What’s Happening at Ramah
Weinstein Institute for Counselor Training Held at
Camp Ramah in California, January 2-5, 2012
Weinstein provides the opportunity to rejuvenate ourselves in the Ramah wellspring in the middle of the year, reminding us that Ramah is not limited to the summer months, but impacts us and pushes us forward throughout the year. Gathering together with Ramahniks from all across North America strengthens the Ramah movement and solidifies our connection to the Ramah experience.
- Ilana Sidorsky
Rosh Edah, Ramah Nyack
Weinstein was exactly what I needed as a madricha, as a recovering first-semester college freshman, and as someone wanting to get back in touch with my inner Ramahnik. Every minute was valuable and a breath of fresh air.
- Aliza Small
Counselor, Ramah Wisconsin
Ilana and Aliza were participants in this January’s Bert B. Weinstein Institute for Staff Training, a four-day professional development seminar sponsored annually by the National Ramah Commission. The Weinstein Institute took place at Camp Ramah in Ojai, California, where 85 Ramah staff members joined together for an enriching experience.
Historically, the Weinstein Institute has focused on training counselors who have committed to return to Ramah for the summer. Our dream for the 2012 Weinstein Institute, however, was to create a true Ramah leadership training conference for many cohorts of staff members within the Ramah Camping Movement. In addition to the returning counselors who have traditionally participated in Weinstein, this year’s group of participants included:
- Ramah Service Corp interns (funding for the retreat provided by the Covenant Foundation);
- members of Ramah’s special needs staff and directors of several of our Tikvah programs (funding provided by The Neshamot Fund of UJA-Federation of New York);
- returning rashei edot; and
- returning Daber Fellows (funding provided by the AVI CHAI Foundation);
Two assistant directors from URJ (Reform movement) camps attended Weinstein as well, to learn about Ramah’s staff training model and to incorporate their learning into their own training programs.
The sharing of best practices across camps is the hallmark of National Ramah training programs. Other highlights of this year’s Weinstein Institute included the following:
- text study with Rabbi Joe Menashe, the executive director of Camp Ramah California, and Rabbi Aaron Alexander, Associate Dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies and former Ramah Darom staff member;
- a workshop on social inclusion and bullying;
- Daber Hebrew language training with lead educator Yael Seidemann;
- a presentation by staff members of our special needs programs, describing the incredibly positive impact of our special needs programs on our camp communities and discussing best practices for integration of special needs campers with typically developing campers; and
- hadracha (leadership development) workshops, text learning, and program development.
During the course of their four days together, our tzevet created a dynamic, spirited and meaningful learning community. In the process, they energized and inspired one another to remain engaged and committed to their Ramah work. As one madrich said:
I am learning so much from everyone here, and can't wait to start the summer so that I can implement what I've learned. I am so proud to be part of such a big Ramah movement, and prouder than ever to be from my own home camp!
Participants delivered divrei tefillah, led tefillot, planned their own peulot erev (evening activities), and danced to their favorite Israeli music. The program concluded with a powerful charge from Amy Skopp Cooper and Rabbi Mitchell Cohen, National Ramah leaders, reminding staff that as emerging Jewish leaders they can have tremendous impact on their campuses and broader Jewish communities. Many participants expressed the desire to have more Ramah gatherings, leadership development seminars, and learning opportunities throughout the year.
As always, Weinstein was staffed by a dynamic team of senior Ramah professionals. This year, Mitch and Amy were joined by Rabbi Ed Gelb (Director, Ramah New England); Dr. Zach Lasker (immediate past Camp Director, Ramah California, and Director of Melton and Davidson Educational Projects at JTS); Rabbi Joe Menashe (Executive Director, Ramah California); Rabbi Amy Roth (Assistant Director, Ramah Berkshires); Rabbi Loren Sykes (Director, Ramah Wisconsin); Rabbi Todd Zeff (Director, Ramah Poconos); Rami Schwartzer (National Ramah Special Projects Coordinator); Yael Seidemann (Daber lead educator), Shira Arcus (Coordinator, National Ramah Tikvah Network), and Howard Blas (National Ramah Tikvah consultant). We are all committed to building upon the success of this year’s program and to finding more opportunities to bring even more camp leaders together on a movement-wide basis in future years.
Read also Rabbi Loren Sykes's dvar Torah on Parashat VaYechi, which discusses the Weinstein Institute experience.
Gathering together with Ramahniks from all across North America strengthens the Ramah movement and solidifies our connection to the Ramah experience.
- Ilana Sidorsky
Rosh Edah, Ramah Nyack