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The Perspective We Get With Distance, by Rabbi Sarah Graff from Congregation Kol Emeth in Palo Alto, CA

As I read our double Torah portion of Chukkat and Balak this week, I am struck by the different perspective one can gain when looking from a distance. Parashat Chukkat reminds us of the struggles of life in the Israelite camp. Miriam dies, the community is without water, and they complain to Moses, saying, “Why have you brought the Lord’s congregation into this wilderness for us and our beasts to die there? Why did you make us leave Egypt to bring us to this wretched place?” Their complaints, coupled with the loss of Miriam, bring Moses to his breaking point. He hits the rock to bring forth water, rather than following God’s instruction to speak to the rock. And Moses is punished for his behavior. The Israelites have problems!
Yet in Parashat Balak, we get a totally different picture of the Israelite camp. We are transported to the land of Moab, where King Balak is terrified of the Israelites and their power. He tries to get the prophet Bilam to curse the Israelites, but Bilam has only blessings for the Jewish people.  From up on the mountain top, Bilam proclaims, “Mah tovu ohalecha Ya’akov, mishkenotecha Yisrael,” “How good are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel.” It’s strange that the Torah is suddenly letting us into the minds of foreign kings and prophets. But what a powerful gift it is, to see ourselves from a different perspective, to view our lives from a distance.

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Nachshon Project Counselor Fellowship: Blog Post by Alli Moses, Assistant Director

Ongoing training and professional development is an integral part of the summer experience for our Tzevet. Unfortunately we are not able to be together in person at camp, immersed in an environment that promotes the growth and development of our staff. We are grateful for the Nachshon Project’s Camp Counselor Fellowship, which trains our young Jewish leaders, and we are excited that five of our counselors have the incredible opportunity to be a part of this inaugural program. 

Over the course of the last two weeks, our counselors have been a part of a cohort of camp counselors both from within the Ramah movement and across the Jewish camping network. Together they have learned from professionals throughout the Jewish world, and worked on developing and honing their skills as leaders in our camp community. “Being one of hundreds of teens and young adults who are dedicated to improving our leadership skills is truly inspiring. I know that I will take everything I learn with me back to camp – both virtually this summer, and hopefully in person next year. I am glad that I have this opportunity to grow, so that I can come back to camp with a new set of tools to make it the best that it can possibly be,” writes counselor Eliana Saidel. This interactive learning experience engages our staff in conversations around child psychology and camper care, Jewish learning and Israel engagement. Counselors also have the unique ability to hear keynote addresses from major Jewish personalities. The experience culminates in the creation of a final project, where each counselor will reflect on their experience, take inspiration from what they learned and translate it into a camp project that they will implement for our campers to enjoy this summer, as a component of our virtual programming.

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Parshat Naso: A D’var Torah by Natalie Rochman, Rosh Edah

Much as days in quarantine can flow one into another without much variation, the chieftains of the Israelite tribes gave offerings to God, one after the other in similar succession. Parshat Naso concludes with God receiving offerings as twelve gifts accepted through the hands of Moses. Though all very similar in content, the Torah still describes each gift separately, as each gift is unique. They are unique because of the significance not for God who is receiving it, but for the chieftain and their tribe. Routine, in gifts or daily activity, the Torah teaches us, promotes a different point of view. It is important in these times to not dwell on the uniformity but celebrate the unique opportunities and perspectives every day provides.

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Finding Holiness on a Zoom Call by Avram Ellner, Rosh Nachshonim

Now more than ever, we need reminders, and not just that we have another Zoom call in 15 minutes and should eat and drink something beforehand! While we need those reminders too, we also need to be reminded of the larger context of our lives. We need those words of encouragement and love from friends and family – the phone calls, the group virtual game nights playing Psych!, the “I love you” text messages. We need these relationships to be reminded, and to remind others, that while now we are separate, we are not isolated. 

 

We read two Torah portions this week, Acharei Mot and K’doshim, and they too serve as reminders of the larger context of our lives, of why we do the things we do, and who we are. In K’doshim, we are reminded of our holiness three times:

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Monica Shapiro’s Passover Article: Reflecting and Taking Action

It goes without saying that Passover will look much different this year for many people, our family included.  Typically at this time of year I am feeling the strain and stress of kashering the kitchen, shopping for food, developing the menu, welcoming family from near and far, and planning for an interactive Seder for our three children and our guests.  Like many of you, our Seders are typically filled with blessings, stories, songs, poems and more. And as my mom has shared in years past, we’ve come a long way since the Maxwell House Hagaddah she grew up using as a child in her apartment in Brooklyn. 

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The Fifth Child at Seder This Year By Rabbi Sarah Shulman

This article was published in eJewish Philanthropy on March 30th, 2020. 

In another week, we will be sitting with our families around the virtual seder table, equipped with google docs and pdfs to keep us on the same page. In telling the story of the Exodus, we will read about four children: the wise, the wicked, the simple, and the one who does not know how to ask. This year, amidst the uncertainty that has come to be our new norm, we also feel the presence of a fifth child. This child admits, “I don’t know,” reflecting the truth her inquiring parents hold just as much as she does. The fourth child knows not how to ask; the fifth child knows not how to act.

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COVID-19 Update #5- March 25, 2020

Dear Camp Ramah in Northern California Families,

We hope this email finds your family healthy and safe amidst the difficult times in which we find ourselves. It was such a blessing to see many familiar camp faces at our virtual Havdallah last Saturday night.  We’ll be joining together again this Saturday evening, March 28 at 8pm PST over Zoom here.  I hope you can join us for a camp-style Havdallah with onesie pajamas, song, and dance.

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COVID-19 Update #4- March 18, 2020

Dear Ramah Galim Camp Families,

I hope this email finds you feeling healthy and connected to family.  Amidst these overwhelming times, I have adopted a daily gratitude practice as part of my morning prayers, asking myself each morning, “What I am feeling grateful for?” as a rise from bed to be a mother, camp leader, teacher, and more each day.  Today I am grateful for the food in my pantry and the songs my daughter Lielle makes up that rhyme and make me laugh.

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COVID-19 Update #3- March 13, 2020

Dear Ramah Families,

Today like many of you, I got the email:  School cancelled next week.  As many of us prepare for weeks of remote learning and social distancing, here at Camp Ramah in Northern California we would like to offer our campers and families some opportunities for reconnection.

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