Purim in Palmer: Full of Warmth and Joy! 

Although this past weekend’s Tzad Bet Reunion was probably the coldest weekend I’ve ever spent in Palmer, MA, I left the reunion on Sunday feeling an overwhelming sense of warmth. There is no warmer image than campers reuniting with tight hugs after months of being apart.There is no warmer sound than a rousing Yedid Nefesh on Friday night, and there’s no warmer smell than Chef Sean’s piping hot chicken soup during Shabbat dinner. There truly is no warmer feeling than being at camp, even when the temperature is in single digits.

The reunion began on Friday night, just as the sun was setting and Shabbat was coming in. After a rousing Kabbalat Shabbat, we sat down to a traditional Shabbat dinner, with all our favorite camp foods. Our Nivonimers ran a beautiful shira session, as they did every Shabbat last summer, with many of our favorite Ramah tunes. Many campers remarked that this was the first time they had sung these songs since they left camp, and they felt reconnected to camp and the Shabbat experience after the first note. Later, each edah had its own tisch to do more singing, and catch up on their years.

On Saturday, we had a lively service, a traditional camp breakfast of danishes and cereal, and ample free time to reconnect with friends, play sports in the Beit Am Gadol, eat snacks in the Moadon Tzevet (staff lounge), and more. After Shabbat lunch, we gathered by edah for peulat Shabbat, which focused on Matanot L’Evyonim – the Purim mitzvah of giving to the poor. Our peulah focused on two different kinds of giving in our communities. In the first activity, participants were asked to put themselves in the shoes of someone who is able to give back to Ramah financially – what would they choose to give to? What is most important? What in camp needs to be changed the most? This generated a fascinating conversation about our priorities and our love of camp. In the second activity, we considered in what ways, if at all, we see Camp Ramah as part of the greater Palmer, MA community. We brainstormed ways we can give back to the community, just as the Palmer community welcomes us.

After Havdallah, we kicked off the Purim celebrations in earnest with a Megillah Reading and Purim competition! In between listening to chapters of the megillah, campers split into teams and competed in Purim puzzles, camp trivia, and a high-stakes costume contest. (Mazel Tov to the Spice Girls for winning the competition!) We then ate hamantaschen and went to a rousing Mandatory Fun Time.

Sunday morning, as our final surprise of the reunion, we got to be the first people to get a tour of the brand new Chadar Ochel, led by Rabbi Gelb and Chef Sean. We ended the reunion by hanging the first mezuzah on the Chadar and saying Shehechiyanu. You can see a video of the tour and mezuzah ceremony on our facebook page.

The mezuzah ceremony was a perfect end to the reunion. We didn’t just look back on an incredible 2016, but we looked forward with excitement to kayitz 2017. After a wonderful reunion weekend, we’re more excited than ever to be back in Palmer in just over 100 days.