It is a sunny Shabbat afternoon in early August at Camp Ramah in California. The oldest Machon campers have finished lunch, enjoyed some free time, and have reconvened on the hill under a large tree for their Shabbat afternoon learning session. I am honored to be this week’s guest teacher, and I take the opportunity to talk to 75 fifteen-year-olds about an incident that put Ramah in the national news over the last two weeks.
The painful story of a blind 15-year-old who was asked to leave Camp Ramah in Canada because he was too hard to accommodate has touched off the latest debate about the inclusion of people with special needs in organized Jewish life.
The Conservative camp movement admits the Ontario camp — one of eight overnight camps in the Ramah network — made mistakes, but says it’s being unfairly maligned in the aftermath.
One of my very favorite movies is Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride , based on the classic novel by William Goldman. The movie is wonderful for a whole host of reasons, but essentially, it is a whimsical riff on the idea of “true love.” Wesley and Buttercup, the hero and heroine, endure all kinds of outrageous misfortune, but ultimately, their destiny is to be together.mTrue love wins out.
It seems that every significant study of the Jewish people is released while we read from the Book of Numbers, the book that derives its English name from the first official census of the Jewish people. It’s as if counting the Jewish people is imbedded in our DNA. That census, conducted 3,000-plus years ago, however, was much more limited in scope: Only men age 20 and older who are able to go to war (Numbers 1:3) were to be counted. From the Torah’s census of 603,550 Israelites of age for war, scholars estimate that the total population was in the 2.5 million range.
As I write this, I am winging my way back from California- Camp Ramah in Ojai, California to be exact- and three days of a rabbinic retreat called "Beit Midrash in the Hills." The program was sponsored by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, part of the American Jewish University of Los Angeles, in partnership with the Rabbinical Assembly, the professional organization of Conservative rabbis, which I currently serve as president.
Apparently Lena Dunham, as a teen, had to find neurotic summer activities other than well-planned kitchen raids at Camp Ramah.
At the risk of making too much of a brief reference on the HBO comedy "Girls," we report this tidbit about how the popular Conservative movement-run camp was written into the plot of this week's episode. It wasn't auto-biographical, though Dunham, creator, producer and star of the show, seems to wish otherwise.
Given the cost of a national advertising campaign or product placement, a mention on one of the most-talked about shows on cable is a pretty nice gift if it comes gratis.
But the folks at Camp Ramah, a network of facilities run by the Conservative movement, may not be kvelling over their inclusion in this week’s episode of HBO’s “Girls,” the chock-full-of-Jewish comedy about angst-ridden women in their early 20s trying to get a life in contemporary Manhattan.
Conservative movement’s Ramah joins other Jewish youth programs in seeking to re-engage alumni.
Leah Kaplan Robins is only half-joking when she calls herself Mrs. Ramah. An alumna of the Conservative movement’s Camp Ramah in New England, she met her future husband — “Mr. Ramah” — there and a few years ago took the initiative with a friend to organize a 10-year reunion.
Yet so far, she hasn’t attended many alumni events sponsored by Ramah itself, and the network of 11 North American camps wants her, and others like her, back.
The Ramah camping movement has established a network to connect its thousands of alumni.
The Reshet Ramah initiative, which was announced Tuesday by The National Ramah Commission of The Jewish Theological Seminary, is being funded by $1.8 million in grants from the Avi Chai Foundation and the Maimonides Fund. The network also will offer an opportunity to enhance Jewish community involvement.