Monthly Archives: June 2013

The First Shabbat of Season #50

Though I will probably not be writing after each Shabbat, the first is always particularly rewarding.  Standing, as I do, at the bottom of the amphitheater, I get to look up at our kehillah kedusha of campers and staff members all participating in some way with Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv.  Our makhela singing… brought a tear or two to my eyes as I knew like was good, at least for the moment, because we were all back for Shabbat.

The day was magnificent.  I have the privilege to be able to walk from minyan to minyah and see our campers and staff members engaged.  I heard a great dvar Torah from Rabbi Danny Nevins who came to visit us.  Rabbi Nevins, a former camper and staff member [of mine] here in CRB for Shabbat is the dean of the Rabbinical School at JTS, gave a great interactive dvar Torah.  When he asked campers in the Machon-Gesher minyan about what can be passed down in an inheritance the second answer was values.  Yes, money was the first!  But to hear a teenager say that values was also an important inheritance was certainly encouraging!

This was just one of the many moments that continue to inspire.  Great erev Shabbat and Seudah Shlisheet singing, intense Frisbee, basketball and softball games – long held traditions at CRB – were other moments.  At the end of Shabbat, we held a camp wide havdalah to usher in the earliest held HASHI which began with tzrif sessions with mishlachat and others.

It was a great way to start the new week in machaneynu.

Rabbi Paul Resnick

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Shabbat Shalom from Wingdale, Week 1

IMG_6499A half –century ago, over 700 campers and 300 staff,  journeyed to rural Wingdale, New York, nestled in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains, and opened Camp Ramah in the Berkshires for the very first season.  Flash forward to June 25, 2013, and witness thirteen coach buses, filled with 571 excited campers,  headed down Route 22, and arriving in the same spot 50 years later. An historic milestone for the founders and current CRB Mishpacha.

Today’s CRB mission, vision and values reflect  the pioneering spirit that motivated Camp’s Board in 1964.  Dramatic facility improvements, infrastructure adjustments, and grounds keeping upgrades demonstrate   current camp changes .  Yet, the underlying ruach remains constant as great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents continue to send their children and their prodigy to Ramah in the Berkshires. An amazing legacy connects all as we develop plans for the future… for the next 50 years and beyond.

In the spirit of the first day of the 50th season,  chanichim (campers) and tzvet (staff) embraced their old friends and cheerfully greeted the new as they plunged into activities, unpacking, and forming a kehilah (community) within each edah.  Glorious sun soaked days filled with afternoon bursts of  rain showers allowed each camper the opportunity to swim in the lake, study, dance, shoot hoops on the basketball courts, hike, enjoy ga-ga, devour mitbachon’s famous chocolate chip cookies, artistically design projects,  chatter in Hebrew, form bonds with their counselors and bunk-mates, broadcast on Kol Ramah, plant on our farm, select peulot (activities) and much much more. Check out our photos, videos, blogs, and podcasts for a glimpse into CRB in action.

Returning or new to camp all of us are thrilled to be together in Camp Ramah in the Berkshires. We anticipate a wonderful Shabbat and a terrific summer.

Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Paul Resnick

Categories: 50th Anniversary, Campers, Kayitz 2013 | 1 Comment

D’var Torah – Parshat Pinhas

It is most fitting that we begin the kayitz of 2013 reading parshat Pinhas.  Pinhas is a troubling figure.  While we celebrate Pinhas’ zeal in defending the honor of God, we also cringe at the savagery of his method (Num. 25:1-7).  The Talmud Yerushalmi reflects this discomfort.  Sanhedrin 9:7 records: “One who cohabits with an Aramean woman, the zealous may attack him. But the sages do not look with favor upon this. Now, was Pinhas regarded unfavorably by the Sages? Rabbi Yuda ben Pazzi said: ‘They were ready to excommunicate him had the Holy Spirit not sprung forward [to defend Pinhas].’”  Though the Rabbis are distressed with Pinhas’ actions, they ultimately choose to understand the Torah as a tale of well applied passion toward the maintenance of the community not as a statement of support of religious vigilantism.  Numbers 25:10-11 explains, “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Pinhas, son of Elazar son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the Israelites by displaying among them his passion for Me, so that I did not wipe out the Israelite people in My passion.”  Absent is mention of Pinhas’ methods.  Rather the focus is shifted towards his passion for God.

