2015 Staff Training Institute, Part 1

Eva Jablow headshotBy Guest Blogger Eva Jablow, National Ramah Programming Associate

The 2015 National Ramah Spring Staff Training Institute kicked off yesterday in high gear. Eighty-five eager staff members have gathered at Ramah New England, representing ten Ramah camps (including the new Ramah Day Camp in Greater Washington, DC!), six URJ Camps and one Young Judaea camp. As always, it’s an incredibly moving sight to have so many talented Jewish educators in one space, learning from each other and preparing for the summer.

There are three tracks this spring. Thirty participants are here for the Winer Institute for Rosh Edah Training, working closely with Rabbi Mitch Cohen, National Ramah Director, and Amy Skopp Cooper, National Ramah Associate Director. Sixteen madrichim are participating in the Daber Hebrew Language Fellowship, innovating ways to work Hebrew into the fundamentals of camp with Alana Tilman, National Ramah Program Director, and Tze’ela Tsoref, Rosh Michlachat at Ramah Nyack. Twenty-one staff members (including URJ and YJ representatives) have gathered for the National Ramah Tikvah Network training for special needs staff, led by Orlee Krass, National Ramah Tikvah Network Coordinator, and Tali Cohen, Director of Vocational Services at Ramah New England. Tikvah training is supported by the Ramah Israel Bike Ride and Hiking Trip and the Ruderman Family Foundation (training for staff of Ramah vocational education programs).

Each cohort dove head-first into the program yesterday afternoon. Standing in the center of tzad bet at Ramah New England, one could hear the voices of several Ramah camp directors leading sessionsIMG_5826 with rashei edah on leadership styles and roles, an insightful conversation about the concept of person-first language when referring to individuals with disabilities, all overlaid by the distant sound of enthusiastic Daber cheers. Yesh lanu koach!

Rabbi Mitch Cohen explained to the Winer cohort, “Transitioning to a rosh edah was one of the best things that has ever happened in my life.” It’s clear that this exciting sentiment is running through all of the staff members gearing up for the summer.

Didi Kalmanofsky, a first-time rosh edah at Ramah Berkshires, is feeling the thrill of this transition. “This will be the first time in a while that I’ve had a substantially new role at camp, and at first it seemed like a very aIMG_5864bstract concept and a massive to-do list. But being here, I am surrounded by resources and people to bounce ideas off of and to help make this summer a more concrete and tangibly exciting experience.” Everyone here is feeling the reality — and close proximity! — of kayitz 2015.

This morning at shacharit, Davida Vogel, Rosh Shoafim at Ramah Poconos, gave a beautiful d’var tefilah applicable to every staff member here. As Moshe approaches the burning bush, and later as Joshua approaches the battle of Jericho, they both first remove their shoes before taking action. Davida explained that one interpretation of this is that Moshe and Joshua are humbling themselves. “They are removing their shoes because they are stepping onto adamat kadosh, holy ground.” They are bringing themselves closer to the earth in order to identify with their people. Davida said, “Like Moshe and Joshua, we are stepping into this summer and ‘removing our shoes’ to take upon ourselves the responsibility of leadership.”IMG_5926

As this incredible group of camp leaders follows in Moshe and Joshua’s steps, each individual is learning how to get back into the summer mindset and begin conceptualizing his or her role in camp as well as the different relationships that are formed through leadership. Everyone is looking forward to expanding on these conversations over the next few days!

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