The Reshet Ramah Kerem Experience – Past, Present and Future by Simon Luxemburg

In early February, Didi Kalmanofsky and I – we both serve as Senior Program Staff/Boston Area Liaisons of Ramah New England – traveled throughout Israel and Berlin with Kerem – a cohort of young professionals who work year-round for National Ramah and Ramah camps. The trip was organized around the central themes of leadership development, professional networking, program sharing, and Israel education at Ramah.

Our trip began with the Ramah Shabbaton in Jerusalem where we reunited with tzevet (staff) members from kayitz (summer) 2017 and enjoyed a beautiful Shabbat filled with ruach (spirit), shira (song), and limud (learning). In the subsequent few days, we had the privilege of touring around Jerusalem and its surrounding territories with Betsalel Steinhart, the Director of Ramah Israel Institute. For many years Betsalel oversaw Israel education on TRY (Ramah’s semester abroad experience in Israel for High School students) and helped to develop Ramah Seminar’s amazing daily curriculum. It was a great pleasure to see the incredible experiences our chanichim (campers) are afforded by participating in these Ramah Israel programs.

As a cohort, we traveled throughout Jerusalem and the West Bank territories examining various on-the-ground geo-political realities that exist in Israel today. This included visiting Kever Rachel (Rachel’s Grave) in Bethlehem, the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, and the Christian and Muslim Quarters in the Old City of Jerusalem. As we look to constantly grow and evolve our Israel education at Ramah New England, this trip proved valuable in understanding the current complexities that exist in the region.

After Israel, our group flew to Germany for an educational journey exploring the past, present, and future of the city and its Jewish community. While in Berlin, we had the opportunity to meet with young Jewish leaders through both the American Jewish Committee ACCESS program and the Ernst Ludwig Ehrlich Jewish Student Network. We enjoyed meeting the young and emerging Jewish community of the city and learn what its like to be a Jewish student in Berlin today. Additionally, consistent with our efforts to juxtapose the past with the present and remember the atrocities of the Holocaust, we spent one day touring the Sachsenhausen concentration camp and museum. Located a short half-hour drive from the city center, this tour was powerful and necessary in order to understand the history and identity of the city.

We ended our time in Berlin celebrating Shabbat with the Oraninberger Strasse Masorti Synagogue of Berlin. We had a lovely time singing and dancing with the community and learning about the revival of the Conservative Jewish community of Germany.

With Israel’s 70th anniversary coinciding with this upcoming kayitz, Didi and I are excited to incorporate new ideas from our recent travels into camp’s daily summer program. Together with our new mishlachat (Israeli staff) delegation from Israel, we look forward to continuing to foster a deep and critical love of Israel among our chanichim and tzevet. In the coming months, be on the lookout for new and exciting education initiatives that will be implemented for kayitz 2018!