kids jumping on kikar.

By Jacob Cytryn, Executive Director

Joy. Growth. Inclusion. Connection.  .אושר. צמיחה. שילוב. קשרים

In the coming weeks, these core values will serve as a framework for members of our senior staff, including the 2022 roshei eidah (division heads), to share windows into their Ramah experiences.  In honor of our 75th year – our diamond anniversary – we’re excited to frame these weekly messages as “Gems from the Kikar,” a nod to the grassy knoll at the heart of Ramah in Wisconsin.  In Hebrew we use the phrase כיכר יקרה / kikar yikarah / “valuable kikar” or “dear kikar” to represent the great gifts that camp has given us and, indeed, the great gifts that are our summer leadership team as they share their Ramah stories.

A little more than a year ago I charged Ramah Day Camp Director Talia Derman, Camp Ramah in Wisconsin Assistant Director Daniella Elyashar, and Program Director to both camps Annie Glasser, to articulate the Core Values of our camps.  In doing so they adopted a two-sided approach that aligns what we hope our campers’ experiences are over the summer and the values motivating our intentional curating of those experiences.

Our value of Joy – Osher – is about the exuberance of summer camp, the playfulness and unadulterated joy of campers and staff living their best lives, with their best friends, in one of their most favorite places in the world, having the time of their lives.  

Our value of Growth – Tz’michah – from the Hebrew root for plant growth, describes the myriad ways that Ramahniks grow over the course of their time at camp, both over a single season and, of greatest impact, over many years.  They “grow up” as people, as citizens, as Jews, as friends, as thinkers, as doers, as athletes, as artists, as leaders, and much, much more. 

Our value of Inclusion – Shiluvspeaks to our approach to radically embrace a big tent approach to our Jewish family, welcoming individuals with diverse backgrounds and identities, levels of Jewish knowledge and observance, abilities and disabilities, interests and hobbies.  Shiluv is also a conscious statement against a “melting pot” approach to building community, of embracing different origins with the purpose of dissolving them into a homogenous whole.  Rather, we strive to build a community that celebrates our individual differences as a positive value in and of itself. 

Finally, our value of Connections – K’sharim – is the true magic of camp, the relationships that tie together the previous three values.  It is the friendships that campers make with each other, and their special role model relationships with staff, that enhance the expressions of joy, accelerate their growth in a wonderful feedback loop, and help create the sense of comfort and home which allows for us to embrace each other, whomever we are. 

In the weeks ahead, we look forward to sharing Gems from the Kikar as our talented senior staff and roshei eidah describe meaningful memories and experiences of camp joy, growth, inclusion and/or connection at our beloved Machane Ramah.

Shabbat shalom,


Jacob Cytryn.