Reflections on the Ramah Experience
Praise for Ramah's Tikvah Program
By Avrom Fox, parent of Emunah Fox, Ramah Wisconsin alumna
Typically, when one is asked to identify his/her most important Jewish hero, or the individual who had the greatest impact on one's Jewish identity, the response often includes personalities like David Ben-Gurion, Albert Einstein, Yitzchak Rabin, Moses, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, etc.
The greatest Jewish hero for Emunah Fox and her family is Rabbi David Soloff. His heroism enabled Emunah to spend six marvelous summers at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, in the Tikvah program. Rabbi Soloff, in his rather modest manner, would state that the true heroes of Camp Ramah and its Tikvah program are the Tikvah campers. In reality, it is because of Rabbi Soloff, his heroism and his commitment to Jews with special needs that the Ramah Tikvah program exists.
Our daughter Emunah is 22 years old, lives in Evanston, Illinois in a private apartment with a roommate, works full-time at Evanston - Northwestern Healthcare as a medical records clerk, and live almost independently. She is in the transition program of the National Louis University PACE program, a program for young men and women who are mildly challenged. After spending two years in a regular dormitory with other students and learning vocational and life skills, the students who qualify, begin their journey towards independent living. This is where Emunah is today. Much of her amazing courage and success is due to the Tikvah program, and to Rabbi Soloff.
During her early adolescent and teen years, Emunah was a student in the local public high school, in a contained classroom. She had a limited social network, and was minimally involved in Jewish activities. Our family leads a strictly traditional lifestyle, and our other three children attended local day schools on the elementary and high school level. During the summers, our other three children attended Camp Morasha in Pennsylvania.
We were certain that there were no Jewish camp programs for Emunah, until we found out about Tikvah. After an extensive interview process, Emunah was accepted, and was off to the Camp. Thank G-d, she was fortunate to have enjoyed this amazing experience for six years.
Emunah is mildly challenged. She was born with a rare cranial-facial anomaly, and during the first 15 years of her life, she had nearly 20 major surgeries. She is healthy, and mildly developmentally challenged. Our goal was to fortify Emunah to learn sufficient skills to live independently. The organized Jewish community has let us down. There are NO programs or service for kids who fall into this gray area. But, because of Rabbi Soloff, Emunah developed self-esteem; she was integrated into a camp with kids and staff who accepted her and enabled her to feel a sense of belonging and accomplishment.
No parent of a mildly challenged child should be afraid or ashamed to consider Tikvah as a summer camping experience for his or her child. Eight weeks is a long time for parents to be away from their child, but the days go by so quickly, one realizes that the period is not long enough, particularly for the child!
There are no appropriate words to express our thanks to Rabbi Soloff and to Camp Ramah. We hope and pray that you will have the strength and fortitude to sustain this for many years.