KO L O T R A M A H Staying close during adversity Ramah Wisconsin connects with Israel
he effects of the war last summer were felt throughout Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. There were senior staff from Israel whose children were serving in the IDF, shlichim whose units were called up, and camp staff and campers with family and friends called up or living in the north of Israel. After July 12, Ramah Wisconsin invested a great deal of attention informing its camper and staff community about daily news events in Israel. The camp administration facilitated communication with home for 35 shlichim Ambassador Dennis Ross (right) with Ramah Wisconsin director Rabbi David Soloff. and 12 Israeli campers, and designed programs for each camper division about the impact of the events. For many, every day began with checking the internet. Special tefillot were added to the daily morning minyanim. A centralized information board located in the entrance to the Bet Am summarized daily news from Israel. Programming staff developed appropriate options for each age group. The camp established a phone link with the Ramah Israel Seminar group, enabling the Wisconsin Nivonim campers to ask their Seminar friends about their experiences. Dennis Ross, former U. S. Ambassador to the Middle East, spent a Shabbat at Ramah Wisconsin, sharing his experiences and insight into the situation unfolding in Lebanon and Israel. He met with the oldest campers and taught several sessions for American and Israeli staff. Most importantly, Ramah Wisconsin came together as a community to support its Israeli families.
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Magshimim and Bogrim campers (entering 8th and 9th grades) at Ramah New England participated in a program entitled “So You Think You Can Israeli Dance?” Sub-groups of each edah choreographed Israeli dances with specific criteria. Each group performed its dance and each edah picked its own champion to perform at a Tzad Bet (B-side) performance. In addition to dancing, each edah made signs and decorations to support its winning team at the main event.
Ramah Nyack held an Israel solidarity gathering for campers and staff this past July. Children created posters to demonstrate their support of and love for Eretz Yisrael.
My friend from Nahariya A Ramah Berkshires camper learns important lessons when her bunkmate’s hometown is bombed S Y D N E Y A P P E L B A U M Excerpts reprinted with permission from the New York Jewish Week (www.thejewishweek.com)
hat was so indescribable about my summer was that on the bus to Camp Ramah in the Berkshires I had no idea what was in store for me. I had no clue that rockets would rain on my closest friend’s town and when she returned to Israel, she would have to live miles away from her home in the northern town of Nahariya. Ayala has been my best friend since we were 10 years old. I became friends with her because she slept on the top bunk as my bunkmate at Ramah Berkshires. We never felt a language barrier because even when she would speak in fast Hebrew, I seemed to understand her anyway. Ayala says that part of the reason her English is decent is because I helped her. I will never forget the day Ayala told us about the rockets fired by Hezbollah. My whole edah, all 38 of us and some counselors, was on a six-hour bus ride to Canada, our big trip. After hearing from a counselor that Hezbollah had fired rockets into Nahariya, Ayala rose from her seat and sat in the back of the bus where
Ramah instills Zionist feelings among campers and staff.
there were three empty seats. I heard muffled cries and some of my friends suggested that I go over there and talk to Ayala. I walked over expecting to talk about her boyfriend, who had broken up with her, so when she told me what happened, I was shocked. It proved hard to connect with our devastated best friend because we couldn’t experience anything close to what Ayala was going through. We tried our best though. We tried to reassure Ayala when she was This summer, I learned terrified of the thought that her brother and sister were Israel is my home too. fighting in the army and wondered if her home was still standing. It was such an awful thought to try and put myself in Ayala’s shoes. Ayala felt tragically helpless since she was safe in America. I then realized that from safety we could help Israel’s soldiers. I knew that I had an unopened bottle of soap and that my other best friend had two closed bottles of shampoo and conditioner so I could only imagine how much the rest of camp must have had. Ayala and I talked to our counselor and the director of camp about starting a supply drive for the Israel Defense Forces. It was very rewarding to be able to support the troops in Israel with our Venus razors, Burt Bees lip balm and Crest toothpaste. But it was even more rewarding to be a good friend to Ayala. When Ayala left camp a week early (she leaves early every year to return to Israel), I was so upset that I almost wanted to leave too. The Upper East Side of Manhattan is my home. This summer, I learned Israel is my home too. Ayala taught me that her brother is in the IDF not only fighting for Israel but for us, for me, as an American Jew. Watching my best friend go through something that most lucky people haven’t faced in their lifetime changed me. Not only did it make me feel
thankful for my home but it made me realize that the worst thing in life is to feel helpless and the most precious thing is to try and overcome that. Ayala returned home on August 15, days before the cease-fire. Her life is as normal as it can be for now. I learned many things from Ayala; I have her to thank for the Land of Israel. We are certainly dreamers; we dream our generation will be the first to live in Israel in peace. Sydney Appelbaum was a Machon (entering 10th grade) camper at Ramah Berkshires last summer.
Tamir Goodman, who plays professional basketball in Israel, spent three days at Camp Ramah in the Poconos last summer. Here he is teaching Notzetzim campers (entering 4th and 5th grade) basketball drills. Tamir also spent time talking with Poconos campers about how he juggles being religious and playing professional sports. In 2007, Tamir will help launch the new Ramah Basketball Academy at Ramah Poconos.
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