December 28, 2006
Camp Ramah marks 50 years
(Page 2 - Previous Page)Today Schwartz-Getzug acts as executive director of Jewish World Watch, where she oversees a coalition of synagogues, schools and community member who work to combat genocide and human rights violations around the world. Not only does she continue to take responsibility for others, but she engages today's youth to do so, as well.
"Being at camp, you see the passion and power created by 800 campers singing together, or small groups of campers praying together, or all of them getting involved in an issue. It's incredibly inspiring," said Schwartz-Getzug. "Now I'm encouraged to depend on not just the usual leadership in our community -- adults who are involved in philanthropy -- but on the youth."
Every summer, Ramah adopts a campwide tzedakah project. As campers and staff pack their bags for the camp, they also pack items for someone in need. Last summer, Ramah's staff and campers worked in conjunction with Jewish World Watch and collected educational toys that were air shipped to one of Jewish World Watch's medical clinics in Darfur.
"Being in a camp where you're living a halachic life, and still participating in swimming, sports, arts and crafts, and carrying on boy-girl relationships gave me and my peers a framework for figuring out where we wanted Judaism to fit in our lives," Schwartz-Getzug said.
Ramah campers and staff return home each year with a renewed sense of Jewish identity. They often take a piece of what they learned at camp and incorporate it into their life at home.
"If Ramah just happens in Ojai and if it just stays there, then we haven't fulfilled our mission. Because the purpose of coming to camp is ultimately to change lives outside of camp," Greyber said. Schwartz-Getzug recalls that for months after camp ended, her Ramah friends would gather in somebody's house, borrow a Torah, and conduct camp's Mincha service.
KNBC investigative reporter Joel Grover returned home from his first summer at Ramah requesting that is mother start keeping kosher.
"I grew up in an observant Jewish home, but Ramah made me even more observant. Through the learning, the tefillot, the rituals, it all intensified my sense of being Jewish and my commitment to Judaism, which endures today," Grover said. "I bring a lot of the Jewish values I learned at camp Ramah to my work every day. Looking out for other people, I learned that at camp."
While today's leaders look back to Ramah as inspiration, the current Ramah staff looks forward to creating tomorrow's leaders. Ramah counts more than 1,270 campers each summer, and has 260 staff members.
Greyber is well aware that Ramah is an incubator for Jewish leadership: "It's a daunting task and also an inspiring task to realize we don't just run a summer camp, we run a major Jewish educational institution which has the opportunity to change the L. A. Jewish community for decades to come."
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