What’s Happening at Ramah
National Ramah Commission, Inc. Named by Slingshot as One of North America’s Most Innovative Jewish Nonprofits
The Ramah Service Corps project strengthens Jewish communities through young adult leadership of year-round youth and family programming and congregational schools
Nov. 5, 2012—The National Ramah Commission of The Jewish Theological Seminary (NRC) has been named one of the nation's 50 most innovative Jewish nonprofits in Slingshot '12-'13, a resource guide for Jewish innovation. The NRC was selected in light of its path-breaking work through the Ramah Service Corps, a young adult leadership program that leverages the experience and skills of summer camp staff to serve year-round communities through family and youth programming and congregational schools, and recruitment to Jewish camp. The Ramah Service Corps (RSC), launched and developed over the past three years with support from the Foundation for Jewish Camp, currently includes more than 30 Ramah staff alumni working in synagogues, youth groups, and other community institutions across North America.
Ramah founded the RSC in order to create direct linkages between camp and off-season Jewish experiences. RSC members are primarily college-age camp staff alumni who are already working part-time in Jewish institutions and take on the additional responsibility of creating camp-style programming around Shabbat and holidays, Israel education, community service, and other experiential learning. They also commit to ongoing Jewish learning through webinars which are directed by faculty of the Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education of The Jewish Theological Seminary, they participate in ongoing leadership training, and they work closely with regional Ramah camp offices to recruit children to Jewish camp.
"The first two years of the Ramah Service Corps have been an outstanding success," says Amy Skopp Cooper, Associate Director of the National Ramah Commission and the supervisor of the Ramah Service Corps project. "Ramah has a robust pipeline of exceptional young leaders who are actively looking to introduce the joy and magic of summer camp into their synagogue and school communities through a year-round continuum of Jewish experiential education."
Last year, 29 RSC members served 28 communities, working closely with community educators and lay leaders to introduce programs that included family Shabbat events, holiday celebrations, Israel programming, and a wide range of experiential learning opportunities for children of all ages. RSC activity also contributed to the recruitment of an additional 85 campers to a variety of Jewish camps. In 2012-13, Ramah expects to have over 35 RSC members engaged in community activities and camp recruitment. "We are also exploring the possibility of a parallel track of full-time Ramah Service Corps Fellows," Skopp Cooper says. "If we can provide communities with increasing numbers of young, motivated, informed young leaders to work closely with families and kids, we believe that we can have an outsized impact on the growth and development of North American Jewish life."
Ramah is the camping arm of Conservative Judaism. Together, our programs provide Ramah experiences for over 9,000 children, teens, and young adults annually. The National Ramah Commission of The Jewish Theological Seminary provides oversight, educational planning, and coordination on behalf of the network of Ramah camps throughout North America and Ramah programs in Israel.
The Slingshot resource guide is distributed to 7,500 funders, foundation professionals, and organizational leaders annually, in addition to tens of thousands of online downloads. Readers use Slingshot to identify the most inspiring and trail blazing organizations, projects, and programs in the North American Jewish community today. Since its inception, Slingshot has highlighted 173 innovative Jewish organizations in North America. Slingshot organizations are selected from among hundreds of nominees based on their strength in four areas: innovation, impact, leadership, and organizational efficiency. The National Ramah Commission was chosen this year by an independent panel of 48 foundation professionals from across North America.
Inspired six years ago by Slingshot, a group of next-generation philanthropists launched the Slingshot Fund, a collective giving mechanism to support innovative Jewish life. In just six cycles, 58 members of the Slingshot Fund have contributed more than $2.1 million to innovative Jewish organizations.
Slingshot '12-'13 is being released on November 5, 2012. The community will meet on May 6, 2013, in New York City at the annual Slingshot Day, where over 250 not-for-profit leaders, foundation professionals, and funders of all ages will engage in candid conversations about philanthropy and innovation in the Jewish community. A pdf of the Slingshot '12-'13 guide can be downloaded from the Slingshot website.