Annual Report 2023

Mah tovu ohalecha Ya'akov, mishkenotecha Yisrael

מה טובו אוהליך יעקוב משכנותיך ישראל

How wonderful are your tents Jacob, your encampments Israel

Shalom,

The inaugural Shabbat of 2023, we read parshat Bilam, known famously for the verse מה טובו אוהליך יעקוב, a prayer every Ramahnick knows by heart, singing it with ruach (spirit) day in and day out. We asked the community as we started off our Kayitz to think of their mah tovu moments, the moments of pure wonder and unbridled joy.

These moments were different for everyone. For some they happened on a sports field, and for some at omanut (art). Some people had their mah tovu moment when they stepped on stage in front of the whole camp belting out a Disney tune in Hebrew. For others, these moments happened during the quieter times in their tzrifim (bunks) or just sitting out on migrash (campus) looking at the glistening sun on the agam (lake).

We do not always know when these moments of wonder and connection will occur, but we know that the people and the place make them possible. Which is why we do the work that we do: to give our staff and our campers the chance to have moments that will fill their hearts, nourish their souls, and build their Jewish identity. Moments that will be able to return to in the colder months of the year and in the years to follow, even when their lives carry them far from us. It is an honor and privilege to be engaged in that work, and I thank everyone who gives of their time, their passion, and their resources to help us create a camp full of mah tovu moments.

Although we have many wonderful moments to share, it would be impossible not to acknowledge that 2023 was also the year we witnessed the horrific terrorist attacks on Israel, the beginning of the tragic Israel-Hamas war and the insidious rise of antisemitism  – which continue to shake us to the core. The impact has been devastating — and has challenged our own Ramah family.

Times like these reaffirm the importance of Ramah and the increased need to gather in loving Jewish community. We know that feeling a sense of belonging, building self-esteem, fostering a positive Jewish identity and connecting to nature – our timeless mission – matter more than ever.

Inspiring moments of joyful Judaism marked every program of the past year and shine throughout this 2023 Annual Report. From camp to Sukkot, community events to alumni gatherings, the mission of making lifelong Jewish connections came to fruition throughout 2023 at a time in which we all needed a few more mah tovu moments.

B’Shalom,

Miryam Seid

Executive Director

Table of Contents

Programming

Kav Reches – קו רכס

Each summer our Kav Reches program, which started in 1996, offers intensive hiking excursions for our Machon chanichim (campers). Chanichim set out by tzrif (bunk) on the Appalachian Trail for three days of backpacking and bunk bonding. They learn crucial wilderness skills such as setting up tents, filtering drinking water, wilderness cooking, and leaving no trace behind. Being immersed in nature allows campers to get to know each other in-depth and without distraction. They emerge from Kav with a distinct sense of accomplishment and a feeling of connection to their fellow bunkmates, bred of conquering the rigorous hiking experience together. Through these Kav experiences, our campers develop a respect and appreciation for the natural environment, learn outdoor survival skills, and cultivate a deeper connection to both their fellow bunkmates and themselves.

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The Waterfront - שחייה

The waterfront was the place to be this past kayitz. New sailboats, group SUP (stand-up paddleboards), and an aquatic balance beam offered new challenges for everyone from Notzitzim all the way through Gesher and tzevet. For our younger edot (age groups), we continue to offer our high-quality instructional Learn to Swim program, approved by the American Red Cross. Our excellent swim program has been supplemented with rowboats, SUPs, and sailing, which enables us to teach more skills and make our waterfront program more enticing for all our chanichim!

Gesher Leadership - המנהיגות של גשר

Each Gesher spends a lot of time thinking and learning about what it means to be a leader and considering their moreshet (legacy) in camp. For Sam Abrams and Asher Caplan (Gesher 2023), these meaningful discussions began long before June 24, marking the commencement of the final kayitz for this edah. Anticipating the summer ahead, they conceptualized “The Gauntlet,” a spirited two vs. two basketball tournament held every Wednesday evening during the בבק (BBQ). Born from Asher and Sam’s creative vision, this competition featured weekly themes, dedicated referees, lively announcers, and an eager audience. For chanichim, it offered an exhilarating opportunity to challenge Gesherniks and showcase their basketball prowess while forging new friendships. For the camp tzevet, it provided an ingenious solution for maintaining order during the BBQ, replacing previous methods such as counselor patrols along the periphery. Above all, for Asher and Sam, it served as a platform for demonstrating their leadership acumen.

