Ramah New England Hosts 2013 NRC Spring Leadership Training Conference (Part I)

Winer 2013 026We are halfway through Day 3 of the 2013 National Ramah Spring Leadership Conference, which is being hosted this year by Camp Ramah in New England. The buzz of simply being back on campgrounds and surrounded by Ramahniks is powerful and invigorating. This week marks the kick-off of Kayitz 2013, and I am just as excited about it as the counselors, rashei edah, and staff specialists learning around me.

This year, we have four tracks available with different training opportunities:

The Louis & Shoshana Winer Institute for Rosh Edah Training has gathered 38 rashei edah from all the Ramah camps for sessions and workshops about what it means to be a rosh edah and how to be successful in this role.

The AVI CHAI-funded Daber Fellowship Seminar has 80 participants this year, consisting of counselors and rashei edah committed to improving the role of Hebrew in their camps through games, exercises, and intensive Hebrew speaking.

A group of 11 staff members are representing the National Ramah Special Needs Network this week, focusing on preparations for the many different Ramah programs for children, teens, and young adults with disabilities. This training is supported by the Neshamot Fund of UJA-Federation of New York and the 2013 Ramah Israel Bike Ride and Hiking Trip. An important element of their sessions, made possible by funding from the Ruderman Family Foundation, is planning and discussion around new developments in vocational education programs that will take place at four Ramah camps this summer.

Winer 2013 210We are thrilled to host the second year of KIVUN, a joint program with URJ camps. This week’s programming brings together Ramah and URJ camp specialists in sports, archery, and teva (nature) to focus on strengthening their respective specialties and instructional skills as well as ways to incorporate Jewish content. Next week, KIVUN continues at URJ OSRUI with a fine arts track, as well as prominent Ramah participation in the Hava Nashira songleader training track.

After some ice breakers and introductions to the training experience on Monday, we had our first full day of exciting and intensive preparation for camp yesterday. A huge benefit to the conference is the opportunity for every activity and session to be a learning experience.

Winer 2013 086Yesterday morning, Rabbi Ami Hersh, NRC Program Director and Assistant Director of Ramah Day Camp in Nyack, offered one of the alternative tefillot sessions on leading tefillah for younger campers. Many of the counselors and hanhallah members who attended will be working with young campers this summer either for the first time, or returning after time spent working with older children. “It was incredibly useful,” said Dena Kaye-Phillips, soon-to-be Rosh Kochavim at Ramah New England. “It had never occurred to me that parts of tefillot that are the most meaningful to older campers can be the most difficult to deal with for younger kids. I was really able to shift into the mindset of my campers.”

Winer 2013 192Last night, several staff members organized an auction to benefit Plaza Towers Elementary School, devastated by this week’s tornado in Oklahoma. The teva KIVUN participants made kippot and dreamcatchers to auction off.  Other contributions included a session of staff week planning with Poconos Assistant Director, Michelle Sugarman, as well as staff barbeques at camp directors’ homes. The auction raised $800 dollars, matched by National Ramah to total $1,600!

The beauty of this act of tikkun olam was enhanced by having so many Ramah and URJ leaders together. Zoe Yellen, Rakezet Daber at Ramah Nyack explained, “I immediately thought of my own campers, and how much working with young children makes something like this hit me harder. I was definitely more inspired to organize the auction by being in the camp environment with camp people.”

Another of yesterday’s highlights was the time spent with the group by Rich Moline, the director of our Reshet Ramah alumni and community engagement initiative. “The whole time Rich was speaking with us, I kept thinking he was pinpointing everything important that Ramah should be doing,” said Joseph Eskin, Rosh Tikvah at Ramah Wisconsin. Being at Winer gave the rashei edah an opportunity to engage Rich in a dialogue that will benefit both the Reshet Ramah initiative and to young alumni alike. Joseph explained, “Rich wanted to hear what our concerns are as alumni, and what is most important to us. He was incredibly receptive.”

There are countless other moving and inspirational moments happening during our Spring Leadership Conference, so please stay tuned for our next blog post!

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