Reflecting on the words of this week’s Torah portion, I am struck by the lesson we learn from the extended Mount Sinai episode after the exodus stories of the last two weeks: delegation. During the same week that we read about the Ten Commandments it is a helpful and humble reminder that one of the most valuable lessons we learn comes not from God and not another Israelite but someone outside of the Israelite community. The Torah makes it quite explicit that Moses – desperately in need of some help in managing a variety of roles as leader of the Israelites – learned how to delegate from his father-in-law for whom the parashah is named, Yitro.
Earlier this week I arrived in Israel to meet with current and prospective staff members who live in or are currently spending time studying in Israel. Next week the bulk of my time will be spent meeting with candidates from the Jewish Agency to assemble our Israeli staff delegation (mishlachat). This week, in addition to tackling jet lag and meeting with young staff members on Nativ and similar gap-year programs, I have been reconnecting with a variety of veteran Israelis who make camp run every summer.
Ramah Wisconsin’s special relationship with Israel has multiple layers, manifesting itself both in the make-up of our staff and in a variety of ways in our summer program. The investment we have and continue to make in key senior leadership positions is one of the things that distinguishes Ramah from other Jewish summer camps. In meetings and conversation with Rabbi Ronnie and Minda Garr, Hezi Mizrachi, Dr. Gabi Shetrit, and Rabbi Rob and Cami Kahn, among others, I have been continually reminded of the expertise, vision, and passion that these long-term Ramah partners bring to camp and the ways in which our success is dependent on their contributions.
The brunt of the work during the summer lies with our undergraduate staff and their work with campers in cabins, eidot, and program areas. Our ability to provide these staff members with ongoing support, professional development, and educational resources is what enables us to create the dynamic Jewish community in which the lives of our campers and staff are transformed.
As we enter February, dreams for the summer grow large and hopes begin turning into reality. As I continue to refine my vision for the 2013 season, newly inspired by my dear long-time friends in Israel, Yitro’s lesson of delegation to Moses and its ongoing positive impact on Camp Ramah in Wisconsin resonates even more powerfully than usual. I become newly appreciative of the non-obvious suggestion, the voice emerging from an unexpected place, to help clarify and solve the challenges we face.