[Translated from the Hebrew by Rabbi Mitchell Cohen, National Ramah Director.]
Before I arrived at Ramah Darom, I was very disconnected from the world of religion. Although my mother grew up in a religious home, I never personally related to the religious aspects of Judaism. Kashrut, Friday-night kiddush, and fasting on Yom Kippur were not part of my life. During our training for Camp Ramah, we learned about Conservative Judaism. This created a great conflict for me as I struggled with the notion of attending tefillot and observing Shabbat during the two months of camp. After observing a Shabbat during the training seminar, I called my father, crying hysterically, and asked “How am I going to do this?”
Amazingly, during the two months of camp, my perspective changed radically. I quickly adjusted to the routine of attending morning services reciting birkat hamazon after each meal, observing Shabbat, saying the Shema, and so on. I recall waiting with great anticipation for the beginning of Shabbat and for the beautiful havdalah service. These activities that were so foreign to me at first became an integral part of who I am and ever since, have added beauty and meaning to my life. Camp Ramah awakened within me my Jewish soul. When I returned to Israel after camp, I reentered the world of “Maya the secular Israeli.” Slowly, over time, I found myself being drawn closer and closer to Shabbat observance, daily prayer, and other Jewish rituals. . . .
I owe a great debt of gratitude to Camp Ramah for the religious inspiration that has changed my life so powerfully.