I stand on the beach, surrounded by children and staff of Camp Ramah. We all sway tothe rhythm of our singing and the ocean waves, just yards away. The havdallah candles placed in the sand reflect the joy in our eyes, the smell of the spices mix with the sweet smell of the ocean... I have spent the last two weeks in heaven, as part of our brand new Camp Ramah in Northern California. We have created nothing short of a miracle here. Outdoor adventures, ocean explorations, and performing arts, each track of this new camp meeting each child right where they are, lifting their souls ever higher.
I've been part of Ramah for the last 27 years. The traditions of this transformational camping movement, born from the vision of Conservative/Masorti Judaism, are in my blood. And so, this summer I brought deep
Seven Rabbis celebrate Ramah NorCal
expectations - and my own children - to Ramah NorCal, the new jewel in the Bay Area Jewish community. I am thrilled to report that every expectation has been more than exceeded. I am so very inspired by what I've witnessed here. And, as rabbi of Netivot Shalom, I look forward to our partners at Ramah bringing the magic of the summer to our shul community in the coming year.
I also write to name the hard moment our sisters and brothers in Israel - and we all - are in. Just moments ago, a rocket fired from Gaza landed on a kindergarten in Sderot. (Thank God, the classroom was empty for Shabbat.) Just this afternoon, there was a shooting attack on a family driving home for Shabbat, and the father, Micky Mark z'l, was killed. He was 48. Just yesterday, Hallel Yaffa Ariel z'l, was stabbed repeatedly to death by a Palestinian terrorist while asleep in her bed at home. As the New Israel Fund's response made clear: "There is never an excuse for any murder." As our teacher, Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, wrote: "It doesn't matter now what I think about the settlement in Kiryat Arba. Murdering a 13 year old girl who was celebrating summer by sleeping late is evil."
How can I share the rapture of my first two paragraphs and the horrors of my third? How can I not? It's all true, and we haven't even mentioned the terrorist attack in Turkey, where our Muslim sisters and brothers in the Pacifica Institute community, with whom we just shared a holy Iftar. Please reach out to our Muslim friends with your thoughts. Annual events aren't enough. We must build real relationships if we are to make real our professed values.
Chevreh, there is so much happening. And the truth is: there will always be. I'm both gratefully recharging while away from shul and also missing the energy and rhythm of our shul's communal life. We celebrate our children's glee and mourn our lost sisters and brothers. It's all true.
All this is to say: the heaven of Ramah is a gift of sacred space, of deeper breathing, of loving Israel, of making new friends - a place where the values of Netivot Shalom are nurtured with passion and love. Our fragile world needs much more - much more - of these blessings. So, as Shabbat begins in a few hours, I pray that we soak in all the strength and beauty we can, so that we might share them in return with the world we call home.
May this Shabbat bring comfort and healing to our sisters and brothers - namely, all people. May our children inherit a better world, thanks to the actions we commit to take. May our laughter outpace our tears.