The best choice that Al and Barb made for me over forty years ago was to send me to Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. I remember the feeling of the bus pulling into camp from the winding Wisconsin roads. The first time that bus pulled into Machaneh Ramah I knew that this was my home and this place was going to change the course of my life.
For five consecutive summers I had the privilege and honor of sharing my summers with like-minded Jewish youth from around the Midwest. This was my family. They where who I grew with through Kabbalat Shabbat by the lake, the rikudiyah and plays in Hebrew to color wars and nightly activities. It wasn’t just the activities and Jewish traditions that made Ramah my home…it was the opportunity to make lifelong friends who I continue to share life events with – all through a Jewish lens.
After five years of being a camper I spent the summer with Ramah in Israel and then joined the staff for two summers. I remember my first summer “employed with a real job” and I realized that there was nothing more important than helping to shape and share experiences with the future of our Jewish community. I graduated with a K-8 teaching degree and worked in the Jewish community for over twenty-years. I celebrated my 25th reunion and had the opportunity to come home then.
The Ramah circle came fully around when my sons Gilli and Eitan started their journeys with this magical place. The summer of 2022 Eitan will be attending Ramah for the entire summer and I can’t wait to come and visit him and come back home. It has been way too long since I have been home. I can’t wait to share this with my husband Jeffry, who went to Jewish summer camp as well. I want to experience Kabbalat Shabat on the lake, watching campers roll down the kikar and dancing. Most importantly I am looking forward to sharing my sense of home, peace and happiness as I drive through those gates off of Buckatabon Road.
I hope the legacy that Jeff and I leave will allow others to come “home” and have a peaceful, engaging and loving environment to grow in just like I did over forty years ago. My heart and happiness is due much to the life I lived at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin and has made me the Jew I am today.
Karen Herstig Gerson, Nivonim 1988