2017 Survey Results!

To Our Camp Community,
At the close of last summer, we asked you to spend a few minutes thinking about the ways in which Camp was successful and not successful. I am happy to report that a large number of you responded to our request and filled out the Camper Satisfaction Survey administered by the Summation Research Group. We have done this survey for several years now and we always find the resulting data to be very useful as we plan for the next summer. I wanted to let you know what we heard from you this past summer, and give you a sense of how we are responding to your feedback.
Things You Liked
For the most part, you love Camp Ramah in the Berkshires. The vast majority of you told us that you would be likely or very likely to recommend Camp Ramah in the Berkshires to your friends and the vast majority of you were either satisfied for very satisfied with the summer overall. This is very gratifying to hear, though of course we strive to move those numbers as close to one hundred percent as we possibly can.
We were also happy to hear that our parents were far happier with our communication this summer than was the case in the past. Previous surveys had indicated that you were not satisfied with how Camp was communicating with you during the summer and we worked hard in 2017 to get better. Most people were happier with our pictures and our use of social media, and most of our parents who contacted Camp during the summer felt positively about the timeliness and professionalism of the responses they received. We recognize that we have more work to do in this vital area and we hope to build upon our success this summer.
Finally, you told us that you liked the social environment of Camp Ramah. You were happy—for the most part—with the relationships campers formed between themselves and with their staff. We were glad to hear this, because we want our camp to be a warm and welcoming place for everyone in our community, and you let us know that you like what you see. So do we, and we will keep working hard to make Camp Ramah in the Berkshires a place where every child and every staff member can feel that they have made deep, profound and lasting relationships.
Things You Liked Less
The surveys reveal something important and perhaps a little painful: you are not thrilled with the Jewish content of our program. What I find heartening about this is that the surveys do not express a desire for less Jewish content, but for betterJewish content. I agree. We need to rethink and revitalize everything from daily tefilot (prayer), to yahadut (Jewish learning), to how we talk about Israel, to the informal ways we express Jewish values and traditions over the course of the camp day. Needless to say, this not a one-summer project, but we are going to try a few things this summer to get started. We are going to spend more time thinking about daily prayer, to increase the range of options available for some campers, and to continue to improve upon the musical aspects of our services. Last summer, we experimented with having a “rabbi in residence” for our Al Ha-Gova (outdoor education) program whose job it was to find ways to weave Jewish learning into our programming more organically and informally. That effort will continue this year. This will be a summer of trying new things, of experimentation, of working to bring greater creativity and vitality to our Jewish educational mission. I can’t wait to hear what you think.
Finally, while our survey results improved across the board in 2017, we could not help noticing that our overall programming results did not improve at quite the same rate. Most of you are still generally happy with our programming, but the surveys told us that this is clearly an area where we could continue to improve. One thing you told us was that campers did not feel they were getting enough opportunities to take advantage of the myriad of amazing programming areas at Camp. In response, we are making some changes to our schedule to allow A-side campers to have an additional period each day of “clinic time.” This will give the campers more opportunity to do the arts, sports, outdoor education and other activities they love. In addition, we are adding a daily activity period on A-side that will take the form of a side-wide get-together with music, games and fun. On B-side, we are adjusting the double-period intensivi that we began last year to allow for great flexibility and more options for campers. Finally, in the months leading up to the summer we are focusing our efforts on improving programming for peulot erev (evening activities). We want our programming to be fun and exciting, allowing for a range of choices while giving campers time to dive deeply into one area if they choose. We heard from you that we are not there yet, and we’re working on it!
Thank you so much for being part of the conversation about Camp Ramah in Berkshires. I love hearing from you in calls, emails, and in-person conversation. I very much appreciate the willingness of so many of you to take part in our survey. I love hearing where we are doing well, and I love hearing about areas where we still have work to do. We are listening.
Rabbi Ethan Linden
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Al Hagovah 2017

Over the past few summers Al Hagovah has engaged and challenged campers and staff members by connecting them to the natural world. We are committed to providing top-notch programming that allows participants to grow in all facets of their lives.                     

The Al Hagovah program now consists of four departments:

Tiyulim: These are multi-day outings, such as three-day backpacking excursions on the Appalachian Trail, three-day biking trips in the foothills of the Berkshires, two-day canoeing adventures on the Housatonic River, half-day waterfall hikes, and overnights on Ramah Mountain.

Teva: Campers elect to hone their skills in archery, outdoor cooking, animal care, nature crafts, fishing, mountain biking, and wilderness survival.

Farming: Farming skills are integrated with yahadut programming. We are very proud of our farm-to- table meals, during which campers and staff select food from the farm that become key ingredients for the meal they prepare together.

High Ropes: Campers work to complete the challenges of the rock wall, the high-ropes course, the low-ropes course, and real rock climbing on Ramah Mountain.

