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JOLI leader with stick on mountain

A Journey into “Awesome Jewness”

Invited by Project Director Tammy Dollin and Ramah Outdoor Adventure Director Rabbi Eliav Bock, I packed quickly on Friday for a much delayed journey to what turned out to be a delightful weekend at Ramah in the Rockies .  My labradoodle Mollie and I bundled our sleeping bag, flashlight, sunscreen, dog food, and water bottle into the car and headed up into the mountains after lunch.  The hope was to avoid weekend traffic and arrive in time to change and get settled before Shabbat.  We were successful!

I was told that on Shabbat, the entire camp dresses in their Shabbat whites to usher in the queen.  So, I quickly donned the only long white dress that I own, usually saved for Shavuot, and walked down to the camper/staff constructed ‘Pardeis Tefillah’ (Prayer Grove) where campers and counselors alike were busy davenning Kabbalat Shabbat.  The tunes were familiar, and I found myself getting caught up in the spirit of the moment.  The late afternoon sun was profound in the backdrop of the Ramah valley and would have inspired even the best of Judaism’s non-observers.

But besides the prayers and the learner friendly services, the community created at Ramah Outdoor Adventure at Ramah in the Rockies is awesome.  Not only is the place one of Jewish learning, it also rates pretty high with those of us that are aware of the eco-Kashrut, sustainable, local food consciousness that is (hopefully) sweeping this country.

Finding inspiration in the outdoors

Another program that is so neat is that it has attracted counselors and campers that want to make use of the best adventures that the mountains in our neighborhood offer.  JOLI (Jewish Outdoor Leadership Institute) has begun to attract cohorts of high school age students that want to become comfortable in the wilderness.  They will someday work at wilderness programs across the country AND be Jewish.  (Traditionally, the two did not go hand in hand.) It is very difficult to find professional rock climbers that can teach rock climbing through a Jewish lens.  (However, Rabbi Eliav Bock did find one this summer. Elad  and his family came from Israel and will be making their home in Boulder this Fall.)

In 2 short years, Rabbi Eliav Bock, Tammy Dollin, along with many community volunteers, incredible staff from Colorado, across the country, Canada, Israel and England have made this camp a force to be reckoned with.  The majestic yet rustic former girl scout camp now has flush toilets, showers, and comfortable tent cabins.  There are also new trees that have been planted by many in the Boulder/Denver community to replace those that were lost in the Hayman fire a few years ago.

Now Jewish kids can go to camp and enjoy mountain biking, horsemanship, rock climbing, farming, mining, rafting, hiking, and the like.  Along with it, they lead services, integrate the Torah portion of the week with their own lives, and sing and dance up a storm.  I wish that Ramah in the Rockies had been available when my own kids were growing up.  Instead, I will have to be content with building a Pomegranate Pavilion through the 18 Pomegranate Foundation that will be ready in Summer 2012.

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