Dear Ramah Canada families,

I hope you will join me for a special community Havdalah this Saturday night at 10pm ET. Click here to join. We will come together as a kehilla to honour and embrace our U.S. campers and the community that can’t be with us this summer.

Although summer 2021 will be unlike any other, the most significant difference is that our American and Israeli campers will not be at camp. 

As has been clear throughout this Pandemic, absence highlights that which is most important. Kayitz 2020 highlighted the importance of camp itself, but kayitz 2021 is shining a bright light on the importance and centrality of our international community. We feel the loss of our American community, not only because we miss our friends, but because our Camp Ramah in Canada identity is built, in great part, upon our geographic diversity. We cherish joining our Jewish communities together and celebrating our unique strength.

I am American and my wife is Canadian. There is, of course, much that is similar between our countries, with one compelling difference. The United States is described as a “melting pot” in which different people come together and become a whole.  Canada employs a different metaphor, that of the “mosaic”; a work of art in which discrete pieces are kept distinct, but are assembled into one picture, through which the beauty and character of the art can emerge, because of the differences. A mosaic is featureless without all of its unique pieces.

Although the reality of each country is complex and contains elements of both the “melting pot” and the “mosaic,” the choice of metaphor is fundamental as we reflect on Camp Ramah in Canada. We are a glorious mosaic, built on the beauty and vibrancy of our diversity, creating a thriving Jewish community.

R. Jonathan Sacks, z’l, described the defining nature of kehilla as a diverse group who, when bound together by a common purpose, can accomplish great things:

"The beauty of a kehillah... is that when it is driven by constructive purpose, it gathers together the distinct and separate contributions of many individuals, so that each can say, "I helped to make this."...The greatness of the Tabernacle was that it was a collective achievement — one in which not everyone did the same thing. Each gave a different thing. Each contribution was valued — and therefore each participant felt valued…"
Our “constructive purpose” is to create our camp’s mosaic. The absence of essential pieces of our mosaic, our American, Israeli and international campers, will be felt throughout the summer and will diminish our full beauty. We will deeply miss the contributions of each international camper and our “collective achievement” will not be whole until we can be together, at the bamah, overlooking the agam, for shabbat at the end of June, 2022.

It is a painful consequence of this Pandemic that border restrictions do not allow international campers to attend camps in Canada. Though it is impossible for our mosaic/kehilla to reach its full potential when so many are missing, we are confident that God willing, when we are reunited at last, we will emerge with a renewed hope and energy, allowing us to create a more stunning and dynamic mosaic than before. 

We recognize the importance, well beyond this year, of redoubling our efforts to connect with, and be part of, our American communities. This is why, in partnership with the National Ramah Commission and with support of the Foundation for Jewish Camp, we are launching Ramah Great Lakes, a new project beginning this summer. We hope to bring a taste of Ramah Canada into the heart of our US catchment area and to build our U.S. camper community for the future. Click here to learn more — and spread the word!

As an expression of our Ramah Canada values and despite our sadness and longing to join together, we encourage everyone to make the most of summer. Wherever we are, at Ramah Canada or elsewhere, let us all soak in the experiences and make the most of them. But please know, we can’t wait for everyone to gather together at the agam and migrash katan for kayitz 2022.

Bivracha,

Jordan

Rabbi Jordan Bendat-Appell
Director, Camp Ramah in Canada