On December 7th, Camp held their annual dinner gala. It was a wonderful night where over 450 people felt the essence of what we love about Camp – friendship, community, and a commitment to helping children mature into engaged Jewish adults.
Two great, multigenerational Ramah families were honored – Ellen and Jay Steinberg and Vivian Fried and Lee Podair, whose seven children grew up in Camp and are all active alumni. The Steinbergs shared the poignant story of Jay’s first summer in Camp, 1967, when Israel fought and won the Six Day War. The Podairs spoke about the ‘Ramah Eight’ – Vivian and seven of her Ramah friends. These eight women grew up in Ramah and have maintained their now cross country friendship for over 40 years through their weddings, births, bnei mitzvahs, illnesses, and deaths of loved ones. And, Lani spoke beautifully about what Camp means to her and the impact it has had on her, Simi, and their family.
I also received the Ramah Alumni Leadership Award, and back on my first day of Camp, would have never thought my Ramah journey would bring me to this point. I went to public school, started Camp at the ripe old age of 15, and Camp was even just my backup plan. After applying late to USY on Wheels and getting rejected, my first summer was in Machon. It was very hard fitting in as friendships and bonds were already formed. I also remember feeling quite awkward that first morning at Shacharit – it took me twice as long as the other boys to put on my tefillin, and I was barely able to follow along in the service when all the other kids knew the prayers by heart. So how did I end up receiving the Ramah Alumni Leadership Award?
I would argue community. A community where kids who are good basketball players can also leyn a mean Torah portion. A community where kids sing Hebrew songs while hiking . A community where kids learn about Israel through discussions with Israelis also in Camp. It is a powerful and transformative experience we are all familiar with.
This community extends after Gesher, Seminar, and staff with the alumni association. Today, Berkshires Alumni come together for Shabbat Dinners, to play in RBA, to reunite over Labor Day Weekend, for social justice projects, the golf outing, to raise money for capital projects, and in many other ways. It is a community that contributed to my personal and religious transformation and one I have committed my life to further building and strengthening.