Check out the interview with them below:

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What is the definition of a "gauntlet"?

To us, a gauntlet is a challenge that leads to something greater. In the case of The Gauntlet, the challenge is playing two-on-two basketball against Sam Abrams and Asher Caplan. We created an opportunity for younger campers to build connections with campers of older edot. This is often a challenge for those on the younger side of camp. The competitive atmosphere fostered through The Gauntlet allowed people in our Ramah kehillah to become closer, which was the primary goal of our basketball competition.

What inspired you to start it?

When we were younger at Camp Ramah, we looked up to our older peers in Gesher—the oldest unit in camp—because of Gesher’s innate ability to lead. However, when we reached Gesher, we realized this ability was not intrinsic but must be created amongst one another through derech ertez—kindness and acts of service. We have always had a passion for leadership and for involving others within our kehillah at Ramah. Having the realization that the gauntlet we faced was how to become leaders, our goal for the summer became our drive to build bridges among campers. This to us was very fitting as in English the translation of “gesher” is bridge.

What were some of your favorite themes?

While running The Gauntlet, we had to brainstorm many themes that gave all campers the chance to participate. For example, we wanted to do a sibling theme where you play with your sibling who also goes to camp. We realized that this is not fully inclusive, as not all campers have a sibling at camp. So, we shifted to a bunkmate theme where you play with the person who sleeps below or above you because this is applicable to all campers. All of the themes we chose allowed campers to create deeper connections with friends, but also others that they didn’t know as well.

What surprised you most about it?

Out of the many weeks of the summer that we played basketball, it surprised us every week that campers would line up along the basketball court to participate in our competition. We were thrilled to be able to see the impact we had on the machaneh (camp) first-hand as the number of campers would climb every week The Gauntlet was run.

Plans for a gauntlet in future years?

We spent many hours during this past summer reflecting on who we wanted the continuation of The Gauntlet to be, if we wanted successors at all. In the end, we thought back to the initial goal of our basketball games which was to build connections. With that in mind we thought it was only right to pass our title of The Gauntlet down to two members of the edah below us, Tamar Handis and Yael Peltz. We did this in hopes that The Gauntlet will continue to inspire younger campers to look up to Gesher as positive leaders, and for future Geshernics to aspire to make connections like we have.

"We are so happy that Ramah has given our daughter this amazing sense of self and pride in who she is as a person and as a Jewish young adult. We have a Jewish home and are invested in our community. She is one of 3 Jewish kids in a school of close to 800, so this opportunity to build friendships and celebrate her identity is beyond compare. She is already counting the days to next year. From start to finish- KOL HA KAVOD"

- 2023 Poconos Parent

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Art - אמנות

Our expanded omanut offerings drew a wide and enthusiastic showing from campers of all ages, interests, and skill levels. Chanichim were able to hone their artistic acumen and express their creativity in a variety of mediums in our open and inviting multifaceted art space. Origami was a new omanut offering this kayitz that became an instant hit! Other options included ceramics, FIMO, mosaics, painting, drawing, watercolor, jewelry-making, sewing, upcycled clothing, and higher-level art such as paper-cutting and Hebrew calligraphy. Something unique about our arts and crafts experience is our Mishlachat engagement, with several tzevet committed to instructing campers exclusively b'ivrit (in Hebrew). Tzevet omanut are also mindful of clever ways to integrate Jewish themes in camper creations, such as crafting Judaica out of clay in our well-equipped ceramics space. Our omanut program reflects our broader camp-wide intention of giving campers the opportunity to develop skills of interest in a way that fosters friendship and fun while incorporating Jewish values and rituals.

