It was the middle of winter, but you could feel the warmth of summer at Morgan Manufacturing in downtown Chicago on February 11 when 450 alumni, parents and friends gathered to celebrate Camp Ramah in Wisconsin’s 70th anniversary. The event attracted members of the extended Ramah community of all ages excited to reconnect with one another and fete the camp’s continuous and ongoing impact on American Jewry. The opening of the camp in Conover in the summer of 1947 with 100 campers launched the North America-wide Ramah camping movement. Today 11,000 campers and staff members participate each summer in the Ramah network of 9 overnight camps, 4 day camps and programs in Israel.
An online photo album shows guests enjoying camp-like experiences, including a 360-degree tour of camp, a green screen with camp backgrounds, and a “selfie station” complete with trees, a canoe and a fire pit. Many attendees enjoyed spotting glimpses of their younger selves in a slide show of photos throughout the decades.
The evening’s formal portion began with Havdalah and honored the presidents of Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, as well as chairs of Ramah Day Camp (located in Wheeling, Illinois, and celebrating its 18th anniversary this year). Camp Ramah in Wisconsin president Jonathan Sherman made a special presentation to CEO Rabbi David Soloff and day camp director Lori Stark in recognition of their ongoing commitment and leadership.
While a video featuring alumni interviews and footage from different decades focused on history, camp director Jacob Cytryn and assistant director Adina Allen spoke on the current camp experience. A video update was provided on the ongoing $6 million Givah Campaign supporting scholarships, endowment and capital improvements. A highlight of the evening was the singing of the camp song, with former Roshei Aidah (division heads) holding the banner used at camp. Hundreds of Ramahniks linked arms as the words of the song echoed throughout the room and across the generations.