My cousin Julie Platt forwarded me your request for comments regarding Ramah’s influence on me and its connection with my having made aliyah, and I am delighted to respond.
My name is Wendy Brachman Fisher, and I went to Camp Ramah in California with a slew of Jacoby and Beren cousins each summer for five years during the 60s. The rest of the year, I spent in mourning in my home town of Fort Worth Texas, counting the days until I could return. I would have told you that what I missed was my friends, but looking back it was much more: a place where I fit in as a Jew (and as a smart person); a parallel world that stripped out the stale, brain-dead parts of American Judaism and replaced them with a fresh, live, sweet, life-giving ruach and neshama. Going back to Texas after Ramah was a traumatic experience, a moving from the light back into a dark cave. Life surely continued, but I yearned for the light.
A month of the highest-quality friends, teachers and role models was a sustaining wind that made it possible – just – to survive the rest of the year as a Jew deep, deep in the golah.
As an adult, it took me a while to realize that I wanted such an environment as a permanent home – both for myself and for raising a family. The process started when I began serious volunteer work for the UJA in my late twenties, a pursuit which once again gave me a substitute “chevra” and an alternative reality. At 28, I decided on a career move into Jewish education, and, after being the lay leader of the UJA Singles Mission in 1983, decided that I needed a six month stay in Israel to “get off the bus” and learn more about Israel. I found Pardes, in many ways a direct extension of the Ramah experience, and the rest, as they say, is history.
I must say that living in Israel is another “light vs. the cave” experience, and it would be almost impossible for me to live now in the States.
I glory in the connection that my children, as sabras, have with Judaism – something deeper that springs up from the land and language itself, and that I myself will never reach. I thank G-d every day for the privilege of coming into contact with this makor from a distance through them.
So I’d say that Ramah is directly responsible for my aliyah. Thanks from the depths of my heart and G-d bless you for your inspirational work.