Wheels Turning: Parshat Vayigash by Heather Renetzky, Rosh Chinuch | Camp Ramah Northern California

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.

Before joining Ramah Galim, I too, like many of us, needed my spirit to be “enlivened.” Hearing about “tefillot afloat,” during which chanichim (campers) do morning tefillot on boogie boards and about the Galgal shel Torah, which encourages everyone to engage with the weekly Torah reading, encouraged me to jump in and join Ramah Galim. As soon as I saw the Pacific Ocean, I knew I was in the right place. From Bogrim’ers who enthusiastically engaged with mitzvot around challah making to Kochavim’ers already eager to read Torah, there was incredible ruach in every aspect of camp.

Now that I’m returning for my second year as Rosh Chinuch (Education Director), I’m excited to spend the months leading up to camp thinking about how to take our tefillah (prayer) and chinuch (education) content to the next level. Like Joseph, who ensures that his father and brothers get settled in Egypt, I want to make sure that each and every one of our tzevet (staff) and chanichim (campers) find an access point and connection point to Judaism at camp. I’ve got my mental wheels turning about how to make tefillah even more accessible, fun, and connected to Al Habama (Performing Arts), B’toch Hayam (Ocean Exploration), and Etgar (Outdoor Adventure).

My hope is that we can all keep our wheels turning, engaged actively in ideas or dreams of our own for how to make Judaism relevant and meaningful in our lives. Whether a first-time camp family or a supporter of Ramah, I know that together, we can continue to find sources of spiritual enlivenment for ourselves and our community.