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National Ramah Commission, Inc. of The Jewish Theological Seminary
May 31, 2013
22 Sivan 5773
Dear Friends of Ramah,

The summer camping season at Ramah has not even begun, and yet I have already been privileged to participate in a series of Ramah programs over the last few weeks that have left me truly inspired.

California Mishlachat at Shefayim 2013
In mid-April, I spent Shabbat at the 2013 Mishlachat Training Seminar at Kibbutz Shefayim, near Tel Aviv, where 160 Israeli mishlachat members were together for five days, preparing for their first summer at our camps. (See photo, right, and photos below.) Watching our directors and veteran shlichim train these idealistic, talented young adults prepare to become staff members was amazing. Along with their deep love for Israel, they will bring so much enthusiasm for working with our campers and staff. I was especially moved by the stories told to the group by veteran shlichim about how they have grown as Jews because of their time spent at Ramah. Praying with our mishlachat, singing and dancing over Shabbat, and simply watching them bond as a group was extremely powerful.


Ramah Israel Bike Ride, April 2013
Immediately afterward I spent a week biking from Jerusalem to Eilat (and one day hiking!) as part of the 2013 Ramah Israel Bike Ride and Hiking Trip. What a great way to see the Negev and connect with 72 Ramah alumni and friends, all while raising over $380,000 for Ramah special needs programs. A highlight for me was our panel discussion on Friday night at Mitzpeh Ramon. Barbara and Herb Greenberg, the founders of the first Tikvah program, together with Mark Glucksman, Ben Yellin, and Oren Levin-Waldman, three fathers of Tikvah campers, moved us to tears with stories of the impact of Ramah programs on their own children and other children and young adults with disabilities. What a celebration took place in Eilat, when all the Ramah riders and hikers joined together for a final banquet. Just like in camp, new friendships were formed and new skills developed, with promises to stay in touch and to return for the next Ramah experience.


Spring Leadership Photo Collage
National Ramah Spring Leadership Conference, May 2013
Finally, last week I joined Amy Skopp Cooper, National Ramah Associate Director, and a number of Ramah leaders at Ramah New England in Palmer, Massachusetts, for our 2013 National Ramah Spring Leadership Conference. Over 100 young adults attended this professional development program for training in various program tracks. Through the Kivun Training Program for Camp Specialists, we continue to partner with URJ camps to train specialists in sports, archery, and nature/outdoor education, as well as in songleading (which took place this week at URJ OSRUI in Wisconsin). We also held the Winer Institute for Rosh Edah Training for 36 of our camps' senior leaders, and the National Ramah Special Needs Network Conference for 10 leaders from our camps' special needs programs, all of whom are truly outstanding young role models. We also hosted our fourth annual Daber Fellowship Seminar to encourage greater use of Hebrew at Ramah camps, with 50 Daber Fellows speaking and singing Hebrew in games, in skits, and in various other program formats.

Poconos Mishlachat at Shefayim 2013
Poconos Mishlachat at Shefayim 2013.
One of our participants, Stephanie Elgart of Ramah Poconos, reflected, "I thought it was so important to see how Ramah functions as a movement. Each camp shares a similar mission but remains unique in its own way." Emily Meister of Ramah New England said, "I feel so fortunate to have gotten to know the talented staff from other camps and am proud to be part of such an amazing group." And finally, according to Dena Kaye-Phillips of Ramah New England, "It has been invaluable to see so many people from different camps come together with shared values and enthusiasm for what we do. Ramah is truly a kehillah."

Many of these training programs are supported by generous grants from foundations that firmly believe in the mission of Ramah, including The AVI CHAI Foundation, the Neshamot Fund of UJA-Federation of New York, and the Ruderman Family Foundation.

As June approaches and our camps begin their 2013 summer seasons, I am confident that the inspiration from recent weeks is only the beginning of another incredible summer at Ramah for over 9,200 campers and staff.

Shabbat Shalom,

Mitch Cohen
Rabbi Mitchell Cohen, National Ramah Director

Meet Our Mishlachat!
Meet Three of the 2013 Wisconsin Mishlachat!

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