Camp Ramah in New England
|Chain||Ramah Camping Movement|
|Opening date||1953 (as Ramah Connecticut)|
|Management||affiliated with the Conservative Movement of Judaism and the National Ramah Commission|
Camp Ramah in New England (CRNE), located in Palmer, Massachusetts, is one of the oldest Ramah summer camps, organized by a Jewish conservation center. The camp traces its roots to Ramah Connecticut in 1953, followed by Ramah at Glen Spey, and has evolved into Camp Ramah in New England.
The camp provides campers with a Jewish educational experience. Campers are known as "Ramahniks." Ramah New England is known for its programs in sports, arts, Judaica, and Hebrew. Billy Mencow was director of the camp from 2000–05. Rabbi Ed Gelb has been the direct of the camp from 2006–present.
The camp is broken into different age groups, or edot (עדות) (s. edah):
Kochavim (stars) : 3–4th graders (2 weeks)
Ilanot (young trees): 4–5th graders (4/8 weeks)
Solelim (roadpavers): 6th graders (4/8 weeks)
Shoafim (strivers): 7th graders (4/8 weeks)
Magshimim (achievers): 8th graders (4/8 weeks)
Bogrim (mature ones): 9th graders (4/8 weeks)
Machon (institution): 10th graders (4/8 weeks) as of Fall 2006 newsletter
Nivonim (wise ones): 11th graders (8 weeks)
Amitzim: (brave ones) campers with special needs, as old as 21 (4/8 weeks)
Tochnit Ha'avodah (vocational education or "voc-ed"): former Amitzim'ers who work at the camp
After Nivonim year, 12th graders attend the Ramah Seminar, a trip to Israel, and spend six weeks traveling around the country with other Ramahniks of the same age. They also have the option to attend an option week long trip to Poland. The camp has a program for developmentally disabled youth, entitled the Tikvah Vocational program.
The camp is divided into two sides: A-Side and B-Side. A-side hosts Kochavim through Shoafim and B-Side hosts the rest of the edot along with the dining hall, infirmary (marp), ropes course, tree house, and Beit Midrash complex, and beit am gadol. The oldest edah, Nivonim, is housed in a new building complex, called the K'far.
Palmer, as the camp is also nicknamed, has a number of traditions, including Color War (Yom Sport), an annual sports competition within the camp, yamim meyuchadim, "special days", an ongoing sports rivalry with Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, Zimkudiyah, a song and dance festival, trips to Rondeau's, a local ice cream store, plays performed by the four older edot entirely in Hebrew (in 2007 Toy Story, Grease, High School Musical, and The Prince of Egypt were all performed), and singing the Camp Ramah song, Shir Ramah. They play the rival camp in the Berkshires under the unofficial mascot, the "Palmer Fighting Roos." The "Roo" has its own songs as well as merchandise. Each edah participates in a camping trip known as "etgar" (the Hebrew word for challenge); younger children camp out within the grounds of the camp while older edot are given the opportunity to travel off the grounds and choose from a number of hiking, canoeing, biking, rock climbing and rappelling, and spelunking trips. A delegation is sent each year to ArtsFest, an annual gathering of regional Jewish camps featuring a variety of songs and dances. Their reputation has been noted and recognized by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
Shabbat is given a great deal of attention, with all of the camp gathering together for Friday night services and dinner. Saturday morning services are held within each edah, with senior staff members often giving Divrei Torah to the campers. On Friday nights, Nivonimers lead shira and on Saturday night, they lead Seudat Shlishit. Also, on Friday nights Nivonimers have the chance to give "Oh My Lord's" which are short speeches about life lessons usually learned in camp. Many of the sports teams that will participate in Yom Berkshires will practice with Saturday afternoon games, and Mincha is held for all of B side. Havdalah is held by edah, and B-side has Israeli dancing sessions, called Mandatory Fun Time immediately following Havdalah each Saturday night.
Yamim regilim ("regular days") are broken into time periods called perakim (s. perek) and each is identified with a Hebrew letter (א, ב, ג, ד, ה, ו, ז). A regular day includes a sport, swimming, a chug (a special interest), Hebrew classes, Yahadut (Jewish history and culture) classes, free time, a period of rest, and shira or rikud ("song" or "dance"). Examples of chugim include omanut (art), nagarut (woodworking), dance, swimming, boating, a variety of sports, and video. In 2007, a number of new adjustments were made to the schedule, including an extra period known as bechirot (free choices), during which campers may choose from a number of activities in which to participate; shortened perakim for Hebrew and Yahadut, and a rotating two-meal schedule. Camp Ramah Yahadut is renowned for its ability to integrate formal learning with experiential education. The staff, headed by Heather Fiedler, includes leading educational professionals from local synagogues and prep-school institutions such as Gann Academy in Waltham, Massachusetts. Campers describe their educational experiences at Ramah as "meaningful" and "not like Hebrew school under the trees at all."
On Wednesdays, non-counselor staff members take their day off, so the counselors in each edah plan a special day free of regular programming called yamim meyuchadim (special days) to make up for the lack of staffing. In addition, once a session each edah takes a trip outside of the camp. Each special day is called "Yom (Name)". Yamim meyuchadim can be anything from Yom Pirate to Yom Willy Wonka, Yom Random, Yom MTV, etc., all with special programs and activities planned by the staff members. Special trips have taken campers to Red Sox games, art museums, the zoo, ice skating rinks, the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, and other locations around New England.
CRNE hosts children from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, New England, eastern New York (most notably Albany and the Hudson Valley) and the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area (predominantly Maryland and Northern Virginia. There are also a number of Israeli campers. The staff are usually former campers and hail from the same territory, but there are many Israelis, collectively called mishlachat. The mishlachat are counselors, live-ins, Hebrew teachers, and Yahadut teachers. They also organize programs to educate campers about Israel. CRNE has the largest Israeli delegation of all the Ramah camps, and also hosts a number of Israeli campers.
There are approximately 700 campers and 250 staff at the camp over the course of eight weeks.
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- Camp Ramah in New England Official Site
- The National Ramah Commission
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