From a New Camper
We love these sorts of letters…
July at Camp Ramah: My first time at sleep away camp
By Renee (age 10)
I’d like to begin by thanking JFNH for the generous grant that I was given to help pay for my session at Camp Ramah. I think that camp was a great way to continue my Jewish education while away from Hebrew school and I look forward to sharing all that I learned with the rest of my class.
Camp Ramah is in Palmer, Massachusetts, about a two hour drive southwest from Manchester. This was my first sleep away experience and I was very excited about going to Ramah and meeting members of the Jewish community from all over New England. Before camp, the longest time I had ever been away from my parents was one night so this was a big step for me. I wasn’t really nervous because I knew three people who were going to be there: Mrs. Leibson, my Hebrew school director; Mr. Wolper, her husband; and Danielle Carrus, a member of my temple (TBA) and the head counselor of my bunk. My parents dropped me off at camp on a Sunday, helped me to get my stuff all packed away and my bed set up, and then said goodbye. I was now on my own for 4 weeks and my only contact with my family was from emails and letters that they could send me and letters that I could write them.
Every day we would get up around 7:45 am, get dressed, brush our teeth, and head to the Moadon for morning prayers. (I don’t usually pray every day at home but I kind of enjoyed it.) We then headed to the Chadar Ochel for breakfast. The food changed every day (bagels, French toast, waffles, etc.) but was always delicious. All meals at Ramah were a lot of fun with different bunks challenging each other to see who had the most ruach (spirit). I even enjoyed benching (saying the Birkhat Hamazon) after meals because we made up a bunch of hand movements to go with the prayers and banged really loudly on the tables. After breakfast, we would go to Yehadut (Jewish studies) where we learned about the background of various prayers. Then came my favorite part of the day: swimming at the Agam (lake). There is nothing like dipping yourself into the cool water of the lake on a hot day. Even if it was raining, we would end up having a big water fight. Once swimming was finished and we had gotten all cleaned up, we headed back to the Chadar Ochel for lunch and more delicious food. My absolute favorite was the lasagna! Now it was time for exercise. Ramah offered many choices for sports like tennis, volleyball, and softball but I decided to play soccer and basketball. I had so much fun that I asked my Mom to sign me up for soccer for the fall season. After sports we did Tarbut Yehudit (activities). Again there were a lot of choices including art, ceramics and cooking but I chose woodworking. By the end of the month, I had lots of time to finish a couple of projects and even brought home presents for my two brothers. We then got to do an afternoon activity which could be anything from dancing and singing to archery or boating. One of the things I remember most is learning three dances including the Vampire dance, the Turkish twist and a special Ilanot (little trees) dance. Afternoons were just a complete blur of activity because in addition to the above, we also got to have some free time and study Ivrit (Hebrew). By the time we had dinner and a bunk challenge in the Moadon, we were all completely exhausted and ready for bed. Oh, one more thing. There is a game at camp called GaGa that we love to play. Everyone stands around in a circle and we hit a large, rubber ball at each other with our hands to get people out.
On Friday nights, we held services outside at the Grove (the forest chapel), sat on benches that were made by campers, and were entertained by some of the older bunks with songs and dances. During Shabbat, we had free time and I basically spent it either swimming or playing with my friends. Saturday night, Shabbat ended with Havdalah services back in the Grove.
I just told you about our normal daily activities but there were a couple of special things that happened that I want to mention. First, the Alpine Tower; this was a gigantic tower made of logs and rope that everyone who had signed up for ropes course had to try and climb. Not everyone made it, but I was able to make it to the top. Second, we had color wars. The camp was split into different teams (I was on Yarok, the green team) and we had to compete with a lot of sports. I played on Yarok’s soccer team and we actually won but it wasn’t enough and Yarok ended the day in second place. Finally we had a camp trip to Six Flags. It rained but we all had a great time!
I had a wonderful time at Camp Ramah and want to thank JFNH again for helping to make it happen. I made two really good friends; learned a lot of new, Hebrew words and prayers; got to play sports and do activities I never get to do at home; and feel like I got a new understanding of what it means to be Jewish. Though I did really miss my family (even my two brothers believe it or not) and friends, and was glad to sleep in my own bed in an air conditioned house, I had the time of my life and would recommend Camp Ramah to anyone who asked!!