Camp News

2017 Pre-Shabbat Letter from the Director #11

Posted on August 11, 2017

I sit here in between sessions of our amazing 2017 Family Camp, as we have welcomed forty families from around the Midwest to spend an extended weekend with us.  The kikar is alive again with the next generation of Ramah campers, as is the waterfront, sports courts, omanut (art studio), Beit Am (gymnasium) and ropes course.  Your children are all home; the physical unpacking done as the mental, emotional, and spiritual unpacking has just begun.  Hopefully, the final tears precipitated by leaving camp have been shed, replaced with the countdown calendars for next summer, video chats and phone calls with new friends, and other signs of a hope and commitment towards 2018.  Near the peak of summer, with the days already growing shorter towards fall and winter, Ramahniks plant seeds of hope that will endure and grow through another school year and we will harvest in June and July.

Last Friday night, Josh Pickard and Sophie Kaufman addressed camp with reflections on their summers as campers and the meaning of Ramah.  Below we have excerpted part of their divrei torah. As I look forward to welcoming them and the rest of Nivonim 2017 back to camp as Junior Counselors in 2019, it is a great pleasure to give them the last word on an amazingly successful summer filled with fun, friends, and meaning.

Josh writes about his biological family at home and his Ramah family, about what it means to cultivate and nurture a family and how to give back to it.

When we are born, we join a family. It is completely random who’s in your family. But you live with them, you take care of each other, and you grow up together. Personally, I was incredibly lucky. To be born into a great family with incredible parents and the three best brothers I could ask for. My brothers – Aaron, Daniel, and David – are my favorite people in the world. I have a unique and powerful relationship with each of them. These relationships developed, I believe, because we grew up in one house, together. Physically, we lived in rooms next door to each other.

Coming to camp is a choice. A choice that I have made for the past few summers. My first summer at camp, Garinim 2011, I remember being so excited to come to Ramah. I was excited to go to sleep away camp for the first time, to be away from my parents, and to be like my older brothers who at the time already had fallen in love with Ramah.

Everyone comes to camp for different reasons and with different goals in mind. When I was younger, I was excited for the campy experience: going away, meeting new friends, and overall having an exciting summer. As I have gotten older, my reasons for loving camp have changed. This summer, I came to be with my family, my aidah.

Prior to arriving at camp each summer I, and I know many others, have expectations for how we expect the summer to go, what the highlights will be: Yom Sport, the play, the Zimriyah (song festival), aidah sports games, and so many other things. The camping trip was always a favorite of mine.

Although we have some unreal pe’ulot (activities) at camp, our attitude and how we act truly are responsible for making a special summer. It is not enough to go watch during your aidah sports game. You need to go and you need to be present. You need to believe. You don’t just stand and watch the game, you buy into the game and go absolutely crazy cheering for you friends as they play. It is not simply enough to go through the motions, you need to believe that it is the greatest thing ever.

This is how we build and contribute to our Ramah family.

Based on last week’s Torah reading, Sophie rhetorically asks the question of what it means to give back – to serve – Ramah.

To serve our machaneh (camp), we also have to take what we learned here and bring it into the “real world.” This is no small task.

In this week’s parashah, the Israelites are preparing to enter Israel because they “are holy people to the Lord …. God has chosen [them] to be a special people to Godself, above all peoples that are upon the face of the earth.” This is a concept I’ve often struggled with. How could one group of people be better than or even more special than another?

“The chosen people” is a term I’ve stayed away from. To me, it sounds pretentious. But when I connected this pasuk (verse) back to my experiences at Ramah, I found myself more comfortable with it. It has nothing to do with being better than anybody else, but rather with the responsibility that comes with living according to Jewish values, or in this case, being a chanichah (camper).

