November 1, 2007
Class Notes: Rockies, Ramah, Shalhevet, Conejo Book-A-Thon
In an impressive show of collaboration, Denver's Robert E. Loup Jewish Community Center, Ramah of the Rockies and the Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado together purchased 360 acres of scenic land in Deckers, Colo., to open Camp Ramah in the Rockies and J-CC Ranch Camp at the Flying J Ranch. The purchase was completed in March 2006, and the Flying J Ranch -- the consortium created by the organizations -- is now kicking off a campaign to raise $35 million to $40 million to develop the property.
Surrounded by the more than 1.2 million acres of the Pike and San Isabel national forests, the Flying J Ranch brings two independent summer camps together on one site with distinct campuses. Ramah in the Rockies and the J-CC Ranch Camp, based in Denver, will share facilities that include a kosher kitchen, swimming pool, equestrian center, ropes course and rock-climbing facilities.
Ramah has seven camps serving more than 5,000 campers every summer, but many of its camps are full. The Ranch Camp, which has been operating for more than 40 years, was looking to move from its outdated facility 40 miles from Denver. The site will also serve as a conference and retreat center for national Jewish organizations, according to Jeff Robbins, Flying J director.
The new camp will serve the steadily increasing Jewish population of the Southwest. Rabbis from Denver, Texas and Salt Lake City recently visited the site in efforts to spread excitement and spur fundraising .
"I am absolutely amazed by the natural splendor of the new mountain site for Ramah in the Rockies. It will be a stunning and important addition to the Ramah camping movement," said Rabbi Bruce Dollin, senior rabbi of the Hebrew Educational Alliance Synagogue in Denver. "Horseback riding, mountaineering and an appreciation for the ecological makeup and needs of the Rocky Mountains will be this camp's unique contribution to Camp Ramah nationally."
... Ramah Everywhere Else
More than 450 professional and lay leaders, funders and camper and staff alumni from Ramah's seven overnight camps, three day camps and Israel programs came together at the Jewish Theological Seminary last month to celebrate 60 years of Jewish camping.
"Ramah is one of the most successful endeavors the Conservative movement has ever created, because at Ramah we can create Jewish time and Jewish space without interruption from general society," said Arnold M. Eisen, chancellor of the Conservative movement's Jewish Theological Seminary. "We need to take the lessons and patterns of Ramah and extend them to many other aspects of our movement to inspire more commitment, more passion and more Jewish pride."
Ramah programs currently serve more than 6,500 campers and 1,500 college-age staff members each summer, including about 1,300 kids at the Ojai camp in Ventura County.
Programs at the conference featured discussions on a wide range of topics, including Israel programming, leadership development, the educational mission of Ramah, special-needs camping and research studies on the impact of Ramah on the Jewish attitudes and practices of college students.
Trinity College demographer Ariela Keysar presented her extraordinary findings about the significant impact of Ramah on college students, noting that Ramah graduates are three times more likely to date only Jews, four times more likely to attend synagogue services and three times as likely as the general Jewish population to spend significant time in Israel.
Throughout the day, Ramah alumni from 60 years reunited and told stories of the great impact that Ramah has had on their lives. Among those who met were the president of Camp Ramah in California, Julie Beren Platt, whose husband, Marc Platt, is the producer of the Broadway show, "Wicked," and Caissie Levy, a member of the current "Wicked" cast on Broadway and a former camper and staff member at Camp Ramah in Canada. Levy will soon be the lead in the Los Angeles production of "Wicked."
For more information, go to http://www.campramah.org/.
More News From Milken
Milken Community High School's nationwide search for a head of school has come full circle -- in fact it's come right back home. Jason Ablin, who for the past eight years has been Milken's director of general and integrated studies, will replace Dr. Rennie Wrubel as head of school in July 2008.
"Jason Ablin, the consummate educator, lives the mission of Milken each and every day," said Wrubel, who will help with the transition before she retires at the end of the academic year. "With a sharp mind, generous heart and kind soul, Jason is a born leader who will surely bring Milken to new heights, educating the Jewish leaders of tomorrow."
Ablin is a favorite among students and led the school's successful bid for six-year accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The process helped him gain intimate knowledge of the school, according to a letter sent by Milken's parent organization, Stephen S. Wise, and signed by Rabbi Eli Herscher and Metuka Benjamin, director of education.
Ablin said he is "thrilled and excited to lead a school which serves the entire Jewish community and which is committed to developing in every child all three pillars of Jewish life: Torah, avodah (service) and gemilut hassidim (acts of kindness)."
Search Is On, Awards Are in at Shalhevet
Shalhevet school has convened a search committee to find a new head of school when founder Jerry Friedman retires at the end of this academic year.
Friedman founded the school 17 years ago with a vision of encouraging children's moral development and sense of responsibility. It has since added an elementary and middle school with 400 kids in grades K-12. Since its founding, Friedman has served as head of school and for a time as the president.
"Jerry has done an unbelievable job building the school and its vision," board president Esther Feder said. "I think he's comfortable that the school is on the right path, and it's the right time."
Last month, Shalhevet's newspaper, The Boiling Point, earned the highest honor offered by the National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA).