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
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)
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!
This past Sunday, we all came together as one campe for Rikkudiyah (dance festival). Cochavim had the opportunity to dance in front of the rest of the camp and at the end of the night we all came together for a big dance party!
All day Thursday we had a blast participating in Yom Sport! Each of our chanichim was placed on either K’vutzat Cachol (the Blue Team) or K’vutzat Katom (the Orange Team) and participated in a wide variety of peulot sport (sports activities) in addition to cheering on their teams throughout the day.
Last Shabbat, we read parshat Va’etchanan and one of the highlights of the day was reading the section of the portion that contains the Shema and V’ahavta. This Shabbat, we will be celebrating Shabbat Derech Ramah (the Way of Ramah) with all sorts of activities to show our chanichim how far they have come in just one kayitz (summer) here at Ramah.
It has been such a pleasure having all of your banim uvanot (boys and girls) this kayitz and I look forward to these last days together.
Have a wonderful Shabbat everyone!
Jake Greenberg, Rosh Cochavim
Gesher had a wonderful last full shavua of camp! On Sunday night, Gesher joined all of camp in the annual rikkudiah. Gesher had 2 dances – a group dance and a couples dance. We then danced the night away! On Monday, those who have been focusing on Al Hagova all summer, departed for their overnight, where they hiked and learned how to rock climb. On Thursday, Gesher participated and lead the camp in Yom Sport. The day was filled with a lot of ruach, fun, and friendly competition. On Friday, Gesher led a Machene Bet Sport tournament to raise money for tzedakah. With bittersweet tenderness, we are looking forward to our last Shabbat together where we will reflect on our many summers at camp and start to focus on our future connection to Camp.
Deb Pollack, Rosh Gesher
This week Bogrim is finishing off the summer strong with their edah play, Mary Poppins, Yom Sport, and a whole bunch of amazing bunk activities that range from tie dying to biking around Camp, to late night s’mores, and early morning hikes. Our Shabbat theme this week is Shabbat High school where we will be preparing our chanichim to transition back into the real world as first year high school students. We will focus on maintaining a Jewish identity in high school and discuss a few academic and social pressures that might surface. Our upcoming week is equally packed with a fun-filled murder mystery day and an awesome last night of
Camp Amazing Race peulah, retracing our steps throughout the summer and reviewing all of our highlights!
It has been a wonderful kayitz for Bogrim!
Na’ama Malomet, Rosh Bogrim
The final full week for Solelim was truly an incredible one. We started the week by performing an awesome dance at the annual Rikkudiah. All of the chanichim really enjoyed our special Solelim dance and the big dance party that followed the formal program. During the week, we also participated in fun peulot like Night of 1000 Stars: Apples-to-Apples Edition and a lip sync-dance off battle royale. We were fortunate to watch and perform in the Solelim-Bogrim hatzagah, Mary Poppins on Monday night. All of our chanichim that participated in the hatzagah were stellar. This week’s Yom Hav was split between Yom Sport, the Gesher Tzedakah Tournament, and a few peulot revolving around one of our madrichot, Rachel Kroll. This Shabbat, in Shabbat ShaBye, we will focus on leaving Camp and of reflect upon the kayitz as a whole.
Noam Kornsgold, Rosh Solelim