During the kayitz (summer), we do more than just hang out on the kikar. We study in our yahadut (Jewish studies) or ivrit (Hebrew) classes, we learn how to swim and rock climb, to understand people who are different from us, and even to appreciate the little things like the hugs after Kabbalat Shabbat, the muzikah (music) coming from radio, or the constant integration of hasafah ha’ivrit (the Hebrew language) into our everyday vocabulary. We are taught such genuine, sometimes hard to grasp concepts such as the relationship between science and religion, the mourning process, our understanding of God, contradicting laws, or why chicken is not considered pareve.

If we teach it and learn it, we must uphold it as well.  And as a chanichah, it is our achrayut (responsibility) to take these morals, values, and memories created at Ramah back home with us. And by doing so, we keep all of those ideas alive. Just as we are commanded to do in the Shema, we must “teach them diligently to [our] children…”.

Shabbat Shalom.

Shoafim Tzedakah Fair

Posted on August 8, 2017

By Jesse Steinman and Marnina Goldberg, Shoafim staff
and Golda Kaplan, Rosh Shoafim (8th graders)

The Tzedakah Fair is the pinnacle event of the reshaped Shoafim Tzedakah project. This year we refocused the project to help campers bring out their social justice passions and cultivate skills and knowledge so when they go out into the “real world” they know how they can help.

In the beginning of the summer we asked campers to list their interest in issues. From there, we divided them into groups. Over the course of the summer, our campers learned about refugees, education and cancer in detail: the root of the problem, the Jewish connection to the issue, why we should care, and how we can help. We participated in discussion groups, completed small volunteering projects, and listened to guest speakers who had experience in these issues. This was all done so they could continue to grow their interest in these issues, and so when they leave camp they can take the lessons they learned with them. All these activities culminated in the Tzedakah Fair this past week.

The Tzedakah Fair included quite a few booths featuring Tzedakah, social justice, and doing mitzvot. Each group had a booth run by campers with educational pamphlets, a small volunteering station, and information on the issue. There were also games like a dunk tank, a sponge throw, a football throw, a pop-a-balloon game, etc. that revolved around these issues. For example, at the football throw you first learned about an NFL player and a charity that he supports. For the dunk tank and sponge throw, you had to answer questions about the issue that you learned about at the educational booths. This led to an exciting atmosphere filled with fun and games and intellectual learning.

All in all, the Tzedakah Fair was an amazing representation of what the Shoafim Tzedakah Project accomplished this year. Our Shoafimers became well-versed in their issues of interest and brought their passions and knowledge to the rest of camp in a fun and exciting fair. We can only hope that as the years progress, the campers will feel a special connection to the issues they learned about, and will go on to do great things by helping people who are affected by these issues.


What I brought to camp and got in return

Posted on August 6, 2017

By Shlomit Fuchs, Hebrew teacher

*Scroll down to read this post in Hebrew*

This summer I feel that I brought Israel to camp just by being myself.  Beyond the stories about the army I told, beyond the pictures of my family that I showed to the campers, beyond the conversations and Israel activities with campers, my Israel is simply who I am. The slang in Hebrew, the words that come to me without thinking when I am surprised or happy – are my Israel. The stories about my family – an ordinary Israeli religious family in an ordinary Israeli community – are Israel to me. I hope that the way in which my campers see me and know me as an individual helped them to better understand Israel and the “regular people” who live there.

Camp Ramah helped me to think a lot about my Jewish identity. Jewish identity, in my opinion, is a developing thing that always grows and changes. In my two months at camp I did a lot of thinking, asking myself and my friends some important questions and getting some answers. Not many answers, and that’s a good thing.

The prayers, more than anything, were meaningful to me. As a woman who also prays outside of camp, to be part of daily prayer services, to experience the challenge of helping campers who are not used to praying – to be part of the prayer – challenged me every day to think about the meaning of the prayers for me and the way I want prayer to be part of my Jewish identity.