Rabbi Baruch Epstein writes in the Torah Temimah, “Such a deed must be animated by a genuine, unadulterated spirit of zeal to advance the glory of God.  In this case, who can tell whether the perpetrator is not really prompted by some selfish motive, maintaining that he is doing it for the sake of God, when he has actually committed murder?  That was why the Sages wished to excommunicate Pinhas, had not the Holy Spirit testified that his zeal for God was genuine.”  This then is the message of Pinhas.  As Jews our goal is to work to ensure that our lives and our actions are animated by a genuine unadulterated zeal to do good rather than be sullied by petty jealousies and wistful desires.  The challenge that we face daily is how to live our lives within the context of such an essential mission.

We arrived camp this Tuesday as a group of over eight hundred disparate individuals.  Yet as we enter into Shabbat this week we have begun the transformation into a kehillah kedosha, a holy community.  Our success in Ramah is in creating the mindfulness among our campers, staff, and extended family that helps give focus to our individual passions and direction to our lives.  We at Ramah engage in the tangible experience of living collectively, working collaboratively, and acting courageously.  Embodying the passion of Pinhas, we build Jewish community.  May we be blessed with a great summer.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Ari Perten

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Gesher Update 2013 – Week 1

 Gesher GirlsEdat HaGesher had an incredible first week of camp beginning with an initiation into Gesher introducing our summer’s theme: Hineni. Hineni  which literally means “here I am”. As the oldest chanichim (campers) in camp we want each chanich/chanichah to be present, engaged, and to make the most of everyday! Our first breakfast in camp was a  Bishul Boker (morning cook out). Not only did we enjoy great food but the chanichim prepared it all  by themselves.

Gesher Boys

Wednesday night bowling was a terrific surprise followed by Thursday’s preparation  for the special moment when Gesher leads the entire machaneh in Shabbat shirah (singing).

We studied the  lyrics and even did some caroling tzrif to tzrif to get  the entire camp pumped for the holy day. As you celebrate Shabbat, think of your camper leading over a thousand people singing Shabbat songs. We hope your Shabbat is as exhilarating and powerful as ours will be at Ramah!

Shabbat Shalom!

Becca Weintraub

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Machon Update 2013 – Week 1

Machon BoysMachon is off to a great start to Kayitz 2013!!  Starting with a packed opening day of camp, we officially began our regular schedule, followed by several awesome days! Now, as we prepare for Shabbat we are beginning to think about our upcoming Boston trip —just one week away!

machonShabbat Shalom!

Hillel Buechler

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Bogrim Update 2013 – Week 1

Bogrim GirlsBogrim 2013 is off to a fantastic start. Each moment has been so much fun. Camp started with choosing our hugim (sport teams) which created a buzz of excitement about coaches and practices. Without further delay, swim tests were taken, which was perfect solution to the heat. Bogrim concluded Opening Day with a scavenger hunt followed by Maariv on the beach. Jumping right into the daily schedule on day 2, we went swimming, met our yehadut teachers and enjoyed a variety of assigned activities. bogrimSome of us even had the opportunity to farm in the camp garden. The highlight of the past few days however, was definitely getting to dress up in crazy clothing and learning our edah song on Wednesday night. Our bunks are bonding, our edah is unified, and we are really looking forward to Shabbat and a fantastic kayitz!

Shabbat Shalom!

Gaby Mervis

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Solelim Update 2013 – Week 1

Solelim GirlsSolelim had an AWESOME first few days at camp! Everyone  selected  a hug (sport) team  and already started practices. Hug is  reserved  for B-Side, and we are  very excited to be able to participate this summer!  Omaniyot began this week, too, with a wide range of choices including; boating, radio, mitbachon (cooking), rock wall, omanut (art) and many more!

