Blog | Camp Ramah Northern California - Part 4




Celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut in Israel

Anu banu artza, livnot ulehivanot bah – We have come to the Land to build and be ourselves rebuilt.” I imagine the Zionist pioneers tilling the land, as they sung out this early pioneer song, dreaming of a day when they would be able to share this in their own land, dedicated to the creation of a Jewish state.  They could not even imagine a day where I would be writing from my apartment in downtown Jerusalem, where I am spending a semester abroad. And, yet, here I am, in Israel, with its 70th birthday just around the corner. The streets are filling up with decorations, there is jubilation in the air for the miracle of a 70-year birthday. As I walk around, I can only hope that our excitement is mixed with and understanding of sacrifices made on all sides for us to get to where we are today.


The Calculus of Calendaring

My friends never quite believe me when I say that I have always liked math.  Much to their chagrin, I usually point out that when it comes to math, when you know what you are looking at, there are no questions left when you are done.  No matter how complicated the equation, it always adds up. In the past four months living in Israel, I have found that while this place will often astound me at a first glance, more often than not things tend to add up in one way or another.


Four Children in our Jewish Community By Monica Shapiro, Director of Camper Care

It’s Sunday morning and I have just returned from a short run; the sun is shining but it is deceivingly cold. Like most mornings, my run was filled with beautiful scenery and a sense of calm. It is my time to put all of the worries of daily life aside and to take a moment to be present and mindful. On my run I noticed a hare run across the path, a group of deer grazing in the meadow, and the rush of the water as I crossed over a footbridge. I took a moment and mentioned to my friends just how blessed we are to live in a place surrounded by such beauty.


The Four Children in Inclusive Camping By Howard Blas, Tikvah Director

I was recently on the train from Baltimore to New York, processing all I learned and experienced in three days of large and small group sessions at the Foundation for Jewish Camp Leaders Assembly.  This biannual gathering is attended by nearly everybody in the Jewish camping world, including camp directors, board members, song leaders and inclusion specialists.  This illustrious list included Rabbi Sarah and Alana, our camp directors! What a treat to listen to speakers—and sing camp songs—with so many people who care about Jewish camping as much as your own Ramah Galim delegation.   To give a sense of the enormity of the gathering, I was assigned to Table 64 for dinner on Sunday evening!


Nachshonim: The New Edah at Ramah Galim

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. 


Infectious Spirit: A D’var Torah by Ilana Sandberg, 2018 Summer Program Director

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!


Ari’s Trip to Israel and Berlin

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.


Engagement through Prayer: More Miriam! An Interview with Jenna Turow, 2018 Rosh Hinuch

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.


The Transformative Power of “Not Mine” by Rabbi Sarah

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.


Growing Jewish Leaders by Alana Tilman

The not so secret ingredient to a magical summer at Camp Ramah is the incredible tzevet, staff, who work tirelessly over the course of the kayitz to craft an amazing summer for all campers. Ramah Galim is proud and privileged that already at this point in the year, so many of our staff members are already committed to returning to camp in 2018. We’re grateful that these emerging Jewish leaders and educators share in our vision of creating a kehillah kedoshah , a holy community at Ramah Galim and are excited to spend their summers as live-in role models for our camp community.

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.