What do giant inflatable bowling pins, flying sponges, and silent dabbing all have to do with Kayitz 2018 at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires?
They are all a part of our newest program, “Makor” (Makor = Machane Aleph Kef V’Ruach — A-Side Fun and Spirit).
Every day, in the early afternoon following sha’at menucha (rest time), all of our A-side campers (representing our youngest four edot, grades 4-7) gather for twenty wild minutes of zaniness and friendly competition.
Makor grew from our new year-round staff training initiative, Livnot (a program that brings together a cohort of 24 second and third year madrichim throughout the off-season). In brainstorming ways to strengthen the camp experience, Livnot participants landed on the need to strengthen edah pride and unity in an effort to build stronger tight-knit communities within the larger machane-wide community. Combined with our desire to bring more random silliness into the camp day, the idea of hosting a daily fun and crazy competition between edot was born.
To help develop this idea further, CRB Director Rabbi Ethan Linden connected with a longtime mentor, Thad Gifford-Smith, the Executive Director of New York City’s YMCA Camp and an expert on precisely the kind of zany-fun-community building games and activities we had in mind. Thad gave us some pre-summer suggestions, and then came to our Shavua Hachana (staff training week) to model and train our madrichim on how to pull off this new daily program.
With our Assistant Director and Makor Master of Ceremonies Rabbi Ari Perten leading the way, we launched during the first week of camp with an introductory round of challenges. Each edah created a silent team cheer (hence the “dabbing”), and chose a bunk to represent the edah in the first big challenge: a giant connect four relay race. When two edot tied in this first challenge, they each selected a representative to settle the score through a dance off that included crazy gymnastics moves and breakdancing. At the end of the first day, Edat haCochavim (our youngest edah) collected the most points, and was presented with a trophy to hold until the next day’s Makor.
Each day the challenges seems wackier than the last — from Blindfolded Ball Hunting, to a Bucket Brigade, to Giant Inflatable Bowling, to Human Battleship (that somehow involved tossing dozens of wet sponges over giant tarps onto the opposing team). Makor has been an instant hit with both our chanichim (campers) and our madrichim. The kids are all cheering, laughing, and bonding with members of their edot. And while each day has led to an edah claiming victory and winning the glory of the trophy, one of the most beautiful parts of this program has been when the “losing” teams begin chanting, “Kol Ha-ka-vo-od! Kol Ha-ka-vo-od! . . .”