During the 1940s, the Jewish Theological Seminary established several programs to reconnect Jewish youth with the synagogue and cultivate American-born Jewish leadership. One of these programs was Camp Ramah. The first camp opened in Conover, Wisconsin, in 1947, under the aegis of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, the academic hub of Conservative Judaism. The program was drawn up by Moshe Davis and Sylvia Ettenberg of the JTS Teachers' Institute.
In October 2007, Ettenberg was awarded Pras Ramah (the Ramah Prize) as part of Ramah's 60th anniversary celebrations.
Today, Ramah camps are attended by over 6,500 youngsters, ranging in age from 7-16, with a staff of 1,500 counselors, co-counselors, specialists, and teachers. In addition to typical summer camp activities, Ramah camps offer a unique educational program focusing on Judaism, Zionism, and Hebrew-language instruction on different levels. Every camp has a corps of "shlichim/שליחים" (emissaries) from Israel on staff (known as the "mishlachat/מישלחת").
Camp Ramah offers sleep-away camps with an option to stay for either 4 or 8 weeks, day camps with busing, an Israel summer tour program for teenagers, a day camp in Jerusalem for American and Israeli children, and a variety of high school programs in Israel.
North American overnight camps
Located in the lake region of Northern Wisconsin, 18 miles (29 km) north of Eagle River, 350 miles (560 km) from Chicago, and 240 miles (390 km) from Minneapolis, on the shores of Lake Buckatabon. The first Camp Ramah.
Ramah Israel Seminar
Summer program for teenagers in Israel combining intensive touring, lectures, and Jewish educational activities. The home base is the Israel Goldstein Youth Village, known in Hebrew as Havat Hano'ar Hatzioni, in Jerusalem.
Mador is the name of the training camps for Camp Ramah staff and counselors. It is also known as the Camp Ramah Summer Training Institute.
Camp Ramah in Glen Spey (Glen Spey, Lumberland, New York)
Located in Sullivan County, New York, 2 miles (3.2 km) from the Delaware River. Opened in 1967; closed in 1971. On June 16, 1976, after the camp had stood empty for several years, a fire broke out in the kitchen-dining hall and destroyed many buildings. The Glen Spey fire department burned down the rest of the camp as a training exercise in 1982.
Ramah Community Program in Israel
Established in the summer of 1968, the Community Program was an Israel summer tour for teenagers along the same lines as the Ramah Seminar, but organized in groups hailing from different American Jewish communities.
Ramah Day Camp - Chicago (Wheeling, Illinois)
Ramah Day Camp - Philadelphia (Melrose Park, Pennsylvania)
Located in the Perelman Jewish Day School. It has use of nearly all the grounds of the extensive campus. The camp shares a pool with the Jewish Federation Day Care Center, and also rents an Olympic-size pool from an apartment complex less than five minutes away.
Activities include sports (soccer, football, baseball, T-ball, archery, gymnastics, basketball, hockey, etc.), swimming (twice a day - instructional and free), art, drama, nature, cooking, Judaic studies, music, and dance. Special events include Rick Recht concerts, Yom Yisrael (a carnival celebrating Israeli culture, history, and people), Maccabiah (color war), and Yom USA (3 July).
Older campers go on overnights, while younger campers have 'undernights.' An arts festival is held at the end of the summer, combining drama, song, and dance.
Ramah Day Camp in Nyack (Nyack, New York)
Located in Rockland County, New York, approximately 45 minutes by car from New York City. An eight week day camp at which the staff remains overnight, though the campers, ages 5-14, go home every day. Activities for the campers include basketball, soccer, hockey, tennis, two ropes courses, art, woodworking, ceramics, and cooking. A hot kosher lunch is provided daily to the campers, and the staff receive three meals per day. A new swimming pool was recently added, bringing the number of pools to three.
National Ramah announced in March 2006 that it plans to open a Camp Ramah in the Rockies. A 360-acre (1.5 km2) camp site has been purchased in Deckers, Colorado (1½-2 hours by car from Denver and Colorado Springs). The camp is expected to open with full programming in the summer of 2010. Plans are also in the works for a new camp in northern California.
Rumored Camp Proposals: A new Day Camp for Long Island, NY for kids too far from Ramah Nyack. A new Sleep-away Camp in Northern California or somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.
- The National Ramah Commission
- "Research Findings on the Impact of Camp Ramah," 2004
- Ramah Programs in Israel