Friday, July 30, 2010

Monkeys, Monkeys Everywhere!

Camp was overrun by monkeys! Not real monkeys, mind you, but cute, stuffed, plush monkeys. Everywhere you went today, you saw members of the hanhala (senior leadership team) carrying their monkeys literally and not figuratively on their backs. No matter where I went, someone expressed curiosity and asked me about my monkey. I introduced them, as all members of the hanhala were to name their monkeys, to Chaim Yankel - my monkey. Over and over again, people asked: What is with the monkeys? Sometimes, I would just answer by reflecting back: You seem very curious! followed by a raised eyebrow and a little smile. On some level, this was just about fun - injecting a little bit of planned spontaneity, if there is such a thing, into camp as we kick off week seven.
Actually, this was an opportunity to do some staff training about managing people. One of my favorite parts of this job is working with the staff and helping them grow both as Jews and as professionals. When I was the director of Camp Ramah Darom, I discovered early on that I spent much of my time solving other peoples problems. They would call me on the radio and tell me what was happening and then say, Rabbi, what should I do? I would stop whatever I was doing and give them the answer immediately, whether it was a camper-related challenge or an overflowing toilet. My entire job became about solving everybody's problems for them. They were not learning and I was not actually doing my job.
One day, a rosh aidah approached me, explained some problem and then said those famous words: Rabbi, what should I do?! I found myself pausing, not because I did not know the answer; rather, I was thinking. And then I said, I dont know. What do you think you should do? Grand pause! The rosh aidah looked at me and blinked. This was a total change. I was not giving them the answer. They had to think about it for a moment and try to find an answer for themselves. It got to the point that if we worked together long enough you might call me on the radio, start explaining an issue and then stop mid-sentence and say, I know, I know, What do YOU think you should do? Victory! Once this became standard practice, people spent a lot more time thinking about things and working in a proactive way to manage issues than they did asking me to solve them. They learned and worked, and I learned and got my work done as well.
For so many of our staff, working at camp is the first job they ever have and for equally as many, being a rosh anaf (department head) or a rosh aidah (division head) is their first professional supervisory, managerial, or leadership role. As a result, part of the job of camp director is helping people grow, learn, and develop life skills in these areas including: how to give and receive feedback; how to solve problems; and how to take care of and feed their own monkeys instead of handing them off to their supervisors. Which brings me back to the Monkey Invasion of Summer 2010.
In thinking about how to empower leaders in camp and help them empower others, I was introduced to an article titled Management Time: Who's Got the Monkey? The article, written by William Oncken Jr and Donald L. Wass was published in The Harvard Business Review (HBR) in 1974. Since its first appearance, Who's Got the Monkey? is one of the two best selling reprints from HBR. The lessons of Who's Got the Monkey? are timeless. First, Oncken and Wass teach that there are five degrees of initiative available to any leader or team member:
1. Waiting to be told what to do.
2. Asking what to do.
3. Making a recommendation, then taking the recommended action.
4. Taking action, but advising others at once.
5. Acting on one's own, then routinely reporting to others.
Second: When you accept primary responsibility for a problem from someone are allowing them to transfer their monkey onto your back.
Third: ...perhaps most important, the manager (or leader) must overcome her natural eagerness to take on their staff member's monkey. She must develop a mentality of abundance that enables her to relinquish control and seek the growth and development of those around her.
Finally, when a staff member comes to discuss one of his monkeys, make sure that that they know that options 1 and 2 above are not allowed. That is, they must come to the conversation having developed at least one possible solution or approach to dealing with the problem rather than simply coming and asking "What should I do?"
In the seventh week of camp, it becomes very easy to simply solve every problem, to take somebody's monkey onto your back because at first glance, it takes less effort than giving them time and space to come up with some possibilities and then helping them think it through. In reality, however, if you are the supervisor/leader for 8 to 10 to 15 people and even half of them give you their monkeys and you accept them, then you are walking around with four to eight monkeys on your back, not to mention your own. As Oncken and Wall point out, until a leader learns the art of The Care and Feeding of Monkeys, what they have in actuality is a barrel of unruly, screaming monkeys demanding time and attention. And if you have ever spent time at The Great Ape House at any zoo, you will see that when monkeys play, they are frenetic bundles of energy. So, rather than focusing on their own work, the rosh anaf is spending all of her or his time dealing with the issues of staff members that by week seven they can easily at least think through and usually solve on their own.
About three weeks into our first summer, my dear friend and the first program director at Camp Ramah Darom, Rabbi David Glickman, said to me, "Rabbi Sykes...there is a fine line between empowerment and abandonment and you might want to be sure that you are standing on the right side of that line!" This was one of the most powerful and long lasting lessons from that first summer. The point of the Monkey Invasion of 2010 is not to abandon people to deal with everything on their own; rather, it is to help staff members grow by requiring of them that they come to discuss a problem having given it enough personal thought time to develop a minimum of one recommendation for resolving the issue. The art and growth for the staff member is embodied in those few moments of thought time. The art for the supervisor/leader is knowing when to push the staff member deeper in the conversation to uncover other ways to address the issue and when to direct the staff member to one of the solutions put on the table. Expertise in this art comes with time and camp can be the place where a future leader develops this key leadership skill.
At Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, we are blessed with incredibly bright, talented, committed staff members. We are also blessed with the opportunity to help them grow as current and future leaders. Learning how to feed and care for your own monkeys and helping others do the same, in a safe, supportive environment is one of the gifts that we provide our emerging leaders. At camp, we learn all kinds of Torah: Torah Shebichtav (The Written Torah - The Five Books of Moses), Torah She Baal Peh (The Oral Torah including Mishnah, Gemarah and Midrash), Torah Shel Hesed (The Torah of Mercy) and we teach the Torah of Leadership and Professionalism. This summer, I have been personally blessed to return to this incredible summer home, to learn from so many fantastic, young, emerging leaders, and to help support them in their journey to Jewish and professional leadership (and, via the Monkey Invasion of 2010, hopefully make them and the campers laugh just a bit).
Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Loren Sykes
PS As you know, this was an incredible week at camp. The storm that whipped through camp on Tuesday night was truly awesome in the most literal meaning of the term. Thank you to all of the campers for doing exactly as they were told prior to the storm's arrival. Thanks to the staff for performing at the top level throughout the incident. Thanks to our incredible maintenance staff for putting the camp back together so quickly and to all of the local contractors and tree removal specialists who did the repairs necessary in the fastest and best possible ways. The entire camp is to be commended for pitching in for the cleanup effort, from gathering leaves, twigs, and branches to gathering trash from all over camp. Finally, thank you to all of you for your generous support and kind words of appreciation.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Parashat Va'Etchanan - Tikvah, Machon, South Pacific, and The Shma.

