Reflections of Our Experiences at Ramah Weinstein Leadership Institute Training 2023 – by Rachel Scheer, Sophie Scheer and Ramona Saft

Pictured in photo: Top, left to right: Evan Lieber, Matthew Solovy, Ramona Saft, Michelle Sugarman, Hadas Bromberg Seltzer, Sarah Lieber. Bottom, left to right: Ayden Kligfeld, Rachel Scheer, Michal Goldberg, Sophie Scheer, Aaron Bruce, Hadas Goldberg.

A few weekends ago we had the pleasure of attending the Ramah Weinstein Leadership  Institute at the beautiful Camp Ramah in California. We had a truly positive and meaningful experience learning from many different Ramah professionals, talking with our peers from other Ramah camps, and participating in fun and engaging peulot (activities).

Rachel Scheer’s Reflections:

Throughout the weekend, we had the unique opportunity to collaborate and share ideas with our peers from all different Ramah camps. A particularly impactful peula (activity) was one in which groups of Weinstein participants were formed according to Ramah values that are important to them such as chesed (kindness) and kavod (respect), among others. We then planned peulot based on those values that are integral to the Ramah mission. Our mission was to make these values come to life at our machanot (camps). It was amazing to hear new ideas and thoughts that turned into tangible programs that we can bring back to camp this summer. This is just one example of the many ways in which we had the opportunity to learn and grow from our peers at other Ramah camps. Another meaningful part of the leadership training was being able to learn from Ramah professionals who dedicate their work to making sure Ramah is able to support our campers and staff and provide meaningful experiences each kayitz. We were able to learn from Daniel Olson, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Research, about research done on mental health and Ramah campers. We discussed ways in which we can best support our campers’ mental health. Learning from people who dedicate their work and research to Ramah was very insightful and a truly important part of the weekend.

Sophie Scheer’s Reflections:

Coming to Weinstein Leadership Institute, I was looking forward to experiencing and engaging in tefilot. Kabbalat Shabbat at Camp Ramah New England is always a highlight for me. Singing together and bringing Shabbat in as a camp always makes me feel more connected to Judaism and my community. Coming together with people from each Ramah camp, I knew that this Kabbalat Shabbat was going to be special, and I was going to feel uplifted and proud of the Ramah camps. Each service at Weinstein felt different. Staff members from different camps shared their tunes and traditions for Shacharit, and how they make tefilot a little more engaging every morning. Kabbalat Shabbat was exactly what I was excited for, and more. It felt like there was a buzz in the room, everyone was excited to experience davening with their new and old friends all together, with the familiar tunes, dancing, and voices of Ramah all coming together. I looked around and saw my friends from camp, USY, Nativ and JOODY. We learned how meaningful tefilot can feel, and how to make it engaging and meaningful for all campers. That night was followed by a ruach (spirit)filled shira (singing), where everyone was dancing, singing and moving around. I was so thankful to be able to experience that.

Ramona Saft’s Reflections:

Throughout the weekend, each staff member had the opportunity to choose their training sessions. Topics ranged from how to become a more effective Jewish educator, mental health care for both staff and campers, and learning new programming skills. For one of the sessions, I chose to go to a teaching on hitbodedut (solitary Jewish meditation), led by Mirit Sands of Ramah Rockies. This was my first experience with the practice of hitbodedut, and Ramah California’s camp was the perfect location to learn about it. During the session, we took some time to learn about what the practice of hitbodedut means and the form it takes at Ramah Rockies. We then took some time to dive into our own hitbodedut practice. Each participant found a spot in nature where they could take a few moments for their own meditation. The rain had stopped that morning and the sun was coming out just in time for Shabbat. Down the givah (hill), some Weinstein participants were practicing shira for Shabbat. It was a meaningful moment to take the time for some introspection on the weekend. Afterwards, we came back together as a group to discuss the experiences that we just had. We also planned ways in which we would each bring this back to our own camps, for both ourselves and for our campers. The Weinstein Leadership Institute was a great experience for returning staff members to get to know staff from other Ramah camps who they may not have had the opportunity to meet  otherwise. The weekend provided us with new skills and knowledge to bring back to our own camps this coming kayitz. We are so excited to share what we learned at Weinstein in kayitz 2023!