Jul 8, 2009

Upon Returning from Camp Ramah

A Note from Rabbi Creditor

Upon Returning from Camp Ramah

16 Tammuz, 5769
July 8, 2009
Dear Chevreh,

I am the proud father of a Ramah camper. 

Just this week, my family returned from a week at Camp Ramah in Ojai, CA, where I served as Camp Rabbi.  But what makes me most sad to have left was not my own wonderful experience, but that of my family.  My children are Ramahnik's, now a three-generation tradition for my family.  They swam, sang, ate, and cheered in the most exquisite Jewish air outside of Israel, surrounded by Jewish culture and Ruach (spirit) and countless fun-loving fellow Jews.  (As I am about to leave for Israel, leading our shul's Israel trip, this week working at Camp Ramah was also a useful Hebrew refresher!)

It was my privilege to work with different Edot (age groups) and the whole Tzevet (staff) at Ramah, to play Frisbee-golf while talking Torah with my dear friend, Rabbi Daniel Greyber, the executive director of the camp.  I was proud to witness emerging Jewish pride at every developmental stage.  But my greatest joy was visiting our Netivot Shalom campers and staff, hearing from them their favorite parts of Ramah, seeing their contagious enthusiasm and glowing eyes, and sharing with them how proud I am that they are learning and growing at Camp Ramah. 

We have quite a few campers and staff at Ramah Ojai, and there are many Ramah staff attending UC Berkeley, whom I've already invited to share Shabbat and more with our community at Netivot Shalom during the year to come. 

There are many quality overnight Jewish camps in our area, including Newman/Swig and Tawonga, each with their own particular vision of community and youth camping.  But I find something uniquely compelling about Camp Ramah.  It might have been the vision of Shabbat morning Tefilot (prayers), with children reading Torah and Davening (many for the first time!) with the guidance of their Tallit-wearing role-models, their counselors.  It might be the Israeli dancing led by an Jewish Argentinian staff member before every meal.  It might have been singing together with the older staff - many products of Ramah themselves! - long after meals were over.  It might be the young girl trying on tefillin for the first time with her friend's assistance.  Or it might have been the Israel lifeguard teaching an American Jewish teenager with Down Syndrome how to swim, guiding through both conversational Hebrew and deep pedagogic attunement.

I've felt, since arriving over two years ago, that Netivot Shalom is one of the best expressions of Conservative Judaism - inclusive, traditional, participatory, spiritual, and diverse.  I was reminded this past week that our community has a kindred spirit at Camp Ramah.

As next summer is only 13 months away, please let me know if I can be of any help introducing Camp Ramah to you and your family!  I promise you it will be the experience of a lifetime!

Kol Tuv,
Rabbi Creditor

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
-- www.netivotshalom.org
-- www.shefanetwork.org
-- menachemcreditor.org

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