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Building Community online and at 8000 feet
Posted On May 17, 2010

One need only look at the lengthening of the days, the warming of the weather and expanding “to do” list to know that camp is just around the corner!   The next time you receive a Chodesh Tov newsletter, we will be living full-time at the Ramah in the Rockies ranch and nearing the end of our staff training week!

Last night, we held our second to last pre-camp conference call with our summer staff.  Since September, we have been gathering monthly via phone and internet to learn Jewish texts and to brainstorm about programs that we will run this summer.  The text we studied last night related to the power of community.   We looked at a famous story from Leviticus Rabbah that compares community to a boat where each person has the power to keep the boat afloat or to drill a hole and sink it.  We also learned the words of Rabbi Hillel who warned one to “never separate oneself from the community.”

As I reflect on the past eighteen months of preparation for the opening day of camp, I cannot help but be amazed at the sense of community we already have developed — even before a camper sets foot on the ranch for our opening summer.  We have over 100 volunteers actively engaged in helping to make this summer a success.  We have over 100 families who are entrusting their children to us for our opening summer.   And we have received numerous emails, phone calls and well wishes from people who attended other Ramah camps in the past and wanted us to know that they are wishing us a successful summer — even if they or their children are not participating in the program.

But perhaps most importantly, we have been developing a strong sense of community amongst the staff even before our opening summer.  About half of our staff members were with us last summer for a staff training week at the Ramah in the Rockies ranch.  Most have become regular attendees on our monthly calls.  Because we have maintained a connection throughout the year, my hope is that we have laid the foundation for forming a vibrant community that will expand when we begin to welcome campers.  It is important for our camp to have a strong sense of community, for at its core, one of the main successes of Ramah is the ability to form intense and intentional Jewish communities in our summer camps.  When starting a new camp, it is imperative for campers to walk into a community from day one where they feel welcomed.

In the next few weeks we will be moving our community from the virtual land of the internet and telephone to the real land of the Ramah in the Rockies.  We in the Denver office cannot wait to see how eighteen months of planning will finally play out at 8,000 feet!

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