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Alexa + Ramah Israel Seminar = Success!
August 10, 2015 by Howard Blas

On Sunday August 9th at approximately 4 pm, a group of Camp Ramah in New England Niv14 campers landed in New York after six amazing weeks on Ramah Israel Seminar. As these young men and women were enroute to their homes and were beginning to think ahead to Seminar Day in Palmer on Tuesday August 11th, one very special member of the Seminar group spoke with Tikvah Director, Howard Blas. Alexa Chalup, a longtime member of the Camp Ramah in New England community, returned from Seminar, as planned, after 3 weeks and soon after drove with her parents to Camp Ramah in New England to begin working in camp as part of the Tikvah Vocational Education program. Alexa is an amazing Ramah success story! She spent many years in a typical edah at Camp Ramah in New England, where she made many close friends. Alexa then spent time as part of both a typical edah and amitzim in the Tikvah Program. Alexa has many talents and a great sense of humor. She is also a young adult with Down Syndrome. Alexa can’t wait to see her (very tired!) Seminar friends when they come to camp in two days—and when they join her on staff next summer. Hopefully, her boss in the voc ed bakery—where she is an extraordinary cupcake baker—will give her some time off to spend time with her friends on Seminar day!

Howard: How come you wanted to go on Ramah Israel Seminar?

Alexa: Because people, mainly Chipkin (former Ramah New England inclusion specialist, Elizabeth Chipkin, who currently serves as the Ramah Israel Seminar inclusion specialist) asked me to go—because my friends were in Israel and wanted me to be there with them!

Howard: How do you know those friends?

Alexa: Weissman, Garelick, your daughter, Hannah, Veronica, Sole…we were all campers together here!

Howard: What was your favorite part of Israel?

Alexa: Climbing Masada! We had to climb up—there were rocks and lots of dirt. We had to get up early. It was dark out. It was not pretty! We had to wake up at 2 am and get on the bus—I am serious! I passed out on the bus—I was so tired!

Howard: What was your favorite part of Masada?

Alexa: We saw sunrise on Masada!

Howard: Did you have any other favorite places?

Alexa: Jerusalem! I liked getting kosher candy at Machane Yehudah. And eating at the kosher McDonalds. I got Diet Coke, chicken nuggets and French fries.

Howard: Were there any other favorite parts of the trip?

Alexa: I stayed up all night on the last night—Thursday night—it was the last day with my friends, then we went back to the hotel with my family.

Howard: Tell me about your visit to Lotem (a JNF project which has an accessible nature trail and other accessible nature activities)

Alexa: It was nice and pretty. We did a perfume thing where we crushed it in a bowl and put the perfume on. My dad works with Lotem so they had a meeting in my house in New York a few months ago.

Howard: What was Shabbat like on Seminar?

Alexa: It was good actually! We took a long walk to the kotel. Up lots of stairs. It was a long walk back! It was hard to find my room because it was dark!

Howard: Did you buy any souvenirs for yourself?

Alexa: Candy! Lots and lots—gummy bears. Sour watermelon worms, soda. I also bought a wedding ring—for my wedding!

Howard: Were there any other memorable parts?

Alexa: the party boat—it was horrible! I hate boats. I was sick of it. There was dancing.

The hike to the waterfall. Especially the walk down. It was hard to walk down. It was so pretty but we had to wear boots and hike through cow poop! And the dig—it was downstairs—and really dark. Then we got ice cream with crunchies!

Howard: What was it like when it was time to leave?

Alexa: I was happy—I got snacks and groceries with my family after the trip. But I was sad to leave my friends. It was horrible! I left Bialik, my group. When I left, I made three announcements: I miss 3 Hannahs (on the group); I miss the guys in Bialik; If you wanna sleep over my home in Long Island, my cell is 516….

Howard: Anything else you want to say? What are you doing after camp?

Alexa: I am really happy about Seminar day. It was really hard coming back to camp since I miss all my friends who were on Seminar. But I like voc ed—I like to bake. I am a really good voc ed baker! After camp, I am going away with my family on a cruise to Greece and Italy. It is a graduation gift. I graduated and had prom. Next year I am going to college!

The expansion of opportunities to include teens with disabilities on Ramah Israel Seminar is being supported by a generous grant from the New York Teen Initiative, which is jointly funded by UJA-Federation of New York and the Jim Joseph Foundation. The Jewish Education Project serves as lead operator of the Initiative.
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