Camp Ramah Galim: L’dor Vador Brought to Life
At Camp Ramah in Northern California, also known by its Hebrew name Ramah Galim, every day is truly the best day ever. Located along the shores of beautiful Monterey Bay, CA, the brand-new Nor Cal summer camp is the perfect place for children to build friendships, experiences and memories to last a lifetime.
While there are Camp Ramah locations all across the U.S. and even in Israel, Ramah Galim sets itself apart thanks to its incredible location, specialty track focus and caring and experienced staff who make it all happen. This summer was its first year ever, and it sounded like it was an incredible success.
As Rabbi Sarah Shulman, Founding Director, explains, “This was the first summer at Ramah Galim, and we were really excited to have our inaugural summer in 2016 with 255 campers enrolled. That number went way beyond our enrollment goals—we were hoping for 150 and had even more interest and excitement, so needless to say it was a great summer.”
Numbers really speak about the need and desire for an additional Ramah camp in CA, especially in the Pacific Southwest region, what with the legacy of the Ojai camp not too far away. Rabbi Shulman says, “We were incredibly excited to be able to offer a different product than Ramah, So Cal, in terms of different activities—thanks to the focus on three different specialty tracks, campers get to try a lot of activities most Jewish summer camps can’t offer. Campers here get the chance to learn to scuba dive, surf, go horseback riding, mountain biking, rock climbing…and all through a Jewish lens.”
Ramah Galim is also a smaller camp than its sister location in Ojai, which serves as a great introduction for those new to sleep-away camp. The strong partnership between the camps really helped to build and stimulate the new Nor Cal location and its success. Shulman relates that the camps aren’t set up to attend just because you live nearby—they are intentionally created with open enrollment (no matter where you live) because there are different opportunities and experiences at each camp.
The vision of the camp aims to “inspire hearts, minds and souls in Northern California and beyond. We are really trying to engage campers in unique ways through our specialty tracks, but at the core of all of it is the desire to create transformative experiences for campers that creates a foundation for lifelong Jewish learning,” shares Shulman.
In the beginning of the session, campers pick from one of three specialty tracks that helps shape the course and activities of their session. Campers with a knack for and interest in Performing Arts get to enhance their knowledge of and experience with theater, dance and music—with, of course, a Jewish influence and flair.
Campers can also choose the adventure sports track, where they spend their days horseback riding, learning about their environment by practicing organic farming and among other things, fat tire mountain biking on the beach.
Blessed with an incredibly diverse biological environment in Monterey Bay, the third specialty track is none other than ocean exploration. Campers on this track get to go surfing, learn to scuba dive, boogie board and study marine biology and sea life.
Ramah Galim welcomes campers primarily grades 4th through 9th, for either two-week or four-week sessions. This summer, they also offered a special “Taste of Ramah,” a one-week session that included third graders to allow them a preview in hopes of inviting them back the following year for full sessions. Tase of Ramah will continue next year, and the longer sessions of camp will welcome 10th graders as well, so that 9th graders this summer can return in 2017 for another fun-filled year.
So what’s a typical day at Ramah Galim like? Rabbi Shulman walked us through a whole day, starting with early rising to engage in T’fillot services. In fact, one of the highlights this summer was “T’fillot Afloat,” where campers got up early in the morning, got in wetsuits and life jackets and headed down to the beach where they practiced their T’fillot Shacharit on surfboards.
“While practicing their morning services, there were dolphins, seals and sea otters swimming by. There were even whales in the distance! It was one of the most memorable moments this summer,” shares Shulman.
After T’fillot campers gather in the dining hall to have breakfast together, and after breakfast, they transition into their specialty tracks, where they remain immersed until lunchtime. Each specialty track has different focused activities, with Jewish emphasis.
For example, the performing arts campers used a master Jewish text as inspiration to create their own show. The theme this summer was B’resheet (Genesis); the story of creation. Each session created unique interpretations of what that meant, either dramatically and/or musically, all centered around creation as the theme.
Adventure sports campers found themselves exploring and understanding Jewish values through farming, learning about the environment and challenging oneself to find meaning in these activities.
After lunch, campers have the opportunity to choose activities outside of their specialty tracks, where they can play sports, swim in the onsite pool or participate in arts and different activities before transitioning into the evening. Evening brings with it an engaging dinner followed by singing, bonding exercises and exciting evening programs by each group.
“It’s a really fun, action-packed day,” explains Shulman. “Because it’s the first summer, we really had the chance to build our own traditions. Before camp began, we created a camp song, for the first time ever, and then we launched it this summer—energy and enthusiasm was so high! The campers would not only sing it, but also help make up the gestures and motions to match the Hebrew to help make it stick.”
Rabbi Shulman remembers these moments as some of her favorite parts of the entire summer.
“It was just so fun, so meaningful to see these kids screaming our song at the top of their lungs in Hebrew,” she laughs. “Hearing them belting out those words of our camp made me tear up every time.”
To find out more, or to sign up for Summer 2017 sessions, please visit: www.ramahnorcal.org