Ramah Tikvah Network logo
Ramah Tikvah Programs:
New Initiatives and Year-Round Activities

JDAIM logo
Since the first Ramah Tikvah program opened in 1970, the Ramah Camping Movement has continued to be a pioneer in the inclusion of Jewish campers with disabilities. Tikvah programs now operate in all Ramah camps across North America, offering the inspirational Ramah experience to Jewish children, teens, and young adults with learning, developmental, cognitive, and social disabilities. 

In recognition of Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM), we are delighted to share information about Tikvah activities since the summer. (Read about this past summer's programs in "Inclusion at Ramah: Highlights from Summer 2015.")

For more information, view our program directory or contact Howard Blas, director of the National Ramah Tikvah Network.
newNew Tikvah Programs and Professionals for 2016

During the "off season," our camps are gearing up for these exciting new programs:
  • Camp Ramah in the Poconos will offer a 4-week Tikvah Residential Program directed by Orlee Krass, a veteran Ramah Nyack staff member who also coordinates National Ramah Tikvah Network training. The new Poconos Tikvah program is generously supported by The Ruderman Family Foundation. Read more below.

  • As part of its inaugural summer, Camp Ramah in Northern California (NorCal) will offer a 1-week Tikvah Program directed by veteran Ramah California Tikvah director Elana Naftalin-Kelman.

  • Ramah Outdoor Adventure at Ramah in the Rockies will offer a 1-week vocational education pilot program directed by veteran Ramah Rockies Tikvah director Elyssa Hammerman.
We recently welcomed Bonnie Schwartz to our year-round Tikvah professional staff.  Bonnie, a clinical psychologist and Ramah Berkshires alumna, is the new Tikvah director for Ramah New England. We also welcomed Moshe Samuels as the interim Tikvah director for Ramah Rockies. Moshe has also served on staff at Ramah Canada and Ramah California, where he was Tikvah rosh edah.
poconosRamah Poconos Tikvah Program Gets Ready to Launch

Poconos Tikvah building under construction
Progress towards the inaugural Tikvah Residential Program at Ramah Poconos is well underway. Camp is busy processing applications, and thanks to mild winter weather, construction is ahead of schedule on the 7,200-square-foot structure that will serve as the bunk for Tikvah campers and also house programmatic space and a sensory zone. The addition of the new overnight program, combined with the Tikvah track at the Philadelphia-area Ramah Day Camp and the Tikvah Family Camp, means that Ramah Poconos will now offer a continuum of experiences for children and families with disabilities.

Orlee Krass, the new Tikvah director, says, "We are in the process of hiring staff and look forward to having madrichim with an interest in special needs education and a love for camp! Generous support from private donors, as well as from charitable foundations such as The Ruderman Family Foundation, has helped us succeed every step along the way. We cannot wait for opening day on July 19!"
outreachRamah Leaders Participate in JDAIM Activities

Ramah professionals are taking part in many JDAIM activities this month in order to raise disability awareness and foster inclusion in Jewish communities.

Writings and Blog Posts
Events, Presentations, and Workshops
  • Audra Kaplan (Ramah Darom) co-led a workshop designed for parents of children with disabilities to learn about Jewish camp. In addition, Ramah Darom co-sponsored a disabilities-themed movie in the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival as well as a benefit for children with autism spectrum disorder.

  • Orlee Krass (Ramah Poconos) taught about best practices of inclusion at the Songleader Boot Camp national conference in St. Louis, MO.
  • Rabbi Joel Seltzer (Ramah Poconos) co-led "Jewish Textual Views of Disabilities" with Gabby Kaplan-Mayer. Gabby is the director of Whole Community Inclusion at jkidphilly and editor of The New Normal blog. Her family participates in the Tikvah Family Camp at Ramah Poconos.
israelTikvah Ramah Israel Trip, December 2015

