Tikvah changed my life. In 1984, I was hired to work in the kitchen at Camp Ramah in New England. A day before my arrival, I was asked if I would fill a last minute opening in the Tikvah Program. “What is Tikvah?” I asked. My experience that summer led to my pursuing a career in disabilities inclusion. I spent a total of 21 years working with Tikvah at Ramah New England and have been working as the director of our National Ramah Tikvah Network for five years. In that capacity, I work with the Tikvah directors of all Ramah camps, sharing best practices, discussing vocational training, staff recruitment, Israel trips and more. Three years ago, I was privileged to have my Ramah affiliations include Ramah Galim.
When I speak about Tikvah nationally and internationally, I point out that there was a lot of pushback in the late 1960s when Herb and Barbara Greenberg proposed the idea for Tikvah. Tikvah opened in 1970 in Glen Spey, New York and soon after moved to Ramah New England. Camp by camp, Tikvah was incorporated in to each camp. We recently celebrated 50 years of Tikvah in Israel during our recent Tikvah Ramah Bike Ride and Hike.
At Ramah Galim, Tikvah was fully a part of camp from the outset. Rabbi Sarah Shulman and the board of directors felt strongly that Ramah Galim should not open its doors without Tikvah. How far we have come in four years!
In 2015, my colleague Elana Naftalin Kelman, the longtime Tikvah director at Ramah California in Ojai, directed a one week Tikvah Program. I was privileged to join the Galim family the following year when Tikvah expanded to a two-week program. With the support and visionary leadership of Rabbi Sarah, we started a two week Ezra vocational training program that summer—with two participants. We soon expanded the Ezra Program to two sessions (one or two session option), and our numbers increased in both Amitzim and Ezra.
Amitzim campers are full members of the camp community. We participate in all camp-wide activities, live in the bayit and eat meals with the camp community in the chadar ochel, participate in Shabbat davening and daily mincha moments—and boogie board, kayak, ride horses, climb the climbing wall, farm and more with our peers from other edot.
Members of the Ezra Program set up the dining room, sort and deliver mail and packages, sort and deliver nishnoosh (snack), work with farm animals at the horse barn, and will soon launch an as of now “secret” in camp business (shhhhh!).
We are pleased that to report that Tikvah has 13 members this session—7 in Amitzim and 6 in Ezra. The participants are excited for their first Shabbat with members of the larger camp community, and they are preparing for their masa (camping trip) next week.
I have been privileged to direct Tikvah year round and in person for the past three years. My in-person work with Tikvah is drawing to a close. In my National Ramah role, I will continue visiting Tikvah programs across North America. I will also be visiting innovative vocational training programs across the country. I will continue to be in close contact with Tikvah and with the Ramah Galim community. We are so proud of the inclusive community Ramah Galim continues to be!