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National Ramah Commission, Inc. of The Jewish Theological Seminary

June 5, 2013

27 Sivan 5773

Howard Blas, Director of the Tikvah Program at Camp Ramah in New England,
Receives Prestigious 2013 Covenant Award

Annual Award Recognizes Three Exceptional Jewish Educators
for Innovation, Inspiration, and Impact on Jewish Education and Community

Dear Friends of Ramah:

We are delighted - and very proud! - to announce that Howard Blas, the director of the Tikvah program at Camp Ramah in New England and a consultant to the National Ramah network of special needs programs, has received the prestigious 2013 Covenant Award for Excellence in Jewish Education. This award is presented annually to three exceptional Jewish educators in recognition of their innovation, inspiration, and transformative impact on Jewish education.

Howard Blas Howard has been the director of the Tikvah program at Ramah New England since 2001. Under his leadership, the Tikvah program has helped hundreds of youth with developmental disabilities and their families enter and thrive in a Jewish educational environment.
His work has elevated Camp Ramah in New England as a national model of what Jewish educational inclusiveness can look like and how it can thrive and grow to the benefit of the entire community.

At Ramah New England, Howard led the design and implementation of an in-cabin inclusion program that integrates campers with special needs into bunks with typical campers. In addition, he has expanded the camp's vocational training programs to give campers with special needs a sense of purpose and to equip them with marketable skills to bring to the outside world.

As a consultant to the National Ramah Commission, Howard is a key leader in efforts to grow a cohort of professionals dedicated to campers with special needs across the Ramah network. With funding support from the Ruderman Family Foundation, Howard developed Ramah New England's "Shabbos Is Calling" initiative, a weekly videoconference designed to maintain year-round connections among campers with special needs, their families, and staff. This model has been adopted by several other Ramah camps.

In addition to Howard, several other Ramah senior leaders have been recognized by the Covenant Foundation in recent years. This past November, Rabbi Eliav Bock, Director of Ramah Outdoor Adventure, was one of five promising Jewish educators who received the 2012 Pomegranate Prize from the Covenant Foundation. Amy Skopp Cooper, National Ramah Associate Director and Director of Ramah Day Camp in Nyack, received the Covenant Award in 2011. In 2006, Rabbi Loren Sykes, the immediate past Director of Camp Ramah in Wisconsin and founding Director of Camp Ramah Darom, received the Covenant Award. Rabbi Sykes is also a pioneer in the field of Jewish camping for children and young adults with disabilities; under his leadership, Ramah Darom established the award-winning Camp Yofi, the first family camp for families with children with autism spectrum disorders.

We would also like to congratulate the other two recipients of this year's Covenant Award. Judy Finkelstein-Taff, Head of School at the Chicago Jewish Day School, is a former Ramah camper and a former Assistant Director of Ramah California. Zion Ozeri, Founder and Creative Director of The Jewish Lens, is a renowned photographer whose approach to capturing Jewish values, identity, and tradition through photography is used by Camp Ramah.

There are many more Ramah alumni among previous Covenant Award recipients, including Dr. Sara Rubinow Simon, one of the recipients in 1991, the first year of the award. Other Ramah alumni who have received the award in the past decade include Peter Geffen (2012), Rabbi Shai Held (2011),  Beth Huppin (2010), Rabbi Stuart Seltzer (2009), Susan Werk (2008), Rabbi Philip Warmflash (2007), and Jane Taubenfeld Cohen (2006). In addition, Anna Hartman, a former Ramah Darom staff member, was one of the recipients of the inaugural Pomegranate Prize in 2011.

You may use the following links to learn more about this year's Covenant Award recipients and to post a congratulatory message to Howard on the Covenant Foundation website.



Mitch Cohen
Rabbi Mitchell Cohen
Director, National Ramah Commission of The Jewish Theological Seminary 


Ramah is the camping arm of Conservative Judaism. Together, our programs provide Ramah experiences for over 9,200 children, teens, and young adults annually. The National Ramah Commission of The Jewish Theological Seminary provides oversight, educational planning, and coordination on behalf of the network of Ramah camps throughout North America and Ramah programs in Israel. For more information please visit