Camp Highlights: Week 3

Geoff Menkowitz7.1.19
We began last week at Camp Ramah Darom with our community-wide song festival called, “Zimriyah.” It is a magical evening with the entire Camp gathered around a giant campfire overlooking our beautiful lake. Against a setting sun, each Aidah in age-order took the stage and performed a Hebrew song. The theme of Zimriyah this year was “Heneini” – a biblical response to God’s call to take action in the world. “Heneini” also serves as a meditation on how we strive to live in the present and be present for ourselves and each other – a mindset which we promote and practice at Camp. The photos of this event which we’ve posted are gorgeous, with our camper’s beautiful faces glowing in the firelight. The glow that no photographer can capture though is the sense of pride and feeling of togetherness that each group experienced upon completing their performances.

Field trips were another major highlight this week. For each age group, the Ramah Darom experience is enhanced by some type of excursion. We are blessed to be located in an extraordinary corner of the world where mountains, rivers, waterfalls, and other natural wonders abound. Some of the trip activities are designed to help kids appreciate and connect to the great outdoors. And some activities are just plain fun! But even the fun is accomplished in a context of a positive social environment and facilitated by nurturing role-models.

On Thursday night, our theater season opened with Kochavim’s (7th grade) production of “The Wizard of Oz.” The musical included creative costumes, upbeat dance numbers, stunning vocal soloists and was performed entirely in Hebrew! Over the past two years, we have upgraded the lighting and sound-systems in our Beit Am Theater and it is a joy to be able to properly showcase our camper’s amazing talents and all the work they put into the show. We are all so proud of them!

Friday at Camp was “Yom Yisrael.” This is somewhat of a misnomer, since we focus on Israel every day at Ramah Darom and are constantly helping children build a personal connection to the people, the land, and the modern state of Israel. Still, we build into our calendar certain days when we amp things up even further. On Yom Israel, everyone dressed in blue and white, the chadar ochel (dining hall) was filled with special decorations and the menu reflected the theme as well. Special games and activities were integrated into the regular activity day, but what kids have been most excited about was a special “passport” which they were issued. These passports were designed for kids to track what they have learned about the personal lives and families of each of our more than forty Israeli staff members.

After a fun-filled and festive day, we prepare for the highlight of our week, Shabbat. Shabbatot at Ramah Darom are bookended by two powerful all-camp experiences. We welcome Shabbat with joyful prayer together, as all 700 of us sing and clap in the outdoor amphitheater. We come together again to bid farewell to Shabbat on Saturday night. As the sun goes down and the stars come out, we stand together in circles, arms around each other, singing and swaying – a final embrace before we say goodbye to the holiness of the day of rest. And then, we begin the new week as we do every new week here at Camp Ramah Darom with happiness, joy, and DANCING! Havdallah and the dancing which follows is a signature experience of our community – one which is impossible to adequately describe. And maybe that is ok. I believe it is valuable for kids sometimes to have their own experiences, their own world which we as parents just don’t get. It’s theirs and it is precious to them. We can show some video of the event but I promise you, it doesn’t even scratch the surface of transmitting how profoundly meaningful it is to be surrounded by so much effusive and uninhibited Jewish joy.

Check out Shavua Tov: Episode 3, our camper lead weekly video, which takes us on a magical odyssey of music, drama and ruach (spirit).