"Ramah creates confidence and pride in my child. He loves being Jewish and incorporating Jewish values in his life. He also loves the choice and independence he has at camp."
- 2023 Poconos Parent

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Visiting Day -

יום הורים

For the first time since 2019, we had a full, in-person Visiting Day. Over 1,000 family members, alumni, and community members made their way up to camp for the day to see their kids, eat delicious camp food, and experience daily activities such as boating on the lake and the etgar (ropes course). Families also enjoyed special new offerings, including face painting, pita making, and drinking some refreshing Yedibean coffee. To top off the already exciting day, many came to the ceremonial groundbreaking of the Mercaz which recognized those who helped get the project off the ground and commemorated the longstanding history of the building. We look forward to welcoming our community back this Visiting Day, July 21—which will also be the kickoff of Ramah Poconos’s 75th anniversary!

Capital Improvements

Mogilner Porch -

מרפסת מוגילנר

After more than 25 years, Beit Mogilner had a full renovation inside and out. Now, it looks as good as new, with a new Trex deck, complete with outdoor furniture, fresh staining on the entire building, and a brand-new roof on top. Inside, new flooring, furniture, and paint were also installed.

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The Big Chair - הכיסא הענק

Nestled between Migrashei Harim and Etzim (Hill Campus and Tree Campus), the Kiseh Gadol—the Big Chair—has the best view of the agam (lake) and Beit K’nesset. Built by Meir Ayash in honor of Ed Mayo's 52 years of dedication to camp as our caretaker, the Kiseh Gadol can easily fit an entire tzrif. This quickly became the hottest spot in camp to hang out and relax.

Chadar Ohel - חדר אוהל

As our camp expands, and our food offerings get more robust, we had to expand. We used our “Covid tent” for a happier purpose: It served as a “Mini Chadar Ochel" for our non-bunk staff and families.

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Mercaz - מרכז

After nearly a century, the Mercaz was demolished. The construction team has been working day and night to ensure the new Mercaz will be ready for campers and staff for summer 2024. Check out the photos below for the progress made.

Tikvah - תקווה

Pam Schuller

Pamela Schuller is an internationally known disability and mental health advocate and professional stand-up comedian. We were excited to have her visit our campers and staff during first session with a clear message: Inclusion is about celebrating the individual while accommodating their needs. Pamela spent her time working with each edah and educating them about the benefits of being an inclusive community and encouraging them to not “just tolerate” what makes them different, but to embrace it, love it, and find the funny in it, just as she has learned to do.

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Camping Trip - מחנאות

This summer, Tikvah went on its very first overnight camping and rafting trip. Within a short 24-hour period, the staff witnessed tremendous growth and transformation from the whole group. These young adults, who are often underestimated, not only faced the challenges of the “great outdoors,” but also conquered their own personal barriers, proving that with the right support and belief in oneself, there are no limits to what can be achieved. Participants pushed themselves beyond their comfort zones and embraced new experiences. They helped set up the campsite, prepared meals, used the bathroom in nature, learned how to paddle, sang and shared stories around the campfire. Self-doubt turned into self-confidence, fear transformed into resilience, hesitation turned into enthusiasm, and memories were made that will last a lifetime.

"Until you witness real, actual inclusion, you can forget what it looks like. And then you get a video from your daughter (who loves being in plays but anxiety makes her verbal processing even more difficult, not to mention that the camp play is in Hebrew) who says that she has a big role in the camp Little Mermaid play— Ariel when she is silent on the land. So she can be a star, but she can also be herself. Sometimes just thinking about how special Camp Ramah in the Poconos is gets me so emotional. This is actual inclusion- not just “letting” campers with disabilities be in the show of their partner age group, not just going one step further and finding them all roles as fish and background players. Real inclusion is finding ways for everyone to shine in their own way. So grateful that she has this home, and Orlee Krass at the helm."

- 2023 Poconos Parent

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Yedibean - ידיבין

Yedibean created a buzz at camp during Visiting Day, with unprecedented demand—breaking records for its swift sell-out. Tochnit Avodah participants sold coffee, iced tea, and lemonade. During the rest of the Kayitz, counselors enjoyed the refreshing beverages and extra kick of caffeine.

