Five Decades of Ramah Directors Singing Himnon Ramah

By Rabbi Mitchell Cohen, National Ramah Director

This past Sunday, February 23, I attended a wonderful Ramah Poconos fundraising dinner, including a silent auction and the honoring of Geoff Menkowitz, current director of Ramah Darom and Avi Orlow of the Foundation for Jewish Camp; Dr. Mark and Ruth Joffe, Ramah Poconos lay leaders and medical director; and Rabbi Arthur “Archie” Ruberg, director of Ramah Poconos from 1976-1980. Over 300 people were in attendance. I have the honor of attending these events at all of our camps from time to time, and I am always moved by the expressions of deep commitment to Ramah and the impact of Ramah on the lives of so many people. This evening, however, was perhaps one of the most memorable, as Archie Ruberg’s speech was truly incredible.

(L-R): Rabbi Archie Ruberg, Rabbi Joel Seltzer, Rabbi Eli Havivi, Geoff Menkowitz, and Rabbi Mitchell Cohen

(L-R): Rabbi Archie Ruberg, Rabbi Joel Seltzer, Rabbi Eli Havivi, Geoff Menkowitz,
and Rabbi Mitchell Cohen

Archie attended Ramah Poconos for many years, moving up the ranks from madrich to rosh edah. He was in camp with Director Rabbi David Mogilner (z”l) in 1975, the summer Rabbi Mogilner passed away in his office during camp. Archie spoke about how moved and anxious he was when the Board asked him to take over and become the next director, to try to fill the shoes of such a great leader. He went on to serve as director for the next five summers, and from the sentiments expressed in the room last night, it was clear that Archie had an extremely positive and powerful influence on a generation of campers and staff, by whom he was beloved. Archie talked about his 25 years in the pulpit in Virginia, and that no matter how satisfying those years have been, none could compare with the years he spent as a Ramah director, given the significant influence he had on so many lives. He also expressed deep appreciation to Rabbi Joel Seltzer, who had reached out to Archie and asked him to be honored at this dinner. “I was so moved by that invitation, Joel; you have no idea what it means to me and my family.”

Archie suffered a stroke a few years ago and is partially disabled. (Read his powerful article, My 50-year Love Affair With Israel, on visiting Israel for the first time on Ramah Seminar in 1963 and again, 50 years later.) Nevertheless, he stood up out of his wheelchair, projected his voice quietly but powerfully, and commanded the deep respect of all those gathered. The room erupted with a tremendous standing ovation upon his conclusion. It was a great moment in Ramah history.

You can see the video of us singing below:

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