Blog | Camp Ramah Northern California - Part 3




Reflections in Tikvah at Ramah Galim and Nationally

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!


Empowering Blessings- A D’var Torah on Parshat Nasso by Rabbi Sarah

Empowering Blessings

A D’var Torah on Parshat Nasso by Rabbi Sarah

My daughter Lielle was born a few years ago on a Thursday morning. I pressed the doctors to discharge us on Friday so we could return home for Shabbat dinner. Above everything else, I was hungry for a bracha:  

יְבָרֶכְךָ֥ יְהוָ֖ה וְיִשְׁמְרֶֽךָ׃

May God bless you and protect you.

יָאֵ֨ר יְהוָ֧ה ׀ פָּנָ֛יו אֵלֶ֖יךָ וִֽיחֻנֶּֽךָּ׃

May God shine God’s light to you and be gracious to you!

יִשָּׂ֨א יְהוָ֤ה ׀ פָּנָיו֙ אֵלֶ֔יךָ וְיָשֵׂ֥ם לְךָ֖ שָׁלֽוֹם׃

May God lift God’s face up to your direction and grant you peace (Numbers 6: 24-26).


Astray By Deanna Neil

Two goats

not the one bought for two zuzim

but they were sacrificed just the same

They are in the field now

chewing on grass

thinking they have perfect bodies

ears perked

They listen for the approaching footsteps

The violence to come

One cuts, drips back to the divine

an offering

the other


will hold the weight of wrongs done by others

they’ll put their hands on him

don’t lay a hand on me

hush. not to injure

just to transmit

to give away

an escape


Tazria: From Seed to Thrive, By Rabbi Sarah

What a gift it is in life when we can nurture a project, a plant, an idea, or a human being from seed to a state of thriving.  In this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Tazria, we read about the instructions for birthing rituals including circumcision. Interestingly, the Torah does not use just one word for the birthing process, but instead two – tazria (to seed) and yalda (to birth). In a text where every addition and repetition is full of meaning, rabbinic commentaries notice the significance of the presence of both these verbs. Their presence reminds us that any birthing process is just that, a process, one that can be full of stages and milestones, setbacks and miracles.

My greatest joy over the last four years has been witnessing all the milestones and miracles in the seeding and development of Ramah in Northern California, and doing so in tandem with the development of young leaders and of my own daughter who was born just a few months before camp opened in 2016.  When I first walked along camp’s shores and dreamed of Havdallah on the Beach, I scribbled down the following words:

Years from now when my children ask where we came from-

I will point here to these waves of familiarity

where the nuclei of any summer

are the unexpected leaders we make of each other.


Bringing Israel to Camp, By Alana Tilman

Close your eyes and imagine an auditorium full of 500 people dancing our favorite Ramah Galim Rikud Dances -Lo Normali and Ba Kalil…. Do you feel the energy? The passion? The excitement?

I personally experienced this incredible image first-hand last week at the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Annual Shlichim Training Seminar. This intensive 5 day Seminar at Kibbutz Shefayim is designed for the young Israeli leaders who are dedicating their summer to working at Jewish Summer Camps across North America. Ramah Galim along with all Ramah Camps are privileged to participate in this program. This summer, we can’t wait to welcome 12 incredible Shlichim to our Ramah Galim community through this powerful partnership.  


Ari’s Blog: Kerem Goes to Israel and Italy

As I stand in the pews of the Great Synagogue of Rome, surrounded by Ramah colleagues and friends, I feel humbled and inspired by the significance of this building. The Great Synagogue of Rome stands in neighborhood where Roman Jews have lived in peace and under oppressive rule for hundreds of years. Throughout this time, the Great Synagogue has continued to be a haven for Jewish practice and tradition that continues to this day. Listening to the prayerful melodies, which are both foreign and familiar, reminds me of just how much Judaism and Ramah have been key pillars in my life.


Machaneh and Mishkan: Creating the Sacred, Together by Avram Ellner

As a veteran Ramahnik, I cannot wait to join the Ramah Galim community and offer my abilities and skills to camp as Rosh Nachshonim. For seven summers, I was a camper at Camp Ramah in the Poconos, and for four years, I was a counselor and Rosh Edah. One of the highlights of my time as a staff member was as a Gesher counselor, Poconos’ edah equivalent to Nachshonim, and providing my campers with meaningful experiences and leadership opportunities. I know my staff and I will create a Nachshonim program which our campers will remember for years to come. I would not be who I am today without my experiences at camp, and I know that it is in this place that we create something sacred.


D’var Torah: Parshat Mishpatim by Howard Blas, Director-National Ramah Tikvah Network

Parshat Mishpatim
By Howard Blas, Director-National Ramah Tikvah Network
On the first day of camp each summer, counselors and division heads sometimes give their campers the task of coming up with room and edah (division) rules which all will agree to follow. Many start with the obvious—like no fighting, and no touching or taking others’ possessions without permission. These “basics” are easily observable and measurable. Campers doing this exercise quickly realize that it is impossible to list every single rule and behavioral expectation, and that there are often gray areas and need for interpretation and good judgement. They ultimately arrive at basic principles like “be nice,” “be kind” and “show respect to all.”
Our Jewish tradition offers some useful general principles and reminders on how to behave. The Torah teaches “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev 9:17), and Rabbi Hillel reminds us (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a), “That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it.”
Sometimes, we need specific “dos and don’ts.” In my 25 years working with National Ramah’s Tikvah inclusion programs for people with disabilities, I have learned that most people with autism, and perhaps most people in general, rely on rules and routines to keep their environment predictable and to feel safe. Rules keep the community running smoothly and they attempt to eliminate doubt as to what is permitted and what is forbidden.


Staff Spotlight: Edan Tamler, Rosh Shira

My name is Edan Tamler. I am 22 years old and currently live in New York City teaching music at Ramaz (a Jewish Day School in Manhattan). I say currently because even though I spent the first 15 years of my life here, Israel is my home. When I was 15 my parents decided to make Aliyah and relocated our family to a small settlement in the Southern Galilee in an area called Misgav. As one can imagine moving from New York City to a small town on a mountain in Israel, was quite the lifestyle change. However different, this change was an exciting and meaningful one, that I am so happy my parents made. My home in Eshchar, a mixed Yeshuv if religious and secular Jews, sits at the highest point of the mountain. Almost every night, we can enjoy incredible views of the Mediterranean Sea as the sun goes down (views rivaled only by those you see at Ramah Galim!)


Everything I Need to Know I Learned at Jewish Summer Camp by Monica Shapiro

Are you wondering what you will do this summer? Have you spent sleepless nights debating your options: either return to camp as a staff member or enter the working world and accept an internship or job in your professional area?  Perhaps this decision will be easier if you consider the ways in which a camp counselor experience will help you later in your professional and personal life.


As a therapist and as the Director of Camper Care I would like to share with you some skills a camp counselor or specialist will use everyday that will forever benefit you in a future professional job.  Dr. Marsha Linehan developed a form of therapeutic treatment called Dialectical Behavioral Skills (or DBT) used by many therapists to support positive behavioral changes. Some of these skills are essential in life and, as it happens, are skills you will use almost daily to support the success of a camper’s experience.