Monthly Archives: January 2015

Ramah Reaches Out at the 2014 Annual Fund Dinner

IMG_8407On December 7, 2014 at the Annual Ramah Berkshires dinner, we not only had the opportunity to celebrate and honor members of our Ramah community, but we also had the chance to give back to others in need through the The Beverly Closs Food Pantry drive. The idea behind the drive was to help our Wingdale neighbors in Dutchess County replenish the Beverly Closs Food Pantry (BCFP), located near Camp in Dutchess County.  BCFP provides 102,492 meals for 4,807 families including 1,805.  Located in Dutchess County, BCFP had a great need for canned or boxed food donations during the holiday season. The drive was organized by Ramah Reaches Out.

As part of the drive,  those who attended the dinner provided canned goods and dried food to ensure those less fortunate had the food they needed to stay warm and healthy entering the holiday season. It was an amazing feeling to know that as we all shared an amazing meal at Park Avenue Synagogue, we were also playing a part to provide the same to the community at large. Alumna Arielle Glaser (Gesher 06), who helped organize the drive, said, “As we honored those who have given our own Kahal so much, including Vivian Fried and Lee Podair, Ellen and Jay Steinberg, Marc Damsky and Ilana Kustanowitz, it was nice to share the spirit of giving and all participate in giving back and the values of Chesed and Tzedakah.”

Jacob Goldenberg and Josh Wohl Gesher 06

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Ramah Gives Back – City Harvest Repackathon

photoCity Harvest Repackathon
Jon Apter (Gesher 96)
On November 20th, more than 400 individual and corporate volunteers participated in City Harvest’s 2nd Annual 24-Hour Repackathon and repacked over 231,000 pounds of bulk food donations into family sized packages, which were distributed to City Harvest’s network of food pantries and soup kitchens across the five boroughs.  From 10:30 PM – 1:30 AM, team CRB, consisting of Efrem Epstein (Gesher 84), Yoni Saposh (Gesher 95), Jon Apter (Gesher 96) and Aaron Kaplowitz (Gesher 00) as well as Lauren Rosenthal (Ramah Wisconsin, Nivo 95) sorted through cracked and blemished apples and yams with extreme precision, filled bags at record speeds, and yelled nailed it” every time a full bag was prepped.  The energy at the event was great and for a group that is extremely thankful for all CRB has given to us, we were extremely proud and fortunate to spend the night giving back to others.  We look forward to an encore performance next year!
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Ilana Kustanowitz

IMG_7118As I began gathering my thoughts about this moment in my life, what came to mind were the words of Hillel: Hillel says, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” Pirkei Avot, 1:14. Not only was this the chorus of one of my favorite songs at the annual camp Zimriyah, but it was also my high school yearbook quote. As I reflect upon the impact of Ramah on my own personal identity and the importance of a strong, impactful organization in the future, I am again reminded of Hillel’s words.

As I began gathering my thoughts about this moment in my life, what came to mind were the words of Hillel: Hillel says, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” Pirkei Avot, 1:14. Not only was this the chorus of one of my favorite songs at the annual camp Zimriyah, but it was also my high school yearbook quote. As I reflect upon the impact of Ramah on my own personal identity and the importance of a strong, impactful organization in the future, I am again reminded of Hillel’s words.

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” I believe that Hillel is suggesting the importance of cultivating one’s own sense of self. Unquestionably, Ramah was the place where I was at my best; where I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. Where I (unsuccessfully) attempted to play sports, where I (to the chagrin of others) would sing aloud for our edah’s play, where I cultivated life-long friendships, and where I learned to be a leader.

But if I am only for myself, who am I? As much I loved being a camper, I may have loved being a counselor even more. As Hillel suggested, we cannot simply be for ourselves. As counselors, we emphasized the importance of giving our campers the memories that we had when we were in their shoes. We understood that giving someone else the gift of an incredible summer is often even more gratifying than being on the receiving end of that gift. My counselors and campers – many of whom are here this evening – made me the person that I am today.