Enrollment - הרשמה

Poconos Enrollment
2022
2023

Total Camper Served

508

491

Full Camper Equivalent

393

365.5

Day Camp Enrollment
2022
2023

Total Campers Served

253

246

Full Camper Equivalent (FCE)

206

193.5

“I am so grateful to Ramah for the Jewish experience, especially with Israeli Mishlachat and I hope that can continue this summer and for many to come. I don't have any suggestions, just want to say thank you for all Ramah does to inspire such a love of Judaism in the most fun ways.”

- 2023 Day Camp Parent

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Ramah Day Camp

Circus – קרקס

The circus program at camp brought opportunities for team building, collaboration, self-expression, and fun for all ages. New this past summer, chanichim (and some tzevet) learned how to juggle, plate-spin, do acrobatics, and more. The program allowed for silliness and collaboration, all while engaging in physical activity and creativity.

Trips - טיולים

We were thrilled to bring back tiyulim (trips) this summer for all chanichim. From picking flowers and fruit at Maple Acres Orchard and camping in the Poconos, to visiting to our State Capitol in Harrisburg and roaming the Camden Aquarium, campers explored local gems in their city and surrounding areas and learned about places beyond. By bringing campers to new places, we build community within Machaneh Ramah Yomi and connect to Philadelphia at large, while building meaningful connections and trust with counselors and one another.

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Service Project – תיקון עולם

This summer, as part of Etgar's Tikkun Olam program, they participated in a special activity in which they helped make recycled sleeping mats for people experiencing homelessness. In partnership with Intergrate for Good, they used recycled plastic bags to create these mats and learned about both Tikkun Olam and the Philadelphia landscape.

Special Persons Day –

יום מישהו מיוחד

On July 17 we welcomed over 60 of our chanichim’s special people for a morning visit to the Day Camp. Our chanichim enjoyed time in their tzrif, rikkud, and lunch with their special person. The day also included a unique opportunity to connect with leadership at the Day Camp to learn about the successes of the summer and get a hands-on experience of the magic of RDC.

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Staff Appreciation –

תודה לצוות

Tzevet appreciation was an integral part of this summer. We had biweekly staff bonding events (including tie dyeing and karaoke), hadracha (staff learning), gifts, Shabbat-o-grams every Friday, and more. We are continuing to work toward prioritizing our tzevet needs and showing them how much we care about their wellbeing, happiness, and professional growth.

“The counselors and staff are incredible. To have role models who provide such great leadership by portraying their values and self-expression in a way that fosters an inclusive environment is priceless. We are so grateful for everyone that makes this camp so special. Thank you for such a wonderful experience that will provide her with a lifetime of memories and positivity. We look forward to seeing you all again next summer!”

- 2023 Day Camp Parent

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Alumni - בוגרי

Happy Hour – שעת שמחה

In the spring we gathered with alumni from the 2000s in Philadelphia for a lively happy hour. It served as a great opportunity for friends and old staff to reconnect and an opportunity for them to meet Miryam Seid, who was fresh into the role of Executive Director.

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Alumni Reunion - מפגש בוגרים

Over the summer, we had our first official edah reunion since before the pandemic. Gesher 2013 celebrated its 10-year reunion, filled with rikkud, Rocky Mountain toast, and much reminiscing.

Sukkot Retreat – סוכות

October kicked off with the annual Sukkot retreat. Back for its 4th year, over 200 Ramah alumni and friends gathered in Lakewood, PA, for a joyous celebration of Sukkot. The gorgeous weather made for a truly one-of-a-kind weekend of eating outside in the sukkah, gathering together, and being in community.

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Erev Thanksgiving –

ערב חג ההודיה

In November, nearly 100 alumni in their 20s gathered for the annual Erev Thanksgiving outing. This lively night is beloved for getting together old friends at a local Philadelphia bar and is always much anticipated by the attendees. Many other edot also had their own Erev Thanksgiving gatherings in homes or other bars to enjoy company together.