A significant moment I had at camp was on July 4th. In general, this day, the experience of American culture intensively throughout the day was very interesting. But my story is related to Hebrew. During the carnival I competed with a few of my Bogrim students in the Carnival race. After long negotiations, I managed to convince them to compete against me, and the rule was that if I won, they would have to speak Hebrew throughout the next day. I lost, of course. They are much faster than me. But I felt that I had given them a point to think about their Hebrew and about learning Hebrew at camp. They understood, or so I felt at least, that I did not come to camp to teach just because it’s my job, but that speaking Hebrew was something deeper than language, something worth fighting for in the race.  I hope they understood that Hebrew can actually be one of their connections to their Jewish identity.

 אני מרגישה שהבאתי את ישראל למחנה בזה שהייתי אני. מעבר לסיפורים על הצבא שסיפרתי, מעבר לתמונות מהבית שהראיתי לחניכים, מעבר לשיחות ולפעולות על ישראל שהיו לחניכים – ישראל שלי היא פשוט מי שאני. הסלנג בעברית, המילים שנפלטות לי בלי לחשוב כשאני מופתעת או שמחה – הם ישראל שלי. הסיפורים על המשפחה שלי – משפחה ישראלית דתית רגילה ביישוב ישראלי רגיל – הם ישראל בעיניי. אני מקווה שהצורה שבה החניכים שלי רואים אותי ומכירים אותי כאדם יחיד עזרה להם גם להבין טוב יותר את ישראל ואת ה”סתם אנשים” שחיים בה.

 המחנה עזר לי לחשוב הרבה על הזהות היהודית שלי. זהות יהודית, לדעתי, היא דבר מתפתח שתמיד גדל ומשתנה. בחודשיים שלי כאן בעיקר הספקתי המון לחשוב, לשאול את עצמי ואת החברים שאיתי כאן שאלות וגם לקבל קצת תשובות. לא הרבה תשובות, וטוב שכך.

התפילות, יותר מהכל, היו משמעותיות לי. כאישה שמתפללת גם מחוץ למחנה, להיות חלק מתפילות שיווניות באופן יומיומי, לחוות את האתגר שבלעזור לחניכים שלא רגילים להתפלל  – להיות ממש חלק מהתפילה, איתגר אותי כל יום לחשוב על המשמעות של התפילות בשבילי ועל הצורה שבה אני רוצה שהתפילות יהיו חלק מהזהות היהודית שלי.

 רגע משמעותי שהיה לי במחנה היה ב4 ביולי. בכלל, היום הזה, החוויה של התרבות האמריקאית בצורה אינטנסיבית לאורך יום שלם היו מאוד מעניינים. אבל הסיפור שלי קשור דווקא לעברית. במהלך הקרנבל אחרי הצהריים התחריתי מול כמה תלמידים מהכיתה שלי מעדת הבוגרים במירוץ המכשולים שהיה בקרנבל. אחרי משא ומתן ארוך הצלחתי לשכנע אותם להתחרות מולי, והחוקים היו שאם אני מנצחת אותם – הם יהיו חייבים לדבר עברית לאורך כל היום הבא. הפסדתי, כמובן.. הם הרבה יותר מהירים ממני. אבל הרגשתי שנתתי להם נקודה למחשבה על העברית שלהם ועל לימוד העברית במחנה בכלל. הם הבינו, או ככה הרגשתי לפחות, שאני לא באה ללמד והולכת כי זה המקצוע שלי, אלא שהעברית שהם מדברים היא מבחינתי משהו עמוק יותר משפה, משהו ששווה להתחרות בשבילו במירוץ, היא בעצם הקשר שלהם לזהות היהודית שלהם.

2017 Pre-Shabbat Letter from the Director #10

Posted on August 4, 2017

Thanks to

  • Tamar Cytryn from Chicago Jewish Day school
  • Elisa Rotman from Solomon Schechter Day School of Metropolitan Chicago
  • Rabbi Aaron Melman of Congregation Beth Shalom
  • Rabbi Josh Cohen from the Nachshon Project
  • Rabbi Moishe Steigmann from Congregation Cnesses Israel in Green Bay
  • Rabbi Michael Schwab from North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park, IL

for joining us for a visit!

