Early on Monday morning, before the start of Visitor's Day, we celebrated a very special occasion: The Bat Mitzvah of Ashley B. This was no ordinary Bat Mitzvah. Ashley is a participant in the Tikvah Program, one of the crown jewels of Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. The atmosphere was incredible and emotional. After a davening that was led by members of the Tikvah family. Following the Torah service, Ashley stood before the entire kehilla and delivered her D'var Torah. These were not the words of others but the words that her heart spoke. This week, it is a privilege to share with you Ashley's words of Torah. She is truly an inspirational teacher to all of us and we are blessed to have her as part of the Camp Ramah in Wisconsin family. Thank you Ashley and Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Loren Sykes
Today is Rosh Chodesh, but this week we also begin reading the book of D'varim, which is called Deuteronomy in English. Most of the book consists of Moses talking for a long time to the Jewish people about making good decisions. I learned with some of my counselors that Moses wasn't always so sure of himself when speaking. In fact, when God first asked Moses to lead the Jewish people, he gave all kinds of excuses for why he couldn't do it. One of the things he said was "I can't speak well." Now, in D'varim, we see that Moses is able to speak with confidence.
This story kind of reminds me of myself. Moses was learning. He was figuring out how to be a leader, he was trying to become clearer about his beliefs and abilities.
I'm just now learning about Judaism. When I first got to camp it was really scary. When I went to services, I didn't know any Hebrew, and I didn't know what was going around me. At first I was scared that I couldn't learn, so I reacted by saying that I didn't want to participate. Then I realized that I could actually learn, and my staff and teachers helped me to be able to read transliteration and know some Hebrew. I know that there is still a lot more to learn, but I already feel that I have gotten to a point of knowing a lot, and I feel more confident.
To me having a Bat Mitzvah symbolizes that I am growing up and that I can be successful. Before I came to camp I thought being Jewish mostly just meant having a Bat Mitzvah. Here I have learned that being Jewish means so much more. I have also made a lot of friends at camp and it is really nice to celebrate with those friends. This day is very special to me and I would I would like to thank a few people for helping me prepare. Thank you to Ralph and Margaret for letting me come to Camp Ramah. Thank you to my family for letting me have my Bat Mitzvah here and giving me so much love, it's so nice to have you here today. Thank you to my counselors, Ralph, Tali and Kashmir for helping me to learn the prayers and for helping me to write this speech. Thank you to Machon and Tikvah for joining me today, it's been a really good time having you guys as my friends and having you here with me today.