Shabbat Across Ramah — A Stop in Minneapolis

Meryll Levine Page | Wisconsin

Meryll Levine Page attended Ramah in Wisconsin in 1962, ’65, ’66, and ’67, Israel Seminar in ‘68, and was on staff in ’69 and ’86. After a 39 year career as a teacher, Meryll retired, wrote a book with her sister (Jewish Luck: A True Story of Friendship, Deception, and Risky Business) and has been teaching adults, consulting, enjoying her grandchildren, and thinking up new projects. For a fuller biography see If you’re in the Twin Cities and looking for a place for Shabbat, contact Meryll at

Remember pounding on the tables during Friday night z’mirot in the hadar okhel to see how high you could make the silverware jump? Maybe remembering Ma’ariv on the shores of Lake Buckatabon still evokes a sense of calm within you. Maybe your bunk had its own Shabbat traditions. Our bunk sang through the white pages of the Shiron, Kol b’Ramah, no matter how loud the ambient noise.

Celebrating Shabbat at camp was a revelation for me. No book, no d’var Torah could have taught me the feeling of a camp Shabbat. So, I’ve been on a quest since camp to recreate the feeling. The closest I came was in college where 100 of us gathered in the basement of the Hillel rabbi’s home for Ma’ariv followed by Shabbat dinner and punctuated by z’mirot. It took me years to realize I needed to recalibrate the search. Recreating camp Shabbat is a chimera. The memory, suspended in amber, led me to create a new kind of Shabbat that fit my own life. Although I’ve observed Shabbat since leaving home for college, the shape of Shabbat has changed throughout the stages of my life.

Thirty years after my last summer as a Wisconsin camper, I was a full time high school history teacher, one of my children was in college, two were poised to leave the nest. The Shabbat table included my sister and her family and assorted guests each week.

Mission Impossible

  1. Prepare a complete Shabbat meal by candle lighting time even in the dark days of November
  2. Create a Shabbat spirit at the table.

I began with the logistics of menu planning by allowing the parasha to dictate my choices. To channel the competitive spirit at our Shabbat table, I created a game. I wrote the verses from the parasha on index cards and assigned point values. One point indicated that the food choice was obvious, i.e. lentil soup for Parashat Toldot. Four point verses were often Hebrew puns, i.e. katzefet (whipped cream) for the verb vayiktzof (he got angry). The points could not be redeemed for anything; nevertheless, the family scrambled to look through the parasha between courses. Guessing led to talking about the parasha itself. Everybody also weighed in with other ideas for parasha foods. Now our Shabbat table spans four generations and the competitive element has faded but not the warmth and participation at the table.

Some spend their well-deserved retirement traveling. I’m spending my retirement on a different kind of odyssey—a new website, This distillation of my Shabbat experiment evolved with the help of my rabbi, Alexander Davis, and cantor, Audrey Abrams. I created the website with the help of Ramah alumnae — the talented web design team at LiveSites, Lisa Katz Shimoni and Giora Shimoni. Lisa and Giora’s romance began when both were on staff at Wisconsin Ramah in ‘86. Why a website and not a book? A website is dynamic and, like any trip itinerary, it changes in response to others and in response to circumstances.

This week Camp Ramah has offered us the opportunity to relive camp Shabbatot together through Shabbat Across America. Parashat hashavua, Vayeira, introduces us to the mitzvah of hakhnasat orhim, welcoming guests. I invite you to be my guest on the Tasting Torah website, sign up, and pass it along. Maybe you’ll find a recipe or an idea for discussion at your own table. I am continually on a journey to create a meaningful Shabbat, week after week, year after year. I invite you to join the adventure with me. This Shabbat revel in your memories of Ramah Shabbat as you create your own new memories and welcome Shabbat into your home.