Monthly Archives: January 2014

hodesh tov – adar aleph 5774

As I write this on Thursday, I’m finishing my annual Director’s trip to Israel.  It is a trip filled with meetings and interviews. Rabbi Perten and I met and spoke with over 60 people. Some of these people are alumni; some are current or past staff; and some are candidates applying to serve as members of the 2014 Mishlachat. This summer 30 Israelis will join our American staff.

Returning Mishlachat members refer to CampRamah in the Berkshires as their camp. They talk about Camp as their second home. Even after spending  just one summer in CampRamah in the Berkshires they establish their own connections. They “get” camp and begin to appreciate their exposure to a variety ways to express their Judaism.

Our new Mishlachat delegation will serve in different capacities in camp this coming summer.  Your children will form connections with them by living with them in bunks or as their teachers or as specialty staff.  They will get to know them very well!

As a camp director,  I am particularly proud of the relationships we foster each summer between Israelis and Americans. Many of these relationships extend beyond the boundaries of Wingdale organically blending two rich cultures. I remain convinced that Mishlachat add tremendous value to Ramah as it broadens and strengthens the fiber of our kehillah.  I am looking forward to welcoming another Mishlachat cohort this summer.

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jewish disabilities awareness month

As February is Jewish Disabilities Awareness month, we are highlighting a largely unseen, yet highly valued program of Camp Ramah in the Berkshires: Breira B’Ramah.  B’reira B’Ramah is a fully integrated inclusion program, for campers with the often invisible challenges of learning, emotional and/or behavioral disabilities. Breira B’Ramah campers are largely indistinguishable from their peers; they participate in all camp activities with minimal modifications.  What enables these campers to be successful at camp is a group of caring, talented counselors who serve as their shadows, mentors and coaches.

As director of this program, a large part of my role is to speak with parents about our program, as we work together to assess whether Breira B’Ramah would be a good fit for their child.   Parents ask me many questions, but this week, for the first time, I was asked, “What would make a young adult choose to be a Breira counselor?” This was a question I could answer with no hesitation, and I would like to share my response with you:

  1. Breira counselors have a mission; they believe that every child deserves a chance to have the Ramah experience that they, themselves, experienced.  These young adults are committed to providing support to campers with mild to moderate learning, social and/or behavioral challenges, who would not be successful at Camp Ramah without this special program.
  1. Breira counselors want a special one-on-one experience. They want to know that the strength of their relationship with their camper will have a lasting impact.
  1. Breira counselors want to learn and challenge themselves.  They know that, in addition to a week of special Breira training sessions, they will also have weekly group supervision as well as individual supervision with a trained professional.
  1.  Breira counselors want to be supported, as their job is not always easy. They enjoy knowing that any time they want to share a challenge, brainstorm, or  react to a crisis, they will receive professional guidance, mentoring  and assistance. They also know that the Breira director knows their campers well.  There have been conversations with parents about each child’s strengths, challenges and coping strategies. There have also have been conversations with the professionals who work with these children year-round. Therefore, Breira counselors are confident that they will receive feedback and techniques specific to the camper they are working with.
  1.  Breira counselors want to have the opportunity to teach social skills.  Much of their work focuses on helping campers improve their interpersonal skills, communication, and their ability to successfully resolve conflicts.
  1. Breira counselors want to plan ahead.  They know that, by working proactively, they can reduce their camper’s anxiety, help campers cope with transitions or unexpected changes in schedule, prevent behaviors from escalating and avert crises.  By brainstorming and rehearsing coping strategies with their campers, Breirah counselors enable them to successfully navigate difficult situations and build self-confidence.
  1. Breira counselors are empathic, and want the opportunity to make a difference in the life of a child.  They remember the childhood struggles of wanting to fit in and struggling to find their place.  They know that these struggles are magnified for campers in the Breira program and therefore, they work hard to facilitate the social integration of their campers.

Our program, now in its twelth year, has enabled campers from as far away as Chicago,  Ohio, and Florida to have a normative camp experience in a nurturing environment, guided by Jewish values and practice. We are blessed to have the support of the National Ramah Commission, as well as our own camp leadership, as we move forward in our mission to provide a Ramah experience to all campers.

