National Ramah Commission (NRC) Executive Committee Annual Meeting Hosted at Palmer: A Love Fest!

Ramah Palmer hosted the annual meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Ramah Commission (NRC) from Friday to Monday.  The 18 members of the Executive Committee converged from all the Ramah camps: the Presidents of the Ramah Boards of Directors from Ojai, Northern California, Darom, Canada, Berkshires, Palmer, Poconos, Rockies, Nyack and Wisconsin, plus NRC Officers, all met in the soft, plush, comfy sofas of our Moadon Tzevet (staff lounge).  Pictured above (center), are the National Director Rabbi Mitchell Cohen and NRC President Jeff Kopin.  Even more: before the official start of the meeting today at 2 PM, it was a pleasure for our Palmer chanichim (campers) and tzevet (staff) to share Shabbat and get to know the individuals who are charged with carrying out the mission of the Ramah Camping Movement, namely:  “to create and sustain excellent summer camps and Israel programs that inspire commitment to and engagement in Jewish life, and develop the next generation of Jewish professional leaders.”  The attendees came to meals, sang, danced, ate, prayed, learned, taught, and of course, shmoozed with old and new friends.

In his d’var Torah to Bogrim on Shabbat, NRC President Jeff Kopin spoke about the message of Moshe striking the rock to get water for the hot, thirsty, complaining people.  He focused on the detail that Moshe hit the rock not once but twice, and the lesson we can derive from this.  Jeff suggested this lesson is that we must learn from our mistakes, and especially to not repeat them.  This is particularly applicable to life at Ramah, as we live in close quarters, mistakes happen, and we must learn from these mistakes and not repeat them.  Jeff has been associated with Ramah for 48 years, beginning as a camper at Ramah Wisconsin.  His long, deep connection with Ramah is due to his belief that Ramah represents the very best of the Conservative Movement, and therefore the very best in the entire Jewish world.

Jewish Theological Seminary Chancellor Dr. Arnie Eisen (pictured below, left), noted his great pride in Ramah as a thriving, quality enterprise, and JTS’s deep commitment to and involvement with Ramah. Pictured below, right: Allison Nagelberg, Nyack Board President.

When the Executive Committee convened at 2 PM today, some key metrics were reviewed by Jeff Kopin in order to take stock, gain perspective, celebrate successes, and plan for the future:  94% of the beds of all the Ramah camps are full this summer; 3 years ago there were 9500 campers and staff total, and today: 11200.  The newest Ramah day camp, in Washington D.C., has 200 chanichim this summer.  The Israel Ramah camps have merged the “Anglo” and “Israeli” camps into one; today, their first day, went off without a hitch despite the extreme heat.  The combined fundraising efforts over the past 12 months have yielded in excess of $15,000,000; the combined budgets of all Ramah camps totals $46,000,000.  Reshet Ramah, the alumni network, had 98 Reshet programs this past year, and had 1500 attendees in these programs.   Jeff reviewed the NRC-funded leadership training sessions for the Tikvah network, Mishlachat, Hebrew immersion, counselors and Rashei Edah (division heads), and the positive impact they have had on all the camps.  These wonderfully impressive successes are a result of the energy, optimism and vision of the NRC members and staff, and of each of the camps’ leadership as well.

Rabbi Cohen reviewed Ramah involvement in different ways internationally to support Jewish communities that have interest in Masorti/Conservative Movement and Ramah — most recently in the Ukraine, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City.

Rabbi Ed Gelb followed up with a proud description of Palmer’s signature contribution to the Ramah movement and other camps as well — our extensive and comprehensive focus on Camper Care.  The group then set out with Rabbi Gelb for a detailed tour.  The NRC participants were greeted with food, drink and happy, singing campers at every turn.  The group viewed the beautiful Hursha (grove), Agam (lake), the Tzad Aleph Mirpeset (deck), the expanded Omanut (art) building with lakeside restrooms, the Misrad (office), and Sifriya (library).   For some Palmer alumni amongst the Executive Committee members, this was a walk down memory lane!  Rob Hirsch (Palmer alum, NRC member, below left) and Amy Skopp Cooper (Palmer Alum, Ramah National Associate Director, below right, center, with laptop) were delighted to be back in Palmer to see how our camp has grown and changed.

A Berkshires alumnus, Hugh Pollack (pictured below, left), has been associated with Ramah as a chanich, on tzevet, member of the Berkshires Board, and now the NRC since 1964 — 53 years and counting.    The Canadian contingent (pictured below, right) consists of (from left to right) Guy Alberga, Bev Alberga, and Sheldon Disenhouse (Immediate Past President, NRC). Note for the Ramah Marriages metrics: Bev and Guy met at Ramah Canada, and have been married since 1991; Sheldon met his wife at Ramah Canada in the mid-1970’s.

Ramah Darom had a unique and fascinating experience this past October when the site housed 350 firefighters for 6 weeks as they battled nearby forest fires; for an intriguing account, click here.

NRC member and one of the Ramah Darom founders, Howard Zandman, is pictured below, left.  The California contingent consists of  (below, right):  Craig Miller, Galim; Dr. Andrew Spitzer, Ojai; Ilana Meskin, NRC; and Jay Reisbaum, NRC (left to right).

Pictured here are Lee Sussman of Poconos (below, left) and Rabbi Cohen and Sheldon Disenhouse (below right ).

Last but not least, our own Palmer Board President Belinda Lehman (photo below right, on left) and Rockies President Gil Rosenthal (at his first NRC Executive Committee meeting) attended — and speaking of continuity, Gil brought his son Abe (photo below left), who attended Ramah Rockies for 7 years.

Ilana Meskin’s grandbaby Aviv, an Israeli native, sums it all up in her onesie: