Our day of exploring Tel Aviv began with a special Shacharit service on the beach across from our hotel. The service was led by our Israeli friends, who led the prayers in the way they do with their Masorti youth group, Noam.
After breakfast we headed to Tel Aviv to visit the Trumpeldor Cemetery, the resting place of notable figures in the creation of Israel and Tel Aviv. We then headed downtown to the Carmel market and its surrounding streets for lunch and shopping time. Favorite purchases were kosher gummy items, jewelry, and shawarma. The group also enjoyed street music and dancing.
The day culminated in a visit to the Google offices in Tel Aviv and a tour courtesy of Ramah alum, Josh Cooper. We heard about features he’s developing and the different office floors modeled after Israeli landscapes and sites.
Of everything we did today, our visit to the Trumpeldor Cemetery stood out for me because of its acknowledgement of people integral to many different aspects of Israel. We visited the grave of Ahad Ha’am, the founder of cultural Zionism who looked to build Israel through Zionist literature and speaking Hebrew. We also visited the grace of Max Nordau, a Hungarian Jew who advocated for the physical strengthening of the Zionist cause through “Muscle Judaism” and a more physically powerful Zionism. Lastly, we saw the grave of Baron Edmond James de Rothschild, a French Jew who heavily supported the Zionist cause through financial donations. While these figures, and others, often clashed in their goals for the new country, their combined efforts produced a unique and diverse Israel.
Learning about how these people contributed to the diverse values and culture of Israel, each according to their own views, reminded me of the work we do at Ramah camps. The approach we as counselors at Ramah camps take is similar to the joint efforts of these Zionist pioneers. Like Ahad Ha’am, we immerse our campers in Jewish culture, with Israeli dancing, Shabbat celebrations, Hebrew vocabulary, and Torah discussions. While culture is arguably the largest part of the camp experience, campers also play sports and experience the outdoors, broadening the view of how a Jewish person should act, according to Max Nordau’s goal. Like Baron Edmond James de Rothschild, we educate our campers on how to support Israel from abroad, through a love of Israeli culture as well as Israel advocacy and building relationships with Mishlachat members from Israel.
I am proud that the Ramah experience we give our campers reflects how the State of Israel was created. Our camp experience lets campers participate in diverse activities and connect to their Jewish identities in different ways, much like how the founders of Israel contributed to the Jewish state’s establishment. I hope that I have guided my campers to lead Jewish lives as diverse and fulfilling as the State of Israel came to be thanks to its founders.
Jennifer Greenberg is a sophomore at Washington University in St. Louis. Originally from Edison, New Jersey, she has worked at Ramah Day Camp in Nyack for the past two summers with campers entering 4th grade.