Eighteen years ago, when I was a college student, I got a call from Ramah Darom. I had been on Camp staff the summer before and they asked if I would come back and staff climbing at their first Passover Retreat. I checked with my parents to see if it was okay for me to miss Passover at home, they said yes and I said yes! I had no idea what I was getting into but I’m so glad we all said yes.
The Passover at Ramah Darom community is a special one. We’ve celebrated lifecycles and other successes together; we’ve also mourned together. Each year at Yizkor we particularly remember those in our Passover family who are no longer with us. Over the years that I’ve staffed the Passover Retreat I’ve watched children become adults and I’ve grown up myself. I even brought my boyfriend to Passover and taught him to belay! We got married and started inviting other family members to join us at the Retreat. My grandparents, parents, and in-laws all the way from England have all attended and love Passover at Ramah Darom.
Last year’s Passover Retreat was especially meaningful to us as it was the first time we brought our almost one-year-old daughter. She’s really talking now, three-word sentences and three-syllable words. This year, I was looking forward to showing her the waterfall and taking her for walks in the woods, something we aren’t able to do much of at home. She was ready to charm everyone with her cuteness and a few syllables of ma nishtana. We were excited for her to enjoy the Gan with Carla, but it will have to wait until next year.
I’m writing this from New York City, where our family is thankfully healthy. Our biggest challenge right now is entertaining said toddler while trying to get our jobs done. We go for walks and dodge people to keep our mandated six feet of separation. And, we’ve been able to stay connected with family and friends digitally, enjoying their smiling faces while keeping our distance.
Not far from here though, doctors, nurses and other medical professionals are working the hardest days of their lives, day after day. The city is building a field hospital in Central Park and desperately trying to set up more hospital beds and get ventilators. The U.S.N.S. Comfort, a Navy hospital ship with over 1,000 beds, has just arrived. Everyone is doing the best they can to stay positive and work together. At 7 pm every night, neighbors applaud for medical professionals and other essential workers, who are making deliveries and keeping stores open and stocked with food. It’s a lovely chorus of connection with our city. But the sounds I wish I was hearing are seder tables of other families singing Dayenu or Hallel while we are just getting our own seder started.
I count myself lucky for all the Sedarim we have had at Ramah Darom. We have melodies that we’ve learned from others and adapted traditions and customs from Teaneck, Jerusalem, Atlanta and all over. Though this year we have to adopt plan B, when we finish our seder we’ll definitely express the hope for לשנה הבאה ברמה דרום–that next year, we’ll spend Passover with our Ramah Darom family.
About Rabbi Ashira Konigsburg
Ashira is a long-time Ramah Darom seasonal staff member, Camp Tzevet 2001-2008 (only missing 2007) and Passover Retreat staff, 2002-2019. She’s held many titles at Camp including sports tzevet, machanaut (camping) tzevet, climbing tzevet, Rosh Climbing, Rosh Tefillah (with Robbie Medwed) and the Assistant Camp Business Manager. Her brothers were both campers and then staff and her parents were staff in the inaugural summer and onward for years. Ashira sees Ramah Darom as the place where she figured out what she wanted to be when she grew up, and where she developed the skills to do what she does as s a rabbi and COO at the Rabbinical Assembly. She now lives with her husband and daughter in New York City and she looks forward to being back at her mountain home, Ramah Darom SOON!