This summer, Al Hagovah became more robust due to new programs, upgrades to existing facilities, and the construction of new ones. We built two outdoor kitchens, one by igul alef and one at the farm, to enhance our outdoor cooking classes and farm-to-table program. We expanded our mountain bike trails on A and B sides, added a bike pump track, and created an authentic rock-climbing site on Ramah Mountain. The Ramah Mountain trail, was connected to the Appalachian Trail allowing for those

participating in the Etgar backpacking trips to hike continuously. Lastly, a new fishing program was developed and an animal care area, comprising of goats, pigs, sheep, turtles, bunnies, ducks, and chickens, was folded into the Teva program. 

It’s been a great season with wonderful Jewish outdoor experiences. As we end kayitz 2017 on a high note, we already have our sights set on Summer 2018. We trust that our program will continue to enrich the lives of all Ramahniks.

Seth Adelsberg, Rosh Al Hagova


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Al Hagovah’s Guide to Life

It all started in Gan. I really didn’t have much interest in hanging out with my contemporaries in the sandbox or walking around Machaneh Alef with my babysitter… so I would escape to The Shack (circa 1996) where I was warmly greeted by Seth Adelsberg and his founding team of outdoorsmen. There I learned about team building, adventure, wilderness Judaism, and Menschlichkeit. This early immersion experience was the foundation for what I call “the Al Hagovah way of life.” It is intentionality, it is teamwork, it is adventure, it is experiential education, and it is Judaism with a flare.

I have been involved with Ramah for my entire life. As a child of the Conservative Movement – Teaneck, Solomon Schechter, USY, CRB, and JTS – I can confidently say Ramah is the best part of  the Conservative Movement. Ramah is how I define my Judaism. It not only provides a summer experience, but more importantly, a lifelong, global community…and, for me, a lifelong partner, my wife, Danielle (Schindler) Segal!

Then, add the Al Hagovah Life. Leaving everything behind and going into the backcountry is one of the most powerful experiences a person can have. We all remember Bike Trip, Challenge, spelunking, bishulim, and in recent years the high ropes course. Whether these are fond or painful memories, every adventure undoubtedly led to personal growth. My most spiritual Jewish moments – from screaming the Sh’ma on the peaks of the Appalachian Mountains to discussing the existence of God with teenagers in the depths of a silent, pitch-black cave  – have occurred in the outdoors.

While leading limmud in the middle of a trail, I have heard some of the most remarkable and beautiful comments that would not have been said in a classroom or bunk. Many of my chanichim, ranging from Cochavim to Roshim, have stated that they “felt God” for the first time in the outdoors. Radical Amazement indeed!  These experiences provide both physical and mental, as well as religious and secular challenges from which we return changed.

 When you put these two components of life together, you really have the best of both worlds! CRB provides a strong Jewish setting and Al Hagovah helps you push your limits from internal exploration to outdoor adventure. The principles set forth by this dynamic duo  – our camp community and all things Al Hagovah  – continue to guide my life today.

Adi Segal (Gesher 2005)










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Al HaGovah – A More Robust Ramah Experience

What a privilege to be ‘Rav Govah!’ This is the first year that camp has a rabbi embedded in Al HaGovah. We continue to integrate Jewish role modeling into the experiential areas of camp, and we are already celebrating successes.

Let me share from a personal perspective-       

Weeks before campers arrived, I worked with Seth Adelsberg to imagine where Jewish spirit, content and language from our tradition could be integrated into trips, farming, bishulim, teva, ropes and the like.

During staff trainings on the Appalachian Trail, on day hikes, out in the woods for survival skills training, or getting the farm set for first session, I worked with staff members to help them access Jewish texts and concepts, or narratives from our history, to make connections between their activities and our tradition. We saw great planning unfold for the camper experience, especially when staff was ready to expand their own Jewish knowledge and adopt a ‘Jewish outdoor educator’ mindset, as they gained know-how to run their pe’ulot.

A great example of this coming to life was when one madrich was ready to take the liturgy of the morning blessings – “HaNotein L’ya-ef koach – who gives the tired strength” – and use it for a motivational spark on the trail. He now asks those with weary legs “Where does your strength come from?” – as chanichim ascend the heights of the Appalachian mountains.

The Jewish part of a tiyul needs to be more than an outdoor t’filah (though, also great!). The Yahadut at a bishul should not only be “remember to wear your kippah!” So much more is possible!

The leader, after having the group cut, chop and stoke the fire, says: “Look closely at the fire, concentrate on its beauty and power…what does it make you think about? Feel?” A chanich offers a question: “why don’t we cook anything over the candles we light for Shabbat?” A discussion ensues – “why do we light candles?” “What is it about fire that we use it for both cooking but to mark different celebrations?” While the Rocky Mountain Toast is cooking, conversation about our tradition is possible, among the fun, song, chatter, team-work, and meal preparation.

Add a source (introduce in a fun way, like having it as part of the menu…): The Baal Shem Tov (founder of Hasidism, spiritual movement of the 18th Century) teaches that the flames rising in a fire are there to remind us of both God’s presence and our potential to bring out our own power from what lies deep within, as long as we fan the flames. Guided properly this conversation and integration of our sources stitch outdoor experience and Yahadut together, while having a blast cooking at the igul!

