What’s Happening at Ramah
National Ramah Commission and Jewish National Fund
Sponsor Alternative Winter Break Service Trip to Israel,
January 3-11, 2010
by Shana Zionts, National Ramah Special Projects Coordinator
Earlier this month, the National Ramah Commission partnered with the Jewish National Fund for a one-week Alternative Winter Break service trip to Israel. A group of 27 second- and third-year staff members from Ramah overnight camps and Ramah Day Camp in Nyack participated in this week of social action and community building. Six senior staff members formed a team of educators to lead discussions and study sessions.
Prior to the trip, participants were required to raise a minimum of $975 in funds for JNF’s Indoor Recreation Center in Sderot. A visit to this incredible structure, which was designed by top Israeli architects with safety as the number one priority, gave participants a clear understanding of how these funds had been used. After spending some time playing with the local children and enjoying the facilities of the recreation center, one participant reflected in the group journal: “The playground was amazing and life changing. I’m so glad to see the tzedakah in a good place.”
The social action projects that framed each day included creating a communal green space for elderly Ethiopian immigrants in Beersheva, painting apartments in a poor neighborhood of Mitzpe Ramon, helping to develop Kibbutz Keramim in the Negev, beautifying a park in the Ein Kerem neighborhood of Jerusalem, and working with children and packing food at the Jaffa Institute. Participants showed true dedication and energy, putting in long hours in hot weather to make a difference in so many lives. After the first day of the trip, one participant reflected: “Prior to the trip I was afraid a one-week trip wasn’t enough to make a difference; however, after one day I really feel that we impacted a community in an extremely positive way.” The participants infused their work and free time with true Ramah ruach.
Throughout the week, programs were shared and friendships were formed, helping the participants to see themselves as part of the larger Ramah Camping Movement. Counselors from different Tikvah programs shared stories and old Seminar friends reunited. On Shabbat, the entire group came together to celebrate a real Ramah oneg Shabbat. Later in the day, a visit to the Fuchsberg Center for Conservative Judaism for Shabbat mincha, a peulah held in Yemin Moshe on the subject of Judaism and the environment, and havdalah at the Kotel added great meaning to Shabbat.
Having made a commitment to return to camp for summer 2010, the participants are looking forward to sharing their experiences with their chanichim (campers), creating programs that teach about the aspects of Israel they experienced, and reinvigorating their commitment to social action. The participants will come to camp equipped with program ideas from JNF that emphasize the JNF mission of fulfilling Ben Gurion’s dream of making the desert bloom.As participants led a final reflection on the last evening, it was clear that this trip will have had a lasting impact on each of them. Although many had been to Israel previously, the experience through the Jewish National Fund empowered them to be caretakers of the land. Each day they rolled up their sleeves, got dirty, and were able to step back and see their accomplishments. Ramah is thrilled to have partnered with the Jewish National Fund, true visionaries in the building of Eretz Yisrael. Kol HaKavod to all who participated in this wonderful program.
Prior to the trip I was afraid a one-week trip wasn’t enough to make a difference; however, after one day I really feel that we impacted a community in an extremely positive way.
- Ramah-JNF Alternative Winter Break Participant