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Tikvah Director Howard Blas' Address to Beth El Synagogue-Shabbat Chanukah
December 6, 2010 by Howardb

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Chanukah.

Often on Shabbat Chanukah, Chanukah gets a disproportionate share of attention, and Shabbat is in the background.  I wouldn’t want this Shabbat’s parsha of Miketz, which has so much to do with DREAMs, to be overlooked. 

Forty one years ago, Herb and Barbara Greenberg, two special educators from Long Island, dreamed big.  They dreamed of creating a program for campers with special needs, as PART, of the Camp Ramah community.  Today, graduates of our Amitzim camping program, who comprise our Tochnit Avodah, Voc Ed Program, and our Post Voc Ed Program, and staff members, are privileged to spend Shabbat with two wonderfully supportive West Hartford Conservative Movement shuls. 

On behalf of the Tikvah Program and the entire CRNE community, I would like to extend a hearty Todah Rabbah, to the Emanuel Synagogue, to Beth El, and to the entire WH Jewish community for the warm reception we always receive. 

This is a community where rabbinic leadership teaches by example.  Your rabbis and their families actually come to camp and WORK.  Several generations of Smalls, Rosens and Rosenbaums proudly work at Ramah New England.  And so many in your community with illustrious names like Elfenbaum, Fiedler, Glickman, Stanger, Checknoff, Gold and more are actively involved in our Tikvah Program.  And so many in your community attend Ramah. 

 We have had tremendous representation from your community in all 4 parts of our tikvah program—our amitzim camping program, voc ed, post voc ed, and our 8 year old, inclusion program.  And your community always helps out when asked-whether it is the JCC letting us rent out the pool and gym for our “day after Thanksgiving” reunion, which we have done in the past; the Crown having just enough pizza dough for a crazy voc ed cooking project; or Rabbi Rosen agreeing to teach as part of our Tikvah at 40 Yom Iyun. 

In return, we hope the representatives of our program have helped enhance your Shabbat—with singing, ruach, and more.  Since today is also Chanukah, we added Hallel.  There is a very well known line which reasons:  even maasu habonim haytah l’rosh pina:  The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

While people with special needs don’t always feel accepted and included, we at Ramah very much feel that Tikvah IS the cornerstone of the community.  Having Tikvah at camp is as natural and essential as having Shabbat and swimming at camp!

Thank you to our generous host families, to the shuls, kiddush and concert sponsors, the Mens Clubs, and more.  Shabbat Shalom and Happy Chanukah.