by Karen Nochimowski
Of all the delights of spending a week at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, the memory that will be forever etched in my mind took place at 9:30 P.M. on a Saturday night. After my husband and I put our younger boys to sleep, I left my dark bunk and headed down the stairs in anticipation of a quiet walk to teach an adult cooking class. I expected to encounter a few fireflies and a camper or two at most. Yet, as my eyes adjusted to the twilight, a wondrous sight materialized before me. Hundreds of kids were outside, playing and having the time of their lives. It was as if I had entered a time machine and gone back to a simpler time where kids played outside from morning until evening. Seeing the campers’ smiles and hearing their laughter as they shot baskets and packed the lawn filled my heart with pure joy. Knowing that my son was a part of that happy group overwhelmed me and filled me with gratitude that he was experiencing and embracing the simple joys of life.
You may be wondering who I am and how I ended up stumbling upon the evening camp festivities. Earlier this year, I was asked to come and teach cooking classes at Ramah’s newly-designed teaching kitchen. Why me? I love to cook, and I run my own cooking blog www.mommachef.com which features simple and tasty recipes that contain no more than six ingredients and can be prepared in under six minutes. My recipes and writings have been featured in dozens of magazines and online publications. And although I have 80,000 fans of my blog, I knew I would need approval from one of my most important fans before I agreed to head to Wisconsin. Fortunately, my oldest son Oren, who is a camper in Shoafim, blessed me with a huge thumbs-up to teach during his time at camp. So, with my younger two boys in tow to join Rishonim, we headed up to Camp Ramah for a camping and cooking adventure.
Although I have always enjoyed my time on Visitors Day, it was so energizing to be there while camp was in action. Walking into the beautiful teaching kitchen took my breath away. It was a cook’s dream come true. The camp leadership had clearly anticipated every cook’s need and wish. I could not imagine teaching classes in a better-equipped space.
But what about my clientele? What was it like teaching cooking to camp kids? I can honestly say that every single child I had in my cooking classes was a pleasure to teach. They were eager to learn, and they were respectful – not only to me, but also to each other. My novice cooks, ranging between the ages of Garinim and Bogrim (10-14), enjoyed making (and eating!) delicious recipes from my blog: s’mores brownies, banana bread, the “easiest” cookie pie, “Tortizza” (tortilla pizzas), and chocolate bark (my favorite Passover dessert).
Without a doubt, I L-O-V-E-D my time teaching in the Camp Ramah kitchen.
And once I left the kitchen, the appreciation continued. There was not an hour that went by when I was walking around camp that I did not have children coming up to thank me for teaching them that day. Even after I left the camp, I came home to open a lovely e-mail with the subject “You Made an Impact.” A Garinim parent took the time to tell me how my class had impacted her son and how they were going to start baking recipes from my blog that evening! Wow! What a heartwarming and gratifying way to end a wonderful week.
I have never doubted sending Oren to Ramah as he calls it his second home. However, having the first-hand opportunity to live in this magical place, surrounded by such wonderful campers and staff, gave my “mommy” heart the confirmation that our family had found a special place for him to grow in his faith and friendships.
As I look at the time on my phone, I see that it’s almost 9:30 P.M. Tonight, here in the suburbs, there are no children playing games outside late at night. Faces are lit up by screens and the streets are quiet. I think back to my treasured Saturday-night memory of the innocence and energy of nighttime camp life. I can’t help but smile with both nostalgia and gratitude. Thank you, Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, for inviting me to share a memorable week in this beautiful place that will hopefully become a second home to all three of my boys.