One of the most moving and impactful aspects of the High Holiday liturgy is the emphasis on the collective. We, who stand in the synagogue together, are referred to over and over again as one group, one entity- both in terms of our relationship to God (ki anu amecha…) as well as our relationships to one another through our actions (ashamnu, bagadnu…). Through these liturgical statements, we pray that on these Days of Awe we, as a group, are being shepherded, God willing, into the Book of Life. On Yom Kippur we are pushed to move beyond the constant reminders of our differences in our daily lives. We are forced to acknowledge that ultimately our fates are not impacted by our wealth, our social milieu, our professional or academic achievements. We are one community—bound together by our desire to find health, meaning and joy in the new year.
At camp we experience a similar sense of the power of the collective and intuitively sense that everyone who is part of the Ramah experience has a claim to it. Each individual contributes to the collective experience and benefits from it. It is clear that the strength of the collective is due to the vast diversity of the individuals who make up that summer’s unique, holy community. Campers and staff come from different geographic locations, different educational backgrounds, at different ages, with different personalities, strengths and weaknesses.
One of the aspects that drew me personally to Ramah is its commitment to providing rich and robust programming for individuals with special needs. The Tikvah and Atzmayim programs are a testament to this commitment. And yet, what is so powerful about these programs is not simply the ideological underpinnings of these programs, but rather the fact that the entire Ramah community is so clearly enhanced by its diversity. The benefits of a Ramah experience for the participants of the Tikvah and Atzmayim programs are clear. Yet also as clear are the benefits to the rest of the campers and staff in camp. As a collective, the Ramah community is stronger because of the Tikvah and Atzmayim programs.
This year we produced two videos to share the magic of the Tikvah and Atzmayim programs. Click here to view the Tikvah video and here to view the Atzmayim video and please share them with your friends who may be interested in our programs.
As we stand with our prayer communities at Kol Nidre, let’s remember that we are part of something much bigger and richer because of all of the people in the room with us.