I just returned from Israel where I joined other Ramah camps to meet and train this summer’s Israeli staff members. During our time together, Ramah Darom’s 30 schilchim/ot learned about our Camp culture, daily schedule, aidot (age divisions), traditions and expectations. We engaged in deep conversation and shared stories, and they quickly began to turn into Ramahniks before my eyes.
As a camper at Ramah Darom, my friends and I were always excited to meet our mishlachat, our Israeli staff members. We were eager to learn their stories, hear about life in Israel and create new connections. As tzevet (staff), it was always exciting to know that a whole group of Israelis, most of whom were new to Ramah Darom, would become essential members of our community each summer. What I didn’t know was the level of commitment and determination shlichim/ot demonstrate to enter this program.
Making their way to the 4-day intensive Shefayim Training Seminar, run by the Jewish Agency in Israel, is far from simple. Candidates participate in a series of applications, conversations and screenings before interviewing with a camp. Once accepted to the program and if matched with a camp, they then go through extensive training and rigorous insurance and visa processes and attend meetings with their fellow mishlachat members. To physically get to the training, some took multiple buses and trains, many requested time off work and others received special exceptions from army service to participate.
When shilchim/ot entered Kibbutz Shefayim, Israeli music and rikud songs blasted in the air and we (Allison Sherman, Camp Program Coordinator; Noy Dadosh, Rosh Mishlachat; and I) excitedly greeted them. It was amazing to meet this group in their own country, speak their language and hear their stories. We spoke about what makes them proud to be Israeli, what it was like to celebrate their first Shabbat with Ramah, what they know about Judaism in America and what values guide their day to day lives. Seeing Ramah at its best—the conversations about identity, religious, ethnic and cultural diversity, vulnerability, openness to new customs and practices, and a deep desire to learn—and witnessing the magic of this retreat that helps prepare Israeli counselors to be impactful shlichim/ot—was another reminder of why I love working for Ramah Darom!
When the time came to say goodbye, everyone beamed with excitement, knowing that summer was right around the corner.
I can’t wait to welcome this incredible group of shlichim/ot home to Ramah Darom. I know that they will each leave a lasting impact on their chanichim (campers) and forge meaningful connections with their peers. I also know that they will be forever changed by the people they meet and the time they spend at Ramah.
About the Author
Ayala Wasser, Camp Assistant Director, literally grew up with her sister and brother at Ramah Darom—from Gan (daycare for staff children) to camper, to counselor, to Rosh (Unit Head) and beyond. Before joining our year-round professional team and coming back home to Ramah Darom, Ayala was the Assistant Director at Ramah Sports Academy.