What’s Happening at Ramah
First-Ever Israel Ride for Special Needs Camping Programs
Raises More Than $207,000 for Ramah
Riders from US, Canada and Israel Pedal Through the Galil
on a Five-Day Trek to Raise Awareness and Attract Needed Funding
Tiberias, Israel – May 24, 2011 – The first-ever Israel bike ride benefitting Jewish summer campers with special needs concluded this week as more than 40 participants from the U.S., Canada and Israel pedaled into this seaside city after a 250-mile trek, raising more than $207,000 for the Ramah Camping Movement along the way.
Riders, ranging from a boy who recently celebrated his bar mitzvah at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, to three grandparents in their 70s, took a circuitous and challenging route beginning in Katzrin in the Golan Heights, traversing through the northern reaches of the Jewish state, and ending five days later here on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
“The dozens of riders who spent months training and raising money from small and large donors alike inspire us all with their commitment to a Jewish community that offers the gift of Jewish camping – and a lifetime Jewish framework – to a wide range of children and young adults with special needs,” said Rabbi Mitch Cohen, Director of the National Ramah Commission and a rider himself.
“There are as many motivations here as there are riders, but the one commonality is a belief that Jewish camping is the gateway into an engaged Jewish life, and that those with special needs should face no barriers and be welcomed as full and equal participants.”
The $207,000 raised by riders – which far surpassed the initial goal of $100,000 – will support Ramah programs for children, teens and young adults with special needs and their families, and will fund training for Ramah camp staff as well as camper scholarships.
Ramah, the camping arm of the Conservative Judaism and operating under the educational and religious guidance of The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), has a network of eight overnight camps and three day camps in North America, as well as camping programs in Israel.
The Ramah network has built a considerable reputation designing and providing camp programming for children, teens and young adults with special needs, and their families, stemming from a commitment to enhance Jewish identity and teach Jewish values in supportive, inclusive environments.
The Ramah Galil Ride 2011 took place 41 years after Ramah became a leader in special needs programming with the establishment of the Tikvah program at Camp Ramah in New England, and now active throughout Ramah’s national network of overnight camps.
The program offers children, teens and young adults who are developmentally and intellectually challenged a full, integrated Ramah summer camp experience. Nearly 2,000 campers with special needs have passed through the program and it now serves about 250 campers each summer.
Since that seed was planted, Ramah has expanded its special needs offerings exponentially across its network to serve Jewish youth with autism, mental retardation, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other developmental, learning, mobility and social disorders.
Programs include family camps, vocational training, and even trips to Israel for youth with special needs. One constant is the immersion of Jewish youth with special needs into the camp population.
Riders came from seven states, two Canadian provinces and Israel for the five-day fundraising trek, which was interspersed with tours of historical and religious points of interest, as well as a festive and celebratory Shabbat.
“More than just a strenuous bike trip, this has been a truly unique Ramah experience, as new friendships have been made, children and their parents have spent time together, people have learned so much more about Israel’s history and geography, and the overall feeling of connectedness has been sensational,” Cohen said.
Sponsors of Ramah Galil Ride 2011 include AMSkier Insurance, Amsalem Global Travel Management, and Gershon Tours Ltd.
Visit the Ramah Galil Ride website at www.ramahbikeride.org.
To sponsor a rider, please click here.
To make a general donation in support of the Ride and Ramah special needs programs, click here.
May 23, 2011: The Conclusion of an Incredible Journey
May 22, 2011: Ramah Riders Climb to Hannaton
May 20, 2011: Shabbat Shalom from High in the Galil
May 19, 2011: Update from K'far Giladi
May 18, 2011: Update from Merom Golan
May 17, 2011: Galil Ride Is Ready to Launch
"The dozens of riders who spent months training and raising money from small and large donors alike inspire us all with their commitment to a Jewish community that offers the gift of Jewish camping – and a lifetime Jewish framework – to a wide range of children and young adults with special needs.”
- Rabbi Mitchell Cohen,
National Ramah Director