Ramah Day Camp attracting more than Conservative Jews

Photo courtesy of Ramah Day Camp of Greater Washington

Photo courtesy of Ramah Day Camp of Greater Washington

Ramah Day Camp of Greater Washington is growing. In its second full season at the Wellspring Conference Center in Germantown, the Conservative-affiliated summer camp is enrolling more campers, extending its operating length and providing more programming.

There are already 131 campers signed up for this summer’s sessions compared to 103 total last year, according to Sharon R. Safra, the camp’s assistant director. The camp has been extended to six weeks, from June 27 to Aug. 5 — two weeks longer than last year.

“We’re really, really happy about the numbers,” said Safra, who said she expects enrollments to rise before the registration deadline. The camp is open to children entering kindergarten to fifth grade.

“The camp is doing great and has been very much embraced by the community,” said Rabbi Ed Gelb, director of Camp Ramah in New England. Established in 1953, the overnight camp is located in Palmer, Mass., and operates the Germantown subsidiary.

In 2014, the camp ran a two-week pilot program at Ohr Kodesh Congregation in Chevy Chase before moving to Wellspring last summer.

Gelb said it was a “dream” to open a day camp in the Washington area and that grassroots activism by local rabbis and congregants turned that dream into reality.

“They really pushed it to the forefront,” recalled Gelb.

New programming set for this summer includes instructional swimming. There is no pool on site at Wellspring, so last year they used a Montgomery County pool that allowed for recreational but not instructional swimming.

“This year we’ve contracted with a private community pool and it’s very close to Wellspring and we are going to be doing instructional swim three times a week, which is great and certainly a value that Camp Ramah believes,” Safra said.

Other new programming this year will be a STEM science-based elective, outdoor cooking and modern dance instruction. Safra said they are also looking into bringing archery to the camp, having the older campers spend a night at the retreat center and holding a specialty camp the last week for older campers that would offer an intensive experience in theater or dance.

More than a third of current registrants for this summer are affiliated with non-Conservative congregations, according to Safra, including a group from the Orthodox Kemp Mill community in Silver Spring. There are also families from modern Orthodox Beth Sholom Congregation and Talmud Torah in Potomac.

“There are other people in the community finding out about us and who want a really fabulous, fun, intensive Jewish experience over the summer, so it’s great to see,” said Safra. “We’ve still got lots of time until summer so any families should send kids our way, we’re happy to have them.”

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