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National Ramah Commission, Inc. of The Jewish Theological Seminary 
February 2013
Adar 5773
Tikvah, Breira B'Ramah, and Camp Yofi:
Ramah's Innovative Programs for Campers with Special Needs  
Special Needs Programs Brochure CoverFebruary is Jewish Disabilities Awareness Month. It's a great time to update our Ramah community about Tikvah, Breira B'Ramah, and Camp Yofi, Ramah's innovative programs for children, teens, and young adults with special needs.

Building on the success of our first-ever Ramah Israel Bike Ride in 2011, riders and hikers on this year's Ramah Israel Bike Ride and Hiking Trip are training and preparing for this exciting event in April, which will again raise funds for the network of Ramah programs for campers with special needs. We are hoping that the entire Ramah community will support a rider or hiker, or make a general donation of any amount to this important cause.

The Ramah Camping Movement's inspirational programming for campers with disabilities and Ramah's dedication to inclusion continue to attract the attention of funders and philanthropists: 

Individual Ramah camps serve different age groups and different populations of children with special needs. Regardless of their geographic location, families are directed to the Ramah camp that best suits their child's needs. For more information, see this overview of Ramah's special needs programs, or contact National Ramah at (212) 678-8881.


Ramah also offers three inspirational family camps for families with children with special needs: 

We hope you enjoy reading these highlights from last summer's camp programs:  
Berkshires | California | Canada | Darom | New England | Ramah Outdoor AdventurePoconos | Wisconsin

Also, read these inspirational stories about the recent Ramah Wisconsin Tikvah Shabbaton and the leading role that Ramah staff played in a recent Birthright trip for young adults with Asperger's Syndrome. 

Bat Mitzvah Project Raises Funds
for New Sensory Room


Daphne, a camper at Ramah Canada, wanted to raise money for the Tikvah program as part of her bat mitzvah project because Tikvah has had a significant impact on her life in her two summers at Ramah. Daphne raised over $2,000 to furnish a sensory room at camp. In addition to financing the room's equipment, Daphne and her bunkmates worked collaboratively with the Tikvah campers to paint canvases that beautifully decorate the room. Read more

Ramah Canada 2012
Decorating the new sensory room at Ramah Canada
A Magical Kabbalat Shabbat 

It was a rainy Friday night in July at Ramah Wisconsin. The Tikvah group (teens) and Atzmayim (college-age) were leading Friday night services together for the whole camp. What transpired was a prayer experience that no one present would soon forget. Read more

Ramah Wisconsin 2012
Kabbalat Shabbat at Ramah Wisconsin

Family Camp Fun


For the past four years, Ramah Poconos has opened its gates for families with children with special needs to participate in Tikvah Family Camp, a five-day family overnight camping experience. Featuring a petting zoo, outdoor adventure, and singing and dancing, this summer's program was outstanding! Read more

Ramah Poconos 2012
Karaoke at Ramah Poconos Tikvah Family Camp

Tikvah Comes to Colorado Rockies


The inaugural Tikvah program at Ramah Outdoor Adventure was a huge success! This two week program served ten campers with special needs, most of whom were on the autism spectrum. For nine of the ten, this was their first experience in a Jewish overnight camp. The horse Masa (camping trip) to Ramah Valley was a highlight of the program. Read more

Ramah Outdoor Adventure 2012
Masa (camping trip) at Ramah Outdoor Adventure

Ramah Staff Members in the News
and in Our Communities

In recognition of Jewish Disabilities Awareness Month, Rabbi Mitchell Cohen, National Ramah Director, contributed to the Matan blog as one of the guest bloggers linking the week's Torah portion to the theme of inclusion.

Elana Naftalin-Kelman
, Director of the Ramah California Tikvah Program, was named a Joshua Venture Group Fellow in conjunction with the Ruderman Family Foundation for her work with the Rosh Pina initiative. Read "A Crucial Part of the Whole," Elana's recent post on the Matan blog.

Howard Blas, Director of the Ramah New England Tikvah program, has been invited to be a member of UJA-Federation of New York's Task Force on People with Disabilities. The Ruderman Family Foundation blog recently featured Howard's "A Fresh Perspective on Israel."

Elyssa Hammerman, Director of the Ramah Outdoor Adventure Tikvah program, represented Ramah at the Jewish Disability Network's Awareness Day and the "Inclusion of People with Disabilities in Our Jewish Community" events in Colorado.

