Counselors Build Leadership Skills at Weinstein Institute & Disney by Yoni Offit

The clock reads 6:45AM, the weather app on my phone prophesizes that a Northeastern snow storm is set to begin at 7AM. There is just a 15-minute window for take off that will decide our fate. Will we make it to sunny Southern California? Or will we be stuck in the winter wonderland of Boston, Massachusetts? Luckily my plane leaves gloomy Logan airport successfully en route to LAX. This stroke of luck was the beginning of the amazing weekend for my fellow Ramah Palmer chaverim (friends) and me, which we experienced at the Bert B. Weinstein Leadership Seminar at Ramah California in Ojai.

Over the course of our Weinstein experience, we attended madrich (counselor) education sessions focused in areas such as conflict resolution, Junior Counselor mentoring, Inclusion and more. In addition to learning from esteemed rashei edot (division heads) and directors from both regional camps and National Ramah, the best learning occurred when fellow second and third year madrichim broke off into chevrutah (group learning) and discussed different programming strategies and ideas utilized at the different machanot (camps). This valuable exchange of creative ideas will assure that each machaneh (camp) will bring a little bit of every Ramah into their camp this coming kayitz (summer)!


As madrichim put aside their pens and clipboards for Shabbat, the real “camp feeling” set in for the nearly 150 ramahniks gathered in Ojai. A traditional camp style Friday night service paired with a ruach (spirit) filled shira (song) session after dinner, cemented the camp ramah vibes present in Ojai, into the hearts of everyone there.

As Shabbat came and went so to did the weekend. On Sunday morning every madrich participated in short activity to close out the weekend. Using the hashtag “myramahmadrich” everyone got the chance to thank a madrich that contributed to their Ramah experience and inspired them to be a madrich through the power of social media.

After the seminar had officially concluded, everyone who attended Weinstein also got the opportunity to participate in the “returning of the Torahs” ceremony. This ceremony was performed because all of the Torahs that resided in camp were removed during the horrific wildfire that struck Southern California. During the ceremony, there was singing, dancing, brief remarks by members of the camp Ramah Ojai community (in which 150 people from the community came out for support) and a brief look at how close the fire came to entering the camp -around 10-20 feet!

The end of the returning of the Torah ceremony thus concluded the Bert B. Weinstein Leadership Seminar for all second year madrichim. For third year madrichim however, another new and exciting experience was on the horizon.

As second year counselors departed for LAX, third year madrichim and a few staff members traveled east to Anaheim. There, the next day, thirty third year madrichim would be participating in the Youth Education Series at Disney World! At Disney world, madrichim received incredible opportunities such as, sitting in the VIP section for a show and going behind the scenes of the park and observing how the “magic is made”. Perhaps the most valuable experience was when they spoke with the Disney education directors about the role of leadership in their work, in addition to the core values that drives Disney world. These core values were: safety, courtesy, show and efficiency. This invaluable experience was topped off with a few hours of enjoying the park before returning to LAX.

Truly, getting the opportunity to learn from Ramah and Disney professionals throughout the weekend was an experience that definitely make us all stronger impassioned madrichim. Additionally, everyone present also understood the importance of a little bit of Camp Ramah in our lives, outside of the two months of paradise during the summer. The chance to connect with other Ramahniks and Ramah traditions was the reason for such a successful weekend.