With great excitement, we opened our gates on to welcome our first session and full summer campers. After the last of the buses from the airport arrived, Israeli music playing from the loudspeaker lured everyone to the Kikar – the grassy field in front of our Chadar Ochel (Dining Hall). Without any instruction necessary, our community burst into dance! Each summer, I marvel at the “muscle memory” – not just that the kids recall all the complicated dance steps, but that the kids remember how to express a sense of uninhibited Jewish joy. And our veteran campers remember before we even have a chance to remind them, that this is a warm and welcoming community; it is touching to watch as new campers, who haven’t even been taught the dances yet, are quickly brought into the mix by bunk-mates. Everyone follows along and quickly gets swept up in the fun.
We have already experienced many of the distinctive rituals and traditions at Camp Ramah Darom. Our first dinner was Southern Fried Chicken – comfort food after a long day of travel. (Of course, there are always great vegetarian options too.) We then gathered in our amphitheater to welcome everyone and sing our official Camp song, “Drishat Shalom.” The second verse of this song lists all the states throughout the Southeast from which our campers come. Kids shout extra-loud when their own home-state is mentioned and, through singing, we’re also celebrating how Ramah gathers kids from across this sprawling region. Campers from New Orleans, LA become share bunk-beds with kids from Greensboro, NC and campers from Austin, TX become best friends with kids from Miami, FL. This year, the honor of changing the official Camp clock to “Camp Time” was bestowed upon the fasting growing Ramah Darom community: Memphis, TN.
This week, campers took their swim tests and began sports instruction. They have made their way to the omanut (art) and met the goats and chickens. And, each Aidah (age-division), as well as each Bunk, played ice breaker games to get to know everyone’s name and build a sense of community.
During our first Shabbat together, we gathered in our amphitheater. Gesher, our oldest Aidah (11th grade) performed a song to set the mood for this special day and we lit candles to usher in Shabbat – a day filled with many more Camp rituals and traditions from the Mississippi mud brownies that we serve for dessert on Friday nights to the signature, spirited Havdallah and dancing with which we begin each new week.
At Havdallah, we wish each other “Shavua Tov!” – offering blessings for a good week ahead. “Shavua Tov” is also the name our campers in Nivonim (10th grade) have given to a new weekly video series that they are producing. We are excited to take the tradition of sharing a video recap of the week and empower our campers to make it their own. As the name suggests, we’ll be releasing each episode to the public after Shabbat.
Shavua Tov and we hope you enjoy Episode 1: Your Ramah Moment