Nitzanim 2017–Week 7

Nitzanim’s last full week of camp was a blast! On Sunday, we danced all night at the rikkudiah! Yesterday’s Yom Sport was spectacular with the orange and blue teams competing in basketball, gaga, kickball, trivia, and more. Our final Shabbat together will certainly be bittersweet, but we’re excited to take this opportunity to soak up every last wonderful bit of kayitz 2017!  See you next summer.

Shabbat Shalom

Sarah Davis, Rosh Shorashim

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From the Bamat: Parashat Eikev

As the people approach the end of the their journey through the wilderness, Moses prepares them for the final crossing into the land of Canaan.  Though they have been in striking distance of the land for some time now, only a precious few have actually laid eyes on the land God has promised them.  Of those, only Joshua and Caleb are still alive, the others have died along with the rest of the Exodus generation.  In our parasha, Moses seems intent on trying to conjure a picture of the land of Israel for the people as they are about to finally enter. “The Lord your God is bringing you into a good land,” Moses tells them, perhaps remembering the disappointment of the incident with the spies, “A land with streams and spring and fountains issuing from plain and hill.”  He goes on, engaging in a bit of salesman’s hyperbole, “A land where you may eat food without stint, where you will lack nothing.”  The message is clear and direct: the promised land is perfect.  The land will sustain them; the land will keep them fed.

But the agricultural bounty of the land is not the only attraction. As the real estate folks might say, it’s all about location, location, location.  And it turns out that from God’s perspective, the land of Israel is perfect for entirely different reason. Later in the parasha, Moses again describes the land, and this time the fitness of the place is conceived of in quite different terms. “The land you are about to enter and possess is not like Egypt,” Moses tells the people, “There the grain you sowed had to be watered by your own labors.”  Egyptian agriculture is fed by the Nile, and thus irrigation is the norm.  Not so Israel. “The land you are about to cross into and possess, a land of hills and valleys, soaks up its water from the rains of heaven.”  As anyone who has ever been in Israel knows, the land needs rain.  There is no mighty river to bring water on demand.  There is only the rain to make the flowers (and everything else) grow.  And this, it turns out, is what makes Israel the perfect land from God’s perspective, “It is land which the Lord your God looks after, on which the Lord always keeps his eyes.”

At first glance Moses seems to be explaining that the land of Israel is a place where God can keep a Divine watch on the people of Israel.  But that cannot be, since we know from the book of Exodus that God’s eye can be cast onto whatever land God wishes.  Instead, it becomes clear that what Moses means here is that Israel is a place that will require the people to rely on God’s grace in the form of rain.  The condition of the land of Israel thus gives the people the fateful choice Moses outlines in the next few verses: follow God’s commands and the rain will come, or fail to do so and die of famine when the sky refuses its bounty.  The Promised Land is a land of plenty, a land of abundance, and it is also a land whose very climate will require the people to be mindful of the laws God is giving to them.

Unfortunately for everyone involved, this plan never really works.  The people are a rebellious lot before they enter the land, and the they are pretty rebellious once they cross over as well. As the later books of the Bible will all attest in some form or another, the people of Israel never seem to be able to live within the rules God has given them. In the Bible’s later narratives, it is usually not famine that punishes the people’s sinfulness—that lot falls to war and plague—but it is clear that the constant threat of drought as described by Moses in our parasha does little to keep the people in check.  In the end, when the sins become so great, exile—as promised elsewhere in the Torah—falls upon the people of the land.  A place, lovely and fecund as it might be, cannot alter the destiny of the people of Israel.

As a Camp Director, I believe in the power of a place.  I think people are different at Camp.  I think prayer can be a little deeper, music a little more powerful and the bonds of friendship just that much stronger in this particular corner of the world.  For a little over eight weeks each summer, this place in Wingdale, New York is transformed into its own version of the land of Canaan: a patch of ground that somehow means more after we arrive than before.  We strive to live up to the generations who have come before us in this place, and we try to protect it so that we can pass it along to those who will follow us.