The highlights from the last week of camp could fill an entire letter itself.  Pe’ulot tzrif (cabin activities) galore took place all around camp, from early morning to late at night, from an island in Lake Buckatabon to the art studio, from the sports courts to the costume closet, and everywhere in between.  Shoafim’s Tzedakah fair took over the kikar one afternoon, and on another afternoon we celebrated Harry Potter’s birthday with quidditch, “butterbeer” and other Hogwarts fun while over a hundred campers participated in an epic color run.  A moving camp-wide reading of Eichah (Lamentations) on Monday evening was punctuated with beautiful performances by dancers and singers from different aidot.  Thursday night’s performance of Pippin by Machon and Tikvah was filled with energy and exceptional talent.  Before the show we recognized the winners of the 5th annual Derech Eretz awards, established as a tribute to the memory of Asaf Leibovich, a beloved alumnus, to recognize campers who are mensches.  This morning Nivonim is running its capstone program for all the other aidot in camp, exploring with them our summer-long educational theme of P’ninat Tifarah.

Later today, we pivot towards the home stretch.  Nivonim campers Sophie Kaufman and Joshua Pickard will take their places in a line stretching back almost thirty years, one of our most cherished traditions of providing a platform for two campers, on their last Shabbat, in a mix of Hebrew and English, to share their Torah and reflections on their Ramah experience with the entire camp.  In next Friday’s letter, we will share excerpts from their words, and the words of other members of their aidah who are sharing their own perspectives over the course of this Shabbat.

Twelve summers ago, an exceptional and charismatic Nivonim counselor introduced a new approach to tackling the last weekend of camp for our oldest campers.  These rising eleventh graders, many of whom have spent close to half their summers in Conover, face the end to their camper experiences here and an irrevocable shift in the nature of their relationships to each other and to Camp Ramah.  At a yeshivah in the Galilee, it is the custom of the students to escort with song and dance a fellow student who is leaving for military service.  The yeshivah joins together to sing a verse from Isaiah, one that we read twice at camp every summer in the haftarah for fast days, that reads:  כי בשמחה תצאו, ובשלום תובלון / kee v’simchah teitzei’u, uvshalom toovaloon / With joy shall you depart, and in peace shall you return.  This verse is now codified on the ceremonial sha’ar Nivonim, the massive gate at the base of our new Nivonim campus through which the aidah passes on the first and last days of camp.  This evening, as they enter the emotionally resonant final weekend of their final summer as campers, they will be reminded of two key messages from this verse:  that the departure they are making can and should be filled with joy in addition to all the other feelings they are experiencing, and that departures need not be endings, that we hope and expect them to return two years hence as staff members for the 2019 season and beyond.

For many campers, especially in the older aidot and for a good number of our staff, emotions will be running high this weekend as we prepare to leave our summer home for another year.  As Professor Ben Sommer of JTS has taught, the notion of “home” is one that the Hebrew Bible (TaNaKh) complicates for many of its main characters, including, to name just a few, Adam, Abraham, Joseph, and Moses.  For all of them, and for many Ramahniks, it is a constant toggle between two homes, two separate places that feel both unbelievably comfortable and somewhat uncomfortable.  Camp allows us to be different versions of ourselves, to grow and evolve in different ways, to explore our Judaism in a drastically different environment, to develop deeper friendships.  Camp is where the dominance of the secular world is flipped and replaced by holistic Jewish living.

