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Breaking Barriers

Reflections from The Ramah Ukraine Leadership Experience

Guest blogger: Sara Heckelman, Camp Ramah in New England

Appreciation is sometimes hard to come by. Sometimes you give and give and never get. But at Camp Ramah Yachad, I never come close to feeling a lack of appreciation.

This week, after Havdallah, the members of Rikud chug performed a dance that my fellow American Ramanik, Annabelle, and I choreographed. We stood on the side of the small Bamah watching our campers smile and dance.

After their performance, they called Annabelle and I up to the stage. When we first heard our names, we didn’t think much of it. This was not only due to the fact that they were speaking Russian, but also because we did not expect to be recognized as choreographers of the dance. After much confusion and nudging, we realized they wanted us to come up on to the stage. We reluctantly stepped up in front of the crowd, confused as to why we were there, and everyone began cheering and clapping. They then proceeded to chant “Kol Hakavod, Kol Hakavod” in their special Ramah Yachad way. The chant, except for the beginning which is in Hebrew, is said in Russian. Although Annabelle and I did not understand the individual words being said, we did understand that we were being thanked–that our efforts and energy were being recognized.

Going into this unique experience, one of my greatest fears was the issue the language barrier would pose in my ability to communicate with campers. Dance, however, has filled this communication gap and has allowed me to build a connection with Jews from across the world, without having to speak a word. Although spoken language is crucial in the development of relationships, there are so many other ways to communicate just as effectively. Spoken language is geographically determined, but emotional and artistic expression is universal. Smiling is universal. Dancing is universal, and it is through dance that I feel I have made a difference here at Camp Ramah Yachad.

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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