A Month at Ramah in the Rockies

I just returned from a month at Ramah in the Rockies, overlapping with tzevet (staff) training, and the first few weeks of chalutzim (campers) on the property.  After a month at camp, it’s hard to not be both inspired and unbelievably humbled by Ramah in the Rockies, the amazing organization that is supporting the development of BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy.

I want to take some time to share a little bit about why I personally am so honored to be a part of Ramah in the Rockies, and what it means programmatically for BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy to be connected to Ramah in the Rockies.

I had the pleasure of working at Ramah in the Rockies in 2010 and 2011, the first two summers of programming.  In this environment I have seen Judaism come alive and thrive in a way that has been unmatched before and since that time.  While the camp has grown since those early summers, the essence of the community has remained unchanged.  It is truly hard to put into words the beauty of this place, which is so driven by integrity, a strong sense of values, and an unbelievable adherence to the concept of challenge by choice, tzmichat ishit. For me, coming into this community is to feel at home, to feel challenged to push myself and others intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually, and to feel wholly supported by an intentional community through that process.

Ramah in the Rockies' 2010 tzevetPhoto of Ramah in the Rockies 2010 tzevet

Programmatically, BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy is much stronger due to our partnership with Ramah in the Rockies. This is the 71st year of the Ramah camping movement, which began with a small Jewish summer camp in Conover, Wisconsin in 1947.  Since that first summer, the Ramah camping movement has expanded to nine overnight camps and five day camps, all supporting the personal development of over 11,000 Jewish youth and young adults annually.  Since opening as the first Ramah specialty camp in June 2010, Ramah in the Rockies has dedicated itself to creating an intentional community where Judaism is lived and celebrated through the lens of outdoor adventure. Beginning with 110 campers, Ramah in the Rockies now serves over 550 Jewish youth and young adults each summer. The outsized success of Ramah in the Rockies in its initials years underscores the enormous potential this camp offers in transforming the lives of young Jews in their formative years.

Ramah in the Rockies Today

Photo of Ramah in the Rockies tzevet today

Over three years ago, Ramah in the Rockies began exploring the idea of building a Jewish wilderness therapy program.  Ramah in the Rockies has been intentional in development, doing initial research and fundraising to ensure BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy has the resources necessary to succeed.  When Ramah in the Rockies committed to moving forward with the program, they threw their full support behind this initiative. Ramah in the Rockies has opened their 360 acre ranch to BaMidbar for use, and has provided business and administrative support to ease the start-up burden. Through Ramah in the Rockies, BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy is connected to a network of Jewish educators and change-makers who will make our program stronger internally, and provide support systems nationally for alumni as they transition out of the program.  BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy is truly standing on the shoulder of giants, an incredibly community with visionary leaders and professional, committed, and values-driven staff and supporters.

As BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy prepares to open admissions next week, I want to say a heartfelt thank you to Ramah in the Rockies and the Ramah movement for all you have done to make this program possible!  As Rabbi Eliav Bock said sixteen months ago when announcing Ramah in the Rockies’ commitment to creating a Jewish wilderness therapy program, “It takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a community to turn that child into a mensch.” Thank you Ramah in the Rockies for being that community for BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy!

Jory Hanselman