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Songleader Boot Camp 2016: My Connection Through Music

Guest blogger: Adena Leon

Adena Leon

Adena Leon

When I received an email from Camp Ramah in California about attending the Songleader Boot Camp National Conference (SLBC) as a member of the 2016 Cohort, I answered back immediately with an ecstatic “YES!” I didn’t really know what to expect going into SLBC, only that I would get to sing and learn some pretty cool Jewish music. I had no idea that I would gain leadership skills, expand my musical repertoire, learn from incredible teachers, rabbis, and musicians, make new friends, and find a deep connection to music through Judaism and camp.

Through the incredible vision of Rick and Elisa Recht, Jewish musicians from all parts of the country gathered together in St. Louis, Missouri, to immerse themselves in song and share their music. In the Ramah track, Ramahniks from almost all of the Ramah camps participated in song sessions, leadership training, and Torah learning. Along with learning, we shared traditions and songs from our respective camps, creating a stronger Ramah movement-wide community.

SLBC for Kolot Ramah blog

Ramahniks at SLBC 2016

SLBC as a whole provided me with a deeper connection to Judaism and specifically Jewish music. The power of song infused with Jewish values, prayer, and kavannah (intention) opened my eyes to a new world of connecting to my religion. In the Shema, we are asked by God to “listen.” The harmonies that rose out of over 200 voices when the Shema was said during Shacharit gave me a whole new reason to listen. I listened as my own voice blended seamlessly with the rest of the room and my ears couldn’t distinguish one voice from another. I felt unified and comfortable in a community I knew I belonged in.

With each song we learned, each technique we mastered, I saw myself connecting even more to Judaism. Each song, each niggun, each teaching, brought me closer to my religion. Learning how music and leadership go hand in hand and how music has been a key part of our history only brought me closer to Judaism and our culture.

In one of our first sessions, we were asked by Rick Recht to repeat this statement: I am the leader. I am the leader. I am the leader. Each time, emphasizing a different word. As I say it now, I find myself assessing what I learned at SLBC and envisioning how I will bring it back to camp this summer. I see myself teaching new music, leading Shira in our Chadar Ochel, and teaching my fellow staff members how important music is in the camp community and in the Jewish community as a whole. With the skills I gained at SLBC, I know that I will become a stronger leader at camp.

As we closed three days of music, Torah, and leadership, we stood in a circle singing our hearts out and unifying our voices to praise God, “Hallelujah.” I stood with my fellow Ramahniks and Jewish songleaders from around the country with an even deeper connection to music. The opportunity given to me by Ramah has filled my heart with music and a connection to Judaism that I can’t wait to share with my friends and community this kayitz!

Adena Leon is a senior at Champs Charter High School for the Arts in Los Angeles, California. She has been a camper at Camp Ramah in California for eight summers and went on Ramah Israel Seminar in 2014. Adena spent her first summer on staff in 2015 and will be returning as a senior counselor this upcoming summer.

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