Updated: Mar 13
By Rabbi Scott Kramer
Having just come home from a fantastic weekend at my favorite Jewish Summer Camp, Ramah Darom in Clayton, Georgia, I wanted to jot down a few notes while the excitement is still there.
Our shul, Agudath Israel Etz Ahayem participated in a Synagogue retreat along with Congregation B’nai Zion of Chattanooga, Tennessee the weekend of Valentine's Day called the Southern Shabbat Schmooze. Eliana Leader of Ramah Darom, organized, coaxed and led this retreat as you would expect out of a consummate professional completely in love with Judaism, with Ramah and with Jews all over the Southeast.
Ramah Darom is part of the national Ramah system of summer camps associated with Conservative Judaism. The first one I went to was in 1993 at Ramah Berkshires where I attended the IMUN program, a para rabbinic boot camp that propelled me into becoming a Rabbi.
Nothing like seeing 400 school age children singing Kabbalat Shabbat and dancing in an outdoor amphitheater. Complete with lake, canoeing, water blog, basketball, softball, swimming, archery, climbing wall, rope course, hiking and waterfalls, along with learning about Judaism and learning Hebrew from Israelis. The accommodations were much better than you expect at a summer camp. That is why this camp is nicknamed Spa-Ramah. Please look at their website for more information: https://www.ramahdarom.org.
We had 15 congregants attend this weekend along with 15 from B’nai Zion. Our children were well cared for by the Ramah staff allowing time for the adults to have activities together.
Rabbi Susie Tendler and I led all Shabbat services and it was a pleasure to learn new tunes from another shul. The food was excellent. Kashrut at Ramah is maintained by the Atlanta Kashrut Council. Plentiful and delicious.
Chattanooga organized an Oneg on Friday night complete with human bingo and board games.
AIEA hosted the Saturday night event with Karaoke. And yes, your Rabbi actually sang three songs. It took a few sips of Macallan 12 provided by Jerald Labovitz, but I persevered and entertained both shuls. Most of our members managed to sing that evening to shouts of encouragement and laughter.
We hiked up to a 50-foot-tall waterfall. We had discussions about our shul and what our struggles and successes are. Three of our children got together with five of their children and had a wonderful time.
I would like to thank Jerald Labovitz for helping with half the cost of our expenses from the Labovitz Scholarship Fund. This trip was very affordable and we received way more than we spent.
As I reflect on this phenomenal weekend, I am basking in the knowledge that I got to know 15 people from another shul about three hours from us including their Rabbi and her husband and even talked about visiting each other’s communities. I also got to know my congregants better and we all experienced an immersive Judaism in a fun, relaxing and enlightening environment.
Next year, if Ramah has this experience again, I would suggest you get this article out, read it again and sign up without delay.
As I finish this article, I want to remind you that Purim is coming up. Our annual Megillah reading and Purim dinner are on Monday night March 9 at 6 p.m. at AIEA. This is a joint service with TBO. We will also have 18 students from the University of Pennsylvania Hillel joining us that evening.