overnight offerings

Backed by Summer Camps Forum, Ramah opens first sleepaway camp in Israel

Modeled after North American summer camps, the 10-day program is meant to offer Israeli children a chance to encounter pluralistic Judaism

Ramah will open its first overnight camp in Israel next week, with dozens of Israeli children registered for the 10-day program, its director told eJewishPhilanthropy on Tuesday.

For decades, Ramah has run a summer day camp out of its Jerusalem campus in the Israel Goldstein Youth Village. Ramah Israel CEO Meir Hoyzman said the overnight offering is meant to “move it to the next level.”

Approximately 50 children are signed up for this year’s camp, which begins on Aug. 8. The participants this year are all Israeli, though Hoyzman said he anticipates that in the future between 10-20% will be from North America, as is currently the case at the Jerusalem day camp. He said Ramah Israel is treating this year as a pilot program to determine how the camp will look in future years.

The 10-day program costs roughly $1,500, though with scholarships, families will pay approximately $980 “more or less,” Hoyzman said. These tuition fees cover just under half of the costs of running the camp. The rest of the budget comes from fundraising and from grants and scholarships from the Summer Camps Forum in Israel. A spokesperson for the forum said the organization is providing approximately $96,000 for the camp this year.

Hoyzman, who worked for years at Ramah and Young Judaea summer camps in the United States, told eJP that he “always wanted to bring them to Israel,” which does not have a culture of multi-week, overnight summer camps.

“Something special and magical happens at camp,” he said. 

Hoyzman said the goal of the camp was to simulate “how we want to see Israel in the future” and to teach the participants “how you ‘own’ Judaism from different perspectives, how we speak to one another and how we listen to each other.”

Hoyzman said that although Ramah is affiliated with the Conservative/Masorti movement, the camp will be pluralistic, offering three different types of prayer services: a mixed egalitarian minyan, a gender-segregated minyan and a “Jewish culture” minyan, which will focus less on prayers and more on text study.

The camp will be held at the Ben-Shemen Youth Village, located between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Hoyzman said this site was chosen — instead of Ramah’s campus in Jerusalem – as it was both centrally located and offered a chance for the Jerusalemite participants to get away from home.

Shawna Goodman Sone, the founder of the Summer Camps Forum, cited a study that her organization recently conducted, surveying 600 teenagers, showing the positive effects of North American-style summer camps on young people.

“The study found that the summer camps, which are, among other things, ‘disconnected from mobile’ significantly increased the sense of self-esteem, abilities and independence of children and teenagers,” Goodman Sone said in a statement.