Ramah Shabbat in Mexico City

Ari Eisen | Northern California

After spending all of her childhood summers at Camp Ramah in Canada, Ari is thrilled to be a part of the creation of a new Ramah experience in the Bay area. She was the head of the Adventure Sports specialty track and the Farm Manager at camp this past summer, and serves as the Director of Communications year-round. Last year, Ari worked as a farmer and environmental educator at Urban Adamah, a Jewish community farm in Berkeley, California. Prior to her work at Urban Adamah, Ari spent a year working as an intern coordinator for Jewish Women International.Ari is passionate about experiential outdoor education as a tool for personal and collective growth. She is originally from Washington, D.C. and is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied global health and environmental studies. She hopes to fuse these areas of interest, as well as her love for camping, hiking, singing, meditation, and guitar, by using nature and outdoor immersive experiences as methods for physical and mental healing.

Over dinner somewhere in the heart of downtown Mexico City, I heard the words, “Camp Ramah is my home away from home where I feel like I can be my true self. I love going to Ramah every summer because it allows me to come out of my shell, make new friends, and explore my Jewish identity in new ways.” I gazed up from my plate of kosher tacos and falafel and was surprised to see that these words did not come from one of the fellow Ramah professionals I had been traveling with over the last few days. Rather, the speaker was a 13-year-old Ramah camper from Mexico City. I met her smile, realizing that the experience and love of Ramah that I feel was not only shared between me and members of Ramah staff, but also between campers and families as far south as Mexico, and between Jews from all over the world.

Last week, I had the privilege of traveling to Mexico City with Kerem, a cohort of young Ramah professionals from all across the US and Canada led by Mitch Cohen, the National Ramah Director. [Click here to read Mitch’s reflection on the trip]. Together, we engaged in professional development work, sharing professional highlights and working through challenges; we toured Mexico City, hiking the Teotihuacán pyramids and floating down the canals of Xochimilco; and we celebrated a warm and ruach-filled Ramah Shabbat with Mexican campers and staff, Jewish leaders, and community members.

While I expected the trip to center around professional development work and friendship-forming within the Kerem group, my journey to Mexico proved to be much more expansive and profound. From Kabbalat Shabbat to Havdallah, I experienced the power of community-building between Kerem and our Mexican Jewish hosts. As we sang the familiar words of shalom aleichem together, arm-in-arm, and banged passionately on the tables during birkat hamazon, I was reminded of how deeply Ramah connects young Jews of different cultures to one another and broadens the definition of what it means to be Jewish and to be part of a global community. I am excited by the opportunity to welcome Mexican chanichim (campers) and tzevet (staff) to Ramah Galim and was thrilled to lay the foundation for that partnership last week.

Ultimately, the Kerem trip to Mexico City was a reflection of Ramah’s commitment to both strengthening and expanding our community so that young people all over the world can have a place where they feel at home and proud to be Jewish. Camp Ramah has provided invaluable experiences for a growing number of Mexican Jews and was the unifying force that connected us all to one another last week.

I am incredibly inspired by both the Kerem community and the Mexico City Jewish community, and feel honored to have gone on this journey. On this Shabbat, may we all find ways to connect more deeply with our own communities as well as others near and far, in order to build relationships, learn from each other, and engage with our Judaism collectively.