And yet what we do at Camp—what we try to do—must ultimately transcend the place itself.  A popular camp saying is “ten for two” meaning we wait ten months of the year to get to the two months we get to spend at Camp Ramah.  I love that campers and staff care so deeply about this place, feel so connected to what we do here, that they live their lives in anticipation of our relatively brief time together.  But I would hope that the essence of Camp can cross the threshold of our property and proceed out into the world.  Because I believe that the Jewish world, and the world at large, could use a bit of what we do, of what we are.  I would hope that our campers and staff come back to the world with a little more courage, a little more compassion and lot more passion for Judaism and the Jewish people.  And I hope they will find a way to share what they have found in this place and spread it to the many, many places they reside. Location matters, and for a short time we have had the privilege of living in our own personal Promised Land.  But now the time has come to leave, and as we do, I hope we remember that what we became in this place is not tied to any bunk or building.  Camp is nearly over for the season, but I hope that, wherever we go from here, a little bit of Ramah always and everywhere goes with us.  The place matters, but the people matter most of all.

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“Dear Evan Hansen”–Summer 2017@CRB

 

Summer 2017 is the summer of “Dear Evan Hansen” at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires.  Starring a Tony Award-winning Ramah alum, many of our New York-based campers have been buzzing about this particular Broadway show. I can often hear the songs blasting from bunks or being sung around camp.  As the Director of Breira (the program for campers with special needs at CRB), the plot, songs, and message of “Dear Evan Hansen” ring even deeper.  The image of the kid, “on the outside always looking in” isn’t fictional; these are real children that I work with, with names faces, likes, and dislikes.  Children who desperately want to be included.

Here at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, we have long strived to include and welcome all campers in the Ramah experience.  For 15 years, we have been working to include the campers who might be like Evan: a lonely camper, “waving through the window,” struggling to connect with others. Over the course of Kayitz 2017, staff throughout Camp Ramah in the Berkshires will support over 20 campers with various disabilities.

This kind of support takes many forms.  Sometimes counselors take on the role of social engineer, looking at bunk/edah dynamics and helping form groups or partners to enable a Breira camper’s success.  Or they may serve as a friendly ear, listening to the trials and tribulations of the day as the camper gets ready for bed.  Sometimes our counselors are cheerleaders, celebrating when a Breira camper tries something new and then being a photographer to capture the moment of their success.  Breira counselors are not just limited to human roles: they are alarm clocks, tissues, chairs, water-bottle holders, and sounding-boards.  Breira counselors wear many hats in a given day, each dependent on the individual need of the camper they are supporting and the dynamics of the other campers in the bunk.

The question we constantly ask is: how can we become a more inclusive and welcoming community?  We measure the success of the Breira program not only by the success of the Breira campers, but also the other campers in the bunk and the edah.  I have seen friendships form between Breira campers and non-Breira campers.  Sometimes these friendships are driven by the more typical campers.  But sometimes a Breira camper has a special interest or focus, and another camper in the bunk shares that interest.  Campers who have been on the fringe socially, have found their camp friendship because we as a CRB community have been able to support a camper with a disability.  Dear Evan Hansen has resonated so strongly because we all know what it feels like to be left out.  The Breira program is working to build empathy and kindness throughout the camp community.  This way, we all feel included and supported.

Here at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, all sorts of relationships are formed and cultivated no matter who you are or what sort of supports you might need to be successful.  We try to live by the lesson that Dear Evan Hansen teaches us: “Today is going to be a good day. Because today, today at least you’re you and – that’s enough.”

Elizabeth Chipkin, Director of Breira B’Ramah, Camp Ramah in the Berkshires

 

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Cochavim 2017– Week 6

We had another jam-packed week of fun and excitement here at Machane Ramah b’Berkshires (Camp Ramah in the Berkshires)!

This past Tuesday, we came together to observe Tisha b’Av (the Ninth of Av) by hosting peulot with the theme “What role does food play in our lives?” We had the chanichim (campers) decorate “seder plates” with foods that were most significant to them and create Shabbat placemats (we will be laminating them and sending them home with our chanichim).

On Thursday morning, we had lots of ruach (spirit) in our tefillah (services). We studied the b’racha (blessing) in the weekday Amidah (a central prayer in Jewish liturgy) entitled V’lirushalayim which is all about praying for Jerusalem. Each of the chanichim then wrote prayers, thoughts, and prayers in the form of notes to be placed in the Kotel (the Western Wall) by some of our Israeli chanichim (we have three!).

