visitors as well. Upon her return from a Shabbat spent at camp, Francine Lavin Weaver, the president of 18 Pomegranates, a private Boulder foundation that supports ROA, wrote in an article, "A Journey into 'Awesome Jewness'": "Now Jewish kids can go to camp and enjoy mountain biking, horsemanship, rock climbing, farming, mining, rafting, hiking, and the like. Along with it, they lead services, integrate the Torah portion of the week with their own lives, and sing and dance up a storm. I wish that Ramah in the Rockies had been available when my own kids were growing up."
Chicagoland Ramah Day Camp's annual Yom Yisrael celebration includes a tradition where the oldest campers spend time "training" and learning official army commands with one of the camp's shlichim, a former IDF soldier. These chanichim, led by their "mefaked" (commander) marched into the chadar ochel carrying an Israeli flag and demonstrated their moves to the rest of the camp, calling out "Smole, yameen, smole" ("left, right, left") as they kept in step. Kol hakavod to camp's awesome shlichim, some of whom are pictured above.
As Ramah Israel Seminar participants returned home, we have received wonderful feedback from their families about their children's amazing summer experiences. Hugh Pollack captured the feelings expressed by many of these parents when he wrote that his daughter's "growth and excitement about her experiences was obvious on all levels - educationally, spiritually and socially" and that it was "most gratifying for us to see the bond created between her and Israel - a bond that is set for life and will surely grow through further connections, a bond that has been fostered and cultivated by your dedicated staff and your inspired programming."
New for 2011 at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires was the SABABA! program for Bogrim campers (entering ninth grade). For five days, Bogrim campers went to one of six different specialty programs of their choosing: hiking in the Adirondacks, bicycling in Vermont (see photo), mitzvah projects in Rhode Island, theater arts and visual arts through the BIMA program at Brandeis University, and kosher culinary arts in Manhattan (featured in "Specialty Camp Offers a Taste of New Cuisine"). Read more about SABABA!
"Yom Foam" is one of the most popular and anticipated events of a summer at Camp Ramah in New England. Cheering crowds of campers put on their bathing suits to "swim" through the foam. Engulfed in a large sea of foamy bubbles, everyone had a marvelous time! Click here or on the image above for more Yom Foam photos.
At Ramah Day Camp in Philadelphia, it was "Lights, Camera, Action!" as chanichim took the stage for an all-camp production of Ramah Fills Me With Glee. Campers from ages 4 to 12 had a special opportunity to shine on stage. As part of the drama program at Machaneh Ramah Yomi Philadelphia, campers also participated in improvisation and theater games.
Yom Yisrael at Camp Ramah in Canada is always one of the most memorable days of the summer. Planned and organized by the mishlachat, this year's Yom Yisrael featured educational activities focused on how the Jewish holidays are celebrated in Israel. Click here or on the image above for highlights of this very special day.
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At Ramah Darom, for the first time ever, havdallah and dancing were web-streamed live from camp at the conclusion of the final Shabbat of Kayitz 2011. Havdallah, as always, was beautiful, with campers and staff singing and swaying arm-in-arm, bidding farewell to the magical experience of Shabbat at camp. With lively dancing and great joy, the community transitioned into an joyous celebration to welcome the new week. There were more than 1,000 hits from camper parents and the Darom extended community! Click here or on the image below to view a short recording of the video.
At Ramah Day Camp in Nyack, campers were excited to see one of the newest additions to camp, the "oto glidah" (ice cream car). Dressed up in costumes, the Israeli staff members drove around camp "selling" ice cream for 5, 6, or 7 shekels. Children ordered their ice cream in Hebrew and heard songs from Israeli ice cream commercials. The oto glidah was a great new way to infuse Hebrew into a favorite camp activitiy, building on the programming of the Daber Hebrew Language Initiative, funded by the AVI CHAI Foundation. Click here or on the photo below to view a short video clip of the oto glidah in action!
This summer at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, the Sollelim (entering 7th graders) presented HaKosem Me'Eretz Utz (The Wizard of Oz). They were energetic, enthusiastic, and smiling throughout. At the end of this beautiful night, they sang their aidah song, and then joined with the rest of camp in the traditional singing of the camp song, Hymnon Ramah. Read more about the Sollelim musical, and click here or on the image below to hear "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" in Hebrew!
Maccabiah at Camp Ramah in California began with a grand opening ceremony filled with music, dancing, and ruach (spirit). During Maccabiah, campers participated in athletic events, such as basketball, swim, and track and field. In addition, team members joined together for "wacky events" and hofa'ot, themed performances that allowed campers to show off their dramatic skills. It was a day and a half of competition, teamwork, creativity and fun for all.
Campers in Shevet Negev (entering grades 5 and 6) at the Ramah Jerusalem Day Camp are pictured below enjoying a game of "Breakout" on the deshe, the grassy area on which many of the camp's wonderful activities are held. This game is a particular favorite, as each participant plays both offense and defense, trying not only to score but also to prevent scoring by others.
For Maccabiah at Camp Ramah in the Poconos, each of the four teams represented one of the four "houses" from the Harry Potter series. In the books, each house is known for certain characteristics, and for Maccabiah, these traits were linked to Jewish values. Griffindor's trait was ometz, courage; Slytherin's theme was n'chishut, determination; Hufflepuff's trait was charitzut, perseverance; and Ravenclaw's theme was chochma, wisdom.
I had a beautiful day today. I stood with my sister, a passionate rabbi serving the U.S. Navy as a chaplain, at the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. We remembered our grandfather of blessed memory, who fought for America and shared hard-earned wisdom with his children and grandchildren.
I looked to my right and saw the Washington Monument. Looked to my left at the Lincoln Memorial. I read quotes engraved on massive stones. And I felt, to my core, one sad feeling: too much war.
Too. Much. War.
The quotes and certain retellings of history would have me believe that we fought for pure purposes: we fought for religious freedom, we fought to end slavery, we fought for freedom for all humanity, we fought to end tyranny. But it's also true that we fought (and fight) for economic interests. It&…