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ramah reflections

Arielle (in red), her Gesher year as Yom Sport General

Arielle (in red), her Gesher year as Yom Sport General

by Arielle Glaser, Gesher 2006

When I was asked why I love camp, I immediately thought to myself…well this is going to be a piece of cake, I LOVE CAMP!! But as I sat down to put all of my ideas on paper, I realized there are too many things that I am passionate about and obsessed with that I needed a way to focus myself.  My 8 years as a camper, participating on Ramah Seminar, and spending 5 years on staff, gave me so many different and amazing experiences that have shaped my life.  Below is an acrostic that helped me express some of my thoughts.

C is for Camp. It is truly my favorite place on earth. A place I am proud to call my home. A place that has given me the opportunity to meet the most amazing individuals in the world. A place where I learned something new  every day. Not only did Camp Ramah in the Berkshires influence and nurture my social needs, but it also instilled and fostered Jewish morals and values in me. I know that today I wouldn’t be practicing Judaism to the same degree had I not attended camp. I am so beyond thankful for Camp Ramah and not a day goes by that I’m not reminded of the many summers I spent in this special community.

A is for Ampitheater. My most favorite place within camp. Although the first few years I attended camp it was still woods I am fortunate and lucky that I was able to lead Kabbalt Shabbat in front of the entire camp on the steps overlooking our beautiful lake. When the entire camp gathers and stands together all in white, overlooking our beloved Lake Ellis, my heart fills with joy and I can’t help but smile. Only those who have been present at Kabbalat Shabbat can truly understand the unique sense of kehillaneshama, and ahava that fill the amphitheater.

M is for masoret, tradition. If there is one thing that I love about camp, one thing that makes us so extraordinary, it is the silly things we do and say simply because they’re tradition. Who doesn’t love donuts for breakfast on Yom Daled or Yom Daled in general? Our amazing b-shuls, that really result in everyone smelling and one person cleaning up? Our bunk raids featuring our very talented counselors and well rehearsed shmirah members? Haba bator? Music to our ears…Frozefruit, Chipwhich, Oreo sandwich, hot pretzel or 6 bags of Dirty potato chips. The rikudiyah, zimriyah, Yom Sport break outs. CHUG. B25! Bunk trips to Kent, Webatuck, and Cousins – these are things we never question or take for granted. We just know and do! Camp runs (on Dunkin during tzevet appreciation week–a more recently practiced tradition) on these unique traditions, that we are all thankful to be a part of and know.

P is for the people who make the whole camp experience worthwhile. The people who have been my companions and friends for all the years I’ve been going to camp. The people who will be my dear friends, forever, as we have been deeply connected in a magical and meaningful way that will never be broken. All the people who have been and will be partners, cohorts and buddies through good times and sad times, through great times and all times.  I cannot begin to express how very blessed and honored I am to know and continue to meet all of the special people that are connected to our incredible camp.

I’d like to thank everyone for contributing to my deep rooted love and passion for CRB.

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hodesh tov – shevat 5774

IMG_6499Planting seeds and crops on the CRB farm  this summer was a favorite peulah for campers and staff alike.   Toiling the ground they felt the impact and power of connecting with  the land.  Later this month – the month of Shevat, we will celebrate Tu’B’shevat,  known as the Jewish New Year of the Trees. In many ways it links us intrinsically as Jews to the land.

Nigel Savage, Executive Director of Hazon, commented that “The indigenous Israelis from whom we descend celebrated this as the start of the year for the natural world. Like lots of elements in Jewish tradition, we never forgot it, even as its meaning has changed overtime.”

Emulating our ancestors, we can think of empowering our future today as we celebrate Tu’B’shevat, and bring Israel, Camp, and land together. We were privileged to partner with Amir…. in bringing farming to a more engaging level then in the past. We have had small gardens in camp for years. Planting, the seeds or plants, harvesting the vegetables and then cooking them in Mitbachon has always been a highlight for campers involved in the project.

2013 witnessed a big jump in the number of participants engaging with farming. Savage is correct we do not forget the connection we have as Jews with the land and with the land of Israel. It is a value and historical connection that our campers learned as they were doing.

Today so many advances have been made by Israelis in the world of farming which has aided people around the world. Drip irrigation and proper harnessing of solar energy have been at the forefront of Israeli technology.

By connecting, by doing, our campers fulfilled the mission of our ancestors in ways that can be done best in camp.   In camp, much of our learning is experiential, planting the seeds and giving each camper a fresh perspective that often illuminates  written text.

B’shalom,

Rabbi Paul Resnick

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