Camp Ramah

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Camp Ramah
Logo of Camp Ramah.jpg
Location United States, Canada, and Israel
Opening date 1947
Management National Ramah Commission

Camp Ramah (Hebrew: מחנה רמה‎‎ Machaneh Ramah) is a network of Jewish summer camps affiliated with the Conservative Movement.[1][2][3] The camps operate in the United States, Canada, and Israel. Ramah camps serve kosher food and are Shabbat-observant.[4]


During the 1940s, the Jewish Theological Seminary established Camp Ramah as a tool for furthering Jewish education. The founders envisioned an informal camp setting where Jewish youth would reconnect with the synagogue and Jewish tradition, and a new cadre of American-born Jewish leadership could be cultivated.[5] The founders of Ramah camps were inspired by Camp Massad and Camp Cejwin.[6]

The first camp opened in Conover, Wisconsin in 1947. The program was drawn up by Moshe Davis and Sylvia Ettenberg of the JTS Teachers' Institute. In October 2007, Ettenberg was awarded Pras Ramah (the Ramah Prize) as part of Ramah's 60th anniversary celebrations.[7] Many of the early staff were ex-Camp Massad people and JTS students.[6] In 1950, the second Ramah camp opened in the Poconos and in 1953, the third Ramah camp opened in Connecticut (this camp was later moved to Massachusetts).[6]

Today, Ramah camps are attended by over 6,500 campers, ranging in age from 7–16, with a staff of 1,500 counselors, co-counselors, specialists, and teachers.[7] In addition to typical summer camp activities, Ramah camps offer an educational program focusing on Judaism, Zionism, and Hebrew-language instruction on different levels.

Camp Ramah offers sleep-away camps with an option to stay for either 4 or 8 weeks, day camps with busing, an Israel summer tour program for teenagers, a day camp in Jerusalem for American and Israeli children, and a variety of high school programs in Israel.

The camps operate under the aegis of the National Ramah Commission, the camping arm of Conservative Judaism, which provides oversight and educational planning. The mission of Ramah is to create summer camps and Israel programs which inspire commitment to Jewish life and cultivate a new generation of Jewish communal leaders. In addition to its university-aged American counselors, the staff of each camp is joined by a corps of emissaries from Israel known as the "mishlachat/מישלחת".

Ramah operates overnight camps in the Berkshires (New York); California; Canada; Darom (Georgia); New England (Massachusetts); Poconos (Pennsylvania); and Wisconsin. The three day camps include Nyack (New York); Philadelphia; and Chicago. Ramah Outdoor Adventure in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, Ramah’s first specialty camp, opened in the summer of 2010.[8] Additionally, Ramah runs summer and high school semester programs in Israel, and partners with summer camp programming in the Ukraine, Argentina, and Israel.

Educational impact[edit]

A Trinity College researcher, Ariella Keysar, documented a significant impact of Ramah on college students: She found that Ramah graduates were three time more likely to date only Jews, four times more likely to attend synagogue services, and three times as likely as the general Jewish population to spend significant time in Israel.[9]

According to the Jewish Agency for Israel, Camp Ramah "is not just a camp, it’s a lifestyle." Among North American olim, one finds communities of former Americans who attended Camp Ramah and reconnected later in life.[10] Many spiritual leaders, social justice advocates, educators, and community board members in North America trace their strong Jewish values and commitment to Judaism to their summers at Ramah.[11] An educational initiative by Camp Ramah produced Siddur Lev Yisrael,[12] one of the only Conservative siddurim without an English translation. This is done in support of Ramah's educational mission to emphasize and spread the use of Hebrew.

