We are a specialty camp that combines the excitement of developing one’s skills and passions in a specialty area with the full experience and magic of a traditional Ramah summer camp. Come help us make waves in Northern California as we create an unforgettable camp experience and community together!
We are thrilled to welcome incoming 11th graders to Ramah Galim for the first time this summer in our new edah (age group), Nachshonim. Meaning courageous ones, Nachshonim, comes from the biblical leader Nachshon ben Aminadav, who according to Midrash was the brave person who took the first step into the sea out of Egypt. Our goal for Nachshonim is to build a program that provides an incredible culminating camp experience for our oldest campers while building individual and facilitative leadership skills that inspire campers for future roles on staff and beyond.
It’s Tuesday night and I’m finally sitting down after a long day of travel. I’m staying with a Jewish family in the outskirts of London preparing to sing at a senior center in the city tomorrow. I have now been traveling with my Jewish a cappella group, Pizmon, for six days—we are on our spring break music outreach trip visiting the Netherlands, England, and Poland. Over the course of the week we have been singing at schools, shuls, and senior centers—meeting Jews young and old, all in need of inspiration. This challenge is precisely what my years at camp have trained me undertake!
I am sitting at the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, holding a text that brings me back to my summers on the beach of Monterey Bay. I am surrounded on both sides by Ramahniks from several camps who interpret the text based on their unique life experiences. The energy in the room is palpable. Our group is eager to absorb as much as possible to bring back to our respective camps. Over the next 10 days I will have the chance to explore the complexities of Israel and Germany through the lens of Camp Ramah.
I have been given the opportunity to travel with Ramahniks to Israel and Germany as part of the Kerem young professionals program generously funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation. Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people, and Germany, which changed the Jewish world forever, contain traditions that continue to profoundly shape the ways in which Jews engage with their communities. As I move from one community to the next, seeing the similarities and differences between Jews who live in different cities, I become more and more aware of how this experience shapes my Jewish identity.
How does Miriam’s model of leadership in this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Beshallah, resonate with your experience at camp?
Working at camp gives people a unique opportunity to lead by example, enjoy themselves, and encourage others to join in. Miriam with her timbrel is employing multiple kinds of leadership at the same time. She is leading in the quintessential camp way, by singing a song and leading a newly forming group of people in unifying ritual. She is also leading by inspiring; as she celebrates, her emotions spread to the rest of the Israelites and they are all joyous. This is how we lead through personal experience and inspiration at camp.
Where or with whom do you hope to inspire “more Miriam” at camp this summer?
I hope to inspire “more Miriam,” truly, to everyone at camp. I want staff to feel empowered to lead services and activities loudly and proudly, and I want our campers to feel comfortable joining in and trying on their own leadership. Building a unique culture of engagement at camp is both who we are as a community and a particular interest of mine, and this summer I look forward to continuing to foster that culture at Ramah Galim. Tzevet (staff) and hanichim(campers) alike should feel inspired, literally and figuratively, to burst into song and lead a dance.
At camp and other educational institutions, we have become accustomed to relying on a rhetoric of empowerment: we strive to help our students, campers, and staff “take ownership,” “be empowered,” and “feel at home.” While I’m certainly all for teaching a person to learn to fish, as we say, and empowering the next generation of leaders with inspiring ideas and relevant skills, I think we may at times overemphasize the language of ownership to the detriment of the equally important counter-rhetoric of “it’s not mine.”
The Torah and Rabbinic texts teach us that the earth does not in fact belong to us humans, and in doing so, presents a strong countercultural message about the power of being a guest in another’s world.
Knowing that the tzevet play such a key role in a camper’s experience, staff training and staff development is one of our top priorities.
Copyright © 2018 Camp Ramah Northern California. All rights reserved. Website designed by Addicott Web.
Camp Ramah in Northern California operates under the educational guidance of the National Ramah Commission and is supported by an accelerator grant from the Foundation for Jewish Camp and the Avi Chai Foundation. Camp Ramah in Northern California also receives financial support from the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund. Camp Ramah in Northern California is a proud partner of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies.