Blog | Camp Ramah Northern California - Part 5




COVID-19 Update #1- March 3, 2020

Dear Camp Families,

We know that you are all concerned with the global spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and wanted to let you know what we are doing to prepare for the coming season. As always, your children’s safety remains our top priority. We hope to update you on a regular basis as more information becomes available.


Bar-ista Mitzvah by Seth Golub, Ezra Coordinator

This summer, participants in Camp Ramah of Northern California’s Ezra (vocational training) program were excited and proud to launch a full-service café, serving freshly-ground coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and espresso drinks for the Ramah Galim staff.

The eponymous Café Ezra was inspired by similar programs at other Ramah locations, the café was seen as a way to provide a much needed service to hard-working camp staff, while providing a unique opportunity for Ezra participants to gain experience with a wide range of business, customer service, and food-handling skills.


Wheels Turning: Parshat Vayigash by Heather Renetzky, Rosh Chinuch

My journey to Ramah Galim was a long time coming. I spent most of my life “Ramah adjacent.” My brother was a Ramah Ojai camper and staff member and my years in United Synagogue Youth (USY) had exposed me to some of the ruach (spirit) of the Ramah universe. Yet, I was nervous to make the leap and come to camp myself. Would I feel at home? Would I be able to connect with people? Would it live up to my expectations? Even as a potential staff member, I was nervous!

In Parashat Vayigash, Jacob has similar qualms about journeying to Egypt. His sons have just returned from trying to acquire food in Egypt, where they discovered that Joseph, who they threw a pit and thought to be dead, is actually alive AND in charge of all of the rations! When they share this information with Jacob, he finds this very hard to believe. After so much anticipation, could it all be real?! With a few more convincing words from his sons, Jacob’s “spirit is enlivened” and he decides to make the journey.


2020 Ramah Galim Gala


Join us in celebrating five years of Camp Ramah in Northern California where we will be honoring

Janis Sherman Popp and our fifth year camper families. 

Sunday April 26, 2020


Proceeds to benefit camper scholarships – help us give the gift of camp to every Jewish child

Registration and details to follow


Parshat Noah, Sukkot, and Performing Arts by Mark Lazar

As I sit here in Tel Aviv, contemplating this week’s Torah Portion, Noah, and its relationship to Camp Ramah Galim, my mind rattles with endless connections. Obviously the grand Pacific Ocean, and the sightings of nature above and below, reminds us of the endless flow of rain showering down from the heavens. Whether it be whales, dolphins or seals, one can’t help but get excited about these glorious beasts. And occasionally, we are reminded of the flood with light drizzle which keeps the scenery green.

What did Noah contemplate on the ark in terms of building a new community after the water receded? What values did he dream would replace the old selfish and destructive society which God found to destroy as per the ancient text? 

At Ramah Galim, community, based on love and respect of each and every individual and love of Jewish values permeates the environment. The goal is to provide a safe haven for each and every camper (and staff member) to explore themselves, others, Judaism and their personal course of exploration whether it be around nature, water or, in my case, performing arts.


Beginnings and Endings, by Rabbi Jaymee Alpert

This Shabbat, we conclude our reading of the Book of Numbers with the double-portion Mattot-Mas’ei.  At the beginning of Parashat Mas’ei, Moses recounts the places the Children of Israel have encamped along their forty-year journey through the wilderness.  While the list might seem a bit dry to us as readers (there is not a lot of detail as to what happened where), I imagine that for the Israelites, it was a reminder of all the places they had been and the things they had experienced in each place.  What a fitting parashah for the end of camp!

By now, it is likely that your child has shared some camp memories with you.  Perhaps they have told you about the places they went, the friends the made, or some of the things they experienced.  Spending two or four or six weeks at Ramah Galim, after all, is a journey filled with growth. At camp, kids are encouraged to try new things and to take risks that will help them stretch and evolve.


