Atzmayim program enters 12th year assisting campers with special needs
(This article originally appeared in the Vilas County News-Review on August 5, 2015. View PDF here. Please note that the article incorrectly states Ramah's first summer as 1957--it should be 1947.) By Ryan Burgy, Lifestyle Editor
Camp Ramah in Conover continues the Atzmayim Program for its 12th year, teaching campers job skills through area businesses.
The vocational program, designed for campers with special needs, trains older teenagers and young adults for volunteer and paying jobs at worksites throughout the Eagle River area.
The goal of the program is to teach job skills, independence and social skills. Atzmayim is a Hebrew word which translates to “independent.”
“A great thing about the program is the participants get a ton of customer interaction, which translates into a lot of positive and necessary real world skills,” said Ari Feldman, program head.
This year, the program has 11 participants. Job sites include Trig’s, Eagle River Roasters, Northwoods Children’s Museum, Walgreens, Little Pine Cones, Nelson’s Ace Hardware and Hiawatha Lodge and Inn.
“Trig’s was one of the first businesses that participated in the Atzmayim program, and serves as kind of an introduction to working at a job site, which may seem counterintuitive because of its large size, but the atmosphere provides great customer interaction,” explained Feldman.
Some of the job sites have replicated the ideas of the program to include special needs students from area schools at their workplaces. “Unemployment and poverty rates are extremely high among the disabled population in the United States, and Camp Ramah is working to specifically help young individuals with a range of disabilities gain the work skills necessary to succeed back at home the rest of the year,” said Renee Ghert-Zand, communications consultant.
Camp Ramah was established on Buckatabon Lake west of Conover in 1947. Campers and staff members from around the Midwest and Israel join together each summer to create a Jewish community.
Continuing its ongoing support of Ramah's vocational programs, the Ruderman Family Foundation has granted $150,000 over three years for vocational education initiatives at Ramah California, Canada, New England, and Wisconsin, and to encourage voc ed inclusion programs at other Ramah camps.