By Allie Rosen, Rosh Atzmayim (Tikvah Vocational Program) 2017

Since I began working for Tikvah and Atzmayim in the summer of 2012, I have been asked why I believe so passionately in the importance and value of the programs. To answer the question, I usually find myself telling stories about the success that many graduates have had at work, the strides that participants make in terms of independent living, the friends they make during their summers at camp, and the love for Judaism that Camp Ramah in Wisconsin instilled in them.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending Shabbat dinner with many alumni living in the Chicago area that will be one of the first anecdotes I share from now on. It so purely and wholly explains the impact that the Tikvah and Atzmayim programs at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin have on the campers and participants that have the opportunity to be a part of this unique community.

Allie Rosen (in blue) with 2017 Atzmayim participants and staff

Allie Rosen (in blue) with 2017 Atzmayim participants and staff

On Friday, October 27th, nine graduates of the Atzmayim program gathered together with three former staff members, including myself, at Ralph Schwartz and Marci Dickman’s home for Shabbat dinner. The evening was filled with vibrant conversation, laughter from tabletop games, and sharing memories of Camp Ramah. My heart was so full of joy throughout the evening because it was clear how important summers at Camp Ramah in the Tikvah and Atzmayim programs were for each person at the table. People shared updates on their lives and talked about goals they have set for themselves that they are working hard to accomplish. This was a real translation of camp life into the world outside of camp. Many of the people around the table were at camp at different times, but the values that Ramah gave each of us made it so that we were able to connect and continue to strengthen the Atzmayim community in Chicago.

I am hopeful that there will be many more events like this throughout the year. We talked about bowling, going to movies, and finding other ways to increase social participation and community integration. The inclusive community at Camp Ramah fosters confidence to find these similar communities and ways to engage with the community at large. The Atzayim alumni Shabbat was a just the beginning of a year of programming, community building, and fun for many former participants