Ramah Camping Movement
National Ramah Commission, Inc. of The Jewish Theological Seminary
December 2014-January 2015


"This conference helped strengthen my sense of Ramah as a movement that spans across all our camps, renew and deepen my connection to Conservative Judaism, and increase my confidence as a Jewish educator."

- Eli Horowitz, Ramah Outdoor Adventure


Over the past few weeks, National Ramah has sponsored several leadership training programs designed to educate, nurture, and cultivate young Ramah leaders. It has been an extraordinary few weeks for more than 150 Ramah staff members and those of us who have had the opportunity to work with them.
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  • From January 5-8, 117 Ramah staff members came together at Ramah California for our annual Winter Leadership Training Conference, which this year included six separate training tracks. The conference was marked not only by inspirational and powerful interactions among staff members from across the camps in the Ramah movement, but also by the exchange of ideas and experiences across generations of Ramah leaders. As in past years, there were tracks for the Bert B. Weinstein Counselor Training Institute for 1st- and 2nd-year counselors, Ramah Service Corps Fellows, and staff members from the National Ramah Tikvah Network of programs. This year we introduced three new programs, for madrichim vatikim (3rd- and 4th-year counselors), rashei edah, and staff members involved in Jewish activism on their college campuses.

    Directors, assistant directors, and other senior leaders from the Ramah camps, JTS faculty, and the National Ramah Commission (NRC) led the programming. Kol Hakavod to Alana Tilman, NRC Program Director, who spent countless hours putting the program together, under the superb direction of Amy Skopp Cooper, National Ramah Associate Director.

  • Ramah partnered with Taglit-Birthright Israel to offer the first all-Ramah Birthright trip (December 21-31). In addition to the 40 Ramahniks participating in and staffing this trip, ten Ramah alumni participated in a Birthright trip for alumni of Conservative movement youth programs, and four Ramah Wisconsin Tikvah tzevet members staffed a Birthright trip for young adults with Aspergers.

  • A delegation of 10 Ramah Steinberg Fellows traveled to Chile from January 1-12 to work alongside our Masorti Olami partners at their Ramah-style "majane" (camp).
We invite you to read the following summaries of each of these inspirational projects, along with quotes from the participants.



weinsteinBert B. Weinstein Counselor Training Institute

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This year's Bert B. Weinstein Institute for Counselor Training was truly remarkable. These dynamic young madrichim maintained a high level of enthusiasm all week long (aided by the beautiful sunshine and 80 degree weather!). While we celebrated our commonality as Ramahniks, the individual camps also had opportunities to share their unique camp traditions.

Sessions focused on the fundamentals of experiential Jewish education and skills development, and much time was devoted toward sharing best programs from across the camps. Additional sessions included text study with Rabbi Joel Alter of The Jewish Theological Seminary; "Hugging and Wrestling with Israel: Learning to Respect Alternative Opinions on the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict," a symposium led by National Ramah Director Rabbi Mitch Cohen; and a program-building challenge designed to harness participants' creativity. Other sessions, led by Ramah directors, assistant directors, and rashei edah, focused on building our campers' self-esteem, reducing social pressures at camp, and increasing our opportunities for programming with Judaic content and Hebrew language.


Gabby Deutch of Ramah Darom said, "For me, the best part of Weinstein was the opportunity to meet madrichim from all of the other Ramah camps and to share what works for them." Jenna Roth of Ramah Nyack told us, "It was a beautiful experience to have the opportunity to meet other Jewish young adults from around the country who share the same passion and love for Ramah that I do. I gained so much from all of the programs and feel very prepared and excited to bring back to my camp what I learned."



tikvahNational Ramah Tikvah Network Training

Tikvah staff members from six Ramah camps (and one representative from Camp Young Judaea in Texas) met last week under the leadership of Orlee Krass, National Ramah Tikvah Network Coordinator, and Tali Cohen, Ramah New England Director of Vocational Services, for four days of intense learning, sharing, and training about working with campers with disabilities. They gained invaluable experience from sessions on behavior modification, accessible programming, camper independence, and sensory integration needs. These tzevet members will return to their respective camps in the summer of 2015 with an in-depth knowledge of the programs each Ramah offers, and a deeper understanding of what they can do at each of their camps to improve upon Ramah's broader goal of inclusion.

As Emmett Woytovich of Ramah Berkshires remarked, "Everyone in camp benefits from training about the concept of inclusion, which is present everywhere in camp. All counselors deal with inclusion on a daily basis, not just Tikvah counselors." Read more

Training for staff of the National Ramah Tikvah Network of programs is supported by the
Neshamot Fund of UJA-Federation of New York; the Ramah Israel Bike Ride and Hiking Trip and the Ruderman Family Foundation (training for staff of Ramah vocational education programs).



rscfRamah Service Corps Fellows Training 
The Ramah Service Corps--Creating deeper connections between Ramah camps and our schools and synagogues

Led by Ramah Service Corps (RSC) Project Leader Alana Tilman (NRC), and RSC Coordinators Sarah Attermann (Ramah Darom/JTS Davidson School), Hillel Buechler (Ramah New England/former Metro Detroit Fellow/JTS Graduate School), and Eva Jablow (NRC), the RSC Fellows spent four days getting to know one another, studying together, program sharing, and reflecting on the past few months of work. Emphasis was placed on the most effective ways of encouraging more families to send their kids to Ramah. "I really appreciated the chance to sit down and just talk with some of the other Fellows," said Hannah Glickman of Ramah New England. "I know that they are doing work similar to mine, but getting to actually spend time together and share what we're doing with each other brings the experience to a much more tangible level." Read more



rcnRamah College Network
Ramah College Network

Rabbi Ami Hersh (Ramah Nyack/NRC) and Rachel Herman (Ramah Darom/NRC) led the Ramah College Network's inaugural training for a cohort of Ramah staff and alumni attending Binghamton University. This new initiative focuses on the students' ability to enhance the Jewish life experience of Ramah staff and alumni on their college campuses through monthly programming and mentorship from a Ramah Service Corps Campus Fellow. The students focused on topics such as community organizing, outreach and engagement, and designing optimal prayer environments. By the end of the week they developed an action plan for the upcoming semester that will allow them to better serve the needs of Ramah students on campus. The students took a lot away from their time in California and their excitement for the work ahead is palpable.

