Years ago, when I lived in Greensboro, close friends of mine hosted a young French exchange student named Laetitia Yona. Shortly after she arrived, I volunteered to give her a tour of Beth David Synagogue. As we were walking through the building we ran into Rabbi Eliezer Havivi. I introduced Laetitia to him, and the three of us spoke for a few minutes before continuing on our way.
When we left the synagogue, Laetitia had a strange look on her face.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Was that a Rabbi?” she said.
“Of course.”, I replied. “why do you ask”?
“He was wearing shorts. I’ve never seen a Rabbi in shorts. In Paris, the Rabbis are always dressed in long robes.”
I laughed at her comment, but I didn’t think very much of it at the time because I was used to seeing Rabbi Havivi wearing shorts.
I remembered this story recently when I was thinking about what makes the experience of being at camp special. A big part of what makes Ramah Darom experience so powerful is exactly this: Rabbis in shorts. Camp demystifies and humanizes religion. It strips away formality and removes barriers. It takes Judaism out of the synagogue and makes it more approachable.
At Ramah Darom, there are no uniforms that indicate who we are and what we do. The shorts we wear take away our differences and reveal our commonalities. These casual clothes and our beautiful and serene natural environment create an ideal setting for learning from others, building relationships and discovering mentors.
At Ramah Darom, outside the walls of our formal religious institutions, Judaism and being Jewish are seen through a different lens. Here we are immersed in a fully intentional community where Judaism isn’t only something we practice in the synagogue or at home but is a part of everything we are and everything we do.
This is the magic of Ramah Darom. We hear over and over again about how welcoming and inviting our community is and how comfortable people feel when they are in it. Sharing moments with rabbis in shorts is at the heart of our exceptional experiences.