A Home Away From Home

Ramah Darom8.21.13

How one family found a Jewish community for their children – and the perfect place to host their son’s Bar Mitzvah – in the North Georgia mountains.

Jana and Josh Zager have always had what they call a “revolving Jewish community” due to Josh’s career as a pilot in the Marine Corps. “Throughout the years, we’ve moved from Corpus Christi, Texas, to West Africa, to Jacksonville, Fl, and then back to Corpus Christi,” Jana said. “We’ve been lucky to be a part of some very small, special, welcoming communities, but always worried that our military moves would prevent our children from having a place they could call home.”

The Zagers managed to provide their children – Nathan, 12, and Lily, 10 – with a solid Jewish education, despite the moves. The kids went to Hebrew school, spent one year at a Jewish day school in Jacksonville, and even participated in a “mommy-led” Hebrew school in West Africa with Jana and one of her friends. But Jana and Josh still worried the moving would affect their children’s education and sense of community negatively.

Together, they decided overnight camp would be a good solution and that Ramah Darom was the perfect place. “The kids attended a Camp Ramah Darom get-together at our shul, and that was it – Nathan couldn’t wait to go.” Nathan started attending Camp Ramah Darom in 2012, and this summer his little sister joined him. “Camp has been wonderful for both of our kids,” Jana said.

As Nathan’s Bar Mitzvah approached last year, the Zager’s heard from a friend that in addition to its summer camp, Ramah Darom rents its facility during the year and hosts events like weddings, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and other family simchas at its Kaplan Mitchell Retreat & Conference Center. “Whereas many children have a congregation they are connected to, Nathan’s friends were all from camp. We asked Ramah Darom if we could have his Bar Mitzvah there, since Nathan’s Hebrew birthday was during camp, and given our family’s unique situation, they were able to accommodate us,” Jana said.

“The whole weekend was absolutely perfect. Our parents joined us at camp. The setting was remarkable, the service was beautiful, and most importantly, Nathan was so happy. It was a very special and meaningful weekend. We are thrilled that Ramah Darom has truly become a second home for our children.”

Although due to the summer camp schedule Camp Ramah Darom is not typically able to accommodate Bar Mitzvahs during the summer, Ramah Darom does host several “destination” Bar/Bat Mitzvahs and weddings during the year at The Kaplan Mitchell Retreat & Conference Center. For more information, visit our rental facility’s website or contact us. We’d love to host you and your mishpacha!