Reflecting on the amazing Ramah Darom community, five years later

Wally Levitt8.1.23

Five years ago this week, I entered the gates of 70 Darom Lane for the first time to attend Camp Yofi. I immediately felt the magic of this beautiful oasis in the mountains, and it was during that incredible (and incredibly moving) weekend that my excitement to join the Ramah Darom professional team was cemented.

Since that early August day in 2018, I’ve driven through those same gates dozens and dozens of times and that magical feeling still overwhelms me on every visit.

We are indeed privileged to spend time together surrounded by the beauty of our 185 acres. But just as importantly, there is an exceptional Ramah Darom kehillah that extends far beyond our shared home in the mountains.

I felt this profound sense of community more than ever last month when I lost my father Harvey Levitt z”l. The outpouring of support from all corners of the Ramah Darom world was overwhelming. I am deeply grateful to everyone who reached out with words of condolence and thank all those who chose to make a donation to Ramah Darom in his memory.

I was able to return directly to our Clayton campus after shiva concluded. I was so happy to be back in this special place – a community where everyone is welcomed with a hug and a warm “B’ruchim Ha’baim”, where everyone is supported, where people of all stripes feel a true sense of belonging, and where young and old can be their best and most authentic self.

Being back with our Camp kehillah, I witnessed so many examples of the “ramahrkable” community that’s been built at Ramah Darom. In particular, two moments during my first Shabbat back at Camp stood out.

Midway through Kabbalat Shabbat, the skies opened up and everyone sitting in the amphitheater was treated to drenching rain – the kind that can only be found in the 30525! Within five minutes, everyone had moved into the Beit Am (covered Basketball Court) where, as anyone who has spent time there will tell you, the sound of every raindrop is amplified as it hits the immense steel roof. But on this Shabbat evening, the rain was completely drowned out by the sound of 600+ people singing together, loud and proud, as if to say, “we’re one community, we’re in this together, and we will not let a storm stop us from finishing our davening.” It was perhaps the most beautiful Kabbalat Shabbat I can ever remember at Camp.

Then, the next afternoon during Shabbat Mincha, we celebrated the Bat Mitzvah of one of our Israeli Mishlachat – a woman who never had a Bat Mitzvah growing up. As she walked up to the Bima in front of the whole camp, she told her story: She’s lived in several different places over the last 21 years and has never felt any of them were truly her home. She then shared that after spending last summer on staff at Camp Ramah Darom, for the first time she believed she had finally found her community. She decided to return to Camp this year and made the decision that THIS was the place where she wanted to become a Bat Mitzvah. In two short summers, Ramah Darom had become her community.

There are countless other examples of the strength and power of the Ramah Darom kehillah.

Tomorrow we will welcome a new group of families to Camp Yofi. I’m once again very excited to share in the joy of this incredible, life-changing program – and I know that for these special families, being with their Yofi community is something they look forward to each and every year.

I continue to be moved and inspired by the magical kehillah that is created in our North Georgia mountain playground, and extends throughout the country and around the world. Thank you for welcoming me in five years ago. May the Ramah Darom community continue to grow and flourish.