Solelim Boys

We survived one peulot erev (evening activity), Sole-pocalypse, and showed off our skills with our Disney/Pixar rap battles.

Next week we are looking forward to our first edah tiyul (trip), to the NBA Hall of Fame. We are also getting ready for our Solelim bike trip, which takes 15-20 of us on a bike trek and camping experience with our outdoor tzevet!

We are gearing up for our first Shabbat on B-side, with plenty of time to spend with friends and to explore a new side of camp.

Shabbat Shalom

Eli Jacober

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Tzeirim Update 2013 – Week 1

Tzeirim Boys Tuesday morning Tzeirim tzevet (staff) waited eagerly on the basketball courts for the  chanichim (campers) to roll in. As the chanichim emptied the bus, camp overflowed with cheering, hugging, and enormous smiles.

Tzeirim Girls

Tzeirim 2013  emerged, forming bonds in the tzrifim (bunks) and becoming a kehilla (community) as an edah through wacky inter-tzrif competitions that included building two foot standing structures out of graham crackers and marshmallow fluff and naming as many biblical characters as they could in two minutes. Our first few days have been spent swimming in the agam, playing sports, singing, dancing, learning in yehadut, having a bishul (cookout) and so much more!

As Shabbat begins to peek out beyond the horizon, we are excited about  enjoying yet another beautiful Ramah experience with our new friends!

Shabbat Shalom!

Hannah Grossman

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Shorashim Update 2013 – Week 1

Shorashim GirlsKayitz 2013 at Ramah Berkshires is underway!  We are so happy that the chanichim (campers) are here and are excited to get to know them!  With an impressive tzevet (staff) and a wonderful group of chanichim we know that it is going to be a GREAT summer!  Everyone is now unpacked and settling in to their new summer homes.  There is a lot of excitement in the air as the chanichim choose their activities, and wow, there are A LOT of choices: which sports to play, and which omaniyot elective to take (art, radio, photography, videography, Jews and food, rock wall and low ropes course, boating, drumming, teva, etc).  We have also begun our yehadut and tarbut (including Hebrew, singing, and dancing) classes!

Over the first few days of camp we have explored what it means to be part of a kehillah (community) and part of a team.  We created an edah brit (contract) and each tzrif (bunk) did the same.  Our Peulot Erev (evening activities) have focused on team building, getting to know one another and coming together as an edah. You should hear our edah song!

Nitzanim BoysAccording to our tradition, Modeh Ani are the first words that we say every morning when we open our eyes.  Most literally, we translate modeh ani as “thankful am I.”  This week, during tefillot  we discussed this somewhat strange formulation.  Why don’t we say “ani modeh” (I am thankful)?  Shorashim’s goal this summer is to be thoughtful, curious, thankful and excited about all that Camp Ramah in the Berkshires has to offer to us!

We look forward to spending our first Shabbat together as the Shorashim Edah and  look forward to planting, tilling, and cultivating roots (shorashim) this summer that will last a lifetime!

Shabbat Shalom!

Bryan Wexler

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Nitzanim Update 2013 – Week 1

Nitzanim GirlsNitzanim had an amazing first few days of camp!  After unpacking and settling in, we played Hebrew human bingo and learned our edah song.  The ruach (spirit) was amazing!  As we inaugurated our regular activities on Wednesday, we were delighted to experience our first sumptuous bishul (BBQ) dinner. Shabbat preparations included learning  the songs that we’ll sing on Friday night.  Nitzanim BoysWe’re excited to welcome the first Shabbat of kayitz (summer) 2013, which we’ve dubbed “Shabbat You’ve Got a Friend in Me.”  Shabbat will be spent getting to know each other better and studying about the mitzvah of kindness to strangers.

Shabbat Shalom!

Paula Sass

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