Overnight camps[edit]

Camp Ramah in the Berkshires[edit]

Camp Ramah Darom

Camp Ramah in the Berkshires (Wingdale, New York) is located on Lake Ellis, 90 minutes north of New York City by car. It opened in 1964 and serves the metropolitan New York/New Jersey area.[13]

Camp Ramah in California[edit]

Camp Ramah in California (Ojai, California) is located in the hills of Ojai, California, 90 minutes north of Los Angeles by car. It opened in 1956 and serves California and much of the western United States.[14]

Camp Ramah in Canada[edit]

Camp Ramah in Canada (Utterson, Ontario) is located in the Muskoka Region of Ontario, 2 hours north of Toronto, on Skeleton Lake.[15] It opened in 1960 and serves Canada and parts of the northern United States.

Camp Ramah Darom[edit]

Camp Ramah Darom (Clayton, Georgia) is located in 122 acres (0.49 km2) in the Appalachian Valley near Clayton, Georgia, 2 hours north of Atlanta.[16] It opened in 1996 and serves the southern United States.

Camp Ramah in New England[edit]

Camp Ramah in New England (Palmer, Massachusetts), also known as Ramah Palmer, is located approximately 1½ hours west of Boston and 45 minutes east of Amherst and Northampton.[17] It opened in 1953 as Camp Ramah Connecticut and serves the New England area as well as DC, Virginia, and parts of New York.[18] Ramah New England also operates the Ramah Day Camp of Greater Washington, DC, a day camp located in Germantown, MD. [19]

Camp Ramah in Northern California[edit]

Camp Ramah in Northern California (Monterey Bay, California), also known as Ramah NorCal, is the newest Ramah camp, opening in 2016. Ramah NorCal is a specialty camp with three tracks, ocean exploration, performing arts, and adventure sports. Camp Ramah in Northern California will also host a Tikvah program for campers with special needs.[20]

Ramah in the Rockies[edit]

Ramah in the Rockies (Deckers, Colorado) is located in the Rocky Mountains, a 360-acre (1.5 km2) camp site 1½–2 hours by car from Denver and Colorado Springs.[21] Ramah Rockies opened in 2010 and is the first Ramah specialty camp, focusing its program on outdoors and environmental education.

Camp Ramah in the Poconos[edit]

Camp Ramah in the Poconos (Lakewood, Pennsylvania) is located in the mountain region of Wayne County in Northeastern Pennsylvania, 3 hours driving time from both New York City and Philadelphia.[22] It opened in 1950 and serves parts of the northeast United States.

Camp Ramah in Wisconsin[edit]

Camp Ramah in Wisconsin (Conover, Wisconsin) is located in the lake region of Northern Wisconsin, 18 miles (29 km) north of Eagle River, 350 miles (560 km) from Chicago, and 240 miles (390 km) from Minneapolis, on the shores of Lake Buckatabon.[23] It opened in 1947 and serves the midwest United States.

Day camps[edit]

Ramah Day Camp in Chicago[edit]

Ramah day camp in Chicago is located in Wheeling, Illinois, Cook County, Illinois, northwest of Chicago.[24]

Ramah Day Camp of Greater Washington, D.C.[edit]

Ramah Day Camp offers a variety of programming. Camp days are filled with excitement, friendship and fun! Campers can choose to specialize in our sports, arts or exploration programs, or they can mix-and-match to try lots of different activities!

Ramah Day Camp in Nyack[edit]

Ramah Day Camp in Nyack is located in Nyack, New York, in Rockland County, New York, approximately 45 minutes by car from New York City. An eight-week day camp at which the staff remains overnight, though the campers, ages 5–14, go home every day. Activities for campers include basketball, soccer, hockey, tennis, a low ropes course, a full high ropes course including four rock climbing walls and a zip line, art, woodworking, ceramics, and cooking. A hot kosher lunch is provided daily to the campers, and the staff receive three meals per day. Staff members participate in an intensive program of Jewish learning, leadership development, and social engagement in the afternoons and evenings.[25]

Ramah Day Camp in Philadelphia[edit]

