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National Ramah Commission, Inc. of The Jewish Theological Seminary

July 8, 2011

 6 Tammuz 5771

July 2011 News from Ramah
:: Second Summer of Ramah Outdoor Adventure Off to a Great Start
:: Campers from 1960s Reunite Fifty Years Later at Ramah Nyack
:: Ramah Israel Seminar Begins Inspirational Summer 2011
:: Ramah Darom and Silvershein Family Establish the Andrew Silvershein Memorial Fund
:: AVI CHAI-Funded Daber Initiative Encouraging Greater Hebrew Usage at All Ramah Camps
:: National Ramah Commission Leaders Hold Annual Summer Meeting in Denver

Second Summer of Ramah Outdoor Adventure Off to a Great Start


In the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, campers at Ramah Outdoor Adventure (ROA) just concluded a fantastic two-week session. In this excerpt from his blog, Rabbi Eliav Bock, Director, describes the summer as "inspirational and memorable," mentioning some of the exciting activities that take place at the Ramah in the Rockies ranch:

Ramah Outdoor Adventure
"Since the second day of camp, our horses have been working about eight hours a day taking chalutzim (pioneers/campers) on trail rides around the ranch. Our bikers have explored many of the trails in camp, including some with considerable inclines. Our advanced climbers have spent hours scaling cliffs hundreds of feet high, including one who did a multi-pitch climb yesterday; our beginner climbers have learned the basics of belay technique and the basics of climbing on real rock faces." Read more
The feedback from families of campers is absolutely wonderful. According to one parent, Karen Jaffe of Irvine, CA:
What an amazing two weeks my kids have had! I'm having a difficult time putting this into words, but I can tell you from the camper and the campers' parents' perspective, it was a huge success ... Some comments: We learned so much Hebrew ... Rachael read Torah (amazing) ... Three deer came to the pardes (field) while we were davening ..." Kol Hakavod to you and your staff for providing such an incredible, Jewish, and warm experience for our kids.
On Wednesday, staff members welcomed campers to ROA's second session, which includes the Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute (JOLI), a dynamic new program that trains Jewish teens (entering 11th and 12th grades) to become competent and confident outdoor leaders.

Campers from 1960s Reunite Fifty Years Later at Ramah Nyack


Nyack 1960s

This week at Ramah Day Camp in Nyack, a group of eight Ramah Nyack campers from the early 1960s gathered for a reunion. (See photo, right, circa 1961, and below left, recreated in 2011.) The eight included: Bruce Leipzig, Alan Levin, Joey Muntner, Henry Rosenblum, John Ruskay, Ira Silverstein, Carl Wolkin, and Jonathan Woocher. Some had not been back in the past 50 years to visit Ramah Nyack, which was an overnight camp from 1961 to 1965.

For three very special hours, the men laughed, reminisced, and reminded one another about the staff members and fellow campers with whom they shared their Ramah Nyack experience. A highlight of the visit was a learning session with Rabbi Tamar Elad-Appelbaum, Associate Dean of the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary in Jerusalem. Rabbi Elad-Appelbaum is spending two weeks in camp as a guest scholar, partially funded by a grant from the AVI CHAI Foundation.

Nyack 2011

The group met with current staff members to discuss Ramah's incredible enduring impact on their lives, their careers, their Judaism, and their families. Dr. Jonathan Woocher, Chief Ideas Officer and Director of the Lippman Kanfer Institute, Jewish Education Service of North America (JESNA), said, "When you are involved in Jewish life as a young person ... you may not necessarily find yourself surrounded by people who are involved and committed. Ramah gave me a succession of networks of friends who [have] ... been enormously important in my life." Dr. John Ruskay, Executive Vice President and CEO of UJA-Federation of NY, has also commented, "I think the core of Ramah is that it provides the opportunity for people to be introduced to a total living Jewish community, ... a life-changing and transformational experience."

The members of the group were particularly moved by the dynamism of the current staff members at Ramah Nyack. After the reunion, Hazzan Henry Rosenblum of The Forest Hills Jewish Center and former Dean of the H.L. Miller Cantorial School at The Jewish Theological Seminary wrote, "Yesterday was an amazing moment in time for us. Not only did you help us go back to that special time and place, but you enabled us to see what the future looks like as well." Rabbi Carl Wolkin of Congregation Beth Shalom in Northbrook, IL, and President of the Chicago Board of Rabbis agreed, calling the reunion, "A day to remember forever."