Earlier this summer we celebrated the retirement of two often-hidden stalwarts of the Camp Ramah in Wisconsin family, George and Mary Merkel.  Both worked for camp for well over thirty summers, Mary managing our housekeeping staff and George supervising the maintenance crew until stepping back a number of years ago as his son Tom took over the leadership of the team.  George and Mary are part of our family, and we know that in the coming summers we will still see them occasionally stopping by with blueberry pie, riding a golf cart to help clean some laundry or make a bed, riding a lawnmower or, in an act you’ll rarely see from any other octogenarian, fixing something on a roof.  One of George’s favorite sayings which has been most appropriate this summer, is that Wisconsin has four seasons:  early winter, winter, late winter, and July.  As we have moved into August, the weather again has turned damp and chilly; the meteorology expressing the sadness that many feel as we approach the end of camp.  And yet the energy of our camp is undimmed, even by the unseasonable weather we have faced.  The tears this weekend will be matched with smiles and shouts of joy as our kids hold onto their last memories with friends, enjoying the moment and grieving its fleeting nature all at once.

George has another favorite saying, one he often delivers over a walkie-talkie channel in his folksy twang of the Northwoods as he is set to depart camp after another day of tireless and dedicated service to his second family at his second home.  It reminds me of the power of our community, and its longevity; the legacy we represent and the family we build here; the gifts the next generation will inherit from us and the profound joy in knowing we plant seeds today that will sprout into trees whose fruit our children shall reap.  As he’s departing camp for his home in Eagle River, George leaves us with these words, lovingly uttered, as I leave you metaphorically as we move towards the dawn of Monday morning and the hugs of the parking lot:  Goodnight Camp Ramah.

Shabbat Shalom

Expanding the definition of family

Posted on August 4, 2017

By Gili Knoller, Dance Staff

When I found out that I was going to a camp that was part of the Conservative Movement, I thought to myself: “how can I – an Israeli girl who had never even said Birkat Hamazon – be in a religious camp?”

Little did I know what an amazing opportunity it would be to be exposed to a world different from my own.

My goals this summer were to learn more about Judaism and religious life, and to learn more about my own Jewish identity.

I feel that I can’t describe my Jewish identity yet, but I can definitely say, that after two months of living a Jewish daily life, two months of praying each morning – I learned something very important. I learned that sometimes I forget to thank: thank people, to be thankful for the small and big things in my life.  In Shacharit, when we thank God for things and abilities in our daily lives, I found my way – I have been able to use this time to think about things that I feel blessed for, small, big and amazing things in life, that I am thankful for. With the assistance of my campers – I understood that giving thanks is an important part in our lives.

I lived with the Tikvah girls, and once during tefillot we were asked, “what are you thankful for?” I thought in my mind about my family, my friends, health and the big and important things in life. But my campers are smarter than me. One was thankful for the fruit bowl, one was thankful for being able to play basketball and for winning the game, another girl was thankful for shira (singing).

We can think of these as the “small” things in life, but actually – we need to be thankful for the ability to do or to have those things. For some people it isn’t obvious.  I want to thank my campers for helping me realize and understand that there is nothing in the world that is obvious.

Over the course of the summer, I tried to figure out the answer to a question that I was asked multiple times, “What is Israel for you?”  I thought about traveling around the country, going to the beach, summer time, and the feeling that Israel is my home.  But the main thing that I thought about was families. My friends from school are like a family, my friends from the scouts are like a family, as are my friends from the army, and of course – my own real family.

Here it is, the end of camp, and I now I can add to my list of families: my aidah (Tikvah), my cabin, and the Ramah tzevet (staff).  Beside all those small families, there is Camp Ramah in Wisconsinand each one of us is a part of this great family.

Boker Tov Cabin 1-C!

Posted on August 3, 2017

by Jacob Levy, Halutzim Senior Counselor

With the flip of the light switch it’s a new day in Tzrif 1-C!  A typical morning in our tzrif (cabin) on the surface might seem pretty mundane.  We wake up, go to tefillah (morning prayer – where many of our campers are active participants and leaders), eat breakfast, and clean up the tzrif during nikayon.  At first glance this might seem pretty normal, but with a closer look you’ll see it is nothing mundane.  The first (and probably most important) part of why living in our tzrif is so special is because of our chanichim (campers).  We are incredibly fortunate that our chanichim are both kind and energetic.  Every day we see so many examples of this kindness.  For example they not only get their tzrif-mates involved in cabin activities like games of seven seconds, kan jam, etc., but also involve the Kochavim campers who live in connecting cabins.  In addition to their incredible kindness, our campers are always super energetic when it comes to doing cabin activities.

