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Investing in Our Future: National Ramah Spring Leadership Training Conference 2014

2014 National Ramah Spring Leadership Training Conference

2014 National Ramah Spring Leadership Training Conference

Bill Gates once said, “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” These words could not ring more true for the nearly 100 young leaders in Jewish camping who attended last week’s 2014 National Ramah Spring Leadership Training Conference, hosted at Ramah Darom in sunny Clayton, Georgia. From the moment the buses rolled into camp, the energy and enthusiasm from the staff were incredible. As one staff member commented, “I can’t wait to be immersed in a community of people who care about camp as much as I do, who each have a passion for Jewish education, leadership, and fun.” (View our highlight video here.)

This year’s conference included three separate tracks for staff development and leadership training:

At the Louis & Shoshana Winer Institute for Rosh Edah Training, 44 incredible rashei edah from all Ramah camps participated in sessions that focused on rosh edah excellence, enhancing one’s leadership skills, and training to become impactful young Jewish educators. Participants found the experience tremendously valuable. As Brett Kopin of Ramah Wisconsin indicated, “Beyond sharing ideas, theories, and goals, what’s most important is the sharing of a common language. What you learn at Winer is that there is a language through the mutual love for Ramah, camping, ruach, and the Jewish people. Coming here is a great way to begin the summer and to get into the right mindset.”

2014 National Ramah Spring Leadership Training ConferenceThis year, one-third of the participants at Winer were returning rashei edah, or “vatikim” (veterans). Winer gave them the unique opportunity to work with National Ramah mentors, meet as a senior cohort, and lead sessions. As Lizzie Goodfriend, a rosh edah from Ramah Canada, elaborated, “This is my third year attending Winer and I was still able to get so much new information to help me be successful this kayitz. I was able to meet new people with new ideas and continue growing as a rosh.”

The Daber Hebrew Language Program, launched in 2010 with funding from The AVI CHAI Foundation to strengthen Hebrew language usage in our Ramah camps, has 40 newly trained fellows for the coming summer. Half of the fellows went through training in Israel earlier this spring. These counselors and specialists learned to creatively infuse Hebrew through games, programs, “moralim” (cheers), and drama. Highlights of the Daber track last week were a “Masa B’Ivrit”, a Hebrew Journey that explored the connection between Judaism and Hebrew language, Israeli aerobics, and a short lesson in Tigrit, one of the languages of Ethopia. Sarah Gans, a Daber Fellow from Ramah New England, said, “I really benefited from the many sessions geared towards modeling engaging games and interactive cheers. It’s important to learn how to lead and create Daber peulot and create an environment of Hebrew. I truly gained a toolbox of resources for camp!”

2014 National Ramah Spring Leadership Training ConferenceStaff members from the National Ramah Tikvah Network of special needs programs joined together with their counterparts from a number of URJ Camps and other Jewish camps. The group, which numbered 21 in total, shared best practices, tools, and techniques for working with children, teens, and young adults with disabilities. Working alongside staff members from other camping movements provided participants with new ways of looking at their roles at camp. Annie Pill of Ramah California said, “This was an incredible training program that allowed me to develop and better my knowledge, my level of confidence and my ability to network and collaborate with others who share the same passion for kids and adults with special needs. This training has made me so excited for my job this summer and has made me proud to do what I do and to be part of such an inspiring group of people. I know the special needs camping movement is going to thrive and grow in the future because of these people.” (Read more about this year’s training for special needs program staff.)

Training for the National Ramah Tikvah Network is supported by the Neshamot Fund of UJA-Federation of New York and the 2013 Ramah Israel Bike Ride and Hiking Trip. Additional funding from the Ruderman Family Foundation will facilitate planning and discussion around new developments in vocational education programs that will take place at four Ramah camps this summer.

May was a busy month for professional development training, as Ramah staff members participated not only in the NRC-sponsored training at Ramah Darom, but also at the Hava Na’shira songleading and music workshop at URJ Olin Sang Ruby Union Institute (OSRUI) in Wisconsin (11 Ramah staff members); tefillah training and yeshiva study at Mechon Hadar in New York City (run jointly by Hadar and Ramah; 8 staff members); and the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Cornerstone Fellowship seminar in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania (25 Ramah staff members).

2014 National Ramah Spring Leadership Training ConferenceAs the leadership conference came to a close on Thursday morning, the words of Bill Gates came to mind: Leadership is all about empowerment, and that is exactly what these four days of training succeeded in doing. As Gabi Wasserman, Rosh Edah from Ramah Outdoor Adventure asserted, “I feel confident leaving Winer that not only am I returning to my own camp with the skills needed to be a successful rosh edah, but that all my fellow peers will be leading successful edot in their own respective camps.” With so much enthusiasm and empowerment heading to our camps, we can’t wait for kayitz 2014!

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