The Value of Leadership by Branden Johnson, Program Director

The culture of Ramah Galim is founded on four primary midot  (values), which influence our programming and relationships at every level. Those four midot are: Kavod, respect; Ahavat Yisrael, a love of Israel; Simcha, joy or happiness; and Manhigut, leadership.

Two years ago, I moved to Israel, where I study in the Center for Jewish Educators at Pardes in Jerusalem. Ramah Galim has become my home away from home, the place where I spend the most time outside of Israel. I always look forward to my time here, where I get to connect with this incredible community and witness, in real time, the preparation of the next generation of leaders.

This week’s parasha, Pinchas, focuses on manhigut. It presents a series of three vignettes that show different types of leadership, each with unique merits and each with a unique outcome. Everything is framed by the context of the narrative which, at the end of the book of Numbers, finds Moses looking for a successor to lead the people into the land.


ShacharitALIVE: Reflecting On Meaningful Worship This Summer by Julian Brenman

It’s 7:30 on a typical July morning, and a band of 50 middle schoolers are found out of bed, conga-lining theirs souls out to a festive, upbeat song. No, Taylor Swift hasn’t made a surprise appearance, neither has a corn-dog truck pulled into town. The young lads and ladies are, gasp, in their morning prayer services, or “Shacharit” as we say in Hebrew. Over the past few weeks here at Camp Ramah in Northern California, campers in Edat HaSollelim (seventh-and-eighth-grade boys and girls) have been at the core of a thrilling shift in regard to the way we pray. With the expert and generous guidance of Rosh Edah, Alli Moses, as well as other talented members of our community, I feel so lucky to have been allowed the privilege of collaborating with various tzevet (staff) and chanichim (campers) with the goal of making morning prayers more educational, engaging, and meaningful. The results? Campers are at the center of prayer, proudly embracing their Judaism.


The Magic of Machaneh by Avram Ellner

My inner geek loves this week’s Torah portion, Balak, because it seems like something out of Tolkein’s Middle Earth. We read the story of sorcerer-extraordinaire, Balaam, and his foiled attempt to curse the Children of Israel. Instead of using his powers to curse Israel at the behest of the Moabite King Balak, he blesses them. How strange is it that the Torah implicitly acknowledges the existence and validity of magic? What are Balaam’s magical powers, and why is the sight of the tents of the Israelites enough for his magic powers to not just be nullified, but to be reversed entirely?

This parshah presents magic as Balaam’s ability to manipulate the world around him for his own agenda. Balaam’s magic is more than just coercion – he uses his will, in conjunction with ceremony and ritual, in order to break the laws of the natural world for personal gain. Yet, after his encounter with an angel and seeing the tents of Israel, Balaam’s magic fails miserably. Why? The holiness of the community of Israel, with its beautiful tents and networks of lives lived in holy relationship with one another, is something which could not be touched or manipulated by Balaam. This magic – the palpable experience of the sacred – causes Balaam to not curse, but bless, “מַה־טֹּ֥בוּ אֹהָלֶ֖יךָ יַעֲקֹ֑ב מִשְׁכְּנֹתֶ֖יךָ יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ – How fair are your tents, O Jacob, Your dwellings, O Israel!”


The Physical and Spiritual Waters of Ramah Galim

I will never forget the first time I came to visit Ramah Galim. It was the year before camp opened. Rabbi Mitch Cohen, the National Director of Ramah asked me if I wanted to walk down with him to see the ocean. That in and of itself was remarkable: a summer camp, let alone a Jewish one, with access to the great sea. Unthinkable. And now, five years later and in our fourth full summer up and running, I still have my breath taken away every time I walk down to the beach to watch the sunset, to light the Havdallah candle after Shabbat, to watch our chanichim (campers) praying tefillot afloat or biking on the sand or boogie boarding through the waves. A magic fills the air when you get to see your children dance on the sand as the waves brush over their feet while one edah roasts marshmallows in the background and another looks out over the seas from the bluffs. This is our Ramah Galim.