Chaviva and Ralph Jacobson with sons Ernest (left) and Daniel (right)

Chaviva and Ralph Jacobson with sons Ernest (left) and Daniel (right)

Chaviva (Vivian R. Bassett) Jacobson and her husband live in Pinehurst, North Carolina. An uncle encouraged Chaviva to be a pioneer and attend Ramah’s first summer in 1947. She returned as a camper in 1948-50, as a junior counselor in 1951-52 and as a counselor and assistant waterfront director in 1953-54. Her great love was the waterfront and her lifelong career as a swimming teacher began at camp under the direction of camp director Lou Newman. Chaviva still teaches swimming today at the age of 84. She is also a lecturer, author and historian on the artist Marc Chagall. Her book Sharing Chagall: A Memoir includes some wonderful Ramah memories. Chaviva may be contacted at

Ramah Reflection: Ramah Wisconsin is Closed for the Summer of 2020 But the Incredible Memories of Camp are Always Open

by Chaviva (Vivian R. Bassett) Jacobson, First Decade Camper and Staff Member

Every time I listen to the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D Major, I think of Arthur Elstein, one of my many Ramah friends from the early 1950’s and a wonderful friend until this day.

Yes, this was the time at Ramah when Lou Newman was the director.  Lou had this idea that two cabins of campers with their counselors would get together and plan the evening programs for the entire camp. When it came to our turn Arthur’s cabin and my cabin decided to have an evening of classical music. My tzrif (cabin) was yud gimmel (13) and it was the summer of 1953.

At that time, I did not have a great interest in classical music although I had attended Ravinia, concerts at Orchestra Hall and studied piano.  My interest was not in the arts, but in swimming, volleyball, tennis and hiking in the wooded areas surrounding the camp.

I remember this one evening with a great deal of clarity as it transformed my so-so attitude about classical music to one of my becoming a dedicated enthusiast of this music form until this day.

The stars were out in full force.  The staff and the campers were lying down or sitting up on their blankets having conversations on the lawn now known as Machon Point.  The moon created Lake Buckatabon to shine in its full glory.  But there was a problem.  The phonograph that played the LP records could not emanate a sound loud enough for everyone to hear.  This, remember, was a time before speakers.  Arthur had an idea to move the phonograph from the cabin steps to the middle of the lawn closer to the audience of campers and counselors, but the electrical outlet was in the cabin.  What Arthur needed was a very long extension cord.  Retrieving the extension cord very quickly, he recruited camper Lee Shulman’s help.  I remember Arthur climbing through the porch window handing the cord from the phonograph to Lee who climbed through the cabin window and plugged in the cord.

With this great feat accomplished Arthur put on the first classical LP for the event.  It was the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto.  All of a sudden everyone who was waiting for this outdoor concert to begin became quiet.  The music in this setting of staff and campers in complete silence was so beautiful and to this day so memorable.  I do not remember the rest of the program for that evening.  What I do remember was two people, a camper and a counselor climbing through two windows to make the evening possible.

Every time I hear this violin concerto I remember this one special evening in my life. Camp is closed for this summer of 2020. The memories never close. They are always open.