If not now, when?” As the past president of the Alumni Association, it was my responsibility to think about the role and function of our alumni body. We had to identify, cultivate and engage future alumni leaders to ensure the strength and rigor of our future. The Hanhallah that I have worked with over the past 4 years has been an incredible team of smart, creative, dedicated and thoughtful individuals, who have put in countless hours programming for our alumni body. Psychologists often say that terminating the therapeutic relationship begins with the first session. With that as my guide, as I assembled my Hanhallah, I promptly began to plan my exit strategy. I needed to find the next president of the Alumni Association, and as you know, we are blessed that Rebecca Kahn, Gesher 97, will be leading the Alumni Association for the next 20 years.

Over the past few years, the Alumni Association has done incredible work. Nothing would have come to fruition without the support of our camp’s director, Rabbi Paul Resnick. Rabbi Resnick has been the biggest champion of the Alumni Association- always willing to meet any of us for dinner on the Upper West Side, supporting our visions and dreams, and providing thoughtful guidance to each endeavor. Paul- thank you for helping us grow, dream, and create.

Thank you to my parents, who in their infinite wisdom, did not bring me home from camp on Visiting Day during my first year Nitzanim summer, despite countless homesick letters. You knew that if I had gone home mid-summer, I may never have returned. You knew what Ramah could provide for me and you wouldn’t let some homesick nights preclude me from having that experience.

Thank you to my in-laws, Shuly, zichrona livracha, and Al Kustanowitz, for sending my beloved Simmy to Ramah. As the story goes, our friendship grew during our summers as counselors together, yet we did not actually begin dating until later. Our Ramah roots are so incredibly strong that together, we have created a new Ramah experience for our family – filled with Labor Day weekends, Purim Carnivals, and lots of brainwashing of our kids that Ramah is the best. We are so proud to be on the famed “Shidduch Wall” at camp- celebrating the great impact Ramah has on finding your bashert.

Most of all, thank you to my fellow alumni. Thank you for loving Ramah as much as I do. Thank you for coming up for Labor Day Weekend because you want to sleep on the camp bunk-beds, swim in the lake, and daven together on Shabbat morning. Thank you for choosing to be involved because you want Ramah to last forever. You want your kids to go there and you want them to love it as much as you did, and as much as you still do. Thank you for feeling close to me, just because we all went to Ramah. Thank you all for being here tonight, celebrating with me.

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Kesharim 2015, Issue 1 – Welcome, Marc Damsky

IMG_7121On December 7th, Camp held their annual dinner gala.  It was a wonderful night where over 450 people felt the essence of what we love about Camp – friendship, community, and a commitment to helping children mature into engaged Jewish adults.

Two great, multigenerational Ramah families were honored – Ellen and Jay Steinberg and Vivian Fried and Lee Podair, whose seven children grew up in Camp and are all active alumni.  The Steinbergs shared the poignant story of Jay’s first summer in Camp, 1967, when Israel fought and won the Six Day War.  The Podairs spoke about the ‘Ramah Eight’ – Vivian and seven of her Ramah friends.  These eight women grew up in Ramah and have maintained their now cross country friendship for over 40 years through their weddings, births, bnei mitzvahs, illnesses, and deaths of loved ones.  And, Lani spoke beautifully about what Camp means to her and the impact it has had on her, Simi, and their family.

I also received the Ramah Alumni Leadership Award, and back on my first day of Camp, would have never thought my Ramah journey would bring me to this point.  I went to public school, started Camp at the ripe old age of 15, and Camp was even just my backup plan.  After applying late to USY on Wheels and getting rejected, my first summer was in Machon.  It was very hard fitting in as friendships and bonds were already formed.  I also remember feeling quite awkward that first morning at Shacharit – it took me twice as long as the other boys to put on my tefillin, and I was barely able to follow along in the service when all the other kids knew the prayers by heart.  So how did I end up receiving the Ramah Alumni Leadership Award?

