It all started in Gan. I really didn’t have much interest in hanging out with my contemporaries in the sandbox or walking around Machaneh Alef with my babysitter… so I would escape to The Shack (circa 1996) where I was warmly greeted by Seth Adelsberg and his founding team of outdoorsmen. There I learned about team building, adventure, wilderness Judaism, and Menschlichkeit. This early immersion experience was the foundation for what I call “the Al Hagovah way of life.” It is intentionality, it is teamwork, it is adventure, it is experiential education, and it is Judaism with a flare.
I have been involved with Ramah for my entire life. As a child of the Conservative Movement – Teaneck, Solomon Schechter, USY, CRB, and JTS – I can confidently say Ramah is the best part of the Conservative Movement. Ramah is how I define my Judaism. It not only provides a summer experience, but more importantly, a lifelong, global community…and, for me, a lifelong partner, my wife, Danielle (Schindler) Segal!
Then, add the Al Hagovah Life. Leaving everything behind and going into the backcountry is one of the most powerful experiences a person can have. We all remember Bike Trip, Challenge, spelunking, bishulim, and in recent years the high ropes course. Whether these are fond or painful memories, every adventure undoubtedly led to personal growth. My most spiritual Jewish moments – from screaming the Sh’ma on the peaks of the Appalachian Mountains to discussing the existence of God with teenagers in the depths of a silent, pitch-black cave – have occurred in the outdoors.
While leading limmud in the middle of a trail, I have heard some of the most remarkable and beautiful comments that would not have been said in a classroom or bunk. Many of my chanichim, ranging from Cochavim to Roshim, have stated that they “felt God” for the first time in the outdoors. Radical Amazement indeed! These experiences provide both physical and mental, as well as religious and secular challenges from which we return changed.
When you put these two components of life together, you really have the best of both worlds! CRB provides a strong Jewish setting and Al Hagovah helps you push your limits from internal exploration to outdoor adventure. The principles set forth by this dynamic duo – our camp community and all things Al Hagovah – continue to guide my life today.
Adi Segal (Gesher 2005)