In honor of JDAIM

February is Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance & Inclusion Month. Camp Ramah in the Poconos is excited to share a few stories of how our Tikvah Programs have made an impact.

Scroll to read 4 beautiful narratives written by campers, parents or staff members.

JDAIM is a unified initiative to raise disability awareness and support efforts to foster inclusion in Jewish communities worldwide.

Moving Forward – Yedidim to Tochnit Avoda

by David Silverman

I first found out about Camp Ramah Poconos from my sister, Aliza, who was working as Tzevet Chinuch during the summer of 2017/5777. She was so excited about the Yedidim program and and she insisted my mom contact Orlee. I have to admit, I was not thrilled about the idea of switching to a new camp, but sometimes Aliza and my twin brother, Jonathan (Tzevet Drama/Videographer) have more credibility than my parents. Going to camp Ramah was the best decision ever!

I loved working at Yedibean, a couple of times a week, because I met all the counselors. I sold coffee, iced tea and lemonade to the staff.

Another thing I loved about camp was going to the grocery store, where I picked out the food for the onegs, which Yedidim got to set up for weekly. I really enjoyed the car rides because the counselors played music on the way to the grocery store.

Another thing I enjoyed at camp was the food. The kitchen staff were very accommodating and very nice. I am a picky eater, so they went out of my way with my limited diet. The dietitian also contacted my mom prior to camp starting.

One of my favorite activities at camp was Shira/Rikud. Shira/Rikud is singing and dancing. Shira and Rikud is social and very fun. I also participated in Ramacapella. I have fun learning new Israeli songs and dances. My favorite was Jungle by Eyal Golan.

I really enjoyed Shabbat at camp. This is because of the onegs and I got plenty of Shat Menucha. Visitors always came to the camp. I enjoyed hearing them sing Havdalah. In addition, each division led a shabbat and I got to spend more time with my siblings, Aliza and Jonathan.

What I found about Camp Ramah that was so special was that as Orlee got to know me and my strengths and weaknesses, she was able to make modifications in the program to fit my needs. For example, Yonatan, from Uganda, took the time to teach me how to put on tefillin. I was also allowed to participate in Camp Ramah Music Academy with Josh Warshawsky. This was a special opportunity. My sister Aliza introduced me to Josh’s music and my brother Jonathan inspired me to play the guitar. The Academy wrote songs together. My group wrote The Last Shabbat. To hear it go to https://www.ramahpoconos.org/current-families/jukebox-ramah/ and click the first one.

This summer, I am looking forward to the new program at Camp Ramah Poconos. It’s called Tochnit Avoda. During the summer, I will be doing job training in the morning and then I will be doing activities in the afternoon. I will be living in the staff house during the summer and working on becoming more independent.

Camp Ramah for me wasn’t just about acceptance and inclusion. It was also about helping me be a better person and reaching my potential. My mom sometimes gets exasperated, but says “let’s learn from what we did and move forward.”

See you all in 2020!

David is currently attending County College of Morris through the College Steps/Challenger Program. He is studying Music Recording. David has perfect pitch and plays multiple musical instruments. He loves to socialize, but admits he needs help.

The Goldstein Family

In our first year at Tikvah Family Camp, we went to an information session about Yedidim, just to be polite – we were sure there was no way that a program inside Ramah would be a good fit for Eliana. I’d seen inclusion programs that didn’t have enough support, self-contained options that didn’t allow for full community integration, and so many options in the middle. Towards the middle of the presentation, I tentatively looked at my husband, my eyes asking “Is this real? Could this be the camp?” He looked back with the same cautious optimism in his eyes. And then the information session turned into a tour, and we were even more convinced. We got to see the beautiful bunk that was built out with thoughtful details, and we knew that this would be the plan, once she’d gotten old enough and spent enough time at Tikvah Family Camp to be okay with the transition. Three years later, we are improbably counting down to Eliana’s first official summer! In honor of the transition, here are some of her thoughts on her camp experience thus far, and her camp experience to come.

What do you like about your chaverot at Tikvah Family Camp? “We like to do omanut together.
We did beads and we played and also did swimming together. We danced”
What was your favorite nighttime activity? “The bonfire with singing and s’mores”
What was your favorite daytime activity? “Basketball”
What are you looking forward to at Yedidim? “Swimming”
Do you feel more excited about camp since you’ve been there so much? “Yes”
Does it make you feel a little less scared? “Yes”
What else makes you excited? “I’m excited to sleep in the bunk. And dance!”

As for us, we are excited for all of that and more! This is a very new experience for us, one that certainly comes with a lot of trepidation, as it does for all parents, especially parents of children with disabilities. We know there will be tears, doubts, and setbacks amidst progress. However, 3 years at Tikvah Family Camp means that we have a high level of comfort with the campus and the program. It means that we trust the staff implicitly, and that we can picture exactly who will be working with her in the pool and the art studio. It means that we have seen for three years how the tzevet communicate with parents, how they lovingly talk about their campers, and how they somehow have an endless well of energy and enthusiasm to meet each day. And most importantly, we know that she will be spending four weeks in a special home that loves, values, and welcomes her. We know that she will develop more independence, create new friendships, and test her own limits. We know that she will develop a deeper love for Judaism, and that this camp will become part of who she is. The only thing we are not sure about? Whether we can handle the packing list without forgetting something important! The countdown to Kayitz 2020 has begun!

 

Noak Averick

I have gone to Camp Ramah in the Poconos my entire life. I had the absolute pleasure of having eight life changing summers with the best edah in camp history, followed by four equally fantastic summers on tzevet. The first three of those I worked with some of the greatest people and worked for the greatest kids. Despite this, the fourth summer is what has influenced my life the most: working on tzevet Yedidim.

In November of 2017, I had my yearly meeting to discuss my future at camp. After hearing amazing things about Yedidim from Saul Shaaltiel (a man who has never led me wrong), I decided to get out of my comfort zone and work formally with kids with special needs despite my complete lack of experience. It is safe to say that Saul was right yet again because I had the best month of camp I ever have. Every day I got to facilitate the growth of these kids, and it was an endless stream of fun, rewarding experiences. Whether we were singing the now world-renowned song “Brush Your Teeth Rock!” or saying the most meaningful prayers I have performed in my camp career, I was the happiest I have ever been.

The next step for me was to explore how I can work within this same community on a deeper level. While I wanted nothing more than to spend my summer the exact same way the next year, I decided to get a more formal internship concerning Whole Community Inclusion at an organization called the Jewish Learning Venture. After these experiences I now know that this is a passion of mine, and it has also led me to where I am today.

This summer I will be continuing this passion by coming back to Ramah and being Rosh Yedidim. I have been already begun planning the summer in my head ever since the idea was floated to me by our amazing director Orlee Krass in August. Despite having multiple assignments to do, and a full-time job search to continue, I am spending my Monday evening writing this because it is what I truly care about. I cannot wait for the best summer yet, and a building block to the rest of my career. Thank you Yedidim!