On November 5th, 2011, students from Matan’s Shaare Torah program in Gaithersburg, Maryland came together with staff from Camp Ramah in New England’s Tikvah program. The Tikvah program is the special needs program at Camp Ramah that provides a wide range of Jewish campers with disabilities an opportunity to have a sleep away camp experience. In order to make Shabbat even more special, these two amazing organizations joined forces for a Shabbat morning program. Following along in a custom made siddur, prayers were taught in both Hebrew and English. There were hand motions, new tunes, dancing, story telling, movement and so much Shabbat ruach or spirit. The participants of the service got a taste of Ramah through songs and interactive Torah study. For example, the week’s Torah portion, Lech L’cha spoke of the story where Avraham was told he would be moving to a new home. In order to make a personal connection to this portion, the students talked about what belongings they would bring to their new home and what it might feel like to move suddenly. These personal connections to Shabbat are what make Matan and Ramah so special. These organizations want to provide Jewish experiences for people with special needs who might not be exposed to these educational opportunities. This Shabbat program was a glimpse of what a typical Shabbat morning is like in the Tikvah program at camp. The room was filled with smiles and positive energy. Matan, Ramah and Shaare Torah successfully joined together to create a meaningful and beautiful service, where everyone could find their own connection.
Elisheva Layman is a senior at the University of Maryland majoring in special education. She is a Recruiter for the Tikvah program at Camp Ramah in New England, where she also serves as Rosh Edah (division head) of Tikvah.
For more information about Tikvah at Camp Ramah in New England, contact Howard Blas, Tikvah Director, email@example.com.