Tikvah Israel Trip 2015
Tikvah Ramah Israel Trip 2015
Eight young adults with disabilities from across the United States traveled to Israel over winter break as part of the wonderful Tikvah Ramah Israel Trip run by the talented staff of the Ramah Israel Institute in December. Rabbi Ed Snitkoff, the director of Ramah Israel Seminar, was the tour guide, and Howard Blas was the group leader. According to Howard, "In planning Tikvah Israel trips, we create opportunities to help participants gain experiences navigating the world, including self-care, independent living, group dining, food preparation, shopping, and more. The unique itinerary masterfully weaves tourist attractions with opportunities to socialize with Israeli friends, often in their homes, and experience Israel through all senses." Read full article

New this year! Travel with Ramah on the Tikvah Family Trip, December 20-29, 2016. Click here for more information, or contact Howard Blas.
tiptoeThe Inclusion Project: Through Our Eyes (TIPTOE) Video Contest 

1st Place Camper Video: Matthew Warshay, Ramah New England
First Place Video, Camper Category
The campers and staff members who competed in the second annual TIPTOE contest inspired us with their videos showing their view of the importance of inclusion in their Jewish camps.

Representatives from The Ruderman Family Foundation and the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC)our TIPTOE partners, selected the winners, who received cash prizes plus donations to their camps' inclusion programs. First place in the camper category went to Ramah New England, and second place in the staff category went to Ramah Darom. Click here to view the winning videos.
videoconferencingKeeping Tikvah Participants Connected Year-Round

The summer Ramah experience is a highlight of the year for our Tikvah participants. During the rest of the year, many face the challenge of social isolation. Ramah camps provide a variety of opportunities to help meet this challenge.

Shavuah Tov
Ramah Wisconsin "Shavuah Tov"
Beginning in 2010, The Ruderman Family Foundation supported an effort by Ramah New England to bring Tikvah campers and staff together for a weekly "Shabbos Is Calling" videoconference for socializing, Jewish learning, and singing of camp songs during the ten months when camp is not in session. Ramah Wisconsin hosts a weekly "Shavuah Tov" videoconference under the guidance of Ralph Schwartz, director of special needs programs. Ramah Darom runs a monthly videoconference program, and Ramah California holds a videoconference every year before camp starts. This spring, Ramah Poconos hopes to kick off its new Tikvah program with videoconferences for staff as well as campers. Read more about this meaningful and important programming in "Shavuah Tov: A Year-Round Connection to the Magic of Camp" and "Shabbos Is Calling."

There are in-person gatherings as well. Every other year, Ramah Wisconsin holds a Tikvah/Amitzim Shabbaton; Ramah Canada Tikvah co-directors Casey and Adam Green recently coordinated reunions for the Tikvah boys and girls cabins (pictured below). 
Ramah Canada Tikvah Reunions, January and February 2016
trainingTraining Initiatives for Inclusion Staff Members

Tikvah Training January 2016
Tikvah staff members at National Ramah Winter Leadership Training Conference
Tikvah staff members from several Ramah camps participated in training at the January 2016 National Ramah Winter Leadership Training Conference at Ramah California. The sessions covered topics such as behavior management, task analysis, and understanding sensory needs. The next Tikvah Network training will take place in May and is open to staff members from all Jewish camps. (See flyer below.)

Daniel Olson, a veteran Ramah Wisconsin Tikvah staff member, presented "It's Off to Work We Go," a webinar sponsored by the National Ramah Tikvah Network, that explored best practices in running vocational education programs at summer camps. 

Individual Ramah camps also run their own training and orientation for their inclusion staff members. Leslie Tubul, the director of the Breira B'Ramah program at Ramah Berkshires, notes that training starts as early as the initial interview, which is conducted more like a supervisory session than a job interview. We are not necessarily looking for applicants to arrive at the 'correct answer,' but rather, the ability to demonstrate flexible thinking, ask the right questions, listen and demonstrate an openness to learning. If the prospective counselor doesn't know how to deal with a hypothetical situation that we may pose in the interview, it is an opportunity to teach. Since I am available 24/7 while camp is in session, in addition to the week of training prior to camp, there is ample opportunity for counselors to receive ongoing guidance, supervision, and support each and every day."

