My first summer at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires was 1983 when I was a Nitzanim camper. This morning I received an email from my bottom bunkmate that summer, Avi Deener, organizing us to golf together at the Alumni Association’s Golf Outing on July 18th. Our group will likely consist of friends I have had for almost 30 years.
I often get asked by non-Ramah friends and colleagues why I stay involved with camp. Well, it’s really quite simple. The friends I’ve made in my years at Ramah are lifelong ones. But it even goes beyond that. Camp really has offered me something at EVERY stage of my life thus far.
As a kid and through college, it was fun summers as a camper/counselor and winters reminiscing about those summers. In my twenties, it was RBA, Labor Day and other Alumni Association initiatives like the other RBA (anyone remember the Ramah Baby Association?). Now as I approach 40 (yikes), and my sons are preparing for Camp Ramah Nyack, I see the cycle about to begin again as a Ramah parent.
I continue to develop new Ramah friendships every day. Some are former campers of mine, some are campers of former campers of mine, some are former counselors of mine, and some are even parents of former counselors of mine. There is a consistent thread I see with camp people and that is quality of character. It is why I look forward to staying involved with camp for years to come.
On Sunday, June 12, Camp Ramah in the Berkshires hosted its second wedding in 30 years when Susie Levithan (Gesher 1999) married Harrison Rubenfeld (Gesher 2000). The two met in the summer of 2002 when they were on staff. They were married by Rabbi Josh Gruenberg (Gesher 1989) at the amphutheater on Lake Elis.
Renovations at Camp this summer will benefit all of our hanichim and tzevet. On A-side, Beit Am Aleph boasts a beautiful new floor and fans. A new adjoining porch was installed between B11 and B12 and new porches were built on B17 and B14. The renovation of program space under the Chadar created a refurbished area for radio, video and photography. Two buildings used for staff housing were renovated, including new plumbing, electrical work, floors, walls, and furniture.
Lastly, campers in all edot will be able to use our new Gan Gesher. Funded through the 2011 Gesher Fund, the new garden located by B-25 has a beautiful view of the lake. The new makom boasts a gorgeous view of the lake, and will be a special place for meeting, tefillah or a peulah.
CRB is fortunate to have an outstanding and enthusiastic tzevet. Many of our staff members started off at CRB as campers and they return to Camp this summer eager to create a magical and memorable experience for hundreds of children. Part of what makes our tzevet so exceptional is the intense staff training they undergo. Before the campers arrive, the staff spends a week learning how to create great programs, help homesick campers and be strong Jewish role models. For many staff members, the training begins weeks and sometimes months before summer arrives. This week, our roshei edot (division heads) gathered to discuss plans for Camp and participated in a special seminar, lead by Sarah Sokolic, on presentation and leadership skills. Camp has also taken advantage of the many on-line training opportunities offered for counselors by the American Camping Association (ACA).
The National Ramah Commission (NRC) works with all the Camps on staff development. NRC offers special seminars and trips throughout the year to enhance staff training. Returning counselors can participate in the Weinstein Institute, a four-day professional staff development program each winter. In the spring, roshei edot can work on camp programming and Jewish leadership skills at the Weiner Institute. Our senior staff members who wish to build upon their Jewish educational and staff training skills can apply for the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Cornerstone Fellowship, which is funded by the Avi-Chai Foundation. The Avi-Chai Foundation is also the sponsor of the Daber Fellowship Program, a seminar for Ramah staff members to work on their Hebrew language skills. Daber participants have been a tremendous asset to our efforts to increase the use of Hebrew in Camp!