Ari played the role of the commander.

Sophie had a magnificent solo.

Joey played the drums in the orchestra.

Ashley had a speaking part.

At the end, the Rosh Aidah held up the plaque in front of the entire camp.

And then the entire audience stood and sang the camp song.

Sounds like just another musical at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin.  

Yet, it was not.  This was the combined Machon - Tikvah musical.  Ari, Sophie, Joey and Paula are all members of the Tikvah Aidah.  They and a few other members of the aidah had specific parts in the play.  The entire aidah was part of the combined Tikvah - Machon (entering 10th grade) chorus for the show.    When the plaque was brought up, it was held up not by one but by two Roshei Aidah - Kashmir Kustanowitz (Tikvah) and Gita Karasov (Machon), standing together as one bundle of incredibly proud energy.  And when the show was over and people went to congratulate all of the participants, there were tears in many eyes.  It was a beautiful thing to see.

This summer, there is an incredible level of partnership and mutual affection between Tikvah and Machon.  Tikvah campers are integrated in many of the Machon programs and activities.  Machon campers constantly seek out chances to work with and be friends with campers in Tikvah.  Whether it is in shiurim (classes) or on the sports fields, the warmth and genuine pleasure the two aidot get from being together is constantly visible for everyone to see.  We know that this is a mutually beneficial relationship, that both sides give a lot one to the other and that they learn from one another.  It is beautiful.  And it is as it should be: genuine, mutual, and natural.  This relationship, the synergy and positive connections between Machon and Tikvah is not about a typical group - Machon - giving to a special group - Tikvah; rather, it is about two groups that truly value the gifts that each group brings to the relationship.

