Shabbat Letter from the Director 2019: Staff Week

Administrative note:  From this evening through late Monday evening we will be observing Shabbat and Shavuot and will not be checking e-mail or phone messages.  In the event of an acute emergency call 715-479-5455.

Dear Ramah Wisconsin Family,

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Tonight we will come to the completion of our count of seven full weeks from the second night of Passover until the day before Shavuot.  And here at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin the counts have been quite intense over the last week:

  • the overnight population of camp has grown from 4 to nearly 175

  • our camping staff has been certified on our ropes course

  • our waterfront staff has been certified as lifeguards

  • eight amazing roshei aidah spent an intense week preparing for the summer

  • our talented and veteran roshei anaf, under the guidance of Program Director Gal Atia, put the final touches on curricular upgrades and diversifying programming in sports, the waterfront, arts, and outdoor education

  • an herb and vegetable garden was planted in front of our mitbachon (teaching kitchen)

  • our fifty-plus strong mishlachat (Israeli staff) arrived in three different groupings and has begun infusing Conover, Wisconsin, with the flavors of Israel

  • approximately two-thirds of the food we will eat this summer (!!) arrived

  • thirty eager junior counselors, alumni of Nivonim 2017, descended buses and began reacquainting themselves with their summer home

This morning we formally launched our staff week with an extended relay race between three teams.  The race involved every one of our staff members - leapfrogging, running, playing roofball, carrying a kayak, building a tent, and other camp classics.  The "machaneh" (Camp) team won, with "Ramah" and "Wisconsin" close behind.  After the 25-minute race we gathered the entire staff on the luscious kikar.  Energized and a little sweaty in the unseasonably warm morning sun, I asked our staff members why we began staff week with this activity.  The answers represented the depth and seriousness with which our counselors approach camp.  A sampling:  "It was to bond us." "So we could get to know each other." "We're all part of one big staff and each has a role to play."  We then moved on to talk about what we think of when we think of summer camp.  A new Israeli counselor spoke first: "A beautiful place with lots of little kids running around that I could never experience at home."  Later, as the conversation became more and more focused on what our alumni's experiences at this summer camp mean to them the richness of our educational role became clear: in building independent living and interpersonal skills, developing expertise in specialty areas, and the impact of our immersive approach to Jewish living.  The whole thing was really quite impressive.

At the end of the conversation, I emphasized to the staff that I appreciated all their answers - each one is, of course, correct.  And yet I think that they, as others before them, were glossing over something crucially important in this well-thought-out analysis.  We decided to start staff week with this program, and others, because we thought they'd be fun.  One of the early responses to the question had encapsulated this quite well.  A junior counselor responded:

"When I think of summer camp all I think of is Ramah.  And Ramah is about swimming and boating, staying up late with my friends in the cabin, playing basketball, being on the kikar, and playing frisbee."

We proudly achieve much over the summer.  Our campers return home with greater self confidence and new skills, greater ability to navigate and develop interpersonal relationships, increased Jewish knowledge, and more.  And what matters most to our campers, and to us, is providing a phenomenally fun summer with their friends.

Ramahniks speak of "10 for 2," shorthand for spending ten months of the year waiting for two months at camp every summer.  Staff week is a more condensed "1 for 8," spending a week gearing up and preparing ourselves for the exuberant sprint that begins on June 13th when our first set of campers descend the buses.  Within seconds joyful shouts will be followed by bear hugs, followed minutes later by the sound of basketballs falling through hoops, frisbees whistling through the air, name games and ice breakers on the kikar, and the priceless silence of watching friends sitting or walking together out of earshot.

For parents of our Garinim and full-season campers, enjoy your last Shabbat with your children before they join us next Thursday.  And may our entire community have a wonderful Shabbat Shalom and a Chag Shavuot Sameach.

Jacob

Ann Lesley Rosen