Creating Ongoing Connections 


Thanks to the generous support of the Ruderman Family Foundation, several Ramah camps offer campers in our special needs programs the unique opportunity to connect after the camp season through video conferencing in order to sing Shabbat songs, hear stories of weekly Torah portions, and share memories with their Ramah friends. The chats provide an invaluable social outlet for our campers. Read more   


The Ruderman Family Foundation has just announced the launch of the 2013 Ruderman Prize in Disability, a $250,000 global competition for innovation in inclusion for people with disabilities.

Ramah Staff Takes Leading Role in KOACH's Asperger's Birthright Trip

Ramah staff members played an important role in a wonderful and unique Birthright trip this winter. Organized by Shorashim and our USCJ campus partner KOACH, this trip to Israel for young adults with Asperger's Syndrome was led by staff members from the Ramah Canada, New England, and Wisconsin Tikvah programs. In addition, a number of the participants were members of the Ramah Wisconsin and California summer Tikvah communities. Read more on the Ruderman Family Foundation blog and in the Times of Israel.

KOACH Birthright Trip
Bus No. 195, the 'mishpocha,' in the citrus grove
(photo credit: Courtesy Birthright Bus No. 195)
Magic Moments at Camp Yofi 

The tenth session of Camp Yofi at Ramah Darom was a great success. This year we had the distinct honor of celebrating the b'nai mitzvah of three campers during Camp Yofi, which was a beautiful and meaningful part of the weeklong experience. Our talent show this year proved to be a moving event as well. Read more 

Ramah Darom 2012
Shira at Darom's Camp Yofi (click on image for video)

Modeh Ani in a New Makom Tefillah

Sitting in the brand new makom tefillah (prayer space) of the Tikvah program at Ramah California, feeling the stone walls, watching the sun reflect off of the beautiful Ojai mountains, the Amitzim campers sing "Modeh Ani" at the top of their lungs. Every Shacharit service begins with the singing of "Modeh Ani," how grateful am I, God, to be here today. Read more 

Ramah California 2012
New Tikvah makom tefillah at Ramah California
MINIs: Mentors for Campers
in the Tikvah Program 

Counselors-in-training, known as MINIs, are campers from the 16-year-old division who spend significant time with the Tikvah program at Ramah New England, serving as peer mentors, planning activities, eating meals with the Tikvah campers, and more. Some of these MINIs already have a long history of involvement with Tikvah and feel a strong connection to the program and its campers. Read more
MINIs and Amitzim Campers
MINIs with Tikvah campers at Ramah New England
Happy 10th Anniversary,
Breira B'Ramah 

Kayitz 2012 marked the tenth anniversary of Breira B'Ramah at Ramah Berkshires. Breira B'Ramah is a full inclusion program for campers with mild to moderate disabilities. What makes Breira B'Ramah special is what you don't see when you come to visit. Read more 

Ramah Wisconsin Tikvah Shabbaton '13 

Wisconsin Tikvah Shabbaton Over Presidents' Day Weekend, 15 campers in the Ramah Wisconsin Tikvah program and 8 participants in Atzmayim, the Tikvah Vocational Program, reunited at a Chicago-area hotel to celebrate a Ramah Shabbat together. They traveled from across North America to join their counselors and their Machon/Nivonim chaverim for a wonderful camp reunion. According to Ralph Schwartz, Director of Special Needs Programming, "Our staff members were so proud to see participants lead the davening and the Kiddush, HaMotzi and Birkat HaMazon. The kids had so much fun and loved schmoozing and hanging out with friends. The weekend was a real bonding experience not just for campers but for our staff, too." Read more 

Professional Development for Tzevet of Ramah Special Needs Programs


With the generous support of the Neshamot Fund of UJA-Federation of New York and the 2011 Ramah Israel Bike Ride, National Ramah sponsored professional development programs at training institutes in May 2012 and January 2013, as well as several wonderful professional development workshops this past year that were open to staff members of Ramah programs for children with disabilities and other organizations that serve people with disabilities. Read more
National Ramah Tikvah Network Staff Members
Staff members from Ramah's special needs programs at the Weinstein Institute for Staff Training, January 2013
NY Metro Area Holiday Programs
for Families of Children with Disabilities 

Year-round programming enables campers and staff of our special needs programs to connect with one another and reminisce about camp during the off season. Those in the New York metropolitan area had a wonderful time during a pre-High Holiday apple picking trip and a festive Chanukah celebration. Read more  

National Ramah Tikvah Network Fall 2012
Apple Picking, September 2012
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