This year, Camp “Ramah Yachad” Ukraine is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its establishment. The camp, founded and funded by Midreshet Yerushalayim and The Schechter Institutes Inc., has played a vital role in the revival of Jewish life among thousands of Jews in the FSU and has helped rebuild Jewish communities in Ukraine.
During the past 25 years, thousands of children and teenagers have participated in Camp Ramah Yachad. Many former campers were inspired to make Aliyah to Israel due to this formative experience. Others have become active members in their local Jewish communities run by Midreshet Yerushalayim in Kiev, Chernowitz, Odessa, Kharkov, Berdichev and Uzhgorod.
This year’s Camp “Ramah Yachad” opened on July 27 at a picturesque location in the Carpathian Mountains and will last for 11 days, until Aug. 6. Some 160 children and counselors from Ukraine, Israel and the US are participating in the camp, Including eight junior counselors from Ramah Camps in North America.
Gila Katz, the camp director for the past 25 years, describes its goals: “Camp ‘Ramah Yachad’ aims to educate and influence children in the spirit of Masorti (Conservative) Judaism, to strengthen their Jewish identity, and to give them the feeling that they belong to one people. For adolescents, every experience leaves a strong impression and can influence the rest of their lives.”
The camp is generously funded by the Ben Teitel Foundation of Detroit, Michigan, the Jewish Federation of Chicago, the Jewish Agency, the Jewish Child’s Day Fund and other generous donors.
A select group of high school students from Ramah camps across North America are serving as counselors. Liat Shapiro says of her experience: “Ramah Yachad is very different than what I had expected. I thought that it would be like a US Ramah camp. Here there is more intensive Jewish focused programming than in the US and the kids are much more independent. Although the program here has been challenging because of the language barrier I’ve managed to be engaged with the children. I was very touched by the fact that after candle lighting every camp participant went around and they all hugged one another. I felt enveloped by this love. Ramah Yachad has made me realize how privileged I am to have had an in-depth Jewish education and life—an experience which the campers have not had. Next year I plan to work as a counselor in Ramah New England. Ramah Yachad has made a significant contribution to my training as a counselor.”