Some highlights from our amazing summer include:

  • Yom Fruit: This was the first in a series of cabin theme days. Campers got inflatable pieces of fruit and jammed out to the Wiggles song “Fruit Salad” and “Strawberry Fields” by the Beatles.  Later in the afternoon they went on a hunt to see if they could find more apples hidden around camp than their counselors.
  • Yom Pirate: We woke up early, hopped into bathing suits, and ran down to the agam where we kayaked out to the island for an amazing breakfast on the island. To get everyone in the pirate spirit, the campers got a Ramah bandanna and an eye patch with music from Pirates of Caribbean playing in the background.  In the afternoon we went on a treasure hunt around camp.  Everyone was super excited to receive the treasure, which included some candy and a personalized necklace (with their name and two descriptive traits written on it)!
  • Fantasy Baseball: Many of the members of our tzrif are huge baseball fans. A highlight of our day for the first few weeks was waiting for lunch and the Ivriton (camp newsletter) which contained a few baseball scores from the previous day.  So, we decided to start a fantasy baseball league for them to participate in.  Every camper drafted two teams each of which would earn them points (depending how the teams did in their games).  In addition to the draft we put up a tzrif scoreboard in which we not only included the previous day’s scores but also a sports article for them to read during flashlight time at night.
  • Memory Board: With all of these amazing peulot happening so fast it was really important for us that our chanichim were remembering the awesome moments of their summer. So on one of the walls of our tzrif we posted not only pictures of the summer but also slips of paper listing the peulot that we had done over the past few weeks.  In addition, campers personalized the board by posting their favorite memory as well as something that they are thankful for at camp.

Most of all – we are thankful to be a part of the awesome group of campers and counselors that make up Tzrif 1-C!

The picture of our cabin would not be complete without a word from our campers.  So, below is a snapshot of life in our cabin as told by Jesse:

What are some of your favorite things about Tzrif 1-C?

I really like how much we play together.  Whenever we are bored we always have each other to play with.  Whether it’s basketball or cards we are always playing with each other.

What was your favorite peulat tzrif and why?

My favorite cabin activity was eating breakfast on the island because it was an unexpected but fun activity.  It was also a meaningful activity because we had t’fillah together on the island.

What is one of your favorite memories from the tzrif?

My favorite memory from the tzrif was when we drafted our teams for our fantasy baseball league.  I liked it because everyone was really excited and we were all really happy and everyone was having a good time together!

Anything else you want to add?

Every peulat tzrif we have done really has shown when we work together as a tzrif we can accomplish anything!


Taking the plunge into the 2017 season!

Posted on August 2, 2017

by Maya Levine, Waterfront Staff

As usual, the agam (lake) was consistently the coolest place to be this summer at Camp Ramah. Whether we were dealing with first machzor’s wild weather or trying to make sure that the competition on the new water obstacle course didn’t get too feisty, life at the waterfront kept us on our toes.

The blob- arguably Lake Buckatabon’s greatest claim to fame- found a worthwhile companion this summer. The new water obstacle course (appropriately dubbed and henceforth referred to as the bloob) was easily a crowd favorite. There’s no better feeling than capping off a successful swim lesson with ten minutes of some hard-core bloobing. Campers find a brave competitor (or otherwise fly solo) and scramble across a miniature water trampoline, through an inflatable plastic maze, and ultimately down the thrilling waterslide. This new feature was met with an unprecedented enthusiasm for the lake, and the bloob’s ability to make the lake look appealing even in overcast sub-70’s never fails to impress.

