Blog | Camp Ramah Northern California - Part 3




M’Shana L’Shana: From Year to Year

“הבו לכם אנשים חכמים ונבנים וידעים לשבטיכם ואשימם בראשיכם.”

“Pick people who are wise, understanding, and known by their tribes, and I will appoint them as your heads” (Deuteronomy 1:13).

Amidst the lingering hugs and luggage schleps of the last day of Session 2 this week, I couldn’t help but notice a 4th grade camper wearing a staff radio while walking out of the Hadar Ochel one last time. When I inquired with his Rosh Edah, she explained, “That’s Rosh David; he’s been appointed our Rosh Edah for the last few minutes of camp.”  I smiled at both the theatrics of this moment, and the underlying truism of her words.


Guest Reflection: I Choose Camp

On Thursday, June 7th, I touched down at S.F.O. for the last time on my gap year. I felt a sense of loss and sadness, knowing that my most incredible, lifechanging, challenging, introspective year was coming to a close. 12 countries, 7 months, 16 books, 2 rounds of parasites, & endless memories later, I planned to have a relaxing summer at home with friends and family, as I prepared to head off to college. However, on my last day in Norway before heading home, I got an email from Camp Ramah Galim, where I worked last summer, inviting me to come back to camp for two weeks (one session). Just thinking about getting home and leaving for camp a week later made me utterly exhausted, but upon receiving the email, I began to scream and jump with joy and excitement. I knew in my heart that I had to go.

Last summer, I spent one of my last Shabbats before my gap year at camp, and this summer, I spent one of my first Shabbats home from my gap year at camp. It was truly a magical experience to return to camp this summer, the place that both sent me off on my gap year and received me after my gap year. So, I wrote this piece.


Guest D’var Torah: Journeying and Memory

As a rabbi and educator, there is nothing more fulfilling than to watch children and teens expand their horizons of perception in new and different places—allowing new experiences and environments to imprint themselves in the form of memories.

Among a whole host of exciting moments at camp this week, I was struck by the joy our hanichim (campers) expressed about their masaot—the journeys they embarked upon away from our beautiful campus.


Guest D’var Torah: Give it up for our future leadership!

What’s scarier than being the person in charge?  Well for me, it’s being the number two.  I don’t know about you, but there is a certain anxiety that I experience knowing that I’m the second in command because at any moment if the person in charge is unable to continue in his or her capacity, all eyes suddenly turn to me….Oy! Most organizations in the world have a plan for succession.  Not only is it good planning, but it also creates a sense of stability and confidence that everything is in order if, God forbid, we have an emergency.  But where did the line of succession come from?  Well, I think that there is some strong evidence that points directly to this week’s Torah portion.


Focus On: Ramah Galim’s Own Daughters of Zelophehad

We rarely think of ourselves as female role models at camp.  Rather, we are the Camp Directors, Program Director, Waterfront Director, and Rosh Performing Arts, our jobs focused on empowering, supporting, and facilitating the safety, education, and creativity of all kids at camp.  But when one looks at Ramah Galim through the lens of this week’s Torah portion and the daughters of Zelophehad, who stood up brilliantly to Moses to fight for their own inheritance, what one views is rather remarkable: this camp community is a place that offers a strong and different voice of female leadership.


Guest Reflection: The Value of Leadership at Ramah Galim

The very design of the camp’s program and staff structure speaks to a deep desire to empower every individual to grow and contribute as leaders, fostering Manhigut in so many ways. I was especially struck by the new addition of a Nachshon edah, which providing campers entering into their upper years of high school a richer camp adventure as they shared their experience in camp, expertise and enthusiasm with campers, whether teaching songs, dances, camp or leading Yom Sport. Beyond just these elder campers, I felt strongly the sense that every staff member, counselor and even the campers themselves saw it as their responsibility to lead others as role models and exemplars of the values and spirit that make Ramah Galim unique. Rather than shying away from opportunities, I witness campers and staff alike step up to share stories, lead skits, teach Torah and support each other in a way that makes camp a great training ground for the leaders they can be in their communities back home.


Guest D’var Torah: Balak 5778

Still in the midst of their desert trek, our ancestors have finally made camp. More than that, in recent chapters of the Torah, we read of challenges to Moses’ leadership by Aaron and Miriam, a chaotic attempted mutiny by Korach and his group of rebels, troubling pessimism from spies sent to scout out the Promised Land, inhospitable neighbors, the deaths of Miriam and Aaron, and countless other trials. It feels like just too much, more than any people can bear.

How could anyone imagine the Israelites taking even one more step after all this? That is where our Parashah begins. And the big gift is: an answer, one that flows straight through the heart of Ramah Galim, can also be found in our holy narrative.


Guest Reflection: Homes New and Old

On our second day of the summer, my three-year-old started calling our camp lodgings “home.” I asked him what he meant and he said, “We have two homes: Galim and St. Louis. And both have red doors!” I was amazed, first that he’d noticed and correctly recalled the color of the door (I thought it was brown), but even more than that was the fact that at so young an age he could say something that had taken me a lifetime to understand: that camp is home.

The journey to find a sacred place to call home can be full of twists and turns. We see it in Parashat Balak, which we read this Shabbat. Much as Bilaam ends up discovering an encampment of lovely tents and dwelling places among the people he was sent to curse, we are often surprised by the incredible places we encounter. And sometimes, if we are lucky, we get to come back to the special places in our lives again and again.


Guest D’var Torah: The Way of Wonder

One of the great challenges of Torah study is the interpretation of the Hebrew text. How exactly should we understand the original Hebrew in our own language and culture? As Rabbi Shai Held points out, a case in point can be found in this week’s parasha, Korach. After a fire breaks out, the Israelites become afraid of coming near the Mishkan. So God decides that the Kohanim will be the ones to approach the holiest spaces, and says: Avodat Matana Eten et Kehunatchem. Some understand that to mean, “I will make your priesthood a service of dedication” while others say it means “I give your priesthood as a gift.” The way the Hebrew text is interpreted is crucial, as these two translations lead to two very different views of leadership.



Alli’s Winer Reflection

Last week I had the incredible opportunity to attend the Louis & Shoshana Winer Institute for Rosh Edah Training hosted at Ramah Darom in Georgia.  This intensive three-day workshop brings together both new and returning Rashei Edah (unit heads) from all Ramah camps across the nation and year-round professionals to learn from each other and hone their leadership skills, reflect on the past summer, build new connections, and most importantly begin preparing for the upcoming summer.  The focus of this workshop is leadership development and to provide Rashei Edah with all the necessary resources and strategies to enable them to be the most effective leaders in their respective camp communities.

In this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Behalotecha, we see one of camp’s core values, manhigut (leadership) in action, as Moshe is tested as a leader when faced with handling all of the frustrations of B’nai Yisrael while they journey through the desert.  Moshe calls out to God to express that he feels the tremendous burden of having to carry the entire nation on his shoulders.  God responds to Moshe by advising him to appoint seventy elders to help assist in bearing the burden of the nation.