Source: The Ramah Service Corps
The Ramah Service Corps (RSC), the innovative young adult leadership program of the National Ramah Commission (NRC) designed to bring the magic of Ramah to communities across North America year-round, is now entering its third exciting year with 25 interns who are serving for the 2012-2013 year.
Ramah Service Corps interns, comprised of young adults working as teachers and youth leaders in educational settings across the US and Canada, are selected with input from the leadership of Ramah's overnight camps and represent camp staff members whose work has been extraordinary. In their role as interns, they bring Ramah-style programming to their work and to their communities. Interns implement at least two Ramah-style programs during the year; reach out to prospective camper families, encouraging them to explore Ramah and other Jewish camps; and maintain relationships with current Ramah families. Each Ramah Service Corps intern works closely with both the National Ramah Commission and a mentor from the regional Ramah camp office.
Another primary goal of the Ramah Service Corps initiative is to mentor and nurture future Jewish leaders. The National Ramah Commission, in partnership with the Davidson School of Jewish Education of The Jewish Theological Seminary, provides interns with theoretical and programmatic training. Interns participate in monthly webinars where they share ideas and discuss the principles of experiential Jewish education with prominent Jewish educators.
This initiative of the National Ramah Commission is made possible by a generous grant from the Foundation for Jewish Camp.
In a recent piece in ejewish Philanthropy, Rabbi Mitchell Cohen outlined four elements of camp education which serve as a basis for training the RSC interns to enrich experiential education throughout the year in varied Jewish educational settings:
- Accessible staff role modeling – Children and teens respond best to the influence of older teens and young adults in their early-mid 20’s. While this age cohort tends to be less trained than older teachers, they are crucial to the formation of closer bonds with students in supplemental settings, whether as teacher’s aids, madrichim, or some other important role. At camp, the relationships that form between campers and staff are a key ingredient in Jewish identity building, as children want to be just like their counselors! Throughout the year, in alternative settings, young people need to be hired to fill important roles, need to be empowered to develop meaningful relationships with the students, and need the opportunity to express themselves and their Judaism as individuals, not just teach a curriculum that is handed to them. More than any other factor, these relationships help children grow up with a desire to emulate their role models and are a very powerful influence in Jewish growth.
- Nature and the Outdoors – Obviously an urban or suburban setting cannot match the rural nature of camp. But even in a city, so many programs can be run outdoors, where fresh air, no walls, open skies and trees can combine to provide a much more meaningful educational experience for students than in the confines of a classroom. Games in the fields, hikes in the woods, star gazing, standing near a body of water, and numerous other ways of using nature and the outdoors can radically impact the nature of education, making a student’s experience much more “camp-like” all throughout the years.
- Creative artistic emotion-filled Judaic expression – So much of the power of camp relates to the sensations associated with beautiful song, theater and dance. Tefilah, Hebrew language, and Jewish values and customs can be taught so much more effectively when the spirituality of artistic expression is combined with the substance of a text. Schools have effectively run zimriyot, rikudiot, camp-like theater performances, and other simple programs which combine many of the sensations of artistic expression with Jewish knowledge. Since these programs tend also to be associated with so much more fun that schooling in general, it has a huge advantage over the basic classroom setting.
- Laughter – It may sounds simplistic to emphasize laughter in Jewish education, but I firmly believe that laughter is a key ingredient in camp for effective Jewish growth. The science of laughter confirms its importance in (1) social and emotional development, (2) the deepening of interpersonal relationships, and (3) in the building of self-esteem. When Judaism is associated with these three elements, there can be life-long impact. Teachers need to consider the importance of simple humor, games, and fun in every lesson plan, as simply getting their students laughing together can greatly increase the power of the educational experience.