If only this were the nature of things all year-round.  If only the entire world understood that in the Shma - which we read this week in Parashat Va’Etchanan - when we are told to “teach them to your children,” the commandment is to teach them to all of our children, not just the typical ones, but the ones with Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism and other conditions, equally, to challenge them according to their abilities, and to help them make connections to their heritage and spiritual inheritance.  We must understand this not as an option, not a favor, and not as a gesture of good will.  It is a commandment, an obligation, and the expectation is to include every member of the community, with both their gifts and limitations, in owning their yerushah - their inheritance - Torah, Mitzvot, Gemilut Chesed, etc.  Every one our children is beautiful, is a gift, is part of our collective future as a People and they deserve equal attention and opportunity, being challenged according to their abilities.

When we reach that point, the point when talking about the equal and mutual relationship between Tikvah and Machon campers, between Tikvah and Machon staff, between the Rosh Aidah of Machon and the Rosh Aidah of Tikvah, the relationship between a “typical” camper and a “special needs” person, is not unique but is the norm, we will know that we are well on our way to being  “מתקן עולם במלכות שדי” “repairing the world so that it is an appropriate place for the Divine Presence to dwell.” May we see that time quickly and in our day!

Yasher Koah to all of the campers in Aidot HaMachon v’Tikvah on an outstanding performance of South Pacific and for being teachers to everyone in camp on how all people should relate one to another.

Shabbat Shalom.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Powerful Words from our Friend, Rella

Our dear friend, Rella Kaplowitz, recently lost her brother, Eytan, who took his own life at the age of 23.  We first met Rella when she joined the inaugural staff of Camp Yofi:  Family Camp for Jewish Families with Children with Autism.  She is an exceptional person and one worth reading and learning from.  She recently posted both about the loss of her brother and her re-entry to the world after ending shloshim.  I share these words with you with Rella, her family, and her brother in mind.  Follow these links to read Rella's posts:

and follow this link to read about the end of shloshim:

May Eytan's memory be for a blessing.

יהי זיכרו ברוך.

Post Tisha B'Av - A Marine's View of Israel

As we come to the end of Tisha B'Av, with the focus on redemption, the focus on our having a Jewish State in the historical Jewish National Homeland, I want to share this interesting short video from YouTube of U.S. Marine Staff Sergeant Jeremy Vought on his trip to Israel.  Enjoy and I hope this was a meaningful fast and day for you.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bat Mitzvah Speech from a Participant in Tikvah at Ramah Wisconsin

This week, we celebrated a very special Bat Mitzvah at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. Ashley Brown is a participant in our Tikvah Program, one of the crown jewels of the Camp Ramah in Wisconsin family of programs.  For her bat mitzvah, the entire service was led by other program participants and staff members.  The following are the words of Torah that Ashley shared with the community.  Thanks so much Ashley for sharing them with us!

Today is Rosh Chodesh, but this week we also begin reading the book of D’varim, which is called Deuteronomy in English. Most of the book consists of Moses talking for a long time to the Jewish people about making good decisions. I learned with some of my counselors that Moses wasn’t always so sure of himself when speaking. In fact, when God first asked Moses to lead the Jewish people, he gave all kinds of excuses for why he couldn’t do it. One of the things he said was “I can’t speak well.” Now, in D’varim, we see that Moses is able to speak with confidence.

This story kind of reminds me of myself. Moses was learning. He was figuring out how to be a leader, he was trying to become clearer about his beliefs and abilities.

I’m just now learning about Judaism. When I first got to camp it was really scary. When I went to services, I didn’t know any Hebrew, and I didn’t know what was going around me. At first I was scared that I couldn’t learn, so I reacted by saying that I didn’t want to participate. Then I realized that I could actually learn, and my staff and teachers helped me to be able to read transliteration and know some Hebrew. I know that there is still a lot more to learn, but I already feel that I have gotten to a point of knowing a lot, and I feel more confident.

To me having a Bat Mitzvah symbolizes that I am growing up and that I can be successful. Before I came to camp I thought being Jewish mostly just meant having a Bat Mitzvah. Here I have learned that being Jewish means so much more. I have also made a lot of friends at camp and it is really nice to celebrate with those friends. This day is very special to me and I would I would like to thank a few people for helping me prepare. Thank you to Ralph and Margaret for letting me come to Camp Ramah. Thank you to my family for letting me have my Bat Mitzvah here and giving me so much love, it’s so nice to have you here today. Thank you to my counselors, Ralph, Tali and Kashmir for helping me to learn the prayers and for helping me to write this speech.  Thank you to Machon and Tikvah for joining me today, it’s been a really good time having you guys as my friends and having you here with me today. 