Hannukah - חנוכה

In December, 30+ alumni came together to celebrate the Festival of Lights in Philadelphia. With sufganiyot, games, and lighting of the candles, everyone was happy to have a chance to gather together.

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Budget - תקציב

Revenue
2023
2022

Tuition + Fees (1)

$5,002,706

$5,014,600

Donations (2)

$2,739,012

$1,862,090

Other (3)

$419,595

$493,814

Total Revenue

$8,161,313

$7,370,504

Expenses
2023
2022

Programming & Operations

$6,132,492

$5,849,977

Scholarships - RDC

$106,040

$104,697

Scholarships - POC

$281,653

$235,783

Fundraising

$47,562

$47,964

Total Expenses

$6,567,747

$6,238,421

Net Increases in Assets

$1,593,566

$1,132,083

Financial Narrative Report:

Organizational Net assets overall increased by $1,593,566, mostly from development efforts. Overnight camp makes up 45.3%, 57.5% from fundraising/development, with a shrinking of the day camp by (2.8%). We had a gain in investment values of $106,647. The value of our fixed assets increased by $786,007 mostly from building improvements at overnight camp. Scholarships distributed in total were $387,693 supported by Chai campaign and endowment interest; and there was an increase of $282,515 in program and operations costs supported by the Chai campaign.

Variance Explanations

  1. Tuition and Fees decrease due to 7% less FCE at RDC and 5% less FCE at POC
  2. Mercaz Donations increased
  3. Other Revenue includes:
  • Interest Income which increased in 2023
  • Gains/losses on investments which increased in 2023
  • The 2nd and final fully forgiven PPP loan was recognized in 2022 - $714,304
The 2022 Chai Society

$18,000+ (G'milut Hasadim)

Heather Bogdanoff Baker and Felix Baker
Vivian and Andrew* Barnett
Debbie Albert** and Glen Feinberg
Drs. Arthur* and Ella Feldman and the Sitchin Foundation
Terri Hartman* and Bruce Goldberg
David and Pearl Graub Goldstein and Family
Donna Goldblum Haas and David I. Haas
Harold Grinspoon Foundation
Mary and Nathan Relles
Elanah and Stewart* Uretsky
Judith & David Wachs Family Foundation, Inc.

$7,200+ (Avodah)

Dr. Nancy Rothbard* and Dr. Brian Bushee
Rabbi Gary and Laya Charlestein
Donna and Rick Forman
Ilona Friedman
Marlene and Jonathon Graub
Emily and Michael Landsburg
Hila Reichman and Josh Podietz*
Ali and Lee Sussman and Family
Lauren and Matt Tanzer
Diane and Michael** Wachs and Family
Juliet I. Spitzer and Philip Wachs
Rabbi Rachel M. Kobrin and Dr. Jeffrey Ward

$3,600+ (Torah)

Dr. Rachel and Avi Abel
Dr. Beth Etra and Jonathan Adler*
Rachel Gross* and H.P. Baker
Julia Sivitz and Matthew Bieber
Amy Brewstein
Sara Bucholtz
Julius & Ray Charlestein Scholarship Fund
Drs. Sherri* and Daniel Cohen
Debra and Harris Devor
Bruce Engleman and Dr. Jo Ann Chalal Engleman
Julie and Daniel Fein
Abbey and David Gancz
Michal Wachs*** ** and Daniel Gold***
Laura Sklar and Daniel Goldstein
Judith, Roger, Jonathan, and Joshua Hess
Sharon and Jonathan Levin
Drs. Michael and Julie Lippmann
Amy and Ben Relles
Jamie and Jesse Richman
Marcella Kanfer Rolnick and Josh Rolnick
Jill* and Brian Rosen
Susan Sherr-Seitz and Brett Seitz

