Final Message from Camp 2019: “Bookends of the Summer”

Geoff Menkowitz8.11.19

This is my final message that I am writing from Camp this summer. We have just concluded Camp Yofi, Ramah Darom’s nationally recognized Family Camp program for families that have a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This extraordinary program is a beautiful bow tied on top of the precious gift that is our summer at Camp.

We started this summer at Ramah Darom by celebrating Shavuot with our Staff on the eve of our Campers arriving for First Session. At the time, I reflected on the striking confluence of the “Camp Count-Down” and the mitzvah of counting the Omer. I shared then how appropriate, meaningful, and inspiring it was to launch our summer with the holiday which celebrates receiving the Torah.

Today, my summer ends and I am departing Clayton, GA on Tisha B’Av, the day on which we mourn as a People the destruction of both the first and second Temples in Jerusalem (along with other historic tragedies which have been linked to the date). The parallel between this moment on the Jewish calendar and the conclusion of Camp is equally powerful to the way we started – but not for the obvious sadness which accompanies both this somber fast and the sense of loss of closing-up Camp. To be sure, these very different experiences evoke categorically different types of sadness.

Our tradition teaches that the destruction of the Holy Temple came about as a result of senseless hatred. And, as much as we mourn the loss of the Temple, this teaching spurs us on to recommit ourselves to bringing light to our world. By connecting to the collective memory of the Jewish People, we feel the pain and loss which comes when dignity is not afforded to all. As a result, we move through the ritual commemoration of Tisha B’Av with a building feeling of personal responsibility to engage in acts of kindness and repair the world. Rather than despair, we end the day with a feeling of optimism.

The end of Camp leaves us similarly motivated to change the world and bring the joy and light of the summer into our lives at home, into the lives of our families, and to the other communities of which we are a part. For what distinguishes Ramah Darom from other Camps is that it is not just a magical place in the mountains, not just a 4 or 8-week diversion. Ramah is a transformative experience which equips us with the sensitivities, commitments and motivation to build a brighter future. The community we model at Camp teaches our children to live lives filled with kindness, inclusivity, gratitude, and joy.

Enjoy the season finale of our Nivonim (10th grade) camper’s video series “Shavua Tov.