Kikar Magic and Joyous Connections
by Daniella Elyashar
Earlier this week, I flew back to Chicago from Israel after interviewing over 40 candidates to be shlichim and shlichot (Israeli staff) for the upcoming summer. They were so excited to hear about camp, talk about their experiences in their specialty areas and share why they want to be a part of the Ramah community. Those we select will make up the 50-ish person group of Israeli staff members who we bring to camp this summer.Interviewing shlichim and shlichot took me back to 2014, when I sat on the other side of the table, interviewing to work as a shlicha at camp, and start my Ramah journey and time on the kikar!
I was in the midst of my army service in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) at the time, and I made my way to Jerusalem without knowing much about Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. I had never been to the US, and all I knew about Wisconsin was that its weather wasn’t as nice as the weather at Camp Ramah in California. As a British-born Israeli, my English accent surprised my interviewers when we began chatting, as they asked me lots of questions and told me about life at camp. Ramah sounded amazing and exciting, but I was worried about joining a brand new community. I didn’t know much about the American Conservative movement and what being in a Jewish egalitarian space meant, as this was unfamiliar from what I knew back home in Israel.
After a lovely chat, I was still unsure if I should take the leap and fly to camp. Luckily, I decided to go! When I finally got to camp, I knew I had come to the right place. At the first Friday night tefilot (services) during staff week, I sat next to another shlicha (who is now one of my best friends). We both felt instantly drawn to what was going on around us; everything was totally foreign on the one hand, but we felt fully welcomed on the other. Things seemed very different than what we knew in Israel, but I immediately felt connected to my new community. It was the perfect setting for me to ask questions, explore Judaism, and try new things in a safe space as an individual and an educator. I was welcomed and included into a very established community, and encouraged to explore my own identity and grow. Camp became a significant part of my life, and returning first as a shlicha and then as a staff member summer after summer has been an essential part of my development.
And so last week when I was interviewing prospective shlichim and shlichot, I tried to convey some of that kikar magic by talking about the joyous connections they will make with their campers, co-counselors and broader camp community. I also emphasized that their work at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin will push them to grow as individuals and to connect with aspects of their own identity. As we look ahead to summer 2022, I’m excited to see these staff members bring their unique talents and create meaningful connections on the kikar!