machon and tikvah campers and staff in 2005.

Shira (in front in black shirt) with campers and staff from Machon and Tikvah 2005.

Connections – קשרים
by Shira Steinberg

When Camp Ramah in Wisconsin introduced its four core pillars last year, I realized they were not new at all. These four values – Joy, Growth, Inclusion and Connections – have always been a part of my Ramah experience.  My years as a Ramah camper and staff member brought me so much Joy – in fact when thinking of my “happy place,” I take myself back to laying on the kikar in the sunshine surrounded by good friends. I am fortunate to have literally Grown up at camp – my parents, being involved lay leaders, brought me up to visit camp as a young child. Thinking back on my time as a staff member, it is this value of Inclusion that formed much of my young adult experience.  I am grateful that I was able to work with Machon (10th graders) for so many years, and have a front row seat to how the then Tikvah program grew and evolved. It was this dedication to inclusion that led me to want to study how all children learn and grow and led me to my degree in education.

But above all else, the core value of Connections is paramount to my Ramah experience. The effects of my camp connections have come to fruition in so many unexpected ways, and continue to make positive impacts on my life. My best friends in college were those that shared the Ramah experience years prior – arriving on campus and meeting people from various Ramah Camps around the country, I found I had an instant connection with them. It was a surreal experience to realize that I had connections with people I had never met before, simply because of our mutual connection to Ramah.  In fact, when I moved to Omaha with my then 1-month old daughter, some of the very first people I connected with were families who sent their children to Camp, to young alumni, and even a former camper!

I have been thinking a lot about these unintended consequences of Ramah connections this week. Both of my parents attended Ramah in the 50’s and 60’s, and in the summer of 1960 my dad had a counselor named Neville Lamdan, z”l, who unfortunately passed away last week. If you ask my dad, he is certain to give you the unabridged history of that summer and his connection to Neville; for me, I am fortunate enough that years after that summer at Ramah my parents reconnected with the Lamdans. In 2002 Neville was serving as the Israeli ambassador to Vatican City, and I was studying in Israel on Nativ. A few friends and I (who each have their own Ramah connections!) traveled to Italy from Israel and were fortunate enough to meet Neville and his wife Susan for dinner at the ambassador’s residence in Rome. Having dinner (on Israeli state china!) and the whole memorable experience was a direct outcome of these unintended Ramah Connections.

I am forever grateful for my years at camp, but the Ramah connections that I and others have made are not stagnant. They continue to intersect and grow in unexpected ways. I look forward to returning to camp this summer, to continue making these connections and to see where they take me, and my children, for years to come.

Shira Steinberg (Nivo ’99) is an adjunct lecturer at the University of Nebraska Omaha in the Teacher Education program. She continues to work at Ramah during the summers.  Shira lives in Omaha, NE with her two kids, Naama and Leor, who are excited to be campers again this summer!