30 Years of Camp Ramah Yachad, Ukraine – Summer 2022
Despite the continuing war in Ukraine, a real miracle transpired this summer: Midreshet Schechter succeeded in holding our annual summer camp for 90 children from Ukraine, marking the 30th anniversary of Camp Ramah Yachad.
Due to the war in Ukraine, camp was held in Romania instead of our usual site in Ukraine’s Carpathian Mountains. 90 children, ages 10–16, joined us. They were composed of two groups: 77 children living in Ukraine – from Kharkhiv, Chernivtsi, Odessa, Kyiv, Belaya Tsirkov, and Berdichev – and 13 refugee children who had lived in Ukraine until February 2022 and are now sheltering in Europe.
Camp officially lasted 10 days, from August 12-22, including two Shabbatot.
For children from Kharkhiv, Belaya Tsirkov, Berdichev and Kyiv the camp commenced on August 10th due to the long bus trip and night curfews preventing night travel. These children came one day earlier to our Aviv Masorti synagogue community center in Chernivtsi, spending a day there with Kehillah members who provided them with meals and a tour of the city. On the way back, they also stayed in Chernivtsi, while the 13 children from Kharkhiv remained in Chernivtsi for three additional days at the request of their parents who feared roads might be bombed on August 24th, the date of Ukrainian Independence Day.
Camp’s focus this year was “All Jews are responsible for one another.” This was not by chance as we endeavored to help the children understand that Jews around the world support them. Indeed, Camp Ramah Yachad is the best proof of this.
During an Israel Day Activity, we talked about Jewish communities around the world, letting the children know that Jews across the globe love them and they will always be welcome in our communities.
Shabbat in camp was powerful.
On the first Shabbat, although everyone was tired due to the long trip, we had a great service. The Torah reading was unbelievable. Standing at the foot of the mountain and listening to the Ten Commandments, we all felt a sense of the miraculous. The Torah used had been evacuated from Kharkhiv to Chernivtsi and it was symbolic to read from a rescued Torah scroll in the wilderness. The second Shabbat was extraordinary because the children sang so loudly that it was hard to finish Shabbat dinner!
Other highlights included two fieldtrips: a bus tour to the mountains and a boat trip. The natural surroundings were breathtaking. After we hiked to the top of the mountain, we held a very emotional Shacharit (morning) service that left us in tears after the silent Amidah when everyone had a chance to offer personal prayers for peace and the wellbeing of their relatives and friends.
Ramah Yachad’s staff psychologist provided emotional support for the children. As one can well imagine, she was very busy giving the campers an opportunity to talk about their wartime experiences.
Midreshet Schechter very much appreciates the assistance provided by Camp Ramah Yachad supporters. The camp gave us the opportunity to provide Ukrainian teenagers a respite from their dangerous reality. Camp Ramah Yachad Ukraine brought us together and built an interactive Jewish atmosphere.
We hope and pray that the war will end soon, but until then, we will continue to do everything to help the Jews of Ukraine.