$1,800+

Dr. Jack Aaron and Rabbi Stephanie Aaron
Drs. Ursina Teitelbaum and Benjamin Abella
Rachael and Joshua Abrams
Nona Abrams z"l
Flossie Albert
Dr. Arnold and Susan Baskies
Dr. Michael and Risa Baskies
Dr. Norma Blecker and David Blecker
Drs. Carole and Bruce Bogdanoff
Dr. Harvey and Joan Bucholtz
Judy and Jerry Caplan
Harriet and Mark Chertok
Dr. Jesse and Mindy Civan
Hannah S. and Samuel A. Cohn Memorial Foundation
Dr. Mark and Dana* Fallick
Karly Forman*
Dr. Sidney and Ellen Friedman
Dr. Leonard and Judy Galler
The Garten Family
Ilene and Jonathan Gershen
Judy and David Gilberg
Peggy and Louis Gold
Micaela and Rick* Gold
Dr. Amy J. Goldberg
Sandra and Michael Goldberg
Drs. Heidi and Jeffrey Gordon
Rabbi Josh and Elissa* Gruenberg
Marci and Robert Hackel
Staci and Richard Julie
Bonnie and Lou Kahn
Rabbi Michael and Fran Katz
Dr. Steven and Rhena Kelsen
Rebecca and Ben Kirshner
Leah Rosen and Peter Konwerski
Heather and Mark Kramer
Robin Sue and Bill Landsburg
Rabbi Alan and Edy Lucas
Ivy and David Mermelstein
Roe and Don Miller
Rachel Zivic and Rabbi Micah Peltz
Debbie* and Richard Perlman
Monica and Marty Pollak
Missy and Josh Present*
Dr. Reuben and Diane Romirowsky
Susan and Eric Schwartzman
Miryam and Adam Seid
Rabbi Joel and Eliana Seltzer
Stacy and Matthew Seltzer
Susie and Ken Shear
The Skier Foundation
Susan and Richard Stone
Jenifer and Martin Wachs
Rachel Wachs
Joan Wohl
Rabbi Eric and Dava Yanoff
Robin and Greg Zappin
Violet Zeitlin

*Member, Board of Directors
**Current or Immediate Past President, Board of Directors
*** Chairs, 2022 Annual Chai Campaign

Endowments

Endowments ensure that Camp Ramah in the Poconos and all of its programs can continue far and long after our lives and benefit generation in perpetuity. We are excited to share the establishment of the new Joel Seltzer Endowment this past year.

See all the endowments here
The Legacy Society

Members of the Ramah Moreshet Legacy Society ensure the future of Camp Ramah in the Poconos and Ramah Day Camp by making a commitment in their estate plan to contribute to Camp Ramah's permanent endowment.

See our Legacy Society Members Here
Board of Directors

Jonathan Adler

Debbie Albert – Immediate Past President

Andrew Barnett – President

Sara Bucholtz

Sherri Cohen

Karly Forman

Arthur Feldman

Rachel Gross

Elissa Gruenberg – Vice President

Terri Hartman – Secretary

David Haas

Charlie Korman

Rabbi Aaron Krupnick

Josh Podietz – Vice President, Development

Missy Present

Nancy Rothbard

Michael Wachs

Joshua Weingram

Stewart Uretsky – Vice President, Finance

Year Round Team

Rachael Abrams – Director, Poconos

Tobi Afran – Assistant Director, Poconos

Noah Averick – Staff Experience Associate

Benjy Goldberg – Director of Operations and Retreats

Diana Epstein – Development and Alumni Associate

Orlee Krass – Tikvah Director

Bruce Lipton – Director of Finance

Debra Lacks – Registrar

Alexis Lubianetsky – Database and HR Associate

Sofy Maxman – Director, Day Camp

Marla Schimmel – Bookkeeper

Susan Schwartzman – Health Center Director

Miryam Seid – Executive Director

Susan Rand Lakritz – Program Director, Poconos

Deb Srulevich – Office Manager

Todah Rabbah

We are deeply grateful for the former staff, board members, and our entire kehillah who made endless mah tovu moments and joyful Judaism possible in the 2022–2023 season. May we continue to be in wonder, be grateful for all that we have accomplished, and work together toward the growth that will come.