Blog | Camp Ramah Northern California - Part 5




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.



Chanukah, the Holiday of Chinukh by Rabbi Josh Berkenwald of Congregation Sinai

Chanukah begins in just a few days.  The Festival of Lights celebrates the victory by the Maccabees over the forces of the Greek King Antiochus IV.  Antiochus had outlawed Jewish religious practices and introduced pagan worship into the Temple in Jerusalem in an effort to force assimilation upon the Jews of the land of Israel.


D’var Torah: Learning Through Tears & Songs of Joy

I have always believed that each of us is a rabbi inside, because “rabbi” after all means “my teacher.” At camp we have the opportunity to learn from everyone.  Just the other day a staff member reflected to me after our last session of campers left on Wednesday, “Thank you for modeling that to be a leader is to be a learner.”


Guest Reflection: Ramah in my Heart, Ramah on my Mind

After my first year of rabbinical school, I knew I had to find my way to Camp Ramah. As a child and a teen, I had not gone to overnight camp, but I knew about the magic of Camp Ramah. So in June of 2001, I piled all three kids into the car and headed to Camp Ramah of California where I served as a Morah (teacher) of Judaic studies for the various edot (age divisions).


Guest Reflection: Creating Sacred Spaces

When we talk about the concept of sacred spaces, we often think about the obvious – synagogues and holy sites. At Ramah Galim, the concept of a sacred space has taken on a whole new meaning for me.

This week’s parsha, Va’etchanan, includes Moshe’s retelling of the Ten Commandments and the famous Shema prayer. The first words after the Shema are the V’ahavta paragraph, or in English: “And you shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your might (or means).”

At Ramah Galim, I can honestly say that these words come to life every single day and I’d like to briefly share what I witnessed:


Guest D’var Torah: Camp Holidays

This week’s parasha is one of the more camp-appropriate parshiot for the summer. Va’etchanan has the Shema and the second announcement of the Aseret HaDibrot, the 10 commandments. Before the people come and hear these 10 sayings to live by, there is a verse that illustrates “you came near and stood tachat the mountain” “tachat ha’har.” Tachat means under though is often translated as “at the bottom” since standing under a mountain is rather impossible and undesirable. Chizkuni, Hezekiah ben Manoah of 13th century France, uses the translation of “standing at the bottom of the mountain” to interpret that the people stood at attention, as compared to a verse in Exodus 19:17.

However, the Gemara cites a rabbinic discussion claiming that the people really were tachat, under, the mountain.


Guest D’var Torah: Teach Your Children Well

It has been a privilege to spend the past week up here at Camp Ramah Galim. I have witnessed beautiful acts of hesed, inspired moments of learning and Torah in action. Of course, this camp is uniquely positioned in the landscape of Jewish camping: where else are campers davening Shacharit in the morning and Birkat HaMazon after meals, while filling their days with scuba instruction, surfing, biking, horseback riding, and kayaking?