Over dinner somewhere in the heart of downtown Mexico City, I heard the words, “Camp Ramah is my home away from home where I feel like I can be my true self. I love going to Ramah every summer because it allows me to come out of my shell, make new friends, and explore my Jewish identity in new ways.” I gazed up from my plate of kosher tacos and falafel and was surprised to see that these words did not come from one of the fellow Ramah professionals I had been traveling with over the last few days. Rather, the speaker was a 13-year-old Ramah camper from Mexico City. I met her smile, realizing that the experience and love of Ramah that I feel was not only shared between me and members of Ramah staff, but also between campers and families as far south as Mexico, and between Jews from all over the world.
Last week, I had the privilege of traveling to Mexico City with Kerem, a cohort of young Ramah professionals from all across the US and Canada led by Mitch Cohen, the National Ramah Director. [Click here to read Mitch’s reflection on the trip]. Together, we engaged in professional development work, sharing professional highlights and working through challenges; we toured Mexico City, hiking the Teotihuacán pyramids and floating down the canals of Xochimilco; and we celebrated a warm and ruach-filled Ramah Shabbat with Mexican campers and staff, Jewish leaders, and community members.
While I expected the trip to center around professional development work and friendship-forming within the Kerem group, my journey to Mexico proved to be much more expansive and profound. From Kabbalat Shabbat to Havdallah, I experienced the power of community-building between Kerem and our Mexican Jewish hosts. As we sang the familiar words of shalom aleichem together, arm-in-arm, and banged passionately on the tables during birkat hamazon, I was reminded of how deeply Ramah connects young Jews of different cultures to one another and broadens the definition of what it means to be Jewish and to be part of a global community. I am excited by the opportunity to welcome Mexican chanichim (campers) and tzevet (staff) to Ramah Galim and was thrilled to lay the foundation for that partnership last week.
Ultimately, the Kerem trip to Mexico City was a reflection of Ramah’s commitment to both strengthening and expanding our community so that young people all over the world can have a place where they feel at home and proud to be Jewish. Camp Ramah has provided invaluable experiences for a growing number of Mexican Jews and was the unifying force that connected us all to one another last week.
I am incredibly inspired by both the Kerem community and the Mexico City Jewish community, and feel honored to have gone on this journey. On this Shabbat, may we all find ways to connect more deeply with our own communities as well as others near and far, in order to build relationships, learn from each other, and engage with our Judaism collectively.
Director of Communications, Camp Ramah in Northern California