In addition to the bloob, logrolling at Ramah reached new heights this summer. With four state-of-the-art plastic logs and in nostalgia of Wisconsin history, Ramah really got the log rolling on our newest water sport. Campers learned balance, coordination, and enjoyed some good natured competition in the shallows of Buckatabon.

Not only were the water accessories a hit, but the campwide lake events provided ample opportunity for campers to be present in the lake. With multiple island swims spaced throughout the summer, campers challenged themselves to improve their times and possibly even try the daunting there-and-back from the island. The island swims received camper turn-outs like never before. The Polar Bear Swim, the island swim that is staged at 5 a.m. so that campers can appreciate dawn at Ramah from a breathtaking new perspective, was proudly led by some of our younger eidot who are apparently 1) immune to the cold and 2) highly tempted by the post-swim hot chocolate made by the camping staff.

Bauer’s boat race was a huge success, allowing the oldest five eidot to compete in a kayak race from Bauer’s Dam on Upper Lake Buckatabon, a whopping 2.5 miles back to camp.

The Bogrim synchronized swimming classes had their much anticipated performance this past Friday. Bogrim synchro is a camper led dance routine set to music and performed in the lake to a crowd of cheering fans.

The lifeguard training was hugely successful this summer. The class, offered to Machon, is a rigorous course designed to train campers in lifesaving and CPR skills in order to pass the lifeguard certification test at the end of the summer. This unique opportunity is always met with eagerness from campers that even the notorious ten-pound brick test cannot wane. The campers in LGT applied these skills in real life, working alongside lakefront staff to guard island swims and free swim on Shabbat.

Tikvah swim, a class which brings Machon and Tikvah together to improve campers’ comfort in the lake and to work more personally with a one-on-one swimmer/instructor ratio, was also one of our favorites this summer. Using games that can be played both on land and in the water and maximizing the time spent with individual campers, we saw huge strides in terms of level of comfort and skill in the water.

As the summer winds down and we take some of our final seaweed-tinged breaths of fresh agam air, we fondly remember the aquatic successes of kayitz 2017 and look forward to preparing for 2018!





Machon spreads its energy around Wisconsin

Posted on August 2, 2017

by Daniella Elyashar, Rosh Machon

Last week Machon (10th graders) and four campers in Tikvah took an amazing road trip across the state of Wisconsin!

After a fun visit to JCC Camp Chi on Sunday we spent an incredible afternoon at the Kalahari Water Park where the kids went on crazy slides and rides! For the first two nights we slept at Beth Israel Center in Madison. We were so lucky to be kindly and warmly hosted by Ramah families and to eat some delicious home cooked meals.

We spent the next two days walking around and getting to know Madison pretty well! We took an official campus tour, learned about Jewish life on campus from the staff at Hillel and enjoyed the views of Lake Mendota from the student union.  As we know, Madison is not just a college town. We also explored the impressive Capitol building and shopped on State Street, which reminded me of the ben Yehuda midrachov! (the pedestrian mall in Jerusalem)

We then traveled to Milwaukee and played intense mini-golf and were graciously hosted by Ner Tamid Synagogue.

On Wednesday we visited the Hunger Task Force where we learned about the effects of hunger and poverty in America. After an engaging simulation, we had the opportunity to physically bring more food into the world by picking watermelons that were donated to shelters in Milwaukee.

We then saw some beautiful art work at the Rahr Museum in Manitowoc, including an amazing collection of Marc Chagall paintings. The campers were excited to see such gorgeous Jewish art in an unexpected place. Our thanks to Ramah alumna Chaviva Jacobson, who brought the Chagall exhibit to our attention!

We spent our last night at Congregation Cnesses Israel in Green Bay.  We spent a breathtaking summer night enjoying the Bay Beach amusement park. The kids went on rides and the one they loved the most was the Zippin Pippin, known as Elvis Presley’s favourite ride! Their excitement wasn’t about the Elvis connection, but rather about seeing the name of their play in bright lights!

