Bert B. Weinstein Staff Training Seminar: Reflections on Leadership
by Adina Allen, Assistant Director

The narrative in the book of Sh’mot recounts the story of the Exodus from Egypt which is considered to be the seminal experience in the history of the Jewish people. We recall it every day in t’fillot and retell it annually at our Pesach Seder.

Throughout the narrative of Sh’mot, there are incredible examples of what true leadership looks like. In the beginning of this week’s parashah, Va’era, there is a genealogy of the people of Israel from the time they arrived in Egypt leading up to the generation of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. This is meant to give us context as to their background. This is followed by two verses mentioning the names of Moses and Aaron. In one verse it says, “This is Aaron and Moses (Exodus 6:26),” and in the other verse it says, “This is Moses and Aaron (Exodus 6:27).” Rashi, noting this confusion, explores a possible answer as to why the names are flipped. He says, “There are places where [the Torah] puts Aaron before Moses, and there are places where it puts Moses before Aaron, to say that that they are of equal significance.” What does this small change teach us about leadership? There are times when a leader must be in front, guiding the rest of the group. And there are times when a leader must let others shine. A true leader is one who can bring others up with them.

Similarly, a leader must always be growing. A compelling interpretation of a verse in this week’s parashah teaches us that God’s name, Adonai, is an amalgamation ofהיה, הווה, יהיה  hayahhovehyih’yeh, “being” in the past, present, and the future. God is ever-changing, ever-adapting, and ever-improving, while providing direction and leadership to B’nei Yisrael, the Children of Israel.  We must aspire to think about future growth while reflecting on our past experiences, and being in the present.

I had the pleasure of spending last Shabbat with fifteen veteran members of our tzevet (staff) at Camp Ramah in California for the annual Bert B. Weinstein National Ramah Staff Training Seminar.  Weinstein (ז”ל) was an amazing leader in his own right and one of the core members of Ramah in Wisconsin’s lay leadership for many years. The four days we spent together in California were an opportunity to reflect on our roles as madrichim (counselors) in past summers, reconnect during the winter months, and reimagine what our roles could be this summer and beyond. I am constantly inspired and impressed with the leadership of our tzevet and amazed by the many strengths our individual madrichim (counselors) bring to their roles. We are constantly reminded throughout the narratives in the book of Sh’mot of the importance of different styles of leadership, and as we continue to plan and dream for the upcoming summer, I am excited by the leadership and talent of our madrichim and look forward to another opportunity to work with them.

Here are some of the reflections of our Weinstein participants from our time together:

“As a madrichah this summer, I would like to challenge myself and my friends to choose active over passive more often. Of course we need to know when to step back and allow life to unfold, but I think that when we strive for intentionality, we don’t just improve the summer for ourselves but also for our campers… Camp Ramah has taught me that passion is contagious. I think about the greatest change makers I know and realize that many of them are my aidah mates and previous counselors. I think about the people I look up to at my school and it is no coincidence that these dedicated upperclassmen are Ramahniks. What I love about the Ramah community is that each of us has a cause for which we care deeply, and when we spend time together we walk away feeling more driven to do good and be great. We push one another to be the wholest versions of ourselves. The camp environment forces the passive into the active and this is why I found myself returning to camp year after year, why I find myself returning to staff this summer, and why I am hopeful about the future of Ramah as a whole.” – Liat Wasserman

“Attending the Weinstein Leadership Conference with many of my friends from camp was an opportunity for us to learn about techniques for working with our chanichim, gave us new programming ideas, and helped us find new strategies for working with our co-counselors. Most importantly, however, Weinstein gave me a newfound appreciation for Ramah and my role as a madrich. For eight years, my friends and I have spent the school year counting down the days until camp, but lived for 10 months without much camp in our lives. Weinstein gave us all a Ramah experience right when it was most valuable to us—in the middle of our first year away at universities all across the country. In a time of so much change, Ramah is a constant home for us, one that Weinstein allowed us to explore further. It was meaningful to see the Ramah community come together in support of Ramah California, which miraculously survived the wildfires. The power of the Ramah community was clear in the sefer Torah rededication ceremony we experienced on Sunday. The weekend helped me gain a greater appreciation for my role as a Ramah madrich because of the focus on Jewish leadership and reimagination of our roles as madrichim.” – Raphy Gendler

“The Weinstein Institute, among other things, provided me with the opportunity to network with my fellow Ramah tzevet members to exchange ideas and other programming used elsewhere across the country. In addition to helping to make me a better a leader, the conference created a space for important discussions on matters ranging from Israel education to inclusion. There is something special about recreating the Ramah atmosphere in the middle of the winter, when we all miss camp most. I look forward to taking what I learned in Ojai back to Conover this kayitz for I believe it will enrich both my experience at camp and that of my chanichim.” – Sam Orloff

Shabbat Shalom