The exhiliration of Jewish summer camp
By Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal
SAN DIEGO — On Sunday Judy and I visited the Conservative Movement’s Camp Ramah in Ojai, California. Though Judy and I both retired from our summer Ramah jobs several years ago, we like to stay in touch and are local advocates and boosters.
The campgrounds and setting continue to be spectacular. Last year American Jewish University, which owned the campground, sold it to Camp Ramah. This move allowed Camp Ramah greater independence and full advantage was quickly taken. Ramah immediately put in an incredible professional ropes course and turned the house that was acquired on the adjacent property a few years ago into a beautiful adult retreat center. Everything was bright, shiny, clean, and green.
More exciting, however, were the smiles on the faces of the campers and staff who are members of Tifereth Israel Synagogue. This summer we have eight campers and five staffers from our congregation attending camp. They all looked healthy and happy. In particular, it was gratifying to meet with the younger kids who had never before attended camp. A few of them said they were nervous getting on the bus, but once they arrived at camp they didn’t look back. They were having a wonderful summer and smiled from ear to ear.
The campers and staffers seemed surprised and honored by our visit to camp. When they asked what we were doing there we told them the truth: we came up to see them! We brought them greetings from home as well as small gifts. During the day we watched them enthusiastically running from activity to activity.
Camp Ramah was a large part of my own children’s lives, and seeing the next generation of Jewish kids experience this unique opportunity for Jewish living, learning, and community is gratifying and inspiring. We are blessed that our Sisterhood, congregation, and Marlene and Michael Recht award camperships to deserving children each year.
If you have children or grandchildren who would benefit from a Camp Ramah summer, I hope you will encourage them to apply next year. You will need to do so early, as many bunks quickly fill up. For more information about Camp Ramah, please feel free to contact me or visit its website: http://www.ramah.org/
Rosenthal is spiitual leader of Tifereth Israel Synagogue in San Diego