Reflections from an Amitei Ramah Teen Fellow
This past kayitz (summer), I had the pleasure of creating and overseeing the Amitei Ramah Teen fellowship at Camp Ramah in New England. A joint initiative of the National Ramah Commission and Camp Ramah in New England, this program provided heightened leadership development to a select group of Machon campers during the course of the kayitz (summer). At the conclusion of the summer our inaugural cohort returned to their home communities eager to run Ramah-style events with their new leadership skills.
Kayla Traiger, Nivonim 2019, shares below her reflections from this new programmatic initiative.
Reflections from an Amitei Ramah Teen Fellow
Last kayitz I had the amazing opportunity to join the Amitei Ramah Teen Fellowship program (A.R.T.). At first, I had no idea what to expect. As I sat down next to four other chanichot (campers), all of whom are in my edah and are now my very good friends, many questions entered my mind. What is the purpose of this fellowship? What will I learn? How will the fellowship help me grow as a Jewish teenager and leader? Will it help me see things differently in the future? Luckily, all these questions were answered through our sessions together.
Throughout the first machzor (session) I learned a lot about leadership skills and development that I never thought I would. We talked about Jewish feminism and women empowerment in the Torah and our everyday lives. It really spoke to me that so many strong women made a great impact in so many different ways throughout history. We also learned how to plan and develop different programs and activities in our own synagogues and how to encourage the younger students to be more excited about Jewish education. However, our leadership training and time together didn’t stop there! Throughout the school year, the other Palmer ART fellows and I have stayed in contact with one another through regularly scheduled video calls. During these sessions we discuss our year-round projects and continue the leadership development we began during the kayitz. Almost all of us fellows live in different states and have such busy lives that I feel very fortunate to be able to make time to reach out to my friends and have discussions about both Judaism and the fun programs we are running in our communities.
This year at my synagogue, I have tried to incorporate some of our A.R.T. ideas into programs through my youth group. Coming up in February is the first Ramah sponsored event that I will be running. As an A.R.T. cohort, all of us fellows wanted to create activities for younger kids to try and encourage them how fun camp and a Jewish education can be. For my event we will be doing a treasure hunt that teaches the geography of Israel and different components of Jewish lifestyles. To me, knowing these components are a key part of a Jewish education and I cannot wait to teach it to younger kids.
Being a Jewish teenager in today’s society is very difficult. Missing school for the holidays, not celebrating Christmas like all of my friends, etc. This fellowship has taught me so much about being able to express my Judaism and allowing me to see that I would like to pass on my knowledge. I definitely see A.R.T. in my future and using all the skills I learn to become a better Jewish adult in my community. I have learned that at some colleges there is a chance to be a Ramah representative through the Ramah College Network and continue this fellowship. Judaism is a very important part of my life, and by being a fellow my love for education and Judaism has grown. I am happy I chose to be part of the Amitei Ramah Teen Fellowship and I know that someday this experience will change my life for the better.
Kayla Traiger is 16 years old and lives in Worcester, Massachusetts. She is a sophomore at Doherty Memorial High School where she enjoys playing tennis for the high school team and hanging out with friends. At Doherty Memorial she is in the Engineering and Technology Academy where she learns basic design skills and participates in both computer-based and hands-on projects. Most days Kayla will be found at Eisenberg Assisted Living, where she is a waitress for the elders in the community. She belongs to Congregation Beth Israel and is the Religious and Education Vice President on her USY board for the third consecutive year. Kayla spends her summers at Camp Ramah where she has made long-lasting memories and friends for the past 12 summers.