Rabbi Mitchell Cohen, National Ramah Director, traveled to Israel with 22 young professionals who work full-time for National Ramah and Ramah camps year-round.
According to Rabbi Cohen, “One of the earliest goals of Reshet Ramah was to create networks of Ramah leaders for professional growth. Through Kerem, we have, over the last three years, provided an opportunity for 20-something Ramah leaders to form deeper connections ,which has led to professional networking, professional growth, and personal religious development. This January we had the extraordinary opportunity to be together in Israel for five days. During that time, we studied, hiked, and learned about Israeli society. We also explored some of the professional challenges faced by each member of our group, and joined Ramah directors, shlichim, and North Americans studying in Israel for our annual Ramah Shabbaton in Jerusalem.”
Hannah Platt, Ramah California Program Director, offered the following reflections on the trip:
“Picture this: you are hiking up a desert mountain. To your left you see trees and rocks and hear the distant sound of a water fall. To your right, you see a body of water. You look above and see nothing but clear blue skies. You look in the distance and see the mountains of a whole different country. You look below and see palm trees. You are talking to new and old as they explain traditions from back home. Sounds beautiful and peaceful right? Now, add in the fact that you are in the holy land of Israel, hiking Ein Gedi, the body of water you see is the Dead Sea, Yam HaMelach, the land you see in the distance is Jordan, and the people you are talking to are fellow Ramah employees and they are teaching you all about Yom Sport. This would only happen on a Ramah Kerem trip to Israel.
Our Kerem trip was truly an experience I will never forget. Not just because we got to hike Ein Gedi or because I learned all about the different ways to run a Yom Sport, but because I was in Eretz Yisrael with the only people in the whole world who do what I do and know what I am going through in my professional life. There are literally only 6 other people in the whole world who have the exact job I have and only a dozen or so others who are navigating being a young Ramah professional and they live completely spread out across North America. To be with these people in Eretz Yisrael was truly a blessing.
We were able to share professional struggles with each other not over the phone but in Yerushalayim. We were able to bounce ideas off each other while walking in the old city. We were able to share our experiences over dinner in the Shuk.
Being in Israel as a cohort, particularly at this uneasy time, brought us closer together than ever before. We were able to walk through the old city and know that with our Ramah companions beside us, we would be fine. We forgot about the horrible things on the news, and used Israel as a place to cultivate bonds that will carry us through our professional experiences. We were proud to walk the streets of Israel, unafraid and united. We felt safe, comforted, supported and inspired.
This was my fourth Kerem trip as a Ramah employee. They have all been amazing experiences and I have brought back so much from each of the trips. But this Israel trip was one for the books. I learned so much about my role as a Program Director but also as an ambassador of the Ramah movement. I was able to help teach others how to navigate their Ramah professional journey. And I was able to reconnect to the holy land in a new meaningful way. As I look back on the trip and the relationships I cultivated, I feel blessed to have been part of it and feel even more blessed every day to get to call Camp Ramah my place of work.
I will always remember the feeling I had on that hike in Ein Gedi. I will remember the view, the smells, the sounds, the things I learned and of course the people I was with. I look forward to more and more of these magical moments as I continue on my Ramah journey and cannot wait to see where else this journey will take me.”
Aily Leibtag, Ramah Canada Program Director, adds:
“As Ramah Tzevet we are always talking about bringing Israel into camp, but it was a real treat to flip that around and bring Camp Ramah into Israel. It was very valuable to be able to spend time with Ramah Israel Tzevet who have a love for the country and an equal love for Ramah. The value of spending time with our Ramah counter-parts in a place we all love was special. Of course, we can always meet on someone else’s “turf” but meeting in this incredible neutral and special space enabled us to focus on the powerful work and vision of National Ramah and not just our individual camps. At the same time we took advantage of how lucky we were to be able to be in Israel.”
According to Karen Brier, National Ramah Commission Office Manager:
“Listening to Danny Admasu, a past Ramah Canada Mischlachat member, address his experience living in Israel as an Ethiopian immigrant, fostered informal discussion about how we can continue to address important and relevant social issues at camp. Additionally, visiting Kibbutz Tzuba was extremely moving, seeing a place outside of Ramah with a similar commitment to kids and young adults with learning, developmental, cognitive, and social disabilities, as the Ramah Tikvah Network.”