Please enjoy a D’var Torah this week from Adam Schrag, Rosh Kochavim 2016.  Adam is graduating this spring from Knox College with a degree in Creative Writing. Originally born in Israel, Adam spent the fall of this past year living in Tel Aviv and working for a travel and hiking review website that allowed him to travel across the country on a daily basis. A native of Chicago and a lifelong Ramahnik who attended both the Ramah Day Camp and Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, this is Adam’s fifth summer on staff. Reflections on Parashat Kedoshim by Adam Schrag

We’re part of a very special community. We come from all over the country and world, have wide ranges of interests, and can often go months without seeing each other. Our community is most unusual because we head up to the Northwoods of Wisconsin to live with people whom we didn’t know at all until we (or oftentimes our parents) decided to make the journey up north for the first time. Better yet—we’re a community full of people who have returned to Camp Ramah in Wisconsin year after year for all sorts of reasons. Some of us come back in order to finally get to work in Nagarut (woodworking); others come back to improve Hebrew skills; many come back in order to see friends; some to learn and master the newest Kikar dance. Regardless of our reasons for coming back to camp, we add to the incredible quality of the Ramah community by simply coming to camp.

In Parashat Kedoshim, God instructs Moses to tell the people of Israel that they must be a holy community. This commandment is unique in that it doesn’t expect the Israelites to do something. Rather, it lays out God’s vision of how the people of Israel should be. This expectation showcases the notion of a holy community and prominently highlights the importance of community living in everyday life. It is here that the people of Israel learn to appreciate holiness through togetherness and support.

We often talk about being part of a holy community at Ramah in Wisconsin, as the community we have grown to love is a modern-day example of God’s commandment playing out in daily life. We come to camp as individuals, bringing our skills, interests and backgrounds with us when we step off the bus. However, soon after, the culture that has made our community so unique for many years takes us in and makes us feel at home. We form connections with people we’ve never met before. We come to feel comfortable in a place that had previously been foreign to us. And best of all, our individuality shines through, as our skills, interests, and traits enrich the entire Ramah community in daily interactions and activities.

I’m looking forward to welcoming Kochavim 2016 to camp this summer, as they will get their first lengthy experience as campers and members of this special and holy community. Joining the Ramah community gives everyone a chance to grow, try new things, meet new people, and shape the shared culture we’ll enjoy together for years to come.

Just yesterday, the State of Israel celebrated its 68th Independence Day. Throughout its existence, Israel has grown and thrived because of its great diversity. The country was built by people from all over the world who came together to work for a common cause that we are lucky to enjoy today. Like Israel, the Camp Ramah community we’re so fortunate to be a part of is still being molded and shaped today. Foundations and values have been set, but it’s your personality, interests, and skills that improve and enrich our amazing community on a daily basis. Shabbat Shalom!