This article was first published in JWeekly.
Heading back to school in the fall after a fun-filled summer at camp has always been a bit of a letdown for kids. Who hasn’t wished that school were more like summer camp and that teachers were more like camp counselors?
Now, Camp Ramah, the camping arm of the Conservative movement, is making those wishes come true with a new initiative that brings camp’s experiential learning to synagogue schools and Jewish day schools. Twenty-five college-age Ramah Service Corps fellows are living and working in communities across North America, infusing formal Jewish learning with camp-style activities, serving as Jewish role models for teens and encouraging kids to attend Ramah camps.
The Ramah Service Corps initiative, launched three years ago, has expanded significantly this year thanks to $1.5 million of new funding from a variety of sources.
While the Ramah Service Corps is a single initiative, it plays out differently in various communities. In some cities, each of the fellows — all former Ramah staffers — works with a single Conservative congregation to plan and lead a number of camp-inspired educational activities during the year. In most cases, the fellows are already employed or studying in the community, and their Ramah Service Corps work is an additional piece of their responsibilities.
In the Bay Area, a single fellow is working with a handful of synagogues. Last fall, University of Georgia graduate Stephen “Stevo” Feinberg moved to Berkeley to extend the Ramah experience for kids during the school year.
…In the Detroit metropolitan area, the Ramah Service Corps is a full-time job for the three fellows stationed there. Eli Jacober, Darrien Sherman and Hillel Buechler share a house in Royal Oak, Mich., and are a regular presence at six area synagogue schools, two Jewish day schools and Hillel at the University of Michigan, where there are some 150 Ramah alumni.
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© 2014 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.