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National Ramah Commission, Inc. of The Jewish Theological Seminary

June 16, 2011

 14 Sivan 5771

Tikvah Year-Round Connections:

Powerful Feedback about "Shabbos Is Calling"

Dear Friends of Ramah:

Among all of the new initiatives and staff training programs that the National Ramah Commission has begun in recent years, "Shabbos Is Calling," created by Camp Ramah in New England Tikvah Director Howard Blas, is as powerful as anything else we do. Piloted for the campers in the Ramah New England Tikvah program, Shabbos Is Calling uses video conferencing technology to connect campers and staff on a weekly basis prior to Shabbat, for a half hour of songs, stories and renewed friendship.

With a generous grant from Jay Ruderman and the Ruderman Family Foundation, the National Ramah Commission has been able to support Ramah New England's efforts, and to begin to extend this program to the other Ramah camps' Tikvah programs, through the hard work of Howard Blas and Shayna Fel, the newly appointed National Ramah Special Needs Network ("Reshet") Coordinator. Together with the proceeds of the recent Ramah Bike Ride and a generous grant from the Neshamot Fund of UJA in Westchester, NY, National Ramah is proud that we are growing a stronger central network to support all special needs programs at our camps.

Please see below this moving letter from Roberta Lieber, whose son, Sam, attends the Tikvah program at Camp Ramah in New England and looks forward to his weekly video chat. Also, please click here to read a recent article in eJewish Philanthropy about Shabbos Is Calling


Mitchell Cohen 

Rabbi Mitchell Cohen, National Director



Shabbos Is CallingThis is a photo of our son Sam enjoying "Shabbos Is Calling." Sam looked forward to his weekly computer chat with camp friends all year. He reminded us every Thursday that today was the day for his computer chat with his camp Ramah friends. At first he didn't participate very much, but his eyes were always glued to the screen and each time had an enormous smile on his face from the very first moment onward. As the year went by he started talking more and singing along.


Sam's camp friends are his only Jewish friends, so Shabbos Is Calling is the only Jewish activity he does with friends during the year. We attend synagogue and celebrate Shabbat, but Sam has
no Jewish friends in our community to share those experiences.


Shabbos Is Calling was a major hit with Sam. He sees his brothers chatting on the computer with their friends all the time, and this was his own chance to experience that very typical social outlet. Sam is very drawn in to visual experiences, so having his friends and counselors faces up on a big screen was so much more exciting than talking on the phone. Sam is very sociable and often asks to invite camp friends over to visit, but because they live far away, he can only occasionally see camp friends during the year. Shabbos Is Calling allowed Sam to see his friends every week, something we could never have done otherwise. I think this contributed to his excitement about going back to camp this summer. He has literally been counting down the months and days til camp all year long!


Friendships make life joyful, and people with disabilities need help to make and keep these relationships. So much of their lives are focused on getting them to perform better, improve skills, and overcome obstacles. This is important work, but having friends is what makes most of us look forward to our days, and people with disabilities are no different. Nothing makes this clearer than the big smile on Sam's face when he sees his friends faces pop up on the Shabbos Is Calling screen.


We hope that Camp Ramah can continue Shabbos Is Calling. These wonderful weekly get-togethers have become part of Sam's weekly routine and bring him a great deal of happiness.


- Roberta Lieber