Meah Millim: February News

Posted by on 01/31/2019

There are moments in camp (and in life) where the thousands of little choices, decisions, convictions, and circumstances combine to create flashes of perfection.

One such instant in time was a Friday afternoon this past summer, when, as is our weekly tradition, we award deserving chanichim (campers) and tzevet members (staff) one of the most-coveted pieces of swag in the history of our beloved machaneh (camp) – a Me’ah Millim T-Shirt.

I have often joked, that my entire educational philosophy can be boiled down to ‘T-Shirts,’ and Me’ah Millim is perhaps the quintessential example of the ‘T-Shirt as Pedagogy’ approach.

We introduced the Me’ah Millim (100 Hebrew Words) program in the summer of 2016, in an effort to find new ways to infuse Modern Hebrew vocabulary into every single sentence we utter. Simply put – the sentence “We are now going to break into four groups for our evening activity at the pool.” Should never be said at Camp Ramah in the Poconos. Rather, everyone is encouraged and celebrated for saying: “Achshav we are going to break into Arba K’vutzot, for our Pe’ulat Erev at the Breichah.” The reward for incorporating over 100 Hebrew words into your everyday vocabulary (and thereby connecting our chanichim to the Modern State of Israel as well) is: a T-shirt.

So there we were, just another Friday afternoon, brimming with anxious expectation as the names of the m’natzchim (winners) are read aloud in the Chadar Ochel. As I grabbed the microphone and announced the edah (age group) “Yedidim,” the buzz grew to a roar, and when we announced the name of this week’s winner – Danielle!

Danielle leaped to her feet with unbridled joy, she ran to the center of the Chadar Ochel, where her sisters was there to join her, as she graciously received her long-sought-after award.

This moment, seemingly simple, is deceiving in its complexity. It started with a desire to return to a core value of the Ramah experience – Ahavat Ivrit – the love of the Hebrew language. In fact, in the modern landscape of Jewish education in America, it is indeed our hiyyuv, our responsibility to maximize our impact in raising this next generation of chanichim and tzevet to have a deep and enduring connection to Hebrew.

It is because of this same commitment that we continue to invest in, and grow the Sha’ar Hebrew Immersion Program at our Ramah Day Camp. As we enter our third summer with this program (supported by the generous donors of or Chai Campaign) we are expanding both younger and older, and we are also planning for our first-ever Sh’ar overnight at Camp Ramah in the Poconos.

This moment, seemingly simple, is yet again, deceiving in its complexity. On this, the first day of February, Jewish Disabilities and Inclusion Month, this moment is also the result of a profound commitment to creating a more-inclusive camp community at all of our programs. The establishment of our Tikvah Residential Program in 2016 means that campers of all abilities are able to thrive in the joyfully Jewish environment of Ramah.
Danielle’s victory that afternoon, was a victory for our camp community. It reflects our values, our mission, and our commitment to the core values of the Ramah experience.

shehecheyanu v’kiy’manu v’higyanu lazman hazeh

Rabbi Joel