Camp Community Comes to Michigan

Written by Vanessa Farkas
Edited by Chloe Hirsch

For as long as I can remember, Camp Ramah has been a central part of my life. In fact, I vividly remember standing in the kitchen with my mom when I was eight years old trying to figure out my plans for the upcoming summer. My mom told me it would be wonderful if I chose a Jewish camp. With friends at Tamarack and my older siblings at Ramah, the decision seemed almost impossible to make. But I did ultimately decide to go to Camp Ramah in Canada.

Looking back now, as a sophomore in college, my decision to attend a Jewish camp was arguably one of, if not the, greatest decisions of my life. I think all my fellow “Ramahniks” would agree with me when I say, while we loved camp – its programs, its values and all it had to offer – we went back summer after summer because its people – the staff and the campers – became our family.

Did you know there are 57 Ramahniks just from the summer of 2014 at the University of Michigan? Me either! This is more than any other campus in North America! Even before reaching that incredible number, Michigan Hillel and Ramah recognized the tremendous opportunity we have on campus to all work together in strengthening the experience of being a student leader and a Ramah staff member. For example, last winter Rabbi Ami Hersh from the National Ramah Commission (NRC) visited campus and met with Hillel staff and students to discuss how Hillel and Ramah could partner together. These conversations highlighted the connection Ramah alumni have with peers from their specific camp and, at the same time, many Ramah staff recognize the shared values of Ramah – regardless of their specific camp.

This fall, NRC hired Nic Bruscato to serve as the Ramah Fellow at Michigan. Nic is pursuing an MA in U-M’s School of Natural Resources, he holds a BA from the joint program between JTS and Columbia and he is a veteran staff member from Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. Based on the feedback from Ami’s meetings last winter, Nic has hosted several events during fall semester for Ramah alumni on campus, including a discussion over frozen yogurt about how Ramah experiences influence the decisions we make on campus. Nic has also hosted several Shabbat dinners for Ramah alumni. With his support, students are planning events for their Ramah peers for the upcoming winter semester.

It fills me with immense pride that I not only spent 11 incredible summers at the greatest place on earth, but I am also spending an additional four years with the greatest people on earth – my camp friends. And moreover, I no longer have to work around a busy school schedule in order to find time to visit camp friends because I live down the street from them all! Whether it is frequent lunch dates or a night out together, we always make time for one another. When asked what it’s like to be at school with her camp friends, Ilana Bruckman of Camp Ramah in Berkshires had this to say: “It is so comforting to have my camp friends at school because they know so much about me. They are always there for me, regardless of the circumstances.” Like Ilana, I cannot imagine what my college experience would be like without my camp friends by my side every step of the way. I guess it is true what they say; camp friends really are the best friends.

Go Hillel! Go Ramah! Go Nic! And Go Blue!

University of Michigan was just recognized for having the most amount of Ramah staff from Summer 2014 of all universities in the world. Check out Camp Ramah’s enrollment chart here.

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