What do a former equities trader and a first place finisher in the Ironman competition have in common? This summer, they are coming together in Colorado to lead a unique Jewish outdoor adventure camp called Ramah Outdoor Adventure. Rabbi Eliav Bock, the former trader, who recently moved to Denver, and Sarah Shulman, the former ironwoman and current rabbinical school student at the Zeigler School at American Jewish University, will be the director and assistant director of the new Ramah camp. The camp is based at the Ramah in the Rockies Ranch, a magnificent 360 acre site near Deckers, Colorado.
Rabbi Bock grew up in Newton, Massachusetts, where he attended an Orthodox day school for twelve years. While most of his friends went to Jewish sleep away camps in the summer, Rabbi Bock spent his summers with the Boy Scouts.
In middle school, our troop drove five hours each summer so that we could attend boy scout camp in upstate New York, the only kosher Boy Scout camp in the country,” Rabbi Bock explained. “In high school, when I began working at Camp Ramah, I often thought about how amazing it would be to take the intense community feeling and sense of belonging found at Jewish camp, and combine it with the magic of living in a rustic Boy Scout camp.”
After graduating from college, Rabbi Bock put his camp ambitions on hold and went to work on Wall Street. But despite the more luxurious lifestyle, he missed camp and after his second year on the trading floor, Rabbi Bock was granted a leave of absence to work in camp for the summer, something he did during three more summers during his time as a trader. “I came alive in a new way at camp that I did not on the trading floor. I realized that my calling in life was to become an educator” says Rabbi Bock. After five years of trading, Rabbi Bock moved to California to teach at a Jewish day school before returning to New York to pursue rabbinical training fulltime.
Two years ago, the dream of combining the rustic and environmental lessons of the boy scouts with the magic of Jewish summer camp began to take shape. The Foundation for Jewish Camp, in partnership with the Jim Joseph Foundation, announced that they wanted to support five new Jewish specialty camps in the United States. Bock, along with a team of professionals from the National Ramah Commission, submitted a proposal to start a new outdoor adventure camp in the Rockies.
After winning a grant from the Foundation for Jewish Camp, Rabbi Bock set out to create the camp, searching through his rolodex of Jewish educators who were passionate about the outdoors. Although he had not been in touch with her in three years, he called Shulman, whom he had met while spending a year working at the Gideon Hausner Day School in Palo Alto.
Shulman, a middle school teacher and service learning coordinator, was about to begin rabbinical school in the fall and was looking for a new project. She had since retired from the Ironman circuit where she came in first in her age group in 2004. No stranger to the outdoors, and a passionate Jewish educator, she jumped at the opportunity to create a new Jewish institution dedicated to outdoor adventure and environmental ethics, all within a Jewish context.
I had led many trips before in the outdoors and abroad for the American Jewish World Service” says Shulman. “I thought that this camp would be the perfect place to bring together my passion for the outdoors, my desire to help build community, and my love of Judaism.”
In the opening summer, Ramah Outdoor Adventure will have beds for up to sixty campers each session. By 2012, the camp plans to be able to serve 140 campers each session. Enrollment for the opening summer has already reached its half-way point of camper capacity.
We do not want to turn away eligible campers in our inaugural summer, but we also must ensure that we will be able to provide outstanding programming for those who do come. It is truly gratifying to see the enormous amount of interest among this age group” says Rabbi Bock. “I hope that our success will lead other Jewish camps to revamp their environmental and adventure programs to ensure that today’s youth develop a love and passion for the outdoors and all that the natural world has to offer.”
The Ramah in the Rockies ranch, , which is surrounded by a 1.2 million acre national forest, is a rustic facility complete with electricity, running water and canvas wall tents. Ramah in the Rockies is raising funds to improve the site for the outdoor adventure program. The camp’s vision will incorporate sustainable practices in every area of the camp. Starting this summer, activities at base camp include horseback riding, biking, wilderness survival, orienteering, wilderness arts and crafts, bouldering, alpine field sports and service projects.
Every other week, campers will leave the comfort of base camp for four or five days to more deeply experience the treasures of nature on extended excursions in the surrounding national parks and forests. Each night, staff and campers will pitch their own tents, cook their own meals and hang out together around a campfire.
Visit Ramah Outdoors Adventure’s new website, www.ramahoutdoors.org, to learn more about the program and to register for the summer 2010 session, or contact Rabbi Eliav Bock directly at 303.261.8214 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ramah Outdoor Adventure runs under the auspices of the National Ramah Commission and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and is funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation, in partnership with the Foundation for Jewish Camp. It is the inaugural program hosted by Ramah in the Rockies.