For more information on the Tikvah Program at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, click here:

Friday, July 9, 2010

On Camp and Pluralism

As I walk around each day, I am amazed by the richness of the patchwork quilt we create every summer here at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin.  At any given moment, there are literally thousands of things happening.  On the sports fields and at the agam (lake), in limmudei Yahadut (Jewish learning) and on the kikar, campers and staff members with diverse backgrounds and opinions interact constantly, discovering new things about other people and learning how to listen to and value the other.  In many ways, camp is one of the few places where a variety of Jews of very different opinions can learn to value the other even while deeply disagreeing with them, whether the issue at hand is as mundane as which sports team is better or as sacred as the status of Jerusalem.

A few weeks ago, on Shabbat afternoon, I walked around camp and passed by a heated discussion.  Some of our shlihim (Israeli Delegation) were sitting on the kikar wildly gesticulating and arguing.  As I listened and tried to understand what the argument was about through the cacophony of Hebrew, I figured out that the topic was Jerusalem and its future status.  It sounded initially like one of the Israelis was arguing in favor of dividing Jerusalem and the other was arguing against such a division.  Upon closer examination, the argument was actually about why the person against dividing Jerusalem did not want to discuss the topic with her friend, the other Israeli, at that moment.  At first, I thought that she was being somewhat intolerant.  She simply could not bear to listen to someone with a different opinion than hers.  What I came to understand was that she simply did not want politics to be part of her Shabbat afternoon.

One might argue that such a response was actually disingenuous, that in fact this was another example of one Israeli not being able or willing to listen to a different Israeli opinion.  After all, it is far too common today for people to surround themselves exclusively with friends that agree with them on everything, or who look more or less like them,  or for people to go out and throw rocks or burn tires to disturb those with whom they disagree than it is for people to actually put themselves in a position to engage with and hear the other.  What became clear to me about this conversation was that the person simply wanted to make a separation between her Shabbat conversation and her weekday conversation.  In fact, she was engaged in the debate regularly.  She just wanted a break.  We need to celebrate both diversity of opinion and, at the same time, respect the need for having lots of different kinds of discussions at different times during the week.

Last week, campers in the Nivonim spent the day in small groups designing a new camp. They were told that they could receive a major grant if their proposal was selected.  All morning long, the groups argued about what their camp would be like and they needed to learn how to respect multiple voices and to include them in their proposal.  It was incredibly rewarding to hear the proposals and to see just how much the chanichim love this camp, Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, in that their proposals essentially presented this camp.  At the same time, each group had a few twists in their proposals and it was clear that the group had spent a lot of time hashing out differences and making room for different voices.

Next week, Machon will have their Israel simulation.  They will spend the week learning about different voices in the history of Zionism and then, in back to the future fashion, will revisit the First Zionist Congress based on what we know today.  They will discover the rich diversity of opinions that have characterized Zionism since its outset and they will learn a little more deeply about how to listen to others.

We can and should be incredibly proud of having a summer home where a variety of opinions and approaches to Jewish living, learning, and thought can coexist; where there is a clear ideology and observance (Conservative Judaism) and yet there is room for vigorous debate.  This is a camp where a clearly Orthodox Jew (my dear friend, Noah Greenberg) can come and teach campers, females and males alike, to make their own kosher tefillin (made out of heavy parchment), and make no special requests for food or minyanim, regardless of his own personal theology.  And this is a camp where campers join in tefillot with females, some of them rabbinical students, some of them roshei aidah, and some of them just plain old people, who wear tallit and tefillin each morning and then ask them about what they do and learn why they so do.  This is a place where campers can interact with their teacher both in the classroom and on the yoga mat, in the shiur and on the basketball court.  This is a place where rabbis whose Conservative congregations use different siddurim, where some are defined as fully egalitarian while others self-define as not, can send their campers to experience something different than what they have at home.  And this is a place that encourages open, respectful conversation and difference of opinion.  

