Shanah Tovah! A Message from Rabbi Ethan Linden

Posted by Aleeza Adelman on under Uncategorized

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To The Ramah Community,

Over the past few weeks, my social media feed (Facebook mostly, because, as my children constantly remind me, I am old) was a perfect synecdoche for the strange times we are living in. On the one hand, my feed was suddenly flooded with those lovely and hopeful and wonderful first day of school pictures that mark the beginning of the true fall. Smiling kids, fingers showing grade levels, arms around siblings—the photographic marker of a new beginning. But the images also bore the unavoidable marks of how everything is not quite new enough. Many of the kids were wearing masks, and many of the pictures were taken not on the front steps as the child prepared to leave for school, but sitting at a desk in whatever remote workspace had been carved out of a house or apartment. It was the start of school, but different.

So too the summer that has just ended.  Kayitz 2020 had many of the hallmarks of summer: some stretches of hot weather, a few intense storms rolling through Camp, long gorgeous days when the blue of the sky seems almost too perfect, while at the same time kids were getting together and having fun and singing and being silly and making connections. But of course the physical space of Camp and the virtual space inhabited by our campers and staff were separated this year, and I am sure we all felt the separation deeply, albeit in diverse ways. It was the summer, but different.

The beginning of school means the strange summer is finally complete, and with the fall comes the opportunity to reflect for moment on what has occurred. In the end, all of our discussions about opening and not opening Camp were rendered moot by the decision of Governor Cuomo to disallow overnight programs, and indeed so many of our plans (and so many others’) went by the wayside when in-person camp was officially declared dormant.  But one thing we learned is that the community of Ramah is not dependent on the place itself, or at least not entirely so. We knew this already of course: the innumerable stories of friendship and community born in Wingdale but carried on far beyond its borders should have been proof enough. And this summer we relearned that lesson: Camp is a physical location, but it is also a web of connections and relationships that can travel as far and as wide as the people who create it.

We also learned that, despite the community that Ramah creates outside of itself, the reality of Camp– the place, the program, the staff, the values, the Jewish experiences, the joy and the singing and the dancing—was sorely missed. We are so incredibly grateful that so many people who felt that lack did what they were able to do to help us guarantee Camp’s strength in the future. Over 60% of our families donated some portion of their tuition this summer, and over 47% rolled over some portion for next year. To date, we have raised over a million dollars in the Berkshires B’yachad campaign.  And though we still have a bit more to do, the generosity of our community has assured that we begin looking to Kayitz 2020 from a position of strength and optimism.

And we learned that you share our optimism. Not only because so many of you gave to make next summer possible, but because we already have already enrolled over six hundred campers for next summer. I know you share our optimism because staff from who were supposed to work last summer and rising Junior Counselors for next have already started getting in touch and letting us know they will be with us in Wingdale next year. I cannot know today exactly what Camp will look like when we open our doors on Tuesday, June 28th next year, but I know one thing: it is going to be unforgettable. Thank you, all of you, for making that knowledge possible.

I wish you all a wonderful start of the school year, and a meaningful holiday season.

Ethan