Shabbat Letter from the Director #4 2019
Rachel Pickus from Chicago Jewish Day School
Naomi Weis Weil from Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago
Rabbi Harold Kravitz from Adath Jeshurun in Minnetonka, MN
Leah Nash from Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy in Kansas City
Rabbi Daniel Nevins, Dean of the Division of Religious Leadership at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America
for your recent visits!
A kitschy standard of Israeli classic rock is Ehud Manor’s רק בישראל / rak b’yisrael, a song with a constant refrain that certain things that are possible “only in Israel.”
This week was a rak b’machaneh ramah b’visconsin – only at Ramah Wisconsin (OARW) – week in the Northwoods! This amazing week included Garinim Visitors Day, a Yom Sport that launched Sunday at 5:30 p.m. and ended just over 24 hours later, an epic camp-wide talent show Monday evening, an early morning “polar bear” swim, two days of Rosh Chodesh (beginning of the Jewish month), two Shoafim-Bogrim basketball games, and three camping trips. But that’s not all! This week we also celebrated a full day July 4th celebration that included special activities, an epic carnival, a red-white-and-blue color run, a watermelon eating contest, a foam party and camp-wide free swim, American “kikar” dancing and a song session from the great American songbook. PLUS - last night the Shoafim presented the first musical of the summer – מלך האריות / melech ha’arayot / The Lion King. WOW.
The amazing week was punctuated by a number of OARW moments:
Two Solelim girls performing three parodies of songs from Rent, written as if the singers were rats dreaming of cheese (Think: 525,600 types of cheese …)
A Nivonim talent show dance that, for the second summer, consciously attempts to attack the stereotyping of gender in our society and occasionally samples from contemporary Jewish music in addition to hip-hop and pop
A Garinim camper reciting the entire periodic table of the elements by heart as part of the talent show
Every camper spending time developing their own “Prayer for our Country” as a way of celebrating July 4th, working off prompts developed by our senior educators; each aidah will be reading versions of the campers’ prayers during the rest of the summer
Campers and staff correcting each other throughout July 4th when all of us inevitably fall back into the Hebrew names and phrases we use throughout the summer during the one day when many Ramahniks try to speak only in English
A seamless transition from the communal and English celebration of July 4th to the special Shoafim-focused excitement of The Lion King presented in Hebrew. The power of the aidah musical is far beyond what any of us can imagine to lift up both individual campers and the entire group.
This notion of OARW moments struck me yesterday morning – and then I realized that it is far from original. One of our favorite camp songs, written by Rabbi Josh Warshawsky, is קול ברמה נשמע / kol b’ramah nishmah. It’s literal title – “A voice is heard in Ramah” is a pun using a verse from Jeremiah 31:14 that is about the destruction of the First Temple and Babylonian exile of 586 BCE and which is a part of the haftarah on the 2nd day of Rosh Hashanah. The song is filled with allusions Josh has pulled from other songs and his own camp experience, including his very own Solelim play at Ramah Wisconsin in 2002.
At the end of the song Josh writes: אין עוד מקום כמחנה רמה / ein od makom k’machaneh ramah – there is no other place like Camp Ramah. Camp is fun and at times downright goofy. Camp makes our campers feel safe so they can truly be themselves. Camp helps foster special friendships that can produce amazing creativity. Camp helps us refine and repair ourselves and our home communities. Camp allows us to be who we are which is pretty amazing. Camp pushes us to lean into our Jewish identities and the ways in which those identities are in constructive dialogue with the America in which we live. Camp lets us meet people who are not exactly like us and throws us together to be something – a צריף / tzrif / cabin or עדה / aidah / division – that can be far greater than the sum of its parts. Camp is exuberance and fun. Camp is being loved. Camp is dreaming of impossibilities, realizing that, and then dreaming some more.
General questions to ask your campers this week:
What team were you on for Yom Sport? What activities did you participate in? Did you win? What was your favorite part of the day?
What was July 4th like at camp? What were some of the fun activities to do? Were there any fun raffle prizes campers won? How was the foam party?