One of the hidden gems of a summer at Ramah Wisconsin is the experiential programming planned by the cabin counselors. These thematic experiences combining Jewish content, interactive fun and multiple intelligences are thoughtfully planned by our college age staff with the support of a team of consultants in the Mercaz Educational Resource Center. Please enjoy the first in a series describing a few such programs from the 2015 season, written by veteran Rosh Aidah Louisa Kornblatt.
2015 Shoafim Shabbat Program: Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
by Louisa Kornblatt
With the summer of 2015 drawing to a close, Shoafim (8th grade campers) looked to Dr. Seuss for comfort and guidance. Shoafim’s final Shabbat program–inspired by Dr. Seuss’ famous book, Oh, The Places You’ll Go–encouraged the campers to examine where they have been and consider what might lie ahead. The campers had a space to acknowledge their individual and aidah accomplishments and engage in conversations with each other about the places they might visit, passions they could discover, and projects they would take on in the future. It was a day that let everyone dream big in order to visualize and appreciate the opportunities in front of them.
The campers welcomed in Shabbat by reflecting on how the summer had shaped them. Before Friday night services, they wrote these thoughts on papers to be preserved in a Shoafim time capsule. During the course of the following day, the aidah (age division) heard from a number of individuals about their own life paths and how they discovered their passions. Jen Pehr, a City Design Practice Manager and the wife of Jon Adam Ross who directs Ramah’s programming office, gave a D’var Torah about all the places she’s gone and how she allowed her life passion to lead her. She shared how her dreams helped her identify what she wanted to do in life. Even though she has traveled all over the world for her work, she emphasized that often we do not have to travel far from home to uncover the issues we really care about.
In the afternoon, the Shoafim counselors and two other staff members spearheaded discussion groups about their own interests. One group focused on Tikkun Olam, and another on interfaith dialogue and Arabic. A third group opened a conversation about Big Jewish Questions, another dove into the issue of social change through science, and another investigated how to live in the moment as a Jew in a group titled, The Jewish Way to YOLO (you only live once). In addition to hearing from Shoafim staff, the aidah also had the opportunity to learn with two visiting professionals at camp: Aliza Small spoke about her relationship to Jewish comedy, and Josh Warshawsky led a group on Jewish music. Each group had a unique conversation about the topic at hand. Instead of assigning preselected groups of campers to each staff member, campers were allowed to follow their own passions and join the group that inspired them most. Counselors shared what drives them, which triggered rich discussions amongst the campers in every group. The afternoon program not only exposed the campers to what really makes their own counselors tick, but also pushed them to start thinking about all of the activities that they could pursue.
To conclude the day, the counselors returned to Dr. Seuss. On their last Shabbat together as Shoafim 2015, the group sat together and listened as their counselors read Oh, the Places You’ll Go to the aidah around a campfire on the beach.