Welcoming Leah Zigmond, Camp Ramah Darom’s New Assistant Director

Ramah Darom7.25.13

We are very excited to welcome Leah Zigmond, Camp Ramah Darom’s new Assistant Director, to our year-round team!

Leah and her family moved from Kibbutz Lotan, which is located in Israel’s southern Arava desert, to Atlanta last week, and are looking forward to spending their first Shabbat at camp this weekend.

Leah is originally from Pittsburgh, and she and her family have lived at Kibbutz Lotan for the past 13 years. Leah was the kibbutz’ Director of Education for its Center for Creative Ecology. Her responsibilities included creating curriculum and course content for the center’s Green Apprenticeship and semester abroad programs, leading center visits, and managing recruitment and programming. Leah studied Biology at Chatham University, has a Master’s of Science degree in Environmental Science and Management from Duquesne University, and is working toward her EdD in Education at Hebrew College and Northeastern University.

When we first spoke with Leah, her passion for leveraging experiential education and the outdoors as vehicles to foster a love for Jewish community was clear – we are very excited to have her as the latest addition to our year-round team! We know you will love getting to know her and her family, too. Here is a quick Q&A we conducted with her – take a look, and if you’re at camp this weekend, be sure to give her and her family a BIG, warm, Ramah Darom welcome!

A Q&A with Leah Zigmond, Camp Ramah Darom’s New Assistant Director

What inspired you to pursue a career in agriculture and in the Jewish community?

It actually happened separately for me. I was interested in agriculture when I was in high school, and ended up doing an apprenticeship with a farmer straight out of high school. I fell in love with connecting with the land and working with my body. A few years later, I was living in Virginia in a community that was not very Jewish, and would frequently drive an hour just to be closer to a Jewish community. During that time, I took my first trip to Israel and fell in love with the kibbutz lifestyle – I felt like it was designed just for me. I found Kibbutz Lotan, where I had the opportunity to help create an apprenticeship program where people could learn from us about agriculture, alternative building, and community life. And the rest is history!

What drew you to the role of Assistant Director at Camp Ramah Darom?

I am excited about the chance I’ll have in this role to reach more young adults in the south and to be a part of a large vision. It really feels like this is a natural next step for me. I’m also excited about the chance I’ll have to create some sustainability programming.

Tell us a little bit about Kibbutz Lotan.

Kibbutz Lotan is a very special small, cohesive community. There is not a lot of hierarchy. It’s a very interesting model of leadership, and one that I think is being modeled more and more. Everyone makes decisions about how the community progresses together, and works together to help each other realize our dreams. It’s a beautiful place and I will miss it, but my husband and I are glad to be back in the U.S.

Tell us about your family.

I met my husband, Simon, in Israel and although we love Kibbutz Lotan, we have no extended family there – my parents are in the U.S. and Simon’s are in Northern England. Our children Amit (6) and Yaniv (9) were very happy in Israel, but I think we are all very excited to be closer to our extended family.

What is one thing people don’t know about you?  

When I was 15, I was an exchange student and lived in Holland. It was an incredible experience. I am still in touch with my host parents and sister, and on the way back to the U.S. from Israel, stopped in Holland for a few days with my family to see them.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Truthfully, I don’t have much free time right now, as I’m working on my doctorate in education through Hebrew College and have been very busy with the move. However I really like to read, hike and, as a gardener, love to cook when I do have free time.

Do you have a gardening tip you can share with us?

Neem oil is great for your garden because it keeps the bugs away. It is an organic oil sometimes mixed with citrus oils. It won’t affect the purity of your food but it messes with bugs’ reproductive systems and limits their populations that way.

What do you like to cook?

I love to pick food from our garden with my kids and turn it into delicious and creative healthy meals and treats. For instance, we’ll make cookies with carrots and beets – we have a lot of fun eating healthfully and connecting with the earth.

What are three things you can’t live without?

My husband and two kids of course! Other than them, if I had to pick three things, I would probably say popcorn, good coffee and quiet time.

If you could have lunch with any one person, who would it be?

My grandmother. She died four years ago and I would love to have one more lunch with her. My grandfather was the rabbi at the Hillel house at Harvard, and I’ve often imagined her in her role as house mother and rebbitzen for those students. She was a strict grandmother and could be critical, but was extremely supportive. She was the one who sent me to Israel when I was 25 and was very supportive when I made aliya.  She loved fresh flowers, a good cup of tea and NPR.

We can’t wait to meet you. When is your official start date?

We moved on July 15 and have been busy getting settled. We are all very excited to experience our first Shabbat at Ramah Darom this weekend and to begin meeting the Ramah Darom family. I begin my role officially on August 15 and can’t wait to get started.