Seven years ago, our family of five arrived on the Ramah Darom campus for our first experience at Winter Break Family Camp. It was a small program of maybe 15 or 20 families hailing from various locations; Atlanta GA, Memphis TN, St. Petersburg FL, and our group of five families from Boca Raton FL. Our children were 4, 6 and 7, and we were young parents having no clue what to expect from the experience.
We were sharing a cabin with friends from home, but they were new friends. What was it going to be like sharing a space, a bathroom and a common area for the next five days? Would we still be friends at the end of the week?
As a family, we were just beginning to explore our own Jewish identities. My husband was brought up in a traditional family that leaned towards orthodoxy in their observance but was no longer Shabbat observant. I was brought up with a conservative background but had lost my connection along the way. As parents, we were looking for a way to bring a connection to Judaism back into our lives in a meaningful way.
It was a magical experience.
Who knew that by the end of the program our friendships would be stronger, and so would our engagement in Jewish life. We spent the week meeting new people, attending services, learning songs, debating politics, making challah, gathering around the campfire and designing our own Havdallah sets. At night we had “Adult” only activities with babysitting, culminating in a big New Year’s Eve celebration. To say it was a magical experience sounds a bit hokey, but there is no other way to describe it.
Our friendships were stronger, and so was our engagement in Jewish life.
We have continued to return to Winter Break Family Camp (WBFC) for seven years, staying in the same cabin, renaming it the “Boca Annex,” with the same group of friends, who we jokingly refer to as the “Lakeside Posse.” And, in 2017 we were lucky enough to bring our extended family to WBFC to celebrate our oldest son’s Bar Mitzvah.
Looking back over the past seven years, so many memories rush into my mind, but I’ll never forget the last day of our first Winter Break Family Camp. My oldest son walked down from our cabin on Lakeside into the Margam (Lakeside Pavilion) and said, “Daddy, does G-d live here?” Looking out over the lake, both my husband and I turned to look at him and said, “yes, yes, he does”.
Learn more about WBFC and watch this video for a little taste of the magic.