The National Ramah Commission of The Jewish Theological Seminary today announced establishment of Reshet Ramah, a network driven in part by technology to engage and connect thousands of alumni of the Ramah camping movement and offer a channel for extending and enhancing Jewish community involvement.
The initiative is fueled by just-announced grants totaling up to $1.8 million from the AVI CHAI Foundation and the Maimonides Fund.
As the camping arm of Conservative Judaism, Ramah runs eight overnight camps, four day camps and youth programming in Israel, with participation by more than 9,000 campers and staff members each summer. Over its 65-year history, an estimated quarter-million participants and staff have passed through Ramah camps and programs creating a large, diverse cohort of alumni connected by shared experience, but unconnected in any formal or centralized way until now.
Alumni consistently cite the Ramah camping experience as seminal to development of their Jewish identity. With a natural and renewing constituency, Reshet Ramah will be designed and positioned to leverage this affinity not only to strengthen the Ramah movement, but also to recharge Jewish community and connections to Israel through new programming and partnerships with other Jewish organizations.
The global alumni network will feature generational, geographic and interest-based educational, spiritual and Israel-focused programs. These will include regional and national Shabbatonim and other types of retreats at camps, online learning opportunities and enhancement of programs such as the Ramah Service Corps, which is strengthening ties between Ramah camps and synagogues.
The goal, officials said, is also to create, maintain, and deepen interpersonal connections among Ramah alumni, to develop a rich cadre of local and national lay leadership, to create a cohort of ambassadors for the Ramah movement, and to establish and deepen interpersonal connections as alumni leave camp and pursue lifelong Jewish journeys.
In addition, active alumni will be catalysts for Jewish and Israel-focused engagement beyond the network, as programming and interactions reach others marginally involved in the Jewish community but looking for channels of participation and connection.
Funders of the new initiative said the potential for sustaining and building Jewish community engagement is enormous.
“Over many decades, the Ramah organization has demonstrated that delivering a well-planned and executed summer camp program, which also integrates Jewish living and learning experiences for campers and staff, leaves a mark on the individual that often carries through their lives,” said Joel Einleger, Director of Strategy, Camp Programs, at the AVI CHAI Foundation.
“Reshet Ramah will seize the opportunity to build a stronger movement from the huge numbers of alumni of the Ramah camps across North America, individuals who will be able to more easily connect with each other physically and virtually through communications and local events that will in effect extend the experience begun in a Ramah camp years or even decades earlier.”