I just spent two remarkable weeks learning with and from the chanichim (campers), madrichim (counselors), and tzevet (staff) of the glorious Camp Ramah in California in Ojai! It is a magical, inspiring, and loving place. On the last Shabbat of the first session, I sat and learned with a group from Adat Shalom (7th graders), on the grand hill that cuts through the heart of camp. I asked them what would be their favorite Ramah memory that they would carry home with them. Many mentioned the chocolate muffins served Shabbat mornings. Others talked about celebrating Shabbat with their friends Others mentioned the mud-hugs (to see it is to believe it!) given by the Machon campers (10th graders) when they return from a five-day hike covered in mud. After the kids shared their memories, they asked me what I would remember. It is hard to say. It may be sitting with my Tzophim girls (9th graders) and talking about prayer. It may be discussing with my Sollelim girls (8th graders) essential Jewish values, and why I personally value generosity of spirit. It may be learning Torah with the tzevet and thinking about what it means to create sacred space and how/if it is possible to gauge the impact they are having on their campers. It also may be the walks I took with counselors, and the talks I had with the amazing and gifted professional staff. I learned so much watching them work. It may be the beautiful havdallah I joined my last Shabbat at camp with the participants in Ezra, the camp’s vocational education program. And, of course, it may be those delicious chocolate muffins! I have many, many beautiful memories from Ramah Ojai. It was a gift to spend time there.
Dr. Amy Kalmanofsky is Associate Vice Chancellor and Associate Professor of Bible at The Jewish Theological Seminary.