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National Ramah Commission, Inc. of The Jewish Theological Seminary

August 11, 2011

11 Av 5771

JTS Chancellor Arnold Eisen Visits Ramah Camps

"One of my favorite things to do as Chancellor of The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) is to spend time at Ramah camps each summer. Ramah is one of the greatest accomplishments of JTS and continues to create Jewish leadership for the future."
JTS Chancellor Eisen at Ramah
On August 2, JTS Chancellor Dr. Arnold Eisen and National Ramah Director Rabbi Mitchell Cohen spent the day at Ramah Day Camp in Nyack, New York. As they toured the camp, Dr. Eisen had the opportunity to see extensive camper programming and to address many groups of staff. After an engaging conversation with the camp's mishlachat, during which many of the Israeli counselors spoke about the incredible inspiration they have received at camp, Dr. Eisen attended a dedication ceremony for Ramot Ramah, Nyack's beautiful new facility that serves as a staff housing complex and retreat center.

During an evening program for staff parents, Dr. Eisen led an educational session on the book of Devarim for staff and staff parents who filled the camp's beit knesset. Afterwards, Chancellor Eisen addressed the entire group, describing his view of the power of the educational theory of Ramah:
Long before I became JTS Chancellor, I knew that the key to Jewish life and Jewish identity is creating communities that are vibrant, where people can feel what it is to be part of something larger than themselves, and something that brings people together in a Jewish time and space. And of course Ramah is that community, the only place where American Jews get to be fully Jewish, fully human, 24-7, where swimming is Jewish, and baseball is Jewish, and Torah study is Jewish, but so is every other kind of conversation because of the Chancellor Eisen Remarksplace that it happens.... As long as I am JTS Chancellor, I will be working hard to bring JTS and Ramah still closer together because there is no doubt that Ramah is one of the greatest achievements of American Jewish life.

(Click here or on the image, left, to watch a video of Chancellor Eisen's remarks.)
Later in the evening, Ami Hersh, the assistant director of Ramah Nyack, Rabbi Cohen, and Dr. Eisen publicly congratulated camp director Amy Skopp Cooper on receiving the 2011 prestigious Covenant Award for Excellence in Jewish Education. Dr. Eisen stated, "Amy is an extraordinary leader and this camp is an extraordinary place. I cannot imagine a more deserving recipient of this year's Covenant Award."

The next morning, Rabbi Cohen and Dr. Eisen traveled to Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, where Dr. Eisen addressed groups of counselors, teen campers and senior staff. Dr. Eisen fielded a wide range of questions about his own personal Jewish journey, the future of Conservative Judaism, study opportunities at JTS and the relationship between Jews in America and in Israel. "As always, I came away from my Ramah visits invigorated and more confident than ever in the future of our movement," said Dr. Eisen.

Funders of Training for Special Needs Programs Staff Visit Camp Ramah

In May, the Neshamot Fund of UJA-Federation of NY in Westchester awarded a $25,000 grant to the National Ramah Commission (NRC) to support 2011-2012 training programs for staff members of our special needs programs. The funding will help to professionalize the training for Ramah staff and to facilitate the sharing of best practices across the Ramah Camping Movement.


Neshamot Visits Ramah

(L to R, Shari Aronson; Liz Sommer; Ellen Thurm; Rabbi Mitch Cohen, National Ramah Director; Shayna Fel, NRC Special Needs Network Coordinator)

Last week, Shari Aronson, a leader of the Neshamot group, visited Camp Ramah in New England, along with Liz Sommer and Ellen Thurm, of UJA-Federation of NY in Westchester.  The visitors spent time with the campers and staff of Ramah New England's Tikvah program, which serves teens ages 13-18 with mild to moderate intellectual and developmental disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, neurological impairments, and physical challenges. The group also had the opportunity to visit with participants in the Tochnit HaAvodah vocational education program for 18-21 year-olds and the Post Voc Ed Program, which offers summer employment to a select group of Tikvah graduates.


After the visit, Ellen wrote, "Great camp....great staff...great day!! Thanks so much. On behalf of Neshamot, we are pleased to support the wonderful work of Camp Ramah."

Ramah Alumna Receives
Yakir Yerushalyim Award   


Barbara Levin, an alumna of Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, was one of twelve Jerusalem residents to receive the "Yakir Yerushalayim" ("Treasured Jerusalemite") award for 2011. The Jerusalem municipality grants these awards annually on Yom Yerushalayim to those who have made long-term contributions to Jerusalem. As a Jewish educator, Barbara has had a lasting influence on Israel's educational system, having played a major role in the growth of the TALI school movement.

Barbara, who attended Ramah Wisconsin as a camper and staff member in the 1950s, has dedicated her professional career to Jewish education, first in the United States and then, after making aliyah in 1969, in Israel. She is the founding principal of the pioneering Frankel TALI School in Jerusalem's French Hill, which has been described as having "set a standard to be emulated by other schools." Barbara has written that she was motivated by a desire to "meet the challenge of providing an educational alternative that would offer a serious Jewish education reflecting pluralism in Jewish tradition and Israel society."

Kol HaKavod to Barbara on this wonderful and meaningful honor.

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