The First Time

Rachel Dobbs Schwartz12.31.17

I remember driving to Camp for the first time. Persimmon Road was only paved a small amount of the way, so the ride to Camp was quite a bit different than it is today. The softball field was then a soccer field, and there was no climbing tower, swing, or Odyssey high ropes course. The present-day dining hall was a pile of dirt, and the amphitheater was a steep hill of grass and red Georgia clay. The Welcome Center was a single-wide trailer sitting on blocks.

Even then, without all the bells and whistles, beautiful buildings and program spaces, there was something incredibly special about the first time I drove into Camp. It felt warm and welcoming, vivid and exciting, joyous and accepting. It felt like a place I could call my home.

Maybe it was the place. Maybe it was the people. Maybe it was both.

This past Fall, we welcomed 11 new families to Ramah Darom for the first time, for our camp open house. They too drove up Persimmon road, passed the many of the same homes and farms as I did, 20 years ago. But this time, they were met by an incredible group of staff members and volunteers, and a full day of programming including touring, eating, singing, dancing, crafting, climbing, and all things Camp!

We ate grilled cheese, roasted marshmallows over the Campfire, made jewelry, played volleyball and toppled Giant Jenga. We sang, and we danced, unfettered and free, as we only do at Camp. Together, for a few hours, we basked in the light that glows from those discovering something new and wonderful, with eyes wide-open to the beauty and opportunity around them.

Maybe it was the place. Maybe it was the people. Maybe it was both.

From this side of the table, as a member of our year-round Camp team, and a long-time staff member at Ramah Darom, I never tire of this moment for a new family. For me, it is one of the many incredible benefits of working for an organization that truly and deeply affects the lives of the communities it serves. There is so much beauty in the moment a family realizes that they have an opportunity for their children to be a part of joyful, meaningful, Jewish experiences throughout their lives, and everywhere they go, even in the mountains of North Georgia. The moment a parent realizes that these experiences are not just for their children, but for the entire family, for themselves, and for their enrichment can be both powerful and fulfilling. I am privileged to experience these moments, each year, as our community grows. What a gift!

There is a reason that our place is so special.

Maybe it is the place. Maybe it is the people. I think it is both.   

I hope you will join us for a summer, a week, a weekend, or even a few hours, and discover the magic for yourself, as I did 20 years ago.

Check out this video: These Are The Moments