Ramah day camp in Philadelphia is located in the Perelman Jewish Day School in Melrose Park, Pennsylvania. It shares a pool with the Jewish Federation Day Care Center and rents the Olympic-size pool of a nearby apartment complex. Activities include sports, swimming (twice a day – instructional and free), art, drama, nature, cooking, Judaic studies, music, and dance. Special events include Rick Recht concerts, Yom Yisrael (a carnival celebrating Israeli culture, history, and people), Maccabiah (color war), and Yom USA (July 3). Older campers go on overnights, while younger campers have 'undernights.' An arts festival is held at the end of the summer, combining drama, song, and dance.[26]

Ramah Jerusalem Day Camp[edit]

The Ramah Jerusalem Day Camp is intended for English-speaking children from abroad and Israel entering kindergarten through eighth grade. The camp is located at the Israel Goldstein Youth Village in the San Simon neighborhood of Jerusalem, surrounded by a security fence. Once each week campers go on outings to tour Jerusalem and its surroundings. The other days campers are involved in fun educational activities on the Goldstein campus, including sports, arts and crafts, music, drama and swimming. Hebrew language is incorporated through activities and songs. Daily Tefillot (prayer services), "Oneg Shabbat" (a culmination of the week) and activities related to the summer theme create an environment of Masorti Jewish tradition that is an important element of all Ramah programs.[27]

Ramah programs in Israel[edit]

The Ramah movement’s Israel programs include the Ramah Israel Seminar, a seven-week study tour of Israel, and Tichon Ramah Yerushalayim (TRY and USY High), the Ramah Jerusalem High School (CEEB #475600), a high school semester-program in Israel. Students in grades 10–12 may choose to come on a 2-month track (USY High) or a 4-month track (TRY) in the spring semester. The highlight of the program is the intensive Israel Core Course, an 18 credit hour study of Israel from ancient times to the present, and which includes both fieldwork and engaging classwork. All studies are accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, with all AP courses certified through the College Board's AP Course Audit program.[28]

When campers age out of the Ramah summer camping experience at age 16, they can sign up for the Ramah Seminar in Israel. The six-week program is devoted to exploring the north, south, and center of the country. It is based at two principal sites: Havat HaNoar HaTzioni in Jerusalem, and the Hodayot youth village, adjacent to Kibbutz Lavi near the Sea of Galilee.[29] The Seminar includes an optional ten-day trip to Poland to learn about Jewish life in Eastern Europe before the Holocaust. In 2010, Ramah Israel Seminar offered a second optional program, "Yarok," (Green) focusing on the environment.

Ramah Programs in Israel also offers short-term Israel experiences (10 days to 3 weeks) in the context of the Ramah Israel Institute for 8th grade day school classes, teens (Confirmation classes), synagogue groups, as well as families and adults. In addition there are two day camps in the summer, the Kaytanat Ramah is a Hebrew speaking day camp for Israelis entering grades 1–6, and the Ramah Jerusalem Day Camp is for English speaking children (both Israelis and tourists) entering kindergarten through grade 8.

Tikva special needs programs[edit]

Since the first Tikvah program was established in 1970, the Ramah Camping Movement has provided a Jewish camping experience for special needs children. Ramah camps serve different age groups, and offer programs of varying lengths.

Ramah in New England offers inclusion bunks for special-needs and mainstream youngsters, stand-alone bunks, and a vocational training program for older children and adults. There are bunks with entrances that can accommodate motorized scooters, barrier-free bathrooms, and paved roads suitable for wheelchairs.[30]

Program for bereaved children[edit]

Since 2003, the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces association has sponsored a summer camp program, Moreshet, for Israeli children who have lost a parent or sibling in a war or terrorist attack. The children spend the summer at Jewish sleep-away camps in the United States. In 2007, Camp Ramah in the Berkshires hosted 50 campers and staff members. The program continued in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2016.[31]

Notable staff and alumni[edit]