On Thursday we toured the Green Bay Packers’ Lambeau Field. While most of our campers are not Packer fans, they really enjoyed touring the amazing facilities and learning about the history of football.

Machon 2017 is known for its energy, which they brought to every activity we went to, to every place we stayed and to every community that hosted us. They were present, engaged and were in great spirits throughout the whole trip. It was so amazing to see them strengthen new and longtime friendships with each other.

Although we had a great time away, we are excited to be back at camp and we’re set for a fabulous last few days of camp!

Shavua Bogrim – a week of cool experiences

Posted on August 1, 2017

Shavua Bogrim is a week long specialty program for our Bogrim campers (entering 9th grade). We invite professionals who have unique skill sets to lead intensives that incorporate Jewish content into really cool experiences.

This summer Bogrim campers built an innovative set of benches with Jacob Shapiro (Nivo ’98), cooked up an international storm of Jewish food with Tamar Cytryn, got fit with A.J. Rosenberg (Nivo ’03), became outdoorsmen/women with Josh Lake, created escape rooms for their friends with Brandi Cohen Argentar (Nivo ’93) and learned how to write observational prose with Deanna Neil (Nivo ’97). Below is an excerpt from an observation about the week by Lena, a Bogrim camper.

We met with Deanna Neil in the Seminar Center, which is near the guesthouse. She has written some children’s books so it was cool to learn with her. Throughout the week we met for about three hours a day and learned how to write a detailed and in depth observation of a familiar place in camp. From these observations we were able to see the area in a new way. We also learned about different narratives by taking a couple sentences about how we felt and changed it from first person narrative to either second or third person narrative. When we changed the narrative we were also encouraged to use our imagination and change the plot of the story. I really liked the dialogue game [using tableaux to invent conversation] because it taught us how to express things through dialogue. Creative writing was not my first choice for Shavua Bogrim, but after the first day I really enjoyed it and couldn’t wait to come back.

Drama 2017: flying umbrellas, a yellow brick road, a brand new musical and so much more!

Posted on July 31, 2017

by Elana Kennedy, Rosh Drama

This summer has been an amazing one for our Drama program! From the Hebrew musicals to our daily drama activity offerings, campers all across camp have enjoyed an especially exciting, creative summer.

We set out to raise the bar for our musicals this summer, and week after week camp has been reminded of the remarkable things our incredibly talented campers are capable of. Flying umbrellas, a Yellow Brick Road down the middle of the Beit Am, the brand new musical “Matilda!”, and an all-camp ABBA dance party are only a few highlights from this summer’s season so far. And this Thursday, Machon and Tikvah will close out the year with what promises to be an awesome, innovative production of Pippin!

This summer the Drama staff has continued the development of a curriculum that builds on itself over the years, so that a camper who chooses Drama several summers in a row will learn new skills that come together in the writing and performing the Nivonim English Play. Garinim began with the ten foundational rules of improv, returning home with a keepsake booklet complete with examples of how to use each rule to create an exciting improv scene.

While Solelim delved into more advanced improv and longer scenes, the Halutzim began their work on character building. Each camper has created his or her own character from scratch, and worked on developing a specific backstory, personality, and set of relationships for that original character.

The culmination of this progression, the Nivonim English Play, was another highlight of our summer season. A small group of Nivonim campers spent two intense weeks creating an original physical theatre piece, grounded in both Jewish text study and a high-level theatrical devising process. The final product, To Kill a She-Goat, was both an enjoyable experience for its audiences, and a powerful exploration of what “good” truly means.

Exciting new visions for our musicals, new theatre skills throughout the eidot, and an original English play have been the centerpieces of Summer 2017 in Drama, and mark an exciting shift toward even brighter possibilities in the future. For now, though, we can’t wait to see Pippin come together and close out the season this week!

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