Oct 29, 2011

Winter Update from NorCal Ramah

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Camp Ramah in California
Northern California Initiative
October 2011
Tishrei 5772  

L'shanah tovah!


A new year has begun, and our efforts to bring Camp Ramah to Northern California have been reenergized, not so much by the new year itself, but by the NorCal board meeting we had over the summer. "Big deal," you might say. But it was a big deal, because we met at Camp Ramah in Ojai. We arrived on Visitors' Day in time to see campers and their families enjoying the beautiful afternoon on "the hill." At the conclusion of these festivities, our board spent the evening meeting with a variety of camp luminaries:

  • Rabbi Joe Menashe, Camp Ramah's Executive Director;
  • Ilana Meskin, the Board President;
  • Rabbi Mitch Cohen, Director of the National Ramah commission; and
  • Julia Riseman, our newMentor/Consultant from the Grinspoon Institute for Jewish Philanthropy (a Program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation).

Each of these individuals played important roles and provided unique perspectives throughout our meetings. As our consultant and mentor, Julia facilitated our meetings and moved us through an introspective process on our desire to make Camp Ramah NorCal a reality.

On our full camp day together, we had the opportunity to see camp in action, from tefillah to meals to preparing for Maccabi games. Our meetings continued with Julia at the helm, and we had more guests join us to share their wisdom and perspective, including Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, Chair of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at American Jewish University in Los Angeles, who discussed with us the importance of the connection between AJU and our camp. Our final guest of the day was none other than Rabbi Daniel Greyber, former Executive Director of Camp Ramah in California, who made a brief appearance while in the Ojai area for a couple of days. (Under Rabbi Dan's leadership, the movement to bring Camp Ramah to Northern California was reinvigorated and swelled to its current energy level.) By the end of our 24 hours together, Julia had helped us identify some key goals for the near future and was eager to continue her work with us as we move forward.


nor cal board meeting summer 2011
Rabbi Mitch Cohen, National Ramah Director & Members of our Northern CA Board

nor cal board with rabbi artson summer 2011
Rabbi Brad Artson, Dean of the Ziegler School, and members of our Northern CA Board

And forward we move. We are continually looking at sites to call "home," but despite looking at a number of sites so far, nothing has fit the bill yet. Given this, we have decided to widen our search and are now looking at sites slightly beyond the original circle we drew around San Francisco Airport. Not so far, however, that we will not be able to drive there in two to three hours to enjoy the space, the weather, and the surroundings. To be clear, the need for a camp of the Ramah brand has never been more apparent, including the following reasons:

  • Jewish day schools are thriving and our communities are searching for ways to keep these children engaged year-round;
  • The Jewish community continues to grow in Northern California, bringing new families to the area and motivating existing families to get more involved; and
  • The number of children from Northern California attending camp in Ojai has steadily grown in recent years from 120 campers to 166 campers. This represents approximately 13% percent of the total camp population.

Without a local Camp Ramah site, this tremendous growth in Northern California children travelling to Southern California to attend camp is expected to increase further going forward.   While we realize that many of these campers will continue to spend their summers in Ojai to maintain the friendships formed there, we hope to catch the younger campers and their siblings when Camp Ramah NorCal opens.


Since Ellen Bob left us as our Director of Community Development for Camp Ramah in Northern California, we have spent a number of months relying on our board members to be the face of Ramah NorCal in the Bay Area. While each of us has stepped up to the plate to take on various responsibilities, we have decided that it would be beneficial to our efforts to hire another Director of Community Development. A job announcement has circulated through various channels, and is attached for your information. Please feel free to pass along the announcement to anyone whom you think will be a good fit for our organization. We look forward to finding someone with our energy and passion to help us move our mission forward.


If you are intrigued by what you are hearing about Camp Ramah and would like to get more involved, or if you would like more information, please contact Randy Michaels at the Camp Ramah in California office at randy@ramah.org. We would love to hear from you!


Again, we wish you a Shanah Tovah, a sweet and happy new year! May this year bring us closer to the realization of our dream of Camp Ramah in Northern California.


Chag Sukkot Sameach, dear friends.