To Our Camp Community,
At the close of last summer, we asked you to spend a few minutes thinking about the ways in which Camp was successful and not successful. I am happy to report that a large number of you responded to our request and filled out the Camper Satisfaction Survey administered by the Summation Research Group. We have done this survey for several years now and we always find the resulting data to be very useful as we plan for the next summer. I wanted to let you know what we heard from you this past summer, and give you a sense of how we are responding to your feedback.
Things You Liked
For the most part, you love Camp Ramah in the Berkshires. The vast majority of you told us that you would be likely or very likely to recommend Camp Ramah in the Berkshires to your friends and the vast majority of you were either satisfied for very satisfied with the summer overall. This is very gratifying to hear, though of course we strive to move those numbers as close to one hundred percent as we possibly can.
We were also happy to hear that our parents were far happier with our communication this summer than was the case in the past. Previous surveys had indicated that you were not satisfied with how Camp was communicating with you during the summer and we worked hard in 2017 to get better. Most people were happier with our pictures and our use of social media, and most of our parents who contacted Camp during the summer felt positively about the timeliness and professionalism of the responses they received. We recognize that we have more work to do in this vital area and we hope to build upon our success this summer.
Finally, you told us that you liked the social environment of Camp Ramah. You were happy—for the most part—with the relationships campers formed between themselves and with their staff. We were glad to hear this, because we want our camp to be a warm and welcoming place for everyone in our community, and you let us know that you like what you see. So do we, and we will keep working hard to make Camp Ramah in the Berkshires a place where every child and every staff member can feel that they have made deep, profound and lasting relationships.
Things You Liked Less
The surveys reveal something important and perhaps a little painful: you are not thrilled with the Jewish content of our program. What I find heartening about this is that the surveys do not express a desire for less Jewish content, but for betterJewish content. I agree. We need to rethink and revitalize everything from daily tefilot (prayer), to yahadut (Jewish learning), to how we talk about Israel, to the informal ways we express Jewish values and traditions over the course of the camp day. Needless to say, this not a one-summer project, but we are going to try a few things this summer to get started. We are going to spend more time thinking about daily prayer, to increase the range of options available for some campers, and to continue to improve upon the musical aspects of our services. Last summer, we experimented with having a “rabbi in residence” for our Al Ha-Gova (outdoor education) program whose job it was to find ways to weave Jewish learning into our programming more organically and informally. That effort will continue this year. This will be a summer of trying new things, of experimentation, of working to bring greater creativity and vitality to our Jewish educational mission. I can’t wait to hear what you think.
Finally, while our survey results improved across the board in 2017, we could not help noticing that our overall programming results did not improve at quite the same rate. Most of you are still generally happy with our programming, but the surveys told us that this is clearly an area where we could continue to improve. One thing you told us was that campers did not feel they were getting enough opportunities to take advantage of the myriad of amazing programming areas at Camp. In response, we are making some changes to our schedule to allow A-side campers to have an additional period each day of “clinic time.” This will give the campers more opportunity to do the arts, sports, outdoor education and other activities they love. In addition, we are adding a daily activity period on A-side that will take the form of a side-wide get-together with music, games and fun. On B-side, we are adjusting the double-period intensivi that we began last year to allow for great flexibility and more options for campers. Finally, in the months leading up to the summer we are focusing our efforts on improving programming for peulot erev (evening activities). We want our programming to be fun and exciting, allowing for a range of choices while giving campers time to dive deeply into one area if they choose. We heard from you that we are not there yet, and we’re working on it!
Thank you so much for being part of the conversation about Camp Ramah in Berkshires. I love hearing from you in calls, emails, and in-person conversation. I very much appreciate the willingness of so many of you to take part in our survey. I love hearing where we are doing well, and I love hearing about areas where we still have work to do. We are listening.
Rabbi Ethan Linden