Eliana Horwitz of Ramah Wisconsin said: "I left the week together feeling excited and prepared for the creative programming that my fellow Ramahniks will be implementing for students on campus this semester."




chileNRC Steinberg Fellows Delegation to Chile

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Earlier this month, ten senior members of our Ramah educational staffs traveled to Santiago, Chile, to help staff a local Ramah-style summer camp and to forge meaningful relationships with their Masorti Olami counterparts. This travel opportunity was supported by the Morton M. and Miriam Steinberg Fellowship fund for international learning and travel; Jordan Soffer of Ramah Nyack was the trip leader.


Our staff members were particularly impressed by the campers' desire to connect to Israel. Melissa Leifer, a Ramah Nyack rosh edah, wrote, "At the opening tekes (ceremony), they sang the Chilean national anthem and then Hatikvah. Being in South America and hearing this community sing so proudly for the State of Israel really moved me and the rest of the Ramah staff." Mai Tannen, a Ramah California mishlachat member, said, "The best moment of the day was when I got to teach the chanichim Israeli dances. One of my personal goals coming to the machaneh was to share some part of myself with the chanichim. The reaction and the excitement from the kids has really made this trip so worthwhile."


Leah Schatz, Ramah Poconos, described how some of the Ramah staff members accompanied campers on a camping trip, while others remained at the base camp to teach the campers Ramah rikud, moralim (cheers), and songs. "We are all having an amazing time connecting to the tzevet and chanichim, with their adequate English, our broken Spanish, and lots of Hebrew words scattered throughout. We have come to feel welcome and at home here in a way that only camp can, whether in Wisconsin, Poconos, Palmer, Berkshires, Darom, Nyack, Rockies, Ojai, Canada, and now Chile."

Rabbi Ari Sigal of Circulo Israelita de Santiago, a local Masorti synagogue, wrote to Ramah to thank our madrichim for their contribution to the Chilean camp: "Nothing would have been possible without your presence, enthusiasm, and constant participation. You have performed a unique and wonderful contribution to our camp."




birthrightRamah/Taglit-Birthright Partnerships

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The first all-Ramah Birthright trip took place in late December for 38 participants ranging in age from 18 to 22. The trip was staffed by veteran Ramah tzevet members Ariel Touger (Ramah Nyack/Ramah Israel/JTS Davidson School) and Jeremy Fineberg (Ramah Wisconsin/JTS Rabbinical School). Kol Hakavod to Meir Hoyzman, Director of Ramah Israel, for organizing this program with our Birthright partners.

Michael Silverstone of Ramah Berkshires said, "It was great to reconnect with multiple Seminar friends on this trip, as well as to meet many new friends from across the Ramah world. I bumped into a ton of Ramah Berkshires friends throughout the 10-day visit, more than any number of friends I could possibly bump into on the streets of New York. In our short time there, we went to the Kinneret, Kibbutzim, Jerusalem, Masada, Tel Aviv, Tzfat, the Golan Heights, as well as Sderot among other places. I especially enjoyed the day where we volunteered in leading activities at an elementary school outside of Tel Aviv. The kids were so excited for us to be there and the experience was rewarding.

An additional group of Ramahniks
 participated in "Shutafim," a specialized Taglit-Birthright trip for alumni and friends of Ramah, USY, Schechter, and JTS. Gaby Avery-Peck of Ramah New England was one of the staff members on this trip for 22- to 26-year-olds. 




rscfRamah Wisconsin Tikvah Tzevet Members Staff Birthright Trip to Israel
Ramah Wisconsin Staff Members

We are so proud of the four Ramah Wisconsin Tikvah tzevet members who staffed a Birthright trip last month for young adults with Aspergers and other social and emotional issues: Daniel Olson, Rosh Atzmayim (vocational program) for the past three summers; Joseph Eskin, Rosh Tikvah for the past two summers; and Alex Kahn and Lora Slutzky, staff alumni. Two Ramah Wisconsin Atzmayim participants, Ari A. and Austin R., went on the trip. 


In a moving dvar Torah, Daniel said, "Traveling to Israel and taking in its sites is only one part of why this trip is so special. Just as important is the chance to form relationships with Jewish peers, overcoming some of the isolation Jewish young adults with disabilities might feel at home." Indeed, Ari wrote, "I've made new friends that I will never forget. I will always remember the trip, the staff, and the people."


Ramah Wisconsin Atzmayim Participants

And in Joseph's words, "It was especially rewarding to staff the trip with other veterans of the Ramah Wisconsin Tikvah and Atzmayim programs, and to watch two young men who had grown up in those programs [Ari and Austin] travel independently, branch out socially, speak in Hebrew to Israelis, and thrive in a new environment. It was thrilling to see Israel through their eyes, and to know that by visiting Israel, they were continuing the process of growth as Jews and people that began for them at Camp Ramah."






directoryAre you a Ramah alum? Use Reshet Ramah's new online community to reconnect with old friends and reminisce about those good old days at Camp Ramah. Please help us to add as many alumni as possible by joining our online community and sharing this news with your friends!
Ramah is the camping arm of Conservative Judaism. Together, our programs provide Ramah experiences for more than 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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