I would argue community.  A community where kids who are good basketball players can also leyn a mean Torah portion.   A community where kids sing Hebrew songs while hiking .  A community where kids learn about Israel through discussions with Israelis also in Camp.  It is a powerful and transformative experience we are all familiar with.

This community extends after Gesher, Seminar, and staff with the alumni association.  Today, Berkshires Alumni come together for Shabbat Dinners, to play in RBA, to reunite over Labor Day Weekend, for social justice projects, the golf outing, to raise money for capital projects, and in many other ways.  It is a community that contributed to my personal and religious transformation and one I have committed my life to further building and strengthening.

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Fruits and Vegetables – Michael Wolf, WOLFoods

Fruits and Vegetables were all the rage in the chadar during summer 2014. Every meal featured an emphasis on the food we all feel good eating. There was a conscious decision to feature these delicious and healthy favorites.

Campers and staff alike emphatically embraced the addition of greener and crisper fruits and vegetables. Canned and frozen items were nearly eliminated from the repertoire. Instead, a delivery of perishable farmed delicacies from one of our two produce purveyors, Riviera Produce & Zafar Produce, could be seen entering the front gates of camp three to four times each week. A welcomed site when knowing that the morning Breakfast Yogurt Bars featured an array of freshly cut fruits daily.  Pineapple, Cantaloupe, Honeydew, Watermelon, Blueberries, Strawberries, Bananas, Yummmmmmy!!!

ShabbatStrawSaladSome of the favorite featured vegetables at lunch or dinner included Honey Glazed Brussel Sprouts, Haricot Verts in Garlic Sauce, Maple Roasted Carrots, Steamed Edamame, Sauteed Summer Squash, Strawberry Salad, Israeli Salad, Black Bean and Corn Salad… to name a few.   Can you imagine, camp calling Brussel sprouts a newly found favorite?

In 2015, WOLFoods anticipates taking the enjoyment of fresh produce to the next level. In a continued effort to focus on the Ramah Green initiative, WOLFoods has forged a relationship with Dykemn Farms in Pawling, New York to bring local, vine ripened produce into the chadar at Camp Ramah. Additionally, a collaboration with Amir Farmers hopes to offer herbs, cucumbers, tomatoes, and other items grown right on property here at camp.

Looking forward to an even more delicious 2015.

Michael Wolf, Camp Chef, WOLFoods

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Message from Rabbi Paul Resnick – Hodesh Tov, Shevat 5775


I heard you. More than 40% of our families completed the 2014 Camper Satisfaction survey. Thank you for your response.

Over the next few months, I would like to share some thoughts about what the CRB year-round team has learned from the survey and how we plan to implement changes this coming summer.  With over 85% of our 2014 campers returning to Camp in 2015, I am humbled by the fact that so many of you expressed great support and admiration for Ramah.

Our year-round professional staff is currently developing the strategies for our 2015 implementation plan. In this month’s Hodesh Tov  I will focus on one area of concern: improving  our communication with our parent body.

Addressing direct communication, we recently engaged Olark.  Olark is a company that developed a communication “chat” tool that is used mostly by commercial industries but was introduced to us by a website guru and private camp owner.  Using Olark we can make ourselves immediately accessible to our parents, campers and interested families by chatting directly with them on our website.  Though we are experimenting with the software now, I am confident that Olark is bound to improve our year round profile.

You told us that our camp photos needed to be of better quality and published with a greater frequency. To meet this challenge, experienced photographers will be hired.  Increasing our photography staff, too, will enable us to post edah photos more than once weekly.

Lastly, our survey results indicated that when parents called our Wingdale office and left messages, camp staff did not always return the calls in a timely fashion.  We are determined to correct this inefficiency and to implement a better phone reception training program.  To assist us , we will make use of a new tracking system through our data base specifically set up to follow the incoming and outgoing calls.

I look forward to sharing more survey results with you and encourage you to discuss areas of concern with me prior to the summer.  Stay tuned for updates, too, on our new  Welcome Center .

With warm regards,

Rabbi Paul Resnick

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