Training for the staff of the National Ramah Tikvah Network is supported by the Ramah Israel Bike Ride and Hiking Trip and The Ruderman Family Foundation (training for staff of Ramah vocational education programs).
summitOngoing Contributions to the Inclusion Field

Throughout the year, Ramah professionals share their expertise and network with colleagues in the field:
    Ramah Tikvah professionals at
    the Ruderman Inclusion Summit
  • Ramah was proud to be a co-sponsor of the first Ruderman Family Foundation Inclusion Summit, which brought together more than 500 activists and philanthropists in the field of social inclusion in Boston last fall. Howard Blas (National Ramah Tikvah Network) and Liz Offen (Ramah New England) were panelists at the summit. Directors of Ramah Tikvah programs throughout North America attended the conference and gathered together for a day of sharing best practices and planning for Summer 2016. 

  • Caption
    "We Will Hear and We Will Profit"
  • The Covenant Foundation co-sponsored a series of ELI Talks this past fall. Howard Blas presented "We Will Hear and We Will Profit: The Mitzvah of Inclusion," which focused on the importance of providing employment opportunities for people with disabilities (video, right).

  • Along with Ramah alumni and members of the Ramah extended family Dori Frumin Kirshner, Arlene Remz, Ilana Ruskay-Kidd, and Abigail Uhrman, Howard Blas was a panelist at "Disabilities, Inclusion, and Jewish Education," a December 2015 lecture at The Jewish Theological Seminary (video, right).

  • Lori Stark (Chicago-area Ramah Day Camp), throughout the year maintains close ties with colleagues at Keshet, our local partner in serving campers with disabilities.

  • At FJC's Leaders Assembly next month, Howard Blas, Tali Cohen, Liz Offen, and Lisa Blumenthal (Ramah New England) will present "Inclusion Isn't Always Smooth Sailing: The Ongoing Work with the Bunk to Maximize Success."

  • Audra Kaplan (Ramah Darom) is a member of the FJC/Davidson School Community of Practice (CoP), which brings together camp professionals who work with children with disabilities for networking, learning, and support. In addition, CoP staff work with the cohort members to develop and implement individualized projects tailored to the needs of their specific camps.
familiesFamily Camps and Retreats

Registration is open for Ramah programs for families with children with disabilities:

Video: Tikvah Family Camp 2015
Poconos Tikvah Family Camp 2015
May 27-29, 2016
Blog: "Reflections on Our Shabbaton"

August 10-14, 2016

August 19-22, 2016

August 17-21, 2016
View video
Philanthropic Investment in Ramah, 2015-2016
  • National Ramah received a $350,000 grant from The Ruderman Family Foundation to support the establishment of new Tikvah programs at Darom and Poconos; to expand vocational education programs at California, Canada, New England, and Wisconsin; and to continue the TIPTOE (The Inclusion Project: Through Our Eyes) inclusion-themed video contest for all Jewish camps in North America.

  • The Leo Oppenheimer & Flora Oppenheimer Haas Foundation provided the National Ramah Commission with a grant of $220,000 over three years, enabling Ramah to expand the capacity of the National Ramah Tikvah Network.

  • The expansion of opportunities to include teens with disabilities on Ramah Israel Seminar is being supported by a $25,000 grant from the New York Teen Initiative, which is jointly funded by UJA-Federation of New York and the Jim Joseph Foundation. The Jewish Education Project serves as lead operator of the initiative. Generous donations from Eileen and Jerry Lieberman further enhance our ability to make our Israel programs more inclusive.

  • The 2015 Ramah Israel Bike Ride and Hiking Trip raised $450,000 from more than 3,000 donors for Ramah programs for campers with disabilities.
About the National Ramah Tikvah Network

Ramah is the camping arm of Conservative Judaism. Together, our programs provide Ramah experiences for 10,500 children, teens, and young adults annually. The Ramah Camping Movement is a pioneer in the inclusion of Jewish campers with disabilities. Tikvah programs for campers with disabilities operate in all Ramah camps across North America. 

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, visit www.campramah.org.