Later that day, we hosted Yom Meluchlach (Messy Day) where we made oobleck, shaved balloons (with straws!), and played drip, drip, drop! We closed the day off with a massive paint fight! It was certainly a messy day for the books!

On Friday we had our Cochavim tiyul (trip) and we went bowling at DolrBill’s, played around at the Children’s Movement Center, and topped the day off with ice cream at Carvel!

We are all excited for another beautiful Shabbat together! This week’s theme in Cochavim is Shabbat Giborim (Heroes)!

Shabbat Shalom,

Jake Greenberg, Rosh Cochavim, Kayitz 2017

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Bogrim 2017 — Week 6

This shavua began on a somber note with Tisha B’av.  We studied Jewish communities and the loss we have felt throughout history. After enjoying the Machon play, on Thursday night, Bogrim continued Yom Meyuchad (Yom Board games) on Friday and played human battleship, human guess who, human angry birds, just to name a few. Our theme for this Shabbat is Shabbat Bonding and we’ve planned lots of activities to bring us closer together as a kehillah (community), edah  and tzrif ( bunk).

Shabbat Shalom

Naama Malomet, Rosh Bogrim

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Gesher 2017 — Week 6

Gesher had a wonderful shavua! On Sunday night, Gesher cheered on their friends and madrichim at the annual Berkshires/Nyack Basketball game. For Tisha B’av on Monday night, Gesher joined the rest of camp for the reading of Eichah. On Tuesday, we had peulot discussing power, powerlessness, and bullying with  meaningful and insightful conversations. On Thursday,  Yom Meyuchad,  our Yom #ThrowbackThursday  was terrific. Gesher chanichim relived their time in the other edot in camp. The day included playing Gaga on the A-side kikar, having tours of B-side, and recreating Cooking Sababa by making Shakshuka! We are looking forward to a restful Shabbat  where we will sing, eat, and learn together!

Shabbat Shalom!! 

Deb Pollack, Rosh Gesher

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Shorashim 2017 –Week 6

This past week was incredible in the mighty mighty Shorashim! We had a wonderful time at the Machon Hatzagah (Finding Nemo) and making cinema magic at the Yom Movies that followed it. We’re looking forward to an amazing Shabbat focused on our parasha and the Ten Commandments! We can’t wait for next week’s rekudiah and Arts Clinic.

Shabbat Shalom,

Didi Kalmanofsky, Rosh Shorashim

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Nitzanim 2017 — Week 6

On Sunday night, Nitzanim chanichim cheered for their madrichim playing in an exciting basketball game against Ramah Nyack. This week, we also celebrated the birthdays of two chanichim! On Thursday night, we enjoyed the Machon hatzagah, Finding Nemo. Our week concluded with a fun-filled tiyul to Quassy Amusement Park! Wishing you a restful and meaningful Shabbat from Nitzanim.

Shabbat Shalom,

Sarah Davis, Rosh Nitzanim

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Solelim 2017 —Week 6

Solelim had a jam-packed week filled with fun and meaningful peulot. We started off the week by cheering on Berkshires as our staff basketball team faced off against Ramah Nyack. Other fun highlights included dressing up our madrichim at one peulot erev and playing Deal or No Deal with Camp prizes. On Monday night and Tuesday, we turned inwards as we commemorated Tisha B’Av. The entire day consisted of various peulot revolving around the notion of sinat chinam, senseless hatred. The pinnacle of the week occurred on Friday when we went on a trip to Lake Compounce, an amusement-water park that has been a traditional highlight of the Solelim experience. This Shabbat, Solelim will participate in Shabbat Etgar, where we will discuss a wide range of  challenges and disabilities and begin to become a more accepting community.

Shabbat Shalom 

Noam Kornsgold, Rosh Solelim

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Machon 2017– Week 6

 

Machon had an incredible week. After returning from our second trip, we spent Shabbat relaxing and learning about personal responsibility. We played human battleship, watched the Nyack basketball game and dressed as our counselors. On Tisha B’av we discussed privilege and watched the movie Brooklyn. Thursday night was an awesome night as we preformed our fabulous edah play, Finding Nemo. Machon’s talent and energy is palpable. We’re now looking forward to another great Shabbat!

Shabbbat Shalom

Emily Rebenstock, Rosh Machon

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