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Camp Ramah in New England is located in Palmer, Massachusetts, in the south-central part of the state. It is one of the older Ramah summer camps, organized by the Jewish Conservative Movement. The camp traces its roots to 1953, to Ramah Connecticut, followed by Ramah at Glen Spey, and has evolved into Camp Ramah in New England.
The camp is broken into different age groups, or edot (עדות) (s. edah):
Kochavim (stars) : 3-4th graders (2 weeks)
Ilanot (young trees): 4-5th graders (4/8 weeks)
Solelim (roadpavers): 6th graders (4/8 weeks)
Shoafim (here means strivers, but depending on Hebrew spelling, can also mean inhalants): 7th graders (4/8 weeks)
Magshimim (achievers): 8th graders (4/8 weeks)
Bogrim (veterans): 9th graders (4/8 weeks)
Machon (foundation): 10th graders (4/8 weeks) as of Fall 2006 newsletter
Nivonim (wise ones): 11th graders (8 weeks)
Amitzim: (brave ones) campers with special needs, as old as 21 (4/8 weeks)
Tochnit Ha'avodah (vocational education or "voc-ed"): former Amitzim'ers who work at the camp
After Nivonim year, 12th graders attend the Ramah Seminar, a trip to Israel, and spend six weeks traveling around the country with other Ramahniks of the same age.
The camp is divided into two sides, A-Side and B-Side. A-side hosts Kochavim through Shoafim and B-Side hosts the rest of the eidot along with the dining hall, infirmary, ropes course, tree house, and Beit Midrash complex. The oldest edah, Nivonim, is hosted in a tent village on B-side known as the k'far ("village"), which is secluded from other campers.
"Palmer," as the camp is also nicknamed, has a number of traditions including Color War (an annual sports competition within the camp, led by Nivonim), yamim meyuchadim ("special days"), an ongoing sports rivalry with Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, Zimkudiyah (a song and dance festival), trips to Rondeau's (a local ice cream store), plays performed by the four older edot entirely in Hebrew (in 2007 Toy Story, Grease, High School Musical, and The Prince of Egypt were all performed), and singing the Camp Ramah song, Shir Ramah. Each edah participates in a camping trip known as "etgar" (challenge); younger children camp out within the grounds of the camp while older edot are given the opportunity to travel off the grounds and choose from a number of hiking, canoeing, biking, and spelunking trips. A delegation is sent each year to ArtsFest, an annual gathering of regional Jewish camps featuring a variety of songs and dances.
Shabbat is given a great deal of attention, with all of the camp gathering together for Friday night services and dinner. Saturday morning services are held within each edah, with senior staff members often giving Divrei Torah to the campers. Many of the sports teams from Yom Berkshires will practice with Saturday afternoon games, and Mincha is held for Machon and Nivonim each week. Friday and Saturday night singing sessions are led by Nivonim each week, and after dinner on Saturday each bunk participates in a separate Kavanah session during which campers participate in discussion groups with a staff member. Havdalah is held by edah, and B-side has Israeli dancing sessions immediately following this each Saturday night.
Yamim regilim ("regular days") are broken into time periods called perakim (s. perek) and each is identified with a Hebrew letter (א, ב, ג, ד, ה, ו, ז). A regular day includes a sport, swimming, a chug (a special interest), Hebrew classes, Yahadut (Jewish history and culture) classes, free time, a period of rest, and shira or rikud ("song" or "dance"). Examples of chugim include omanut (art), nagarut (woodworking), dance, swimming, boating, and video . In 2007 a number of new adjustments were made to the schedule, including an extra period known as bechirot (free choices) during which campers may choose from a number of activities in which to participate; shortened perakim for Hebrew and Yahadut, and a rotating two-meal schedule. Camp Ramah Yahadut is renown for its ability to integrate formal learning with experiential education. The talented staff, headed by Heather Fiedler, includes leading educational professionals from local synagogues and prep-school institutions such as Gann Academy in Waltham, Massachusetts. Campers describe their educational experiences at Gann as "meaningful" and "not like Hebrew school under the trees at all."
On Wednesdays, non-counselor staff members take their day off, so the counselors in each edah plan a special day free of regular programming called yamim meyuchadim (special days) to make up for the lack of staffing. In addition, once a session each edah takes a trip outside of the camp. Each special day is called "Yom (Name)". Yamim meyuchadim can be anything from Yom Pirate to Yom Willy Wonka, Yom Random, Yom MTV, etc, all with special programs and activities planned by the staff members. Special trips have taken campers to Red Sox games, art museums, the zoo, ice skating rinks, the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, and other locations around New England.
CRNE hosts children from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, New England, eastern New York (most notably Albany and the Hudson Valley) and the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area (predominantly Maryland and Northern Virginia). The staff are usually former campers and hail from the same territory, but there are many Israelis, collectively called mishlachat. The mishlachat are counselors, live-ins , Hebrew teachers, and Yahadut teachers. They also organize programs to educate campers about Israel. CRNE has the largest Israeli delegation of all the Ramah camps, and also hosts a number of Israeli campers.
There are approximately 700 campers and 250 staff at the camp over the course of eight weeks.
- Camp Ramah in New England Official Site
- The National Ramah Commission
- "Research Findings on the Impact of Camp Ramah," 2004