A beautiful, productive, and educational camp vegetable garden. Chanichim eagerly awaiting their boxes of nishnoosh (snack), and munching happily once they arrive. Staff members enjoying cholent as they learn together on a Shabbat afternoon.
These wonderful vignettes came to be at Ramah Galim this past summer thanks to contributions of the two participants of Ramah Galim’s Ezra (vocational training) program, which I had the privilege of managing in its inaugural summer.
I am a PhD student in education and Jewish studies at NYU, where I’m working on a dissertation exploring inclusion in Jewish communities. In the past, I served as a rosh edah in the Atzmayim vocational program at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, and visited a number of vocational programs at Jewish summer camps for a research paper I published in the Journal of Jewish Education. When I saw that Ramah Galim was starting a new vocational program, I jumped at the opportunity to bring what I had learned from my research into practice.
The Ezra participants spent their mornings sampling an array of activities, including horseback riding, boogie boarding, cycling, performing arts, and kayaking. They helped staff members facilitate the activities as much as possible by setting up kayaks, packing for the masa (overnight trip), and serving as role models for younger campers.
In the afternoons, the Ezra participants worked various jobs in and around camp. One spent his afternoon tending the vegetable garden and teaching kids how to plant, water, and harvest. The other passed out Nishnoosh, and then took care of the evening routine at the small animal farm at the nearby Monterey Bay Horsemanship & Therapeutic Center, making sure the goats, sheep, ducks, and chickens had everything they needed.
During free time, the Ezra participants joined staff members for staff limmud (learning sessions), programming, and hanging out in the staff lounge. They also joined fellow staff members on a day off in Santa Cruz. Shabbat cholent specially prepared by Ezra participants was a highlight of weekly staff limmud!
After a successful first summer, we are all looking forward to the Ezra program’s becoming an integral part of the recipe that makes Ramah Galim such a special place.