What’s Happening at Ramah
Ramah Hosts Its First Programs at the Rockies Ranch
by Rabbi Mitchell Cohen, National Ramah Director, August 2009
At the newest Ramah camp in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, the world around you changes as you turn onto the dirt road six miles from camp. Serenity, natural beauty, and spirituality envelop you as you leave the concrete and cellular signals behind. The slow drive affords you the opportunity to see majestic pine trees, breathe in the fresh mountain air, and even see some wildlife. And the big blue skies and tall mountain peaks simply take your breath away! Upon this magnificent Ramah in the Rockies site hundreds of people will gather this week to study and pray, hike and climb, take long walks in nature and simply revel in the joys of Jewish life and practice.
I lived among trappers and Indians, but always as a Jew. Did I need grander temples to worship in? In the murmurs of the pines I hear the Psalms of David: The fragrance of the incense is as of old, the winds speak to me in His voice.
- Excerpt from an 1892 sermon delivered by Jewish preacher Rachel Frank, known as "The Girl Rabbi of the Golden West," perhaps recited in the very mountains upon which the new Ramah camp will open
During the first two weeks of August 2009, three key programs took place at the breathtaking Ramah in the Rockies camp site at 8,000 feet above sea level, 90 minutes from Denver.
- Seventeen young adults, many of whom will become the first staff members of Ramah Outdoor Adventure Camp, participated in a nine-day staff training program. Under the leadership of Rabbi Eliav Bock, Director of Ramah Outdoor Adventure (Ramah Outdoors), these young adults had intense training in outdoor adventure, integrating their experiences with the best practices of informal Jewish education from the world of Ramah camping and other venues.
This fall, Ramah Outdoors will begin enrolling campers for next summer's inaugural season. Ramah Outdoors will open in the summer of 2010 with one-, two-, and four-week sessions for teens entering6th through 10th grades. This first "Ramah Specialty Camp" will focus on outdoor adventure and environmental education, and will give campers the opportunity to experience mountain climbing, forest hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, river rafting and much more, all within the warm and traditional setting of Ramah.
Ramah Outdoors, a program of the National Ramah Commission, is funded through the generosity of the Jim Joseph Foundation and the Foundation for Jewish Camp's Specialty Camp Incubator. Under the guidance of Foundation for Jewish Camp mentors from the FJC Specialty Camp Incubator, Rabbi Eliav Bock is working to develop and market this newest Ramah camping option. To read more about this staff training program, and to see more pictures, please visit Rabbi Bock's director's blog at www.ramahoutdoors.org.
- Sunday, August 9, 2009, was a day of "Open Camp Celebration" at the Ramah in the Rockies camp site. More than 140 people, mostly from Colorado-area Jewish communities, came to see the staff training program in action while they experience the beauty of the camp site. They began to imagine Ramah Outdoor Adventure as the future home to hundreds of children and young adults, all participating in outdoor adventure experiences. Ramah Outdoors will build skills and self confidence as well as Jewish identity, the hallmark of Ramah camping throughout North America and around the world.
"Open Camp Celebration" was planned and run by Tammy Dollin, Project Manager for Ramah in the Rockies, along with Melanie Gruenwald and many other wonderful volunteers.
- More than 65 people representing 15 families--parents and children mostly from Texas and Colorado – experienced Ramah Family Camp, Rocky Mountain style! These families engaged in Ramah activities designed to deepen each family's commitment to Judaism as they experience a joyous week of community-building, all in the setting of the Rocky Mountain's cool fresh summer air. Some of the participants participated in site-building projects as part of Garin Ramah, a small group of adults and teens who helped to clear trails and improve existing structures on the land. The Ramah Family Camp took place under the leadership of Rabbi Marshall Lesack, Assistant Director of Camp Ramah Darom in Georgia, as well as Adam Baldachin, JTS rabbinical student and Rabbi Bruce and Tammy Dollin of Denver.
As community support grows, we look forward to involving more and more families as key supporters of our efforts to renovate the Ramah in the Rockies site, enroll teens in next summer's Ramah Outdoor Adventure Camp, and help us to imagine the thriving future of Ramah in Colorado.
For more information about all the exciting new programs in Colorado, please contact Tammy Dollin, project manager, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (303) 261-8214.
"Bringing Ramah to the Rockies, for Texas and the entire region, will be one of the best advances for Jewish education I can imagine. Ramah is clearly the most powerful influence on creating strong Jewish identity in our youth, and our community will undoubtedly be an important part of this initiative."
Rabbi David Rosen