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Nancy Scheff, (212) 678-8881, firstname.lastname@example.org
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Ramah Israel Bike Ride and Hiking Trip Raises $377,000
for Ramah Programs for Campers with Disabilities
Riders and Hikers from US, Canada, and Israel Travel from Jerusalem to Eilat
on a Five-Day Adventure to Increase Awareness and Raise Needed Funds
Eilat, Israel (May 3, 2013)--The 2013 Ramah Israel Bike Ride and Hiking Trip concluded this week as 72 participants from the U.S., Canada, and Israel arrived in this port city after a five-day journey, raising more than $377,000 to benefit Ramah summer campers with special needs. This is an increase of 75 percent over the $215,000 raised by Ramah's inaugural Israel Bike Ride in 2011.
Riders and hikers ranged in age from 13 to 72, and included ten couples, six sets of parents and children, a cycling group from Westchester County, New York, known as the "Chai Rollers," and a vision-impaired Jewish rider, who rode a tandem bike with his Christian minister friend. The riders began their challenging route in Jerusalem, continued to the western coast of Israel bordering the Mediterranean Sea, then traversed the Negev desert, ending six days later at the Red Sea resort city of Eilat for a total distance of 300 miles. The hikers climbed, ascended, and descended varied parts of the terrain from Jerusalem to Eilat, covering an average of six miles daily.
"The dozens of riders and hikers who spent months training and raising money from small and large donors alike inspire us all with their commitment to a Jewish community that offers the gift of Jewish camping--and a lifetime Jewish framework--to a wide range of children and young adults with special needs," said Rabbi Mitchell Cohen, Director of the National Ramah Commission and a rider himself.
Amy Skopp Cooper, Associate Director of the National Ramah Commission and the leader of the hiking trip, added, "There are as many motivations here as there are riders and hikers, but the one commonality is a belief that Jewish camping is the gateway into an engaged Jewish life, and that those with special needs should face no barriers and be welcomed as full and equal participants."
The $377,000 raised to date by riders and hikers--which far surpassed the initial goal of $250,000--will support Ramah programs for children, teens, and young adults with special needs and their families, and will fund training for Ramah camp staff as well as camper scholarships.
Ramah, the camping arm of Conservative Judaism, operates under the educational and religious guidance of The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), and has a network of eight overnight camps and three day camps in North America, as well as extensive programs in Israel.
Since the first Tikvah program for campers with special needs was established in 1970, Ramah has built a considerable reputation designing and providing camp programming for children, teens, and young adults with special needs and their families, stemming from a commitment to enhance Jewish identity and teach Jewish values in supportive, inclusive environments.
In 43 years, this network has grown to include Tikvah programs at five Ramah camps (California, Canada, Colorado, New England, Wisconsin); in-cabin inclusion programs (Breira B'Ramah-Berkshires [New York], New England); vocational training programs; day camps; and family camps (Camp Yofi-Darom [Georgia], Camp Ohr Lanu-California, Tikvah Family Camp-Poconos [Pennsylvania]).
These programs offer children, teens, and young adults who are developmentally and intellectually challenged a full, integrated Ramah summer camp experience. Nearly 2,000 campers with special needs have passed through these programs, which each summer now serve more than 250 campers with Asperger's Syndrome and other autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and other developmental, mobility, social, learning, and intellectual disabilities.
Riders and hikers from thirteen U.S. states, Canada, and Israel came together for this adventure, which was interspersed with tours of historical and religious points of interest, as well as a festive and celebratory Shabbat.
"More than just a challenging bike trip and hike, this has been a truly unique Ramah experience, as new friendships have been made, families have spent time together, people have learned so much more about Israel's history and geography, and the overall feeling of connectedness has been sensational," Cohen said.
Sponsors of the 2013 Ramah Israel Bike Ride and Hiking Trip include AMSkier Insurance, Amsalem Global Travel Management, and Gershon Tours Ltd. Supporters of Ramah programs for children, teens, and young adults with special needs include the Foundation for Jewish Camp, JCamp 180, the Neshamot Fund of UJA-Federation of New York, and the Ruderman Family Foundation.