Camp Ramah in New England is located in Palmer, Massachusetts, in the south-central part of the state. It is one of the older Ramah camps, a group of summer camps that is part of the Jewish Conservative Movement, and which provide campers with a strong Jewish background. People who go to Ramah are called "Ramahniks." Ramah New England is known for cutting edge programs and innovation from sports to the arts and from Judaica to Hebrew. Ramah is fun, a place of spiritual growth and accomplishment.
The camp traces its roots to 1953, to Ramah Connecticut, followed by Ramah at Glen Spey, and has evolved into Camp Ramah in New England.
Kochavim (stars) : 3-4th graders (2 weeks)
Ilanot (young trees): 4-5th graders (4/8 weeks)
Solelim (roadpavers): 6th graders (4/8 weeks)
Shoafim (here means strivers, but depending on Hebrew spelling, can also mean inhalants): 7th graders (4/8 weeks)
Magshimim (achievers): 8th graders (4/8 weeks)
Bogrim (veterans): 9th graders (4/8 weeks)
Machon (foundation): 10th graders (4/8 weeks) as of Fall 2006 newsletter
Nivonim (wise ones): 11th graders (8 weeks)
Amitzim: (brave ones) campers with special needs, as old as 21 (4/8 weeks)
Tochnit Ha'avodah (vocational education or "voc-ed"): former Amitzim'ers who work at the camp
After Nivonim year, 12th graders go on Ramah Seminar, a trip to Israel, and spend six weeks traveling around the country with other Ramahniks of the same age.
"Palmer," as the camp is also nicknamed, has a number of traditions including Color War (an annual sports competition within the camp, led by Nivonim), yamim meyuchadim (see below), an ongoing sports rivalry with Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, Zimkudiyah (a song and dance festival), trips to Rondeau's (a local ice cream store), plays performed by the four older edot entirely in Hebrew (in 2007 Toy Story, Grease, High School Musical, and The Prince of Egypt were all performed), and singing the Camp Ramah song, Shir Ramah. Each edah participates in a camping trip known as "etgar" (challenge); younger children camp out within the grounds of the camp while older edot are given the opportunity to travel off the grounds and choose from a number of hiking, canoing, biking, and spelunking trips. Palmer also sends a delegation each year to ArtsFest, a yearly gathering of regional Jewish camps featuring a variety of songs and dances.
Shabbat is given a great deal of attention, with all of the camp gathering together for Friday night services and dinner. Saturday morning services are held within each edah, with senior staff members often giving Divrei Torah to the campers. Many of the sports teams from Yom Berkshires will practice with Saturday afternoon games, and Mincha is held for Machon and Nivonim each week. Friday and Saturday night Shira sessions are led by Nivonim each week, and after dinner on Saturday each bunk participates in a separate Kavanah session during which campers participate in discussion groups with a staff member not from their bunk. Havdalah is held by edah, and B-side has Israeli dancing sessions immediately following this each Saturday night, known as mandatory fun time.
Yamim regilim ("regular days") are broken into time periods called perakim (s. perek) and each one is identified with a Hebrew letter (א, ב, ג, ד, ה, ו, ז). A regular day includes a sport, swimming, a chug (a special interest), Hebrew classes, Yahadut (Jewish history and culture) classes, free time, a period of rest, and shira or rikud ("song" or "dance"). Examples of chugim include omanut (art), nagarut (woodworking), dance, swimming, boating, and video (in which campers usually help make the video yearbook). In 2007 director Ed Gelb introduced a number of new adjustments to the schedule, including an extra period known as bechirot (free choices) during which campers may choose from a number of activities in which to participate; shortened perakim for Ivrit and Yahadut, and a rotating two-meal schedule which has A-side and B-side eat separately. Although the new system increases the kitchen staff's day by numerous hours, advantages of the two-meal shift include the fact that the Ohel (the tent outside the dining hall), which was formerly used for B-siders to eat in when all of camp ate together, is now open for use in other programs; also, B-siders are able to wake up later due to their later breakfast time.
On Wednesdays, live-ins (non-counselors that live in a bunk) and all other non-counselor staff members take their day off, so the counselors in each edah plan a special day free of regular programming called yamim meyuchadim (special days) to make up for the lack of staffing. In addition, once a session each edah takes a trip outside of the camp. Each special day is called "Yom (Name)" (Yom meaning "day"). Yamim meyuchadim can be anything from Yom Pirate to Yom Willy Wonka, Yom Random, Yom MTV, etc, all with special programs and activities planned by the staff members. Special trips have taken campers to Red Sox games, art museums, the zoo, ice skating rinks, the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, and other locations around New England.
There are approximately 700 campers and 250 staff at the camp over the course of eight weeks.