Breira B’Ramah

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Leslie Tubul

Breira B’Ramah is a highly valued program of Camp Ramah in the Berkshires. Breira is a fully integrative inclusion program for campers with learning, behavioral, emotional or social challenges, that are often unseen.  As Breira B’Ramah campers are largely indistinguishable from their peers, they are integrated into bunks in all edot and participate in all camp activities with minimal modifications. The campers are able to be successful at camp thanks to the support of caring and talented counselors, serving as their shadows, mentors and coaches. Counselors who work in this program do so because they believe every child deserves a chance to have the Ramah experience they, themselves, experienced.  These young adults are committed to providing support to campers who would otherwise not be successful at Camp without Breira.

Among countless other reasons, families send their children to Camp Ramah to make friends and build lasting relationships. Challenges associated with these goals are magnified for campers in the Breira program. As these campers oftentimes have difficulty with the skills required to build and maintain friendships, Breira staff work hard to facilitate positive social experiences for campers.  Counselors participate in a week of specialized Breira training sessions, receive weekly group supervision, and meet individually with the program director throughout the summer. They also have opportunities for professional guidance, mentoring and assistance as needed. With the help of the Breira Director, counselors learn to promote social skills, teach techniques for managing conflicts, and improve strategies for emotional regulation. Much of their work focuses on helping campers improve their interpersonal skills, their ability to successfully resolve conflicts and to help them to stay organized in their bunks and throughout their daily routines.

Breira’s intake process for new campers is comprehensive. It includes discussions with parents about each child’s strengths, challenges and coping strategies, as well as consultations with the professionals who work with these children year-round. This allows Breira counselors to receive feedback and techniques specific to the camper they are working with. Counselors also learn to plan ahead and anticipate challenges. By working proactively, they can reduce their campers’ anxiety, help campers cope with transitions or unexpected changes in schedule, prevent behaviors from escalating and avert crises. Breira counselors brainstorm and rehearse coping strategies with their campers, enabling them to successfully navigate difficult situations and build self-confidence.

The number of campers in the Breira program has steadily increased in recent years.  However, due to the intense supervision required for the program to be successful, we are limited in the number of campers that can be accepted into the program, with an average of ten to twelve campers each session.  Our program, now in its 15th year, has enabled campers from as far as Chicago, Ohio, and Florida to have a normative camp experience in a nurturing environment, guided by Jewish values and practice. We are blessed to have the support of the National Ramah Commission, as well as our own camp leadership, as we move forward in our mission to provide a Ramah experience to all campers.