Working at ramah
The life of a Ramah staff member is very busy from early in the morning until late at night. Your days are filled with innovative camper programs and exciting staff activities. You have time to brainstorm, plan, and meet with other staff members. Contrary to popular myth, there is time to sleep, eat, and shower. New staff members are introduced to camp culture prior to their arrival at camp. You receive a staff handbook that contains valuable information about what to expect. There is information about how you will get to camp, what you will do when you get there, and what to bring with you.
Camp always begins with a jam-packed staff week where you learn about camp and your job. In addition to valuable planning and preparation time, staff week includes recreational and social activities just for staff members. By the time the campers arrive, every staff member feels like camp is home.
Jewish life at Ramah is a mixture of what we know and recognize from our homes and synagogues, blended together with new songs, Jewish practices, and experiences. People come to Ramah from a wide range of Jewish observance and background. As a staff member at Ramah, this is your time to experience traditional Jewish living including Shabbat and Kashrut.
Read on for more information about life as a Ramah staff member.
After the campers arrive, your day runs according to schedule. Kima (wake-up) is at about seven in the morning. Then it is off to tefillot (prayers) with ochel (dining room) for breakfast, you have worked up quite an appetite. Fortunately breakfast is quite extensive, with a selection of hot and cold cereals selection of hot and cold cereals, yogurt, scrambled eggs, pancakes and toast. Now that your stomach is full, you are ready for campers for nikayon (clean up) and see them off to their first activity. The specialists and teachers are already preparing for the first period of the day. During the course of the morning, the campers attend their electives and classes. Bunk staff use this valuable time to meet with other staff members and plan programs such as peulot erev (evening activities) and yamei meyuchad (special days). The specialists and educators are busy for up to four hour-long sessions during the morning. All this work has made everyone hungry. At 1 pm., lunch is served, followed by rest time.
Rest time is an important part of the day when the specialists and educators regroup while the counselors spend some quality time with their campers. Campers use this time to write home, read and even occasionally rest. The afternoon continues with additional camper activities and planning time. This is often a time for bunk staff to attend to personal business and spend time with friends who work in other areas of camp. Specialists have some free time between their last period of the day and dinner. Dinnertime is fast approaching.
After another delicious and nutritious meal in the hadar ochel (dining room), it is time for peulat erev (evening activity). The counselors are responsible for planning and running these activities and often ask for the assistance of other staff members from around camp.
Counselors accompany their children to the bunks for the nighttime ritual that includes getting ready for bed and a relaxed nighttime activity. Everyone loves a good bedtime story or quiet song from one of their counselors or a special guest from around camp. Now that the camper part of the day is over, it is time for staff to relax, hang out, and socialize.
Nighttime at camp is time to hang out with new friends as well as old ones, attend the staff program, or catch up on your sleep. There are many exciting staff programs including barbeques, karaoke, make your own pizza, basketball leagues, movies, luaus, and more. There is always alate night snackavailable atstaff programs or you can purchase one at the canteen.
Shabbat in camp is special, and is one of the Ramah experiences that will make a lasting impression. On Shabbat we focus on “who” we are, not on “what” we have to do and “where” we have to be!
We create the Ramah Shabbat environment in a number of ways. Shabbat is enriched by special programs, festive meals and snacks, and a general atmosphere of rest following our busy weekday schedule. Although the Shabbat schedule is different from the rest of the week, staff members still have responsibilities around camp in order to ensure that everyone has a safe and relaxing Shabbat experience.
Staff members are expected to observe Shabbat in accordance with the standard of the camp community so that everyone, regardless of religious observance, feels comfortable. In camp, what we wear on Shabbat also reflects the holiness of the day. On Friday night, women wear casual skirts and dresses or nice pants and men wear slacks or nice shorts. There are services on Friday night and Saturday mornings in addition to havdalah on Saturday night. In accordance with the Conservative movement, certain activities such as crafts, writing, and travelling are restricted, thus giving everyone extra time to visit with friends and relax.
Camp is not only a place for campers to learn and grow Jewishly, but it is a comfortable environment for staff members to expand their knowledge and explore their Judaism. Because Ramah is committed to study, everyone from the camp director to the youngest camper engages in Talmud Torah - the ongoing study of Jewish text and Judaica - and everyone is encouraged to spend time with the many Rabbis and Jewish educators to increase his/her knowledge in specific areas of Judaism that he/she finds appealing. All staff members are required to attend staff classes during the week where they learn about different aspects of Judaism and Hebrew. In addition to set class times, you will find even the most mundane activities imbued with learning; not only will you be encouraged to talk with your campers about Jewish tradition, values and lifestyle in such settings as around the campfire, during cabin clean-up or on the sports field, but you will also receive this kind of learning in your interactions with staff. Because our campers and staff come from different backgrounds, you will hear a variety of opinions expressed. Ramah is filled with people with whom to take a walk, ask a question, shoot baskets and learn some Torah!
Tefillah means prayer, and is a way of exploring our relationship to God. We realize that prayer does not come easy to many people and hope that your summer at Ramah will enhance your appreciation of this aspect of Judaism and its personal meaning to you. Prayer is not confined to the daily prayer services, but becomes a part of group discussions, where we explore our beliefs and ideas about God.
Kashrut and Meals
Kashrut Because kashrut is an essential aspect of Jewish law and tradition, Ramah maintains a strictly kosher camp. Staff and campers eat kosher snacks throughout the day and kosher meals in the hadar ochel (dining room), and are expected to maintain kashruth during activities and trips off the campgrounds.
Meals Even camp food is sacred! Every Ramah meal is preceded by ha-motzi (the prayer before meals) and followed by birkat hamazon (the prayer after meals). At Ramah, meals are meant to be something more than just filling ourselves with food, and as with any activity, are imbued with our Jewish tradition.
There are many different options for your days off. There are towns and cities nearby where you can shop, eat, see a movie. A wide range of outdoor activities such as hiking and swimming are also available in these areas. Some camps are close to tourist destinations such as New York, Boston, and Los Angeles.
Generally, staff members receive six days off during the course of the summer. Each camp has a specific timetable for when days off begin and end. Your day off may begin mid-afternoon and conclude the next day around the same time or it may begin before seven in the morning and continue until midnight that night. Either way, there are always other staff members with the same day off.
Many staff members bring cars with them to camp and will invite others to join them. In some cases, rides or cars are available to get to town or the nearest bus or train. Sometimes, there are organized staff trips to exciting tourist destinations.