It was thrilling to once again spend time in Israel and I want to share my impressions of my trip with the entire camp community. What follows are excerpts from a recent letter that I sent to the CRB Board and Advisory Council.
Returning to the USA after an intensive eight day annual directors trip in eretz ha’kodesh always leaves me with a sense of professional rejuvenation and a clearer vision of the Ramah mission. Rabbi Ari Perten and I interviewed over 45 mishlachat (Israeli staff) candidates and hired 30 for this coming summer; 6 of whom are returning staff from Kayitz 2014.
With the help of former mishlachat members, we were able to clearly convey the CRB culture and describe various positions in camp. What fascinated both of us was the enthusiasm that the former mishlachat projected. Just last year some of them were sitting on the other side of the table in the interview process. Expressing full confidence and pride of feeling part of the CRB mishpacha,they posed questions with precision and depth.
The former mishlachat helped us determine whether a candidate would be suitable for camp. With conviction and fervor they marketed camp to each newly hired staff member professing that Camp Ramah in the Berkshires is the place to be.
I heard many saying, ain li milim,… I have no words to describe the influence of Ramah on my life. I found my Judaism in camp. Their sincerity was truly inspiring.
Nyack and CRB formed a unique new relationship with the Hartman Institute. This summer we will be hiring three amazing students, from Hartman’s cutting edge mechina initiative, to work in our camp as madrichim. We are positive that they, too, will bring another important dimension to camp
Spending three hours dining with eight of our Ramahniks studying in Israel was a real thrill. Ari and I laughed, learned and connected with the each of them. It was a wonderful evening.
On Saturday night 18 Ramah directors had the privilege of meeting with US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro for 90 minutes. Our engaging dialogue covered an array of topics from the threat of ISIS, to Netanyahu’s intended visit to speak to Congress, to the peace talks, to the Iranian talks. Ambassador Shapiro was articulate and presented the US position in an unequivocal manner with genuine re-assurance that everything is on the table with those talks. As an aside, he is sending two of his children to Ramah New England and Rabbi Ed Gelb arranged for him to address all of the Ramah directors in Israel.
For me, the highlight of the trip was the annual Shabbaton. Out of the 150 participants, thirty-eight were part of CRB. Witnessing one of our 2014 female mishlachat members lead Kabbalat Shabbat brought tears to my eyes. It was one of the most spiritually uplifting Kabbalat Shabbat tefillot that I have ever attended.
Shira, an Israeli and the daughter of a hazzan, led tefillot. Before coming to camp, she never knew that a woman could lead tefillot. She led davening in camp during the most critical moments of Israel’s operation last summer and led us again last Shabbat with the same kavanah. Indeed, this was a life changing experience for Shira—all because of CRB. Today, she is a madricha on TRY (Tichon Ramah Yerushalayim).
I have many more stories to tell and look forward to sharing them with you in the future.