Summer 2020 in Review

Robyn Diamond9.9.20
It’s September, the kids are back in school. On Monday, the Camp team just sent out a survey to camper parents to finalize summer 2021 dates and we said L’hitraot to our Labor Day Weekend Getaway participants. Summer 2020 is officially over! There is no doubt that this summer brought uncountable disappointments, but also many successes to celebrate, like the fun we had virtually together with our Camp family during Kayitz BaBayit. We were handed lemons and together, we made a delicious batch of kosher lemonade. Truly, we couldn’t have done it without our dedicated staff and committed community. Thank you!

Ramah Darom welcomed 47 families to our Clayton campus this summer over four Misphachah B’Ramah, physically-distanced family getaways. Read Nancy and Bobby Isaacson’s Getaway experience in “Our Creative Reunion.”

Now, we are looking forward to welcoming guests to Chol Homoed Sukkot Shabbat and Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah Getaways; Thanksgiving, Winter Break and New Years Getaways, Martin Luther King and Presidents Day Weekend Getaways; a Women-Only Weekend and an Adult-Only Shabbat. Learn more.

This summer, 435 campers, including 33 Tikvah supported campers and over 90 volunteer staff members, participated in Ramah Darom Kayityz BaBayit (Summer at Home). To keep our community connected during this time of physical distancing, 85% of Kayitz BaBayit was real-time, small-group, relationship-based experiences.

During our 4-week program, designed for registered 2020 families, campers joined their aidah (age group) in small “bunk” activities and participated in community-wide group programs for at least one hour a day, six days a week. There were talent shows, sports activities, arts and crafts, games, dress-up days, Instagram takeovers, creative Hebrew lessons and so much more. There was even an official summer at home dance and a t-shirt that could be customized with the campers aidah (age group), ima (mom), abba (dad), bogrim (alumni) or seminar. Our Kayitz BaBayit kehillah (community) danced together on Zoom in all-Camp rikud (dancing) and joined together for a beautiful Kabbalat Shabbat and Havadallah experience each week on Zoom and Facebook Live.

On Tuesdays, campers could choose from a library of pre-recorded Ramah Darom activity videos, created by volunteer specialty staff. There was everything from creative dance to quilt making and fitness to babka baking. There were also multiple activities in Hebrew lead by staff in the US and Israel, including Science, Magic, Chess, Yoga and Cooking. Our chuggim (activities) library also includes Camp Yofi at Home specific videos for families with children with autism spectrum disorder. All videos are now available to our broader community so everyone can participate in #ChuggimTuesday.

While not physically together during their culminating camper year, 79 Gesher Leadership Development Institute campers (our oldest age group of rising 11th graders) participated in Kayitz BaBayit. They were part of virtual leadership training sessions, Gesher-specific rites of passage ceremonies and Jewish learning activities, making this summer memorable and fun. Helping to enhance the online experience for younger campers, 44 Gesher campers, joined our CIT program. Their participation helped keep the energy levels high and the smiles growing.

Zoom screen shot of staff training during Kayitz BaBayit 2020Our Kayitz BaBayit volunteer staff, 90 strong, surpassed our expectations with their dedication and passion. Participation in pre-Camp staff training which focused on social inclusion ensured they had the tools and resources needed to build a welcoming and engaging environment for all campers. Our staff created inventive, interactive, and fun programming for campers of all abilities in a short time. Participants in our Tikvah Vocational Program, along with their support team, sent the whole staff a Shabbat-O-Grams to show their appreciation for their hard work. Read more in A Virtual Summer of Inclusion.

In early August, our families who have a 6-13-year-old child with autism joined us for Camp Yofi at Home. Similar to our on-campus Camp Yofi program, Yofi at Home offered activities for parents, siblings and the whole family including a talent show, sticky-gooey-sensory night (accompanied by a recipe book), sing-alongs, a sibling lunch and a parent-only game night.

This summer at home has given Ramah Darom the opportunity to expand our definition of connection and our knowledge of online inclusion and accessibility. We are now adding video captions for the hearing impaired, and descriptive text to images throughout our website for the visually impaired. Our virtual enhancements complement the physical accessibility enhancements we have already made to our campus with funds from the Foundation for Jewish Camp Yashar Accessibility Grant. We look forward to continuing to build stronger connections with people of all abilities both on and off our campus for years to come.