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Songleader Boot Camp 2014: The Power of Music at Ramah

Guest blogger: Naomi LeVine, staff member, Ramah Darom, and participant in the Songleader Boot Camp National Conference, February 16-18, 2014

Naomi LeVine - SLBC

Naomi LeVine at SLBC National Conference,
February 2014

When I received a phone call from Ramah Darom about attending Songleader Boot Camp (SLBC) three years ago, I heard the words “Jewish” and “music” and immediately agreed. Surely something that combined my two greatest passions and involved camp had to be fun, and if nothing else, would be worth missing school for. However, I didn’t know it would also be inspiring and spiritual, with a mesh of incredible individuals, each of whom played a role in creating an experience that kept me coming back the next year, and the next.

SLBC gives me a chance to take a break from a repetitive daily schedule to spend three days immersed in a Jewish community, something that is usually exclusive to the summer. Each of us in the Ramah track has our own busy life, so we all take advantage of the opportunity to come together for a short time and put ourselves back in the camp mindset. We are able to share ideas and our own methods of implementing music at camp. For three days, we share songs, stories, and ideas, reinforcing the notion that while the Ramah camps all have similarities, the power of collaboration lies in the unique traditions each camp brings.


Ramahniks at SLBC, February 2014

Additionally, SLBC is a beautiful example of the power of Judaism and music to make a community out of strangers, which is exactly what Ramah camps strive to do each summer. The conference provides me with a new community, where I feel comfortable singing in front of a crowd or striking up a conversation with the stranger next to me; these feelings are often exclusive to my Ramah experience. Everyone at SLBC is an available resource of knowledge and ideas, but is also eager to learn about how we, as Ramah tzevet, music staff and non-music staff, can continue to bring Jewish music to thousands of campers every summer. We demonstrated leading a song session without musical instruments or microphones, as an example of continuing music despite Shabbat restrictions, which is something other communities may often struggle with.

It is easy to overlook music culture at Ramah because it is so ingrained in tradition: zimriyah, all-camp shira, Friday night and seudah shlishit song sessions. We often do not realize the power of music to capture memories through lyrics, melodies, etc. However, it is so important that we continue to improve and collaborate to keep growing, learning, and singing.

As we stand during our last moments of SLBC with our arms around each other, we sing the words “kol b’Ramah nishma” (the voice of Ramah was heard). SLBC gives me and my fellow Ramahniks an opportunity to have a voice about the future of music in our respective camps and in the movement in general. Ramah’s voice is heard, and we will continue to sing.

Ramah Wisconsin staff member (and Ramah Service Corps Fellow) Josh Warshawsky was the Ramah track leader at SLBC 2014. Read Josh’s reflection on previous cross-movement music training: “Hava Nashira Music Conference Unites Songleaders at Kivun Training for Reform and Conservative Jewish Camp Specialists.”

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1 Comment

  1. carol chesler

     /  March 14, 2014

    Hi. This is Cantor Carol Chesler. I am the Rosh Musica at
    Camp Ramah in the Berkshires. I, too, was at Song Leader Boot Camp and loved every minute of it. I have so much energy, great repertoire, new techniques, and ideas to bring back to camp this coming summer, because of my time spent at SLBC. Being within both the Ramah community there, and the greater community of outstanding musicians and educators lifted my soul and my voice to new levels of joy and inspiration.

    So, spread the word! And have an inspired summer with fabulous music, at machaneinu — whichever one you attend.


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