Ramah Israel Seminar Begins Inspirational Summer 2011


Last week, 166 Ramah Seminar participants arrived in Israel, meeting up with the 104 participants who began their Seminar experience with a very powerful trip to Poland. 


The Ramah Seminar staff of more than 60 experienced and enthusiastic educators, counselors, and administrators has planned an incredible experience for the 270 participants. The seven Seminar kvutzot (groups) explored different themes as they traveled to various sites for their "People, Land, and Community" unit

Ramah Seminar 2011For the theme "The Golan: Past and Present," participants learned about the beauty, Jewish roots, and strategic importance of the Golan. They hiked in the beautiful Nahal Majesra riverbed and visited Mount Bental, a dormant volcano that is one of the highest peaks in Israel, with an impressive view of Syria.

As part of the "Borders" theme, participants visited Tel Hai, one of the oldest Zionist settlements on Israel's Northern border, as well as Kibbutz Misgav Am, where they met with a resident of the kibbutz who spoke about life on the northern border. One participant, Andrea (Kvutzat Amichai), told Seminar staff, "Seminar so far has been a real eye-opening experience, especially with this group of people; it's like being with family. I enjoyed the hike down the cliff and there was such a great view of the Kinneret and the different cities and valley below." 

Ramah Seminar 2011 

Ramah Darom and Silvershein Family Establish the Andrew Silvershein Memorial Fund


Those wishing to honor the memory of Andrew Silvershein, z"l, a 16-year-old Ramah Darom camper from Davie, FL, can make a donation to the Andrew Silvershein Memorial Scholarship Fund, c/o Ramah Darom, 6400 Powers Ferry Road, Suite 215, Atlanta, GA 30339. Click here to donate online.


You may also send a brief message of condolence by texting to 20222. Just start the text with the word "Ramah," followed by your personal message (U.S. cell phones only). We will forward these messages to Andrew's parents. A $5 fee will be billed to your cell phone account for this service, the proceeds of which will go to benefit the scholarship fund.

AVI CHAI-Funded Daber Initiative Encouraging Greater Hebrew Usage
at All Ramah Camps   

The second year of the Daber Hebrew Language Initiative, funded by the AVI CHAI Foundation, has been extremely well-received by all our camps, with more Daber Fellows, more training, better materials, and increased enthusiasm. This spring, 100 staff members participated in training sponsored by the National Ramah Commission.


These staff members found the training to be very important preparation for their work as Daber Fellows this summer. According to Benji Davis of Camp Ramah in California, "I learned valuable tools and programs to use ... and I loved the sharing of ideas between camps." Aliza Shapiro of Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, who was among 23 participants who participated in training sessions while spending the year in Israel, said, "I knew after a year in Israel that Hebrew would be something I wanted to integrate into the summer, and the Daber training helped to give me the tools to use for implementation."

Daber Playing CardA variety of new materials have been developed for use at Ramah camps, including "Reviyot" and "3-4-5," two card games that use custom-designed card decks to teach, reinforce, and review Hebrew phrases (see sample card, right). In addition, 60 new programs have been added to the Ramah Program Bank, and 20 call and response cheers (called "moralim" as they are designed to raise morale) have been created to ensure greater usage of Hebrew in campers' daily activities. 

National Ramah Commission
Leaders Hold Annual Summer
Meeting in Denver


Each summer the leadership of the National Ramah Commission holds meetings at one of the Ramah camps. This week these Ramah leaders - Presidents of each Ramah camp and National Ramah officers - visited Ramah Outdoor Adventure in the Colorado Rockies.


The feeling of excitement and enthusiasm was enormous. "We take so much pride in the development of our newest overnight camp," said Dr. Charles Mann, NRC President. "I am so impressed with the ruach and passion of the staff, and I feel that this new camp's growth is a great sign for our entire Ramah movement." Senior Vice President Sheldon Disenhouse added: "The site is breathtaking and the program engages the campers in so many ways. We were all inspired by our visit to camp, seeing all that has been accomplished in just two years."
Ramah Outdoor Adventure