History of Ramah
During the 1940s, The Jewish Theological Seminary established several programs to reconnect Jewish youth with the synagogue and cultivate American-born Jewish leadership. One of these programs was Camp Ramah, a program conceived by Moshe Davis and Sylvia Ettenberg of the JTS Teachers' Institute. Rabbi Ralph Simon, z”l, of Congregation Rodfei Zedek in Chicago, Illinois, in 1947 convinced the Chicago Council of United Synagogue to purchase a former fishing lodge in Conover, Wisconsin, and the first Ramah camp opened in Conover in 1947.
Over the course of the following decades, a network of resident camps was established, so that today, in addition to Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, there are Ramah camps in Lakewood, PA (Camp Ramah in the Poconos, founded in 1950); Palmer, MA (Camp Ramah in New England, which opened at East Hampton, CT, in 1953 and moved to the Palmer site in 1965); Ojai, CA (Camp Ramah in California, founded in 1956); Utterson, ON (Camp Ramah in Canada, founded in 1960); and Wingdale, NY (Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, which opened in Nyack, NY, in 1961 and moved to the Wingdale site in 1964). In 1997, Ramah opened Ramah Darom, in Clayton, GA; in 2010, Ramah opened its first specialty camp, Ramah in the Rockies in Deckers, CO; and in 2016, Ramah opened Camp Ramah in Northern California. In 2018, a second specialty camp, Ramah Sports Academy, will open in the northeastern U.S.
More than 11,000 campers and staff annually attend Ramah’s nine overnight camps, five day camps, and Israel programs. Among Ramah’s 2,900 staff members, over 1,700 university and graduate students work as counselors, teachers, and specialists, and bring the magic of Ramah back to their university campuses and home communities. More than 200 Israeli shlichim work at Ramah camps annually, strengthening the connections between the camp communities and Israel. An additional 200 professionals--rabbis, cantors, social workers, psychologists, doctors, nurses, Jewish educators, coaches, and others work at Ramah camps each summer.