As we prepare to enter the month of menachem Av and the Fast of Tisha B’Av approaches, we are reminded that the midrash teaches that the Bet HaMikdash, The Temple in Jerusalem, was destroyed due to baseless hatred among Jews for other Jews.  Camp is a key place where we create a living model for campers of what Jewish pluralism can be.  It is a place where campers learn to respect and give an open ear to an idea or opinion that is different than their own.  Camp is a place where they can truly value another who looks different Jewishly than they do, who speaks differently, and who believes differently than they do.  And when that happens, campers are not drawn over to the other side. True - encountering the other fully and openly can be a daunting task at the outset.  But, in the end, the camper discovers more about themselves and become more confident in their opinions.  In that way, through exposure to diversity, to the rich tapestry that is camp and that is the other, we in fact “grow strong and grow strong”  חזק חזק as individuals and “are strengthened” as an entire people ונתחזק!

For another approach to expressing diverse opinions and valuing the other, enjoy Michal Sandel on Michael Sandel on “The Lost Art of Democratic Debate” on TED. com  at

Shabbat Shalom.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

12 Ways That Camp Ramah Builds Strong Jewish Identity, Self-Confidence, And Personal Resilience by Rabbi Mitchell Cohen, National Ramah Director

12 Ways That Camp Ramah Builds
Strong Jewish Identity,
 Self-Confidence, And Personal Resilience
by Rabbi Mitchell Cohen, National Ramah Director

Camp Ramah makes a difference in the lives of campers and counselors in ways that last long after the summer ends. 
  1. New Peer Groups: Kids get a "new start" at camp, no matter how well adjusted they are in their school peer groups. Kids "remake" themselves and generally rise in self-esteem as Ramah counselors are trained to create a social environment in which each kid is nurtured and accepted.
  2. Time Away from Parents: Whether kids come from stressful or highly functional home environments, it is healthy for children and teens to grow and develop away from parents for periods of time in the summer within the warm and supportive community of Camp Ramah. Parents can relax with so many staff members looking out for their offspring's health and safety.
  3. Escape from Pressure: The pressure to excel academically and the pressure from extra-curricular activities (team practices, music recitals and art lessons, and test preparation courses, for example) can play a major role in a child's school-year life. Going away to camp during the summer relieves the pressure.
  4. Time Unplugged: Kids today are connected via smart phones, iPods, and computers 24/7. Summer at Camp Ramah provides a safe space with relief from being "on-line," fostering face-to-face communication and the building of long-lasting, in-person relationships, one-on-one and with groups of peers.
  5. Experience Outside: Campers at Ramah spend significant time outdoors, in nature, learning to appreciate trees, swimming and hiking, the stars, the sunset, and even the occasional sunrise. Spending time in nature is critical to young people's physical and spiritual development. A sense of wonder needs to be nourished by nature.
  6. Something for Everyone: Everyone finds something to excel in at camp, whether it be sports, arts, drama, leading prayer, study of texts, or even making friends. The staff is trained to help campers recognize and value their accomplishments.
  7. Young Adult Guidance: The most effective leadership comes from young, accessible role models, who are closer in age than most teachers and parents. At Camp Ramah, counselors and most specialty area leaders are 17-21, the "coolest" age for our kids to learn from, bond with, and want to emulate. As Jews, these critical role models are indispensable.
  8. Living in Jewish Time: At Camp Ramah, Judaism and Jewish values are part of the natural rhythm of life and not relegated to certain activities of the week or the year. This leads to positive incremental Jewish growth, at times through blatantly Jewish activities (which are fun at camp) and at times through excellent Jewish role modeling.
  9. Learning Outside of School: Formal Jewish education is crucial, but not enough to nurture our kids' souls or get them inspired. At Camp Ramah, Jewish life is decoupled from academics, teachers, and time constraints, making it much more enjoyable.
  10. Israel Is Real: Outside of a visit to Israel, Camp Ramah is the best setting for inspiring a love for Israel. Our campers get to know many different Israeli staff members, all of whom have been carefully chosen and trained to help present the "real" Israel to our campers and staff in a loving, meaningful way.
  11. You Can't Be Too Jewish at Camp Ramah: Many of our campers experience peer pressure in their home communities, even in many day school communities, not to be "too Jewish." It is simply uncool. At camp, kids get high fives for reading Torah. Even most teen-age boys love folk dancing and singing Hebrew songs. Somehow, it really works at camp.
  12. Camp Ramah Is My Second Home: So many campers at Camp Ramah call it their second home. Kids have a feeling of empowerment over their lives and their choices at camp and love the independence. There is no better environment for nurturing Jewish growth.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Parashat Pinhas - Between Zealotry and Integrity

integrity |inˈtegritē|nounthe quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness he is known to be a man of integrity.the state of being whole and undivided

