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National Ramah Commission, Inc. of The Jewish Theological Seminary 
June 7, 2013
29 Sivan 5773
New Funding for the Network of Ramah Programs
for Children, Teens, and Young Adults with Special Needs 

As our camps prepare to open for the 2013 season, we are thrilled to report that the National Ramah network of special needs programs will benefit from more than $0.5 million in new funding from both individual and organizational philanthropists.
Through Tikvah programs, Breira B'Ramah, and Camp Yofi, all of the Ramah overnight camps in North America offer programs for children, teens, and young adults with disabilities.
Ramah Israel Bike Ride and Hiking Trip 
Click here or on image to view ride/hike photos
  • The 2013 Ramah Israel Bike Ride and Hiking Trip raised over $380,000 from more than 2,800 donors! This is an increase of more than 75 percent over the $215,000 raised by Ramah's inaugural Israel Bike Ride in 2011. The net proceeds will be used to support each Ramah camp's programs, as well as to support staff training programs for the National Ramah Special Needs Network, National Ramah efforts to market and promote all our programs for special needs, accommodating more teens with disabilities in our Israel programs, and the seeding of new programs.

    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 rider, Rick Goldstein, who rode a tandem bike with Derek Brouwer, his Christian minister friend (read more below).

    Ride/Hike Video Highlights 
    Click here or on image to view video
    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, descended, and ascended varied parts of the terrain from Jerusalem to Eilat, covering an average of six miles daily. Please enjoy our photo albums and our daily ride and hike updates, and read "Ramah Celebrates, Raises Money For Its Pioneering Camps By Biking and Hiking Across Israel," a blog post by one of this year's riders, Howard Blas. Howard is the Ramah New England Tikvah Director and a recipient of the 2013 Covenant Award for Excellence in Jewish Education.
Special Needs Programs Brochure Cover
  • The Neshamot Fund of UJA-Federation of New York has renewed its support of the National Ramah Special Needs Network, which provides training and professional development opportunities for staff members from all of the Ramah programs for children, teens, and young adults with disabilities.

  • A generous grant from the Lieberman family of Harrison, New York, will help make the 2013 Ramah Israel Seminar accessible to campers with mobility challenges.

  • A new grant from the Ruderman Family Foundation will enable Ramah to expand vocational education programs this summer through a national planning effort and the addition of new work placements for voc ed campers. Launched several years ago with grants from the Foundation, the Ramah camps' year-round video conferences designed to maintain year-round connections among campers with special needs, their families, and staff ("Shabbos Is Calling" and "Shavua Tov") have continued through the spring.  

  • With the generous support of the Lopatin Family Foundation, "Al Pi Darko," the first Ramah movement-wide conference on special needs camping, will take place this October. Ramah staff, lay leaders, funders, and supporters will have the opportunity to share best practices and to discuss the successes of and challenges facing Ramah programs throughout North America for children, teens, and young adults with disabilities.
Individual Ramah camps serve different age groups and different populations of children with disabilities. Regardless of their geographic location, families are referred 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.
One of Many Inspirational Stories from the Ramah Israel Bike Ride and Hiking Trip

Derek and Rick on Tandem Bike Rick Goldstein worked at Camp Ramah in New England when he was in high school, and is the proud parent of one of the first campers at Ramah Outdoor Adventure in the Colorado Rockies. According to Rick, his family's Ramah experiences strengthened his family's connections to Judaism and the Jewish community at large, and he was especially happy to support Ramah's programs for special needs campers of all ages by participating in the ride. He wrote:
I'm slowly losing my sight, and haven't been able to ride a bike on my own for a decade. In 2011, I got a tandem and I've been thrilled to get back on two wheels. I've been training with my good friend and coworker, Derek Brouwer, who is, in fact, a minister, going out at lunch and on weekends around beautiful Boulder, Colorado. We've been talking about signing up for some local organized rides, so when I said, "Hey, Derek, how'd you like to go for a ride around the Negev next year," he said, "I'll ask my wife." Then I explained to him that I got this email from Ramah, told him more about the ride and the great cause it supports, and we decided to give it a shot.
This is how Derek describes his personal motivation to participate in the ride:
Rick likes to point out that we sound like a joke: a blind Jew and ordained minister go for a ride in Israel... This is true: I am professionally trained in ministry, a very part-time chaplain at a local hospital, I preach occasionally, and I play bass in a couple of worship teams. Point being, I am a person of faith and I look for God's hand in my life. ... Far be it for me to claim to know the mind of God, but I cultivated my riding and now I get to use my skills to give Rick a captain, a chance at being fit, the ability to be self-powered, an opportunity to ride through a country that is very special to him, and the opportunity to benefit an organization that means a lot to him."
Upon the completion of the ride, Derek told the riders and hikers at the final banquet:
It wasn't until I was on the beach in Eilat looking at Jordan and Saudi Arabia after riding along the border of Israel and Egypt did I realize how the plan came together. This wasn't my plan. I am not this smart. I am a peculiar cyclist but my unique gifts as a cyclist--as a person--made me singularly equipped to bless Rick in this way and to be blessed myself.

I am not a very spiritual Christian. I don't have a lot of extemporaneous outbursts of praise and worship, but as I stood on the beach of Eilat, I wept with joy. May God be praised. Amen.
Derek gives many details and shares lots of photos from the Ramah Israel Bike Ride on his blog, "Big Fat Sweaty Guy."


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