  1. ^ "New Conservative survey of Camp Ramah alumni...". j. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California. March 15, 2002. Retrieved September 11, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Ramah reunion". Jerusalem Post. April 18, 2003. Retrieved September 11, 2015.   – via HighBeam (subscription required)
  3. ^ "Camp's in Season: Off the Beaten Path; Does Camp Matter? Examining the impact of summer days on Jewish lives". Jewish Exponent. June 28, 2001. Retrieved September 11, 2015.   – via HighBeam (subscription required)
  4. ^ "Camp Ramah". Beth El Synagogue. Retrieved September 11, 2015. 
  5. ^ "The Jewish Theological Seminary – Record Group 28: Camp Ramah". December 22, 1971. Retrieved March 25, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c Farago, Uri (1972). The Influence of a Jewish Summer Camp’s Social Climate on the Campers’ Identity (Ph.D.). Brandeis University. 
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  9. ^ "Jewish Theological Seminary News". Retrieved March 25, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Jewish Agency for Israel". Retrieved March 25, 2011. 
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  12. ^ "Remarks at Cantors' Assembly Convention", Rabbi Sheldon Dorph (National Ramah Director), 2001-05-08. Retrieved 2010-11-30.
  13. ^ "Camp Ramah Berkshires". Retrieved September 14, 2010. 
  14. ^ Davis, Carin (December 28, 2006). "Camp Ramah marks 50 years | Education". Jewish Journal. Retrieved September 14, 2010. 
  15. ^ "Camp Ramah directors appointed". August 18, 1984. Retrieved March 25, 2011. 
  16. ^ "Camp Ramah Darom". Retrieved January 4, 2011. 
  17. ^ "About Camp Ramah in New England". Retrieved March 25, 2011. 
  18. ^ "Camp Ramah in New England | MA Jewish Summer Camp". Retrieved 2015-12-02. 
  19. ^ "Ramah Day Camp of Greater Washington, DC | Camp Ramah in New England". Retrieved 2015-12-02. 
  20. ^ "Our Programs". Retrieved 2015-12-11. 
  21. ^ "Ramah in the Rockies". Campramah. Retrieved September 14, 2010. 
  22. ^ Camp Ramah in the Poconos Family Handbook
  23. ^ "Camp Ramah in Wisconsin – is affiliated with the Conservative Movement and National Ramah Commission operating under the educational auspices of The Jewish Theological Seminary". Retrieved September 14, 2010. 
  24. ^ "Ramah Day Camp – Wheeling, IL". Ramahday. Retrieved September 14, 2010. 
  25. ^ "Ramah Day Camp in Nyack". Retrieved September 14, 2010. 
  26. ^ "Apply for a Job". Ramahjobs. Retrieved September 14, 2010. 
  27. ^ "Jerusalem Day Camp". 
  28. ^ "Ramah - TRY -". 
  29. ^ "Ramah Israel Seminar". Retrieved March 25, 2011. 
  30. ^ Ingall, Marjorie (August 2, 2010). "Camp for everyone". Retrieved March 25, 2011. 
  31. ^ "Summer camp for bereaved children". Retrieved March 25, 2011. 
  32. ^ a b "A Jewish Kind of Pop Song". Retrieved March 25, 2011. 
  33. ^ a b c d e f g Palmer, Joanne. "Ramah at 60". Retrieved March 25, 2011. 
  34. ^ NationalRamah (August 14, 2009). "Blitzer on Camp Ramah in Palmer". Retrieved March 25, 2011. 
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  36. ^ "Ramah Wisconsin 60th Anniversary". October 23, 2008. Retrieved March 25, 2011. 
  37. ^ "Moshe Greenberg, Ramah scholar-in-residence". March 25, 1994. Retrieved March 25, 2011. 
  38. ^ "Deaths—Potok, Rabbi Chaim". The New York Times. July 25, 2002. Retrieved September 14, 2010. 
  39. ^ "Marriage stories". Retrieved March 25, 2011. 
  40. ^ "Jake Tapper on Twitter". 
  41. ^ Eizehu Gibor – Living Jewish Values. Torah Aura Productions. 2009. Retrieved September 19, 2010. 

External links[edit]