The bridge between last week's parashahBalak and this week's Torah portion revolves around an individual named Pinhas ben Elazar.  Pinhas is deeply bothered by what he sees going on among the people and the subsequent deathly illness that sweeps through Bnai Yisrael.  His response, while extreme (running two people through with a spear), brings an end to the epidemic.  This short narrative comes at the end of Balak.  It is followed, in the beginning of this week's parashah, with the announcement that God gives a Covenant of Peace to Pinhas. The exact nature of the Brit Shalom is not clear nor is it made clear why God has to or chooses to grant such a Covenant to Pinhas.

The line between zealotry and integrity can clearly be a very fine one.  We see zealotry all the time today.  There seems to be less and less moderation in this world - polarization rules the day.  People stake out opinions and then engage in what is called a dialogue.  More often than not, however, what they are really engaged in is a shouting match where people talk or yell past one another.  They never truly encounter the other or really hear what they have to say.  We see this all the time, from the ridiculous (see Jerry Springer) to the halls of power and government.  

With polarization and zealotry so common place, acts of integrity are less apparent.  Yet, people act with integrity all the time.  They go out into the world to the poorest places on earth and try to bring aid out of a deep sense of tzedek and gemilut chesed.  Others leave companies where they work because illegal or morally questionable practices are out of sync with their sense of right.  A hero of mine closed his tzedakah fund because changes in the nature of the donors severely limited not the amounts that could be distributed but the manner in which those donations could be distributed.  What started as a micro-giving program that helped people immediately in need with small amounts was transforming into a bureaucratically heavy, process heavy fund that could not act  in a quick, direct way.  

What I find fascinating and sad is that sometimes when a person acts with integrity they are shunned, called out, and ostracized for having done the right thing.  The law is now designed to protect whistleblowers from retaliation by their companies or employees because too many times, people go after the one who shared information about corruption, bribery, scandal, or morally bankrupt practices.  They put her outside the circle.  They act in anger.  They seek to retaliate rather than looking inward.  It is always easier to be angry at another rather than looking inward, being reflective, taking personal responsibility.  It is precisely for this reason that whistleblower laws exist and, most likely on some level, that Pinhas needs a Brit Shalom from God as a form of protection from others.

Maimonides, in the Laws of Human Character Development, makes clear that it is a mitzvah to set someone on the right path if they are going in the wrong personal direction.  Even if one must repeat it over and over again, the obligation exists for the person of integrity to act with it and to try to help that person no matter what.  The impact of acting with integrity can be transformative if or when the person or the company or the organization is ready to hear the message.  Until then, the message deliverer is not exempt from trying to help, from trying to save, from trying to transform.

This weekend, we remember a small group of people who acted with the deepest integrity, to whom we owe a debt of gratitude for seeking out a new home, and declaring the principles of that home at the outset.  On July 4th, we remember and honor the creation of a country whose moral foundations are still sought out all around the world.  

Camp Ramah in Wisconsin is a place that helps further develop the individual integrity of our campers and staff members.  They learn that they can have principles and stick to them.  They have role models for such behavior in their peers and in the staff.  Over the first several weeks, I have been privileged to get to know many young people, campers and college students alike, who have incredible moral compasses, who know what they believe AND are willing and able to listen to others and to stick to their principles.  On Yom Sport, we will have the chance to see many campers act with integrity and have their principles challenges.  It is my hope that we create a place where integrity and courage are honored and while it may seem like an insignificant way to demonstrate it, good sportsmanship and fairness play a major role at camp.

It is a beautiful day here at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin.  The sun is shining gloriously, their are gentle waves on the lake, and many tefillot are taking place outside.  A million things will happen here today.  And it is a blessing that so many of them will happen with campers and staff members possessing great courage and integrity.  Our atmosphere is one that generates passion and intensity of opinion AND openness and respect for the other.  It is a place that honors integrity and tries to minimize zealotry.  

Shabbat Shalom.