Ramah Camping Movement
National Ramah Commission, Inc. of The Jewish Theological Seminary
"This summer my head is here at Camp Ramah, but my heart is at home in Israel."
- Nava Isseroff, Ramah Poconos Shlicha and Rosh Mayim
July 23, 2014 / 25 Tammuz 5774
Dear Friends of Ramah,
Members of the Ramah community are deeply concerned about the current fighting in Israel, and are struggling to cope with the situation on many levels. Three groups immediately come to mind.
First, our shlichim. Over 220 young Israelis, most of them just having completed their army service, are at Ramah camps to instill a love for Israel and Judaism among our campers and staff. While their presence at Ramah does more to accomplish this goal than almost anything else we could do, they are feeling conflicted about being away from friends and family members who are either under sporadic missile attack or are actually in combat in or near Gaza. 
Second, our Seminar participants. At 250 strong, they are experiencing a wonderful summer in Israel while at the same time understanding the necessity of making itinerary changes due to security concerns.

Third, there are many members of our community, including recent alumni, who are currently fighting in the IDF to protect Israel, including former shlichim and North Americans who have made aliyah. As we pray for their safety, we recognize that the danger is extreme.
Anachnu Eetchem
A video from the Ramah Poconos community
Numerous others at Ramah are directly concerned, and everyone seems closely connected to friends and family living or traveling in Israel. As educators, we are faced with some dilemmas. How often should Israel dominate discussions and programs with our campers? Should 10- or 12-year-olds talk about the danger, or should we limit the frank conversations to our older teen campers and staff members? How do we go on with our usual joyful Israel programming? And how can we best support our Israeli staff who are naturally glued to the news and often succumb to bouts of tears and sadness?

Ramah Nyack's Zimriyah was dedicated to the camp's mishlachat.
Ramah Nyack staff members send
thoughts and prayers to Israel
All of these variables are playing themselves out at all our camps. At my recent visit to Ramah Canada, shlichim publicly recited prayers for the safety of the IDF before Kabbalat Shabbat services, followed by an emotional camp-wide singing of Hatikvah. Similar events are taking place across the Ramah movement.

I have been amazed at the support of our Seminar parents. While understandably concerned for their children, the overwhelming majority have expressed appreciation to our wonderful Ramah Israel leadership for their thoughtful and frequent parent updates, and confidence in Ramah decision-making. Monday morning a Seminar mom told me, "I am proud that my son, who is having the time of his life, is spending the summer with Ramah in Israel." That feedback has been typical. There is also a feeling of helplessness. Somehow, prayers are not enough, and we recognize that on some level we feel better in Israel, where mostly regular life continues, than far away, relying upon the news and social media for constant updates.

On Yom Yisrael, Machon campers at
Ramah California wrote letters to IDF soldiers
As a Ramah movement, we can take pride in the depth of the interconnectedness between our North American communities and Israel. This stands in stark contrast to recent demographic data on the disconnect between Israel and a majority of Diaspora Jews under the age of 30. But this also leaves us vulnerable during times of peril.

As we pray for safety and security, we will continue to grapple with these educational and emotional challenges, proud to be part of a Zionist camping movement that instills a deep love for Israel among our participants.

After completing my summer visits to all of our Ramah camps, I look forward to being with our Seminar participants in Jerusalem for their final Shabbat. May we all find ways to cope with our concerns and dilemmas, may we be privileged to continue to inspire others to take pride in their Jewishness and in their connections to Israel, and most of all, may we see a time very soon when Israel, and all of the residents in the region, can live free from the fear of violence.

B'tikvat shalom,

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

Ramah Berkshires
"Chashi" Israel festival at Ramah Berkshires
Ramah Outdoors
Rikud (dance) at Ramah Outdoor Adventure
Ramah Day Camp Philadelphia
Yom Sport at Ramah Day Camp Philadelphia
Ramah Canada
Yom Yisrael at Ramah Canada
Ramah Day Camp - Chicago area
Mishlachat at Ramah Day Camp - Chicago area
seminarSharing our reality with the world
Excerpts from a letter that "Daromniks" on Seminar wrote to the Darom community
"Shalom Darom,

Ramah Darom
"Together as One":
Ramah Darom Shows Support for Israel
...I often find myself wondering what people at Darom know as far as the situation and if the situation was similar last year while I was still there. The truth is I don't think I would have known. Even if we had been told--100 rockets in Israel today--what would it have meant? 100 is just a number. But now, our Rosh Tefilah has entered Gaza. My friends cover their heads on a highway. It's no longer maps and numbers; these are people and minutes of their lives. It is eye-opening and humbling to be part of--Hamas does not care about me, only my death. They do not see a child, they only see a Jew. Despite all this, it is absolutely necessary that we be here. We are the people who will tell the story first-hand. For every one of us, at least 20 people will hear our experience in the situation from us, and not goal-oriented news broadcasts.

It is our job to try and pass on what life is like for those who are not making decisions because everyone here lives under attack. Everyone here knows the sound of a siren, the pounding heart and rushing footsteps, the agonizing 10 minutes, and the collision of two rockets--one from the enemy and one from the Iron Dome. It is important that we are able to share that reality with the world.

Love, The Daromniks" (written by Briley Newell)

israelEntering Shabbat; praying for Israel
Excerpts from a letter by Jacob Cytryn, Director, Camp Ramah in Wisconsin
Ramah WIsconsin
Ramah Wisconsin's Israel Simulation
"This evening, as we begin tefillot on the shore of Lake Buckatabon, we will sing Hatikvah; recite a prayer for the health and safety of the Israeli government, armed forces, and citizens; and join together to sing Acheinu, a short paragraph that asks for God's mercy in protecting Jews around the world in times of distress. As we continue to fully invest our energies in transforming our campers' lives through a fun summer with their best friends in our little bubble of a utopian Jewish community, we are supremely aware of the maelstrom that our family and friends in Israel and throughout the Jewish world are experiencing right now. Several of our Israeli staff members have direct relatives and dear friends who have already gone into Gaza; others are struggling with whether or not it is their patriotic duty to return home. We continue to support them and work with them as beloved members of our Ramah family, while also providing educationally and developmentally appropriate experiences for our campers....At this difficult time for the entire Jewish world, our family and friends in Israel remain in our thoughts and prayers."

shlichimIsraeli emissaries at US summer camps wonder how best to serve 
by Howard Blas, Tikvah Director, Camp Ramah in New England
(originally appeared in Times of Israel)

Ramah New England
Mishlachat members at Ramah New England
At Camp Ramah in New England this weekend, Israeli emissary Yakov described feeling very far away from what's happening in Israel while sitting in the idyllic Massachusetts forest surrounding his Jewish sleep-away summer camp. He spoke about a disconnect with his otherwise peaceful town of Nazareth Ilit as tires burn in the nearby Arab village where he usually eats "the best shawarma in all of Israel." Read more 

Ramah is the camping arm of Conservative Judaism. Together, our programs provide Ramah experiences for 10,000 children, teens, and young adults annually. The National Ramah Commission of The Jewish Theological Seminary provides oversight and educational planning on behalf of the network of Ramah camps throughout North America and Israel.

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