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What Makes Camp Beautiful?

Reflections from The Ramah Ukraine Leadership Experience

Guest blogger: Samuel Margolis, Camp Ramah in the Berkshires

What makes a desert flower so beautiful? Is it the beauty of the flower, or the absence of anything else in the vicinity?

For Camp Ramah Yachad, it’s both. In a little village where cows roam the roads, and a rooster wakes us up every morning, 120 kids and teenagers gather for a unique Jewish camping experience. Some take a fifteen-hour train from Kiev, and many others travel even farther to come to camp. Ramah Yachad is an oasis of Judaism in an otherwise barren land of Jews.

The second day of camp managed to surpass an unbelievable first day. My day began at 7:30 AM, when I woke up to run with my friend Mike, a Ukrainian security guard at camp. At 8:30 I davened Shacharit with the chanichim, and I received many questions about my teffilin. My two favorite questions were, “is it made out of cow?” and “why are there two boxes?” Later in the day, during free time and chug, I was able to play Ultimate Frisbee with the kids, a great Ramah pastime. It was amazing to see how excited the kids were while throwing the Frisbee, especially those who were throwing for the first time.

I also enjoyed simulating the First Zionist Congress with the chanichim, and debating whether the Jewish state should exist in Israel or Uganda. For the evening activity we witnessed “David Ben Gurion” announce Israel’s newfound independence. This exciting announcement immediately led to a dance party with Israeli music, and ultimately ended with fireworks after we sang Hatikva. All throughout the day my chanichim taught me Russian, and I am working hard to learn the new alphabet.

The Ukrainian staff has made every possible effort to include us. Even with the language barrier, I am succeeding in forming relationships with my kids. The most meaningful part of my day was when some of my chanichim expressed that my co-counselor and I were a highlight of their camp experience so far.

A fantastic group of high school students from Ramah camps across North America are exploring Hungary and Ukraine through the Ramah Ukraine Leadership Experience. They will be serving as counselors at Camp Ramah Yachad, run by The Schechter Institute.

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