Al HaGovah experiences build character and create unity among our staff and campers. The pe’ulot are perfect places to integrate even more – lessons that we know are essential to building deeper character and making Judaism relevant. To look at it midrashically, using the English word: recreation. Don’t think about it as just recreation, read it as RE-creation. When we are out hiking the trails, take time to contemplate the beauty, our existence, our role as Earth-keepers, thinking about how we want to grow, what we want to contribute to community, and finding motivation we are becoming the best people, the best Jews we can be.

Simply by inviting the presence of a rabbi within the program, and adding Jewish elements, but not forcing them, the Ramah staff and camper experience in Al HaGovah will continue to become more mission-based. More training will be necessary and an openness from staff nourished – and then the cool, able leaders of Al HaGovah will help bring out the best of our tradition through outdoor adventures, climbs, bike and canoe trips, archery, farming and all Al HaGovah has to offer.

From the Al HaGovah shack,

Rabbi Scott Bolton of Congregation of Or Zarua, who proudly served as Rav Al HaGovah this summer at Camp!

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Shorashim 2017–Week 7

Shabbat Shalom from Shorahsim 2017!

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Machon 2017–Week 7

Shabbat Shalom from Machon 2017!

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Cochavim 2017–Week 7

It’s hard to believe that we are wrapping up our last full week and that in a few short days we will be saying l’hitraot (until we see you again) to all of our chanichim (campers).

This past Sunday, we all came together as one campe for Rikkudiyah (dance festival). Cochavim had the opportunity to dance in front of the rest of the camp and at the end of the night we all came together for a big dance party!

All day Thursday we had a blast participating in Yom Sport! Each of our chanichim was placed on either K’vutzat Cachol (the Blue Team) or K’vutzat Katom (the Orange Team) and participated in a wide variety of peulot sport (sports activities) in addition to cheering on their teams throughout the day.

Last Shabbat, we read parshat Va’etchanan and one of the highlights of the day was reading the section of the portion that contains the Shema and V’ahavta. This Shabbat, we will be celebrating Shabbat Derech Ramah (the Way of Ramah) with all sorts of activities to show our chanichim how far they have come in just one kayitz (summer) here at Ramah.

It has been such a pleasure having all of your banim uvanot (boys and girls) this kayitz and I look forward to these last days together.

Have a wonderful Shabbat everyone!

Jake Greenberg, Rosh Cochavim

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Gesher 2017–Week 7

Gesher had a wonderful last full shavua of camp! On Sunday night, Gesher joined all of camp in the annual rikkudiah. Gesher had 2 dances – a group dance and a couples dance. We then danced the night away! On Monday, those who have been focusing on Al Hagova all summer, departed for their overnight, where they hiked and learned how to rock climb. On Thursday, Gesher participated and lead the camp in Yom Sport. The day was filled with a lot of ruach, fun, and friendly competition. On Friday, Gesher led a Machene Bet Sport tournament to raise money for tzedakah. With bittersweet tenderness, we are looking forward to our last Shabbat together where we will reflect on our many summers at camp and start to focus on our future connection to Camp.

Shabbat Shalom

Deb Pollack, Rosh Gesher

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Bogrim 2017–Week 7

This week Bogrim is finishing off the summer strong with their edah play, Mary Poppins, Yom Sport, and a whole bunch of amazing bunk activities that range from tie dying to biking around Camp, to late night s’mores, and early morning hikes. Our Shabbat theme this week is Shabbat High school where we will be preparing our chanichim to transition back into the real world as first year high school students. We will focus on maintaining a Jewish identity in high school and discuss a few  academic and social pressures that might surface. Our upcoming week is equally packed with a fun-filled murder mystery day and an awesome last night of

Camp Amazing Race peulah, retracing our steps throughout the summer and reviewing  all of our highlights!

It has been a wonderful kayitz for Bogrim!

 Shabbat Shalom

Na’ama Malomet, Rosh Bogrim

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Solelim 2017–Week 7

The final full week for Solelim was truly an incredible one. We started the week by performing an awesome dance at the annual Rikkudiah. All of the chanichim really enjoyed our special Solelim dance and the big dance party that followed the formal program. During the week, we also participated in fun peulot like Night of 1000 Stars: Apples-to-Apples Edition and a lip sync-dance off battle royale. We were fortunate to watch and perform in the Solelim-Bogrim hatzagah, Mary Poppins on Monday night. All of our chanichim that participated in the hatzagah were stellar. This week’s Yom Hav was split between Yom Sport, the Gesher Tzedakah Tournament, and a few peulot revolving around one of our madrichot, Rachel Kroll. This Shabbat, in Shabbat ShaBye, we will focus on  leaving Camp and of reflect upon the kayitz as a whole.

Shabbat Shalom

Noam Kornsgold, Rosh Solelim

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