Monthly Archives: September 2017

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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