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The Tikvah Program: More Information

The Tikvah Program at Camp Ramah in New England is an 8-week program serving teens ages 13-21 with mild to moderate mental retardation, autism spectrum disorders and neurological impairments.

The Ramah New England program is divided into two components. Campers (ages 13-18) are in the Amitzim (brave ones) division and live in bunks with two specially-trained counselors and participate in the full camping program. A small group of former campers (ages 18-21) are selected to participate in Tochnit HaAvodah, the Vocational Education (Voc Ed) Program. The Voc Ed participants live in a group home environment with two advisors.

In the Summer of 2005, Camp Ramah in New England piloted an inclusion program for a carefully selected group of younger campers with special needs. Inclusion campers receive additional support and participate in the full range of activities in a typical camping division.

Tikvah and the Ramah Community: Opportunities for Growth and Interaction

The Tikvah Program is one of eight divisions at Camp Ramah in New England. Campers in other divisions range in age from 9-16 years old. Tikvah campers therefore have many opportunities for daily interaction with campers and staff of all ages. All Amitzim campers participate in the Bogrim Buddies program, where they meet twice a week with a fourteen year old buddy. Members of the fifteen year old division serve as Machon Helpers, working directly with our campers in swimming and sports. And sixteen year old CITs (Counselors-In-Training) are assigned to one bunk for the entire eight weeks, where they join the bunk for wake up, prayers, meals, rest period/letter writing, and other activities. Amitzim campers often join members of other divisions for electives, classes, evening programs, prayer services, special Shabbat programs, and other camp-wide activities.

Some Amitzim campers work in various jobs throughout the camp. Campers and staff in other divisions praise the Tikvah Program for offering campers with special needs a quality, stimulating camping program. They also credit the Tikvah Program for teaching the rest of the camp such Jewish values as empathy, compassion, and perseverance. Members of the camp community are consistently impressed with the quality of the Tikvah play, and with the ability of some campers to publicly lead the Kabbalat Shabbat and maariv service, the hamotzi blessing, and the Birkat Hamazon in the dining room. Campers and staff throughout camp learn to view Tikvah campers as campers with a range of strengths and weaknesses, just like themselves. Members of the Israeli delegation return to Israel proud of their work with Tikvah campers and more sensitive to people with special needs.

Jewish Learning, Hebrew and Israel

All Ramah campers and staff members engage in serious Jewish learning. Under the direction of an experienced senior educator, Tikvah counselors serve as teachers for the Amitzim campers. Tikvah campers participate in daily Jewish learning, both formal and informal. Campers learn through stories, song and dance, projects, cooking and other types of experiential learning. Campers tend to learn a tremendous amount of spoken Hebrew through exposure to numerous announcements made each day in Hebrew. Tikvah campers have daily opportunities to interact with approximately 45 Israelis who come to Ramah New England as part of the mishlachat (the Israeli delegation). A select group of Tikvah campers are invited to participate in a special Tikvah Ramah Israel Program in the winter (excerpt taken from the Camp Ramah New England Tikvah brochure).

Tikvah Links

For additional information, please visit the Camp Ramah New England website, or contact Howard Blas, Camp Ramah New England Tikvah Program Director.

Howard was interviewed for the Yale Developmental Disabilities Newsletter, please click the link to read the article.

Further information about Camp Ramah Tikvah programs may be found on the National Ramah web site.