Hanhallah Mifgash Report – Ramah Leadership Shabbaton – by Rabbi Gelb
The summer Ramah community includes over 700 people at any given moment and takes tremendous planning to deliver what our campers commonly call “the best summer of their lives!” This past weekend we convened the core leadership team of Camp Ramah in New England in Sharon, MA to begin planning in earnest for kayitz 2011. The group included members of our year round staff, this summer’s rashei edhot, and other key summer staff members. It was a weekend of team building, which focused on discussing goals and visions for this summer.
The summer theme for this year is “Journeys” (or Nesiyot in Hebrew). Camp Ramah is about creating opportunities for all members of our community, both campers and staff alike, to grow in their friendships, their Judaism, and the abilities and skills they wish to improve. Anyone who knows Ramah also knows that it is the powerful dugmah ishit (personal example) of our counselors that is a differentiator in our camp experience. Our community does not simply choreograph journeys for our campers, we reach higher, by having our counselors visibly experience and role model the process of their own journeys.
We view the development of our staff as a key aspect of our mission, both because the vast majority of them are former camper in whom we feel we have already place a great investment, and because college is a critical moment in the evolution of their identity. Our philosophy in staffing camp is that we rely upon the connection between the campers and counselors as a catalyst for growth in all our goals. Ramah realizes that our 18-21 year old counselors are the most compelling leaders we can provide for our children. We support our counselors with the most comprehensive training program and wide- ranging adult support system in the camping industry. In this way, we provide our counselors with the capacity to impact their campers in a manner that only they could, while ensuring that there are experts engaged in both the individual camper’s and broader community’s experience.
This past weekend we spent a large part of our time discussing our vision for some of the key areas of our camp. By having a clear vision that can be communicated to all community members we will be able to both ensure and catalyze greater growth on all levels. By aligning everyone in the organization towards clear and common goals we are able to maximize impact.
We chose five areas to write draft goal statements over the weekend. These areas were chosen as key areas for how we take care of kids and our educational program. They include:
- Our approach to camper care
- Our approach to staff development and training
- Our goals for social and experiential programming
- Our goals for t’filot (prayers)
- Our goals for Ivrit (Hebrew)
The next step is to refine those statements and make an action plan for summer implementation. In a future article we will publish these statements. By the time the campers arrive at camp, all staff members should be able to express our goals in each of the areas mentioned